The following are excerpts from my pregnancy journal, which I wrote to our child.
Brief note: You will find that nowhere in the recounting of my birth story do I use the word "pain". I do not do this to sound transcendent, to pretend it was all rainbows and butterflies, or to negate the fact that I was in a space that could be labeled as painful. I wrote it this way because "pain" was not part of my vocabulary while I was in labor. I broke down the sensations, which were incredibly intense, and found that at the root they were "heat" and "pressure". This is the sort of language I used while in the trenches of labor and have incorporated here in this narrative for the sake of accuracy.
At one point during my time in the hospital my nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale from 1-10. Not asking this question was an explicit instruction in my birth plan, but we ended up there anyway. Once she inserted the possibility of labeling my experience as a painful one I had the most miserable and consuming contraction up to that point. Once it had run it's course I calmly said "let's not use the word pain, I am having an 'intense' experience." And with that I was able to clear my field and let her know my wishes. The mind is powerful, and I really gained a new understanding and respect for the potency of thought and language during the process of giving birth.
June 1, 2015: We were blessed with a good rain shower today after only half an inch falling in all of May. The life-giving forces of that shower felt purifying and miraculous, and the full moon is just two days away. I hope the presence of the water and the gentle pull of the moon will coax you from my womb. To date I have had nothing even resembling a contraction, so it would be a miracle if you come on time!
June 3, 2015: Today's the first day I feel that your growth and the space of my body have come to a head. Perhaps this will initiate you to move down further, ripening the cervix and getting things rolling.
We had our appointment with the midwives yesterday, 39 weeks and 4 days. We are playing the waiting game at this point, holding patience and openness around when is right for you to come. Let us not mess with the stars little one, I trust you. I am doing everything I can to feel ready and to create a sense of ease for your arrival. Today we deep cleaned the house, grandma and I, went for a beautiful walk in Oxbow park, I prepared the "labor" food, and printed the birth plan. All of these things I had been putting off for weeks. Not to mention how many friends reached out and were holding us in their consciousness. I feel deeply aligned.
At this time I am operating from a highly intuitive state, feeling guided by a mysterious source within, and listening closely to where it directs me. Tonight I walked down the hall and abruptly turned into the office to pick up Be Here Now because I felt I desperately needed to read it, it has been years. I stayed up until nearly midnight reading through the autobiography of Richard Alpert and also the first section of the art filled pages of wisdom. I was struck by the way that his experience of his spiritual birth was feeding me as I sit on the precipice of giving birth. As I read, I felt myself aligning with the beauty of Oneness, the bliss possible in struggle, and the melting of all things into a vibrational level of equanimity. I invited you to come.
As I read, I felt myself aligning with the beauty of Oneness, the bliss possible in struggle, and the melting of all things into a vibrational level of equanimity. I invited you to come.
The wisdom of Ram Dass permeates my being and I know I will sleep peacefully. I am so excited to do this together. May it be on your terms.
June 4, 2015: As I slept, I met Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary in the dream plane back during their Harvard days. They spoke to me of how souls enter the world, creating a portal of light from Source that accompanies the birth of every child. They showed me this glorious white light descending upon me, it was spectacularly beautiful.
I woke at 4:00 AM to use the bathroom and upon returning to bed a trickle followed by a large gush poured onto the bed. My water had broken. I was struck by the imminence of the situation, feeling into your arrival fast approaching. I was about to do this, no way out but through, and today was the day.
My water had broken. I was struck by the imminence of the situation, feeling into your arrival fast approaching. I was about to do this, no way out but through, and today was the day.
My first major thought was "24 hours". You would be here in that time, or less, on your own accord or otherwise. I had only been asleep for four hours at this point.
I immediately called your dad, who had been working through the night putting in a tremendous effort trying to finish a kitchen cabinet project before you came. He was overjoyed, and quickly began his cleanup. I then called the midwife on call, Nora, who I had just seen two days before. She told me to rest and call back in a few hours with an update.
Unable to fall back asleep out of sheer excitement, I began to spread the news to a circle of women I had asked to protect us during our journey. Beginning to share breathed a new life and reality into what was happening. We were soon to meet you! An immense orb of protection and love was created for the three of us through community. It was palpable.
Your dad arrived home around 7:30, exhausted. We laughed because our birth story could not have begun any other way than with him having been working feverishly on a project for more than 24 hours straight. It's the story of our life!
At this point, and shortly after my water broke, light and irregular menstrual like cramps with a sort of low level backache had begun. Now that we were together we felt grounded and content. We went into the backyard to do some light yard work for about an hour, which gave us a chance to begin integrating your pending arrival and to relax into the excitement. I pruned the roses and picked raspberries (it was my dream to labor and pick raspberries!) while your dad mowed the lawn. A dear friend came over with tea and wonderfully delicious scones. She got quite a kick out of us toddling around in the yard while I was laboring. It was so good to receive her blessing that morning and to connect with the little boy growing in her belly.
The effort outside wore us down enough that we decided to lay down to nap in preparation for whatever may come. We slept soundly, I eventually getting up around 11:00 because the cramping had begun to intensify. Things settled down again with a little walking and then all I wanted was to cuddle your dad, so I laid back down. I fell asleep deeply and this nap was a valuable resource.
Upon waking around 1:00 the contractions had pretty much ceased. I spoke again to a midwife and she suggested taking a walk outside, nipple stimulation, and then considering acupuncture. Once again, they prepared me for the long haul, discussing the possibilities of what would unfold if things did not progress if we near the 24 hour mark, which is the maximum time they allow you to go after the water has broken. This of course inspired me to get into action!
We went for a walk around the park by the house. We walked for four or five laps and things began to shift. I was now stopping for each contraction and spreading my hands wide, imagining the strong heat and pressure in my abdomen radiating through my body and being released from my finger tips. This was extremely effective for easing the sensations.
I was now stopping for each contraction and spreading my hands wide, imagining the strong heat and pressure in my abdomen radiating through my body and being released from my finger tips. This was extremely effective in dissipating the sensations.
We decided to head for home at this point to get some food in my belly. I began to use the exercise ball to roll myself around, exploring the range of motion in my hips and back. It was very soothing.
Just for safe measure, we explored the nipple stimulation and this took everything to the next level. In a very short amount of time I went from walking around, stopping to let the contractions roll over me, to leaning over the chair moaning through each contraction.
I decided to lay down on the couch at this point, and I really wanted to throw up, which came soon enough. This was the real deal at this point! Game on. I had continued redirecting the energy of each contraction by spreading my hands wide and making long slow exhales, sending the intensity of the force within my body out through my hands. But at this time putting several long guttural "oooooh" sounds onto each exhale became very important. This was my saving grace. It usually took 4-5 long exhales to get through a contraction and by the second exhale my mind would be transported and the energy dispersed. It was miraculous. In between each wave I was able to find deep peace and relaxation, playing into the polarity of my experience unfolding moment by moment. It was amazing how my body knew exactly what it needed to maintain balance as the process intensified.
It was amazing how my body knew exactly what it needed to maintain balance as the process intensified.
This time, your dad called the midwives and they made a plan for us to come in after the traffic subsided a bit. It was about 4:30 pm. The time was going very fast for me at this point, or was nonexistent in general, perhaps. I was deep into the waves of my experience, riding each contraction, dispersing the energy, and transcending the intensity through sound. One after another. It truly was a mantra meditation for me. Incredibly transportive.
Throughout this time your dad was an amazing support. He respected my need for space and my request for no physical contact during my contractions. He was completely present and available through my process, timing each contraction, catching vomit, and placing cool wash cloths on my forehead between contractions.
What felt like 15 minutes was an hour and a half and we made a plan to go into the hospital at 6:30. Something in me shifted completely a few contractions after this decision and I announced "we need to leave right now!" Right before we left I had the first "bloody show", up until this point I had just been leaking clear amniotic fluid. Perfect timing. Things seemed to be really progressing.
Before we left I took in the beauty of the day and our yard, flowers everywhere and the twilight of afternoon sun settling in. I was so filled with awe and joy. Then I put on a blindfold to contain what had been created during laboring at home. My eyes had been closed since about 4:00 pm, cutting out the sensory information helped the intensity of contractions to be less overwhelming, but the blindfold served as an important protective barrier for my mind as we journeyed.
The drive was clear and swift, but the ride was uncomfortable as the contractions continued to intensify as we got closer. We pulled up to the valet at the emergency entrance and entered there. I could only walk about 30 feet between contractions, which we stopped for and I would moan through, my left hand outstretched, my right hand squeezing your dad's hand. I can only imagine what a sight we were! This blindfolded lady in labor wearing a blue sun dress and flip flops with her sweet husband standing stoically in solidarity next to her and telling onlookers I was going to be fine. I was of course beyond caring about anything at this point other than the immediate experience of my body. I was so so happy to not have taken in any of the sights of entering the ER and walking through the hospital. It was very important for my focus and maintaining the progress of labor. Eventually, we made it to Labor and Delivery, they admitted us and we moved into room one. It was about 7:30 now.
I remained blindfolded until your dad had prepared the space with all of the items we had brought: quilts, special items from our altar, a bouquet of peonies from the yard, herbs, fabric for over the television, and rose water to spritz in the space. When I felt ready I finally pulled the blindfold off and there before me was a beautiful face, Laura, who was the first midwife I saw once you were conceived. We had come full circle.
By now the contractions were very intense and coming in incredible waves. And yet I was still able to deeply relax into a space of ease, comfort, and calm between each one.
By now the contractions were very intense and coming in incredible waves. And yet I was still able to deeply relax into a space of ease, comfort, and calm between each one. I was deep into my experience and could only stand to be touched in between contractions, which had been true since the labor really accelerated earlier in the day. This made it difficult to get set up with the fetal heart monitor, have blood draws, and my blood pressure taken. I declined to have a cervical exam, it just seemed physically impossible to fathom going through at that time and the idea of being manipulated any more than necessary seemed excruciating. We decided she would check in a few hours instead. I also decided to just keep my dress on instead of changing into the birthing clothes I had brought. That simple task sounded completely beyond me now.
In the midst of all of this I decided I needed to get onto the bed. I situated myself leaning back with my legs in a crossed position. They continued to prepare the birth tub and get the room in order as I clung to managing the experience. A huge pressure began to accompany each contraction at the area of my cervix and so with each rush I would lift my bottom off of the bed to allow space for the pressure to release. Suddenly, the intensity was cranked to a new level and my previous long and drawn out moans jumped to a high, staccato wailing as I struggled with losing my breath. I was now beyond controlling anything.
Over this single contraction I felt my pelvis expand tremendously to let you pass through. It felt like the doors of a castle being cranked open.
Over this single contraction I felt my pelvis expand tremendously to let you pass through. It felt like the doors of an ancient castle being cranked open. I remember thinking in this moment of unimaginable intensity and ultimate surrender "I can see why one might have an epidural!" I was filled with compassion for all women who had walked this path and I wished for everyone to receive whatever they needed to manage the process.
I dangled my hips as my body completed this extraordinary feat and then I felt the unmistakable sensation of your head dropping swiftly into the birth canal. I opened my eyes wide and said "this baby is coming!" just as Laura, with hose in hand, was preparing to fill the tub with water. The look of surprise on her face is burned in my memory. She came over and checked, sure enough, you were on your way out. Laura came to the head of the bed and said "okay, you are about to meet your baby. You can do this!" and to my surprise my immediate response was "I am doing this!" We had only been in the room for less than an hour at this point. Laura and nurse Abbey hurried to finish preparing the room with the necessary supplies, no one had suspected you were so close, nothing was ready.
The position I had been in while laboring was poor for delivery and your heart rate had begun falling now that you were in the strenuous transition between womb and world. Everyone helped roll me onto a hands and knees position, but that did not help to relieve your stress. They then laid me on my left side and I held my right leg up and back. At this point my body was in complete control. My uterus and abdomen were contracting and pushing you out spontaneously. My voice had a mind of its own, wailing through the process. I felt like a bystander watching and feeling the experience unfold within me, but without my effort and beyond my control.
My uterus and abdomen were contracting and pushing you out spontaneously. My voice had a mind of it's own, wailing through the process. I felt like a bystander watching and feeling the experience unfold within me, but without my effort and beyond my control.
Things quickly became more frantic and intense and they kept saying, "Jessica, just do this for your baby!" The physical sensation of birthing was so enormous and it felt like I was passing the most tremendous poop of my life. They tried to give me time to stretch my vaginal opening over a couple of contractions but your heart rate became critically low and it was imperative for you to come out immediately.
They tried to give me time to stretch my vaginal opening over a couple of contractions but your heart rate became critically low and it was imperative for you to come out immediately.
On what I recall being my fourth contraction since I had been placed on my side, they had me go for it, it was a moment of truth. I rode another contraction, letting my body do its natural work, and when it ended I continued to push with every ounce of force, grace, and an incredible desire for this to be over and your head enetered the world. I felt incredible and I believed I had not even had to tear. That was far from the truth, but it made me realize how incredible the pain mitigating effects of the hormones were in that moment. The cord was wrapped tightly around your neck, Laura quickly slipped it off and your body slid out shortly thereafter.
The cord was wrapped tightly around your neck, Laura quickly slipped it off and your body slid out shortly thereafter.
My first image of you was your crumpled purple body, unresponsive, at the end of the bed. You were covered in meconium and so resuscitation was not an option. Laura turned immediately to call for the pediatrics team, desperation thick in the air. Then, suddenly, you let out a single cry. With that Laura picked you up and brought you to my bare chest and began rubbing you vigorously, the faces of Abbey, Laura, your dad's and mine encircling You. I watched, waiting as they all called you to breath, yelling "COME ON BABY!!!" After tenuous moments you began to cry, and you kept crying loud and hard. Everyone was cheering, yelling with joy. I finally asked, "did we have a boy or a girl?"
The energy of a warrior permeated the room. Everyone could feel it and spoke of your strength. It wasn't until the following days that I fully understood how dire the situation had been as you were delivered. You had a hero's birth. Miraculous.
We met eyes and I remember thinking "of course it is You." You were so familiar and I was so happy to see your soul again. This was our beginning...
Rowen Magnus Peterson, born on June 4, 2015 at 8:32 pm. Weighing in at 7 lbs 11 oz and measuring 19.5 inches long.