Birth Health Life

Monday, 24 September 2018

The Journey to Motherhood

Pregnant Woman Wearing Marled Gray Sweater Touching Her Stomach


I have worked as a birth doula for seven years or more, and my stories, unless specified, are anonymised and details changed to protect the privacy of my clients.

The journey you take to her can be a presentiment of the journey of the impending birth. 

 I learned this from a doula sister who works from her enormous heart, and we remain astonished at how often it proves true. Or it can just be that the brain seeks to find patterns in events, and of course fallen trees block entrances, tractors hold you up on winding roads, and cyclists and horses appear out of nowhere because this is the countryside. 

Anyway, I found their home quite easily in the end, although negotiating the uneven terrain of the long, unmade up drive in my little car was tricky. Brown scrabby hedgerow at the end of winter flanked the way, with pale downland rising up behind. I stalled twice before I was close enough to park, but no mind, for I like rural, especially with this wide view across my territory of Sussex downland farms and fields. Above me the wild afternoon sky is all heavy slate and liquid gold. It's cold, even for March. What direction is this weather headed?  Things could go either way. 

What will they be like, these first time parents, baby fairly imminent, who want a birth doula?  First contact was by text before Christmas, but life is busy for them and there were long and disconnecting gaps in our correspondence. I knew that a number of my colleagues had also made the bumpy journey down the farm track to the newly converted Sussex barn to be interviewed.  My path to their door has been disjointed and uneven in more ways than one.

The car stalls itself again on a muddy slope which is good enough parked for me, so I pull on the handbrake and reach into my bag to check and then mute my mobile. I pause in the driver's seat, to feel my body and centre my awareness, ready to leave my everyday concerns and my own story there in the vehicle.  Let me serve this woman and the incoming soul as best I can. My aching back, leaking bathroom and life problems have no place in their space. Let me go to them a clean slate, washed of presuppositions, an open heart, a hollow bone through which abundant, endless universal energy flows.

They are in the doorway to greet me, both late 20's I would say, as gorgeous a pregnant pair as you could imagine, welcoming me into their home.  It is the material manifestation of their love. The feel is expensive but not ostentatious. There is attention to the flow of energy, and to quality natural materials.  A feeling of the Waldorf education style of art and living is hinted by the homely simplicity and innocent quality of the canvases leaning against the wall. He, rugged in checked shirt, offers an array of herbal teas, and smiles when I ask for my builder's tea, no sugar. Finally looking into her smiling face is satisfying, and she looks familiar, she looks how I thought she would from her words.

They touch and look at one another with love as they speak at length and in great detail about their hopes for the day that their baby will be born.  There is an empty birth pool set up in the corner of a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows looking directly onto the rising hill of the downs. There are cards with paintings in deep pinks and reds, and affirmations written on them, stuck to the walls around the pool.  They've read Michel Odent, they've read about using hypnosis, but haven't employed a practitioner. They ask detailed, well-researched questions about what I would do if this happened, or that. They knew I offered placenta encapsulation, and we spoke about the importance of chilling the organ as soon as possible. She didn't particularly connect with the thought of using her placenta for pills, tincture or ritual... not everyone does. 

The first meeting.  Both parties will pay some attention to the words said, but most weight will be given to the feel, the vibe, to how the energy flows between us.  Does being around her make my heart open? Do I feel expanded, with that warm glow in the gut of me?  Or do I feel anxiousness, contracted, heavy?

 I consciously create the space in the meeting to connect with how I'm feeling in my gut, although sometimes it's unmistakable, overwhelming.  When we hug goodbye, I will ask in my head a question to the baby.  Am I meant to be here with you for your birth?  This gem of a tip from my beautiful mentor. 

 My hand touches her arm as we laugh about something and I'm asking myself...how does this feel?  If touch is awkward now, how will it be between us during the epic journey that birthing a baby can be?  I have said no to some situations, and felt grateful, and yes to others with some trepidation, and been surprised.

Beautiful mama-to-be. An inamorata, one who loves and is loved. Sensing this energy around a woman, the energy that flowed around the conception of this tiny being will help with their journey earth side when the time is right is wonderful.  I meet women in all stages of motherhood, looking anaemic, tired, tested, sometimes at this stage just plain fed-up, but she glows from within, her gleaming golden hazel eyes, her smooth olive skin has such a radiance, framed by thick rich long chestnut hair. There is that deep, contented self-containedness about her that pregnant women sometimes have, that kind of disconnection to everyday concerns, plugged in as they are to the bigger picture, doing the important work of growing a human.

How would it be, to be a part of this journey?

I am careful to not be carried away by the impressions I sense from people when I meet them, for we are all prone to interpreting things through the veil of our own experiences and feelings, but I acknowledge what information I receive by subtle means, and ask for guidance with whether and how to use it.

 I feel a gap where her own mother would be.  I sense this gap keenly, knowing from my own matrix how this presents in the subtle fields.  Again, careful to keep my field clear, my bones hollow. This is the unfolding of a new life story, and I am here to serve them.  With this clear intent, I will be given the information I need to do so.

She speaks about pain relief and her words resonate with my perception of her as needing to be seen by him and others who I don't yet know, maybe herself, to be courageous, independent and not needing of help. She proudly lets me know that she is physically capable, competitive and very fit.  Skiing, snowboarding and horse riding in early pregnancy, still running every day. There will be no resting in bed for her after the baby comes!

 Behind the words I sense that she might feel that physical prowess earned by her hard work will automatically grant an easier passage. Physical fitness and stamina is never a bad thing, but the ability to be soft, accepting and vulnerable is just as valuable in the paradox that is the ultimate surrender of birth.  

It's less about being strong enough in the body to push a baby out, more about being soft enough in the psyche to allow the body to expel the baby unhindered by tense, resistant muscles opposing the work of the uterus, fuelled by deep fear.

 Its about letting go.

Being able to allow your consciousness to retreat to the otherworlds often called 'labour land' so that the old brain can rule this ancient hormonal and visceral dance. This is an inner journey of the essence of a woman, travelling the labyrinth beyond the stars to collect her baby's soul and bring it in. If we understood the necessity of this journey we would protect the woman's space from intrusion with the utmost fervour.

Relinquishing control of everything, or anything, can be the biggest challenge some women face in life and labour.

  Softness is a quality we don't always favour as women in ourselves, fighting as we have had to all our lives in one way or another to be seen as equals in the world of men.  Softness, surrender, acceptance.  It's the ultimate con to have persuaded us that these are weaknesses when they are the exact opposite of weak.

We find a common connection, as I sensed we would;  her brother played rugby at the club I used to manage.  I remember liking this brother, a solid, good man, who when looked at with the open eye revealed a well concealed aura of seriousness and responsibility about him, for one so young. I guess she has chosen a partner with that similar, solid goodness. I hope this connection bodes well and that they will hire me. We hug goodbye on the step and I ask my question to the incoming one, who gives me no hint of an answer. The car slid hopelessly about as I set off on my way home, seeing them in the rear view mirror, framed like a painting in the doorway, waving me off.

She didn't hire me.  She left it almost two weeks to let me know that they had decided to be unaccompanied, except for her sister-in-law, and obviously the homebirth team.  I wished them well, but I was surprised, and even a little sad, for the prospect of seeing them achieve their birth in that lovely pool in the room with the view to the downs (how beautiful would that look with moonlight streaming in?) had excited me.

  It came to light over time that she had interviewed almost every doula I knew.  We sometimes get this, where the prospective client cleverly extricates information or whatever they feel they need from the interview without ever intending to hire anybody, and it leaves some doulas feeling cheated.  I take a different view, and if I have passed something on that assists the passage of the little one, I am more than happy for it, and I keep the interview short and my outlay minimal so I have no complaints.

The night of the interview, or maybe the following night, I found myself laying in bed, thinking again about how it would be to birth in that gorgeous room, with a big moon lighting the scene.  I must have dropped off for the next thing I knew I was moving through cold air over the downs until I found myself in their house in the darkness, in the beautiful room with the pool.

 The pool was full of water, but the house was empty. As I stood in the dark, chill air, the affirmations fluttered down from the wall into the cold inky black depths, centrifugal swirling of water as strong as vaginal wall muscles, head first, pressure, unbearable pressure, makes me wake with a start.  I thought of her now and again after that, and always with the wish for all to be well for them.

Some time later, when the moon had gone more than a course and brown scrabby hedges sported tiny plush new leaves, I received a text from her.  A little girl had been born in the night, an instrumental birth in hospital, following a long, exhausting labour at home.  She had remembered our conversation about placentas, and had decided to prepare to keep it, and freeze it, in case. Her brother (the one I remembered) had collected it from hospital and looked after it as instructed.  Could I prepare it for her?  

The placenta had a beautiful light.  Subtle dimensions of emotions from life stories in the ancestral line that I will never know the relevance or meaning of.

 We touch these lives so fleetingly, and yet so deep. Just a snapshot. I tripped out after preparing it, a migraine threatening all day, flashing lights at the edge of my vision and my period broke through four days early.

Processing, assimilating, life bursting through the membranes between worlds, we all have to move over for it, and I had to lay down and sleep for four hours straight before driving the capsules over to her.  On the way, the colours of new life seemed crazy intense in the setting sun, and a hare lept through the birch woods by the road.

I felt changed by the birth of this baby who I hadn't even met, from a woman I barely knew.

Seeing her that evening reminded me what a rite of passage it is to birth a baby. She rested up in bed, whilst family members padded around the house, cooking, looking after. I popped briefly upstairs at her insistence. I would have left them in peace but she wanted to see me...ah the mystery of it all.

Her eyes met mine and she knew that I knew she'd been brave, met the challenge, even though the terrain was so different from her wishes and expectations. I acknowledged that for her, speaking as I was guided, it wasn't even me, but whoever, working through my hollow bones, to give her the words that would support her as she journeys on, with her baby at her breast.

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