Where does a birth story begin? Perhaps ours would start when we first talked about being ready to bring a child into this wild world. We were sitting under the stars, and I poured out my heart to my husband, Joe, about being ready and wanting a child. Joe pointed out how the Big Dipper looked like the profile of a pregnant woman. As we gazed together at this new image in the sky, a shooting star flew through her celestial body, piercing her swollen belly. I guess the journey began there.
Before really trying to get pregnant, I saw my dear friend Sharon, who does Mayan Abdominal Massage and helped ready my physical body for pregnancy and birth. The process of preparation was slow and lovely, and when we found out we were going to have a baby, we felt ready in all ways one can be ready to bring a life into the world.
Appointments with Denise were always full of joy as well as a time for many questions. As a skilled and deeply intuitive midwife, she guided us along the journey in a way that empowered Joe and me. Many times when we asked questions she helped us find the answer we already held. She stood with us not over us. I learned again and again to trust in my body, that the body knows what to do.
I loved pregnancy and found amazement in my changing body and this great mystery of life moving inside me. But as the time neared, I was so ready to meet my babe that each day felt longer than the next. My due date came and went and excitement turned into a bit of worry. Denise and Allison continued to remind me to trust in my body. Each day I had to practice patience and trust in a way I never had before. I took some strenuous hikes in the great hills of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve thinking this will bring our baby, but still we waited. Finally one morning around 10:30 a.m., I felt the lightest hints of beginning contractions. We began to time them as we continued with our day. Finally, we decided to call Denise and asked if we could come in to see if I was beginning to open up. During our appointment, she offered to sweep my membranes to speed things up, which we did. She warned us contractions could get more intense, but then slow down again. We drove from Westby to the Food Coop in Viroqua to get some snacks for the labor. By the time we arrived, it was 5:30 p.m. and I was very much in active labor. The 20-minute ride back home was uncomfortable but bearable. We drew a bath when at home, but I found out the best way for me to encounter contractions was by moving. I had read something a few days earlier about spiraling my hips. I would hold the entryway to the bathroom as I contracted and move my hips in large slow circles.
I tried to think “opening thoughts,” as I had heard this was helpful. But in labor I found thinking to be ridiculous and “opening thoughts” only made me do more thinking, so I stopped. Instead, I just kept moving, and then sitting for the short time in between contractions. Joe held the silence and a close distance to me. We didn’t time things. I didn’t want to think. I just wanted to surrender to the way my body wanted to move. We fell into a rhythm that steadied me. At around 8:30 p.m. Denise arrived, and I felt instant comfort and sensed at once what every other woman who has been blessed with her at birth feels-her sacred magic. We shared smiles and a few words, then she drifted into the background and Joe and I fell again into a comfortable birthing rhythm. Allison arrived a bit later, but by then I felt too involved to share more than a quick connection with our eyes.
The spiraling continued with less time to break in between. Denise and Allison would come and check on us now and then, which became part of the night’s rhythm. Joe and I were able to hold our quiet sacred space together. It felt so natural. I continued to move my hips in a spiral. I kept waiting for it to get unbearable, but the experience stayed very doable. At some point I had a slight urge to push and asked Joe to get Denise and Allison. Then all of a sudden everything stopped. It was a bit like coming out of a deep sleep in the middle of a dream, and I found the sudden change jarring. Why has my labor stopped? Is everything O.K.? Denise assured me everything was fine, that this break was normal. She said it could last 15 minutes or in some cases hours. She asked if I would like for her to check and see if I was fully dilated. I said yes, please - and thank goodness, I was! We would soon meet our baby! I was so excited, but anxious for things to start moving again. Then all of a sudden I felt like I really, really had to have a bowel movement. So I ran to the bathroom, but came back - guess not. Then again, I ran to the bathroom, or wobbled there, whatever got me there quickly. Then I realized this is what the beginning of pushing feels like. It moves through you more than you move through it. So I settled into a position in our bedroom on my knees, leaning on the bed. Shortly after, my water broke.
I cannot think of any way to describe the feeling of having a baby move out of your body. I remember saying something to Denise like “I feel pain!” It was the most INTENSE feeling I have ever experienced, by leaps and bounds. I remember asking if they could see the head yet after a few waves of such INTENSITY. When they said, “Not yet,” I remember thinking, “You have got to be kidding me! How could the head not be showing now? I FEEL baby pushing out.” I never had to think about pushing, and nothing could have stopped me from it. It was like taking a breath after being under water for a long time. It overtook me and I just had to let go. I do remember words of encouragement from Denise and Allison, just enough to let me know all was okay. I remember panting a bit through the waves of pushing, trying to slow things down so I wouldn’t tear, but I just had to push! Then I heard, “Here comes the head.” It really stung a lot when our baby’s head emerged. I could feel myself stretching, and I just kept the push going and then, whoosh, Baby was born head-to-toe at 12:19 a.m.
Joe was the first one to hold our child, as we had talked to Denise beforehand about him catching the baby. In a moment, I went from such intense physical experience to such intense euphoria. I looked and there was the most perfect being I had ever seen, eyes wide open taking in the world without a sound. I knew right away that Baby was healthy. I kept repeating “It’s a baby! It’s our baby!” It sounds so silly, but I was so amazed that this being was real and here. It was hard to take it all in.
My umbilical cord was still attached so I had to figure out how to turn around so I could hold our precious child. We were so taken with joy that our baby was so healthy and beautiful that we forgot all about seeing if we had a boy or girl. Denise reminded us about this and asked if we’d like to see. I was so shaky and our baby was so slippery and I asked her to help us turn the body to see. We had a girl! A perfect little girl. And little she was. Her birth weight was 6 pounds 2 ounces (though she pooped about three times before being weighed!). Her body was long and thin like her papa. Her color was so rich and full of life and she was so aware, looking all around her! It is hard to describe these feelings. Here I had watched my baby daughter join the world and at the same time watched the man I love become a father. Any unease he had with babies before the birth was gone as he held our sweet girl with such confidence. He spoke to her in a way that soothed her as Denise and Allison weighed and measured her. It was amazing to see.
I was still feeling very shaky as we settled onto our bed, and we tried to nurse but she wasn’t latching on. We kept trying and trying and I could feel my mind taking over again, questioning things, not trusting things to work out in their own time. Looking back I wish I would have not worried about her not latching on immediately - she did, of course, in her own time. We figured out nursing over the next few days together and she is an avid eater now.
After holding her and cuddle-bugging together for some time I decided to shower. I was really feeling shaky, shivering like wild. I thought a quick shower would help a bit. I didn’t want to leave my daughter, but at the same time thought a little one-on-one time with her and papa would be special. Denise and Allison helped me into the shower. I was so full of joy I cried and smiled throughout the shower. When I got out, Allison had put together the most lovely plate of fruit and yogurt for me to eat. I had not been hungry through labor, but was now so thankful for food. The three of us cuddled up in bed together as Denise and Allison cleaned things up. What a blessing they both were on every step of this amazing journey. Around 3:30 a.m. they came in to say goodbye. We thanked them and then we were alone, our little family. We stayed in bed in the bedroom for the better part of three days. Joe would leave our little cave and re-emerge with yummy food and clean diapers. It was such lovely time. We wanted to honor the sacred time following birth and hold the space for a while before we emerged into the larger world, even if that larger world was just the living room for starters. We commented on how having our baby daughter in our life felt both surreal and like the most natural thing in the world. And still today, it feels this way. Siporah is four months old, rolling over, giggling and making our world brighter than I could ever imagine. Our hearts are eternally full of thankfulness and love for Denise and Allison. Their presence blessed our sacred birth journey with gentle guidance, humble wisdom, empowerment and love.
The Birth of Sipora