I write a lot about being present, about ways to achieve presence, and the importance of not mulling over the past, which we cannot change and trying not to anticipate the future, which we have no idea what it will bring. But if you want a crash course in being present, in letting go of your agenda and being fully invested in the present moment, have a child. Or take care of an infant for a day, or even a few hours. It's revolutionary. I can start writing a blog, washing clothes, dishes, myself, or basically doing anything, then as soon as that little baby wail pierces my ears, it's over. As is anything else that I may have wanted to get done in the next hour. And as frustrating as that can be, it's also an amazing lesson.
You see, there are not too many things that I know, but one thing that I knew would be true before it happened was my baby's capacity to be my teacher. She teaches me every day, all day long to pay attention. And every time my mind strays, she reminds me.
Maybe because she was born really little, and had to be on oxygen for the first 5 weeks of her life, she was a little crankier than some of those mythical, super-easy babies that people speak of. It's not that she's particularly fussy, or colicky, she just knows that I tend to get mentally "busy" and need gentle or not-so-gentle reminders to notice this moment. And she's more than happy to oblige.
It's not as quiet as meditating, and it doesn't get me in the shape that yoga does, but it's equally, if not more effective. And not only effective, but joyful and satisfying. When I lock eyes with my baby and hold that innocent, open and spacious gaze with my child, it's transformative. It's like I can see her potential - to learn and grow and understand concepts and emotions and what life is, as much as any of us do. There is extreme wisdom behind those eyes. The wisdom of not knowing or posturing that she knows anything. A true open book. And it's lovely.
It will be a joy to stand by her and watch as she shapes her world.
I wanted an all-natural birth. Oh, I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I felt that all the yoga and meditation that I did would certainly help prepare my body and mind for the marathon of giving birth with no interventions. I had a birth plan that my husband and I painstakingly fussed over, that we were confident would serve as a guide for the birth of our daughter. Then my water broke. Then I didn't go into labor.
Once your water breaks they kind of like for you to start having some contractions eventually. And it's kind of intense on the baby to experience the contracting of the uterus around her without the cusion of the amniotic fluid. It felt kind of selfish of me to insist on doing that to my child. I don't know...everyone's different, but when my OB said that he wanted to begin gently inducing my labor 15 hours after my water broke and I was only 1cm dilated, with no real contractions to speak of, I agreed that yes it did sound like the best thing for my baby.
For many people Cervidil is pretty mild. Many people can sleep with it inside of them. Maybe because my water had already broken, the Cervidil rocked my world. The contractions came one after another with no break, and were super intense after not really having anything worse than a dull menstrual cramp of a contraction. It was so strong that it started to affect the baby, whose heart rate dropped suddenly because she wasn't getting any oxygen during those crazy contractions. They ripped the Cervidil out with no delay. That was a scary way to begin active labor. But after that, my body started contracting on it's own, thank God, and we went the rest of the night seeing how far my body would go unassisted. That was pretty cool. My husband and I bonded pretty hard that night. We watched the snow cats silently creep up and down Born Free and we rocked and swayed and breathed together. We both really fondly remember that night.
When the doctor checked me in the morning - this is more than 24 hours after my water had broken, I was only at 2cm dilated. Progress, but still for the baby, it could be better. He said he wanted to use Pitocin. I had previously been teriffied of Pitocin, and felt that this was a clear step toward a Cesarian birth. But when he suggested it, to my surprise I agreed with no protest. Not because I was intimidated of my doctor, but because I was thinking of my tiny baby inside of me getting rocked with every contraction for 24 hours. I felt that it was time for her to have a rest. So they began the drip. At first it wasn't so bad and I could still experiment with different positions, up against the wall, on all fours, sitting on the birthing ball. But quickly the sensation excalated, and I could hardly think or even see straight during contractions that were coming closer and closer together.
I begged for the epidural. And I didn't then, nor do I in retrospect feel let-down or in any way dissapointed in my choice. It was the right thing for my labor.
What needed to happen and what wasn't happening was me relaxing. Despite all the yoga, meditation, visualization and preparation that I had done up until that point, I couldn't let go. I could not surrender. There's a reason I have that word tattooed on my foot. 'Cause I need to be reminded to do it frequently, and even then I'm not all that proficient at it.
Once the anesthesiologist, that blessed man, administered the epidural I was able to relax. I even slept a bit. I dilated from 2 to 9.5cm in about 2 hours. Asleep. I just needed to relax and I couldn't do it actively. It's a real mind fuck. But in my sleep, my body's wisdom took over and did what I couldn't will it to do in over 24 hours prior.
When it came time to push, I was a bit more rested, I was fresh and thanks to the epidural, I felt strong and ready. It was actually kind of fun for the first, oh let's say, hour and a half. Then shit got so real, and I felt like I hadn't ever had that epidural. What epidural? I wanted to crawl up the wall with pain. I wanted to take the whole amazing nine months of pregnancy back and reverse time so that I would never have gotten to this God-forsaken place of unbearable pain. I wondered silently, while my mouth was screaming, how other women had done this - assisted or naturally. That really blows my mind. When those final few pushes were on deck, and it was go time, and I had to push this baby out, it was other-worldly. There are no words to describe the sensations, the rawness, the quite unfathomable fullness and the blinding fear that accompanied the delivery of my tiny 5lb 11oz little girl. It was no joke.
And then magically, she was here. There was a moment's pause by the pediatrician and nurses about her color and breathing, which scared me more than any of the pain of the labor could ever have, as I already loved her beyond measure and was so invested in her wellbeing that I couldn't concentrate with the doctor about the placenta or the end of my delivery. I was absorbed in the goings-on over at the "baby table". But in the end, they gave her to me, and my complete overwhelm at the last almost 34 hours overtook me and I sobbed like a baby. It took away any potential guilt or dissapointment at the gap between what I had originally wanted for the birth, and what had transpired. The giant love for this tiny creature that exploded in my heart wiped the slate clean and gave me a precious moment's insight into really surrendering. Surrendering my need for control, and to know how things will happen before they do. Surrendering my need to cushion scariness with information and "preparedness". Sometimes you have to dive into the scariness, and it's not some cute yoga teacher thing to say - there is no other choice. And it makes you naked. And it forces you to stand in your power.
And I LOVED the birth of my daughter. I wouldn't have had it any other way. She is my reward, and she's beyond worth it.
As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!