There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Nothing is more compelling than the stories we tell ourselves and by extension, our children. One of the most formational stories we can tell our children is the story of their birth, how they came to be in this world. How to be in this world.
The story my mother told me of my own birth was layered with the upheaval of war and refugee flight, trauma, loss, separation, isolation, suffering, and the utterly alien world of America. No matter the iterations over the years, deep sorrow tinged this story always. I was born in sorrow.
When my time came, I sought another way to birth. A way rooted in peace, harmony, family, love, connection, ancestral tradition, and home. And yet, while I had the birth outcome I wanted–an unmedicated home birth, a healthy baby–the outcome in and of itself wasn’t enough; the words to express and capture the nuances flitted capriciously on breathless airways. I struggled to articulate the uneven process, the transpiration of events, and the jumbled emotions with only the models of medicalized narratives or the transcendental celebratory ones to guide me, each with their own conventional inadequacies. I felt bewildered, overwhelmed, and even traumatized, leaving me unable to integrate my experience, foundering at even telling myself a story, and bereft of words to share with my daughter that could imbue her with a sense of self, sacredness, and power. So I let silence be her genesis.
It took me 4.5 years to be able to untangle my birth story from her birth story and tell a coherent narrative of my daughter’s birth to her, for her.
What changed that for me, what changed me, was embarking on the Birthing from Within program to become a childbirth educator/mentor. (BFW also separately offers a Birth Story Medicine workshop that allows mothers and fathers the space to process any traumas and heal.) I recognized how I internalized the archetypes of Victim and of Judge, limbically imprinted with a woeful birth story, steeped in a culture filled with a dire fear of birth, and surrounded by tone deafness for imperfect, nuanced, transgressive (home) birth-as-a-journey stories.
So I walked the labyrinth in meditative contemplation of birth story, soaked the starlight of a vast universe of possibility into my vulnerable skin, and communed with all the pieces of myself. I breathed. I inspired.
At the heart of the labyrinth, I found myself. I found my story. Retracing my steps, I emerged from this soul-itude, integrated, determined to be a Love Warrior and to incorporate a different story that speaks to her, to her sense of beingness.
I came home from that training and that very night I regaled my daughter with her magical, mythical birth story to her delight and for her aspiration. And in telling her birth story, I embodied a new story about myself; my feelings and understanding of her birth have also shifted. There are still things I would have liked to change, but those regrets and lessons no longer have the power to shape the story nor be its moral.
My husband appreciated how my story of her birth and postpartum has transformed from my feeling it was a dark time to it being something meaningful. I agreed, commenting how Birthing From Within has been instrumental in my being more compassionate to myself and reframing the stories I tell myself. On reflection though, I think both are true. My postpartum was a dark time and it was meaningful. I needed to follow The Heroine’s Journey into the Ordeal/Underworld to and make my Return to the World. My postpartum needed to be dark and earthy, to be immersed in soulitude, to plunge into my estranged feminine and wounded masculine psyche, reintegrating under the influence of the dark moon. As I stand on the other side, I am no longer afraid of the dark. I embrace it. Like the magnificent oak tree, my arms reach into the life-giving light of the sun and my roots stretch deep into the nourishing bosom of earth. Bright Blessed Day, Dark Sacred Night.
My daughter asks for her birth story, hugs it to herself, and revels in her sacred birth. Every telling is a little different as I spin the golden threaded details into a magical tapestry of rainbow design. She knows how she came into this world; she knows how to be in this world. She was born in love.
I was recently inspired by this blog post to share my daughter’s birth story as my inaugural Mothering post. This then is my daughter’s birth story:
(Before you came to be, Daddy and I wished for a baby. You chose us. We made you. And you blossomed and grew inside of my womb.)
When you were ready to be born, the sun woke up and you began to dance to a slow beat. The seawaters lapped all day, ebbing and flowing; finally pinkening as the sun went to bed. Our midwife came as the seawaters turned azure blue. So we knew you were ready. And you began to dance a little faster and stronger, pounding your feet to the rhythm.
Our midwife went home for a nap. Daddy and I tried to sleep and you danced all night, twirling around in my womb. Adagio and then moderato.
When the sun woke up again, our birth team came and we ate scrambled eggs. But I was waiting for bà ngoại (your grandmother). She flew with the sun and uncle Tommy guided her the last part of her journey to our door. As she crossed the threshold calling out “where is my grand baby?”, we rejoiced and you twirled three times in allegro.
Bà ngoại braided my hair and cooked up a storm of food to prepare for the journey ahead. Then our doula, Daddy and I traversed the labyrinth, pausing for our birth dance every time you twirled inside of me. It was the longest, hardest journey of my life and Daddy held me the whole way. When I had purged three times, I was ready to come home.
I discarded my jewelry, divested my garments, and Daddy and I descended into the deep waters. Our midwives and doulas poured water over my back. We danced together, the three of us, forever. Just when we needed it, our chiropractor came by to help me release the Sphincter Gate. We danced in the waters until the sun winked out into infinity and our skin became velvety folds in time.
Then after working so hard, Daddy, you & I lay down to rest in bed in that time without time. All the while you danced and twirled lower and lower to the rhythm of birth. Then as we tiptoed up to the edge of time, you and I decided it was the right moment.
I called for bà ngoại, our ancestors, our midwives, and doulas. And they surrounded us and supported us. So many helping hands, so much love to help birth you.
When I could do no more, our doula and midwife supported my limbs. When I ran out of strength to push, bà ngoại cradled me and gave me her strength. When I ran out of will, I touched your crown seeking benediction and you gave me your motivation. Together we pushed and you undulated through the birth canal. You spiraled through the last Gate–the ring of fire–and you crowned through the portal between the worlds. Our midwife guided Daddy’s hands and he caught you as you slipped out into the world with your little left fist clasped in the bhramara mudra. I clasped your hand in mine and you sang your mantra into the world.
Daddy eased you onto my belly. I shook off the pieces of my former self and became your mother. You and I breathed in rhythm and respite for endless moments. Then you began to wriggle towards my heart. When you snuggled safe and warm at my heart, we looked into each other’s eyes and fell in love infinitely. You kissed my breast and bú for the first time.
When it was time, Daddy cut your umbilical cord and I birthed your placenta. Our midwives revered all the little bits of you–your mouth, your hands and feet, your bottom. Bà ngoại had her turn and held you for the first time. We beheld your wonder.
Then you, Daddy and I nestled for a well deserved sleep on your first night on earth. We are so blessed. And that is the beginning of your story.