Healing: Take Two

I was back, for the first time since Kaia’s birth.

In the frigid and crowded OR, with a client during her Cesarean, I whispered through my mask as her eyes were closed, trembling hand in my hand:

“Send that warm, white light to your baby.   When your baby is being born, imagine your hands are the ones pulling your baby from your womb.  You are strong and I am so proud of you. Your baby’s birth is coming soon”

Many other ramblings poured from my heart in those moments that I tried to calm her and hold her tenderly, words I cannot recall now. Even when I realized she wasn’t fully aware – the sound of a deep snore coming from her throat – I still kept mumbling and stroking her hand.

I told myself I would be fully present this time.

When her baby was born, I looked in the mirror above.   I saw blood and vernix on his perfect body.  I heard the doctor proclaim calmly “Ah, a nuchal cord!” and watched as they gently unwrapped the divine line between her and him.  When they held him above the paper screen, she was roused for a moment as her eyes fluttered open and then closed a moment later.

I held it together in there.  **********************************************************************

My emotional state wasn’t as pretty before or after her healthy baby was born.   My mind knew it wasn’t “all about me” but my heart pumped blood quickly through my veins and said “Perhaps it is”.

And sometimes healing is just like that.

As I scrubbed up while she was getting her spinal, tears shook my body in the quiet hallway.   Head in hands, I said “Leigh, you need to be strong for her”.

Then, my breath stopped and I held my head up and whispered: “Fuck being strong!  Sometimes, strength is in our humanity, in our willingness to let tears flow and say ‘You need not be strong either’.  It is when we can quake in silence with them and not feel the need to summon words”.

I am still seeking balance in my humanity.

******************************************************************

After her son was placed on the warmer in the OR, and while the Doctor continued to show three residents how to repair a uterus, the Nursery Team summoned me over to be with the baby.

My “holding it together” was done.

As soon as I leaned in to wrap my hands on his fresh body, I again began to shake and sob, tears pouring.   I placed my lips to his forehead and wept.  Like a lioness, my hands and face caressed his body with protection and longing.

The nurses excitedly asked what his name was and I shook my head, not looking up.  Again, they said something and I could not respond.   And then, they all stood there silently as I shed the unrelenting tears that his exhausted and sleeping mama should have been shedding.

Face to face with perfection, I felt fiercely that I should not be the one to welcome this baby earth side with human words.  I could not steal that moment from his mama.  Humbled, I would not speak.  And so instead, I just sobbed:  happiness, sadness, healing, anger, elation, humility all at once.  And I touched him and kissed him and looked into his eyes.  And without words, I welcomed him.

And in between tears, I realized it.  My heart finally began to mourn the separation I experienced from Kaia after my Cesarean.  Sure, I’d thought of this before.  But most of my healing and grief had been around the homebirth transport and the Cesarean itself.   Never had I really contemplated how deeply impacted I had been by losing the primal moment of immediate bonding, that surge of oxytocin that occurs during birth.

And now, I was on the other side of it all, armed with a responsibility as Earth’s Greeter.

****************************************************************

That’s all it took.  I haven’t dwelled on my client’s Cesarean much since then.  I am not angry or sad for her.  It is not my place to assume these emotions on her behalf.  I am present, open, and ready to hold her in whatever way she needs as she processes her son’s birth.

I am grateful.  Grateful to bear witness to her son’s birth, to his first cry.  Grateful that Fate brought me back full circle, reopening a door to renewed healing.

I walked across the threshold (both real and figurative), stood motionless for moments, and came back into deeper understanding.

*****************************************************************

The following day, I was called to another birth.

And 18 hours later, as she was preparing to be wheeled into the precise OR in which Kaia was born, I inhaled three times.  I thought of the face and voice of my midwife, who had been at my side during Kaia’s birth.    I remembered the feeling of her quiet support and that smile whose corners turned down slightly in quivering acknowledgement of something profound.

I summoned humanity once again and prepared her and her husband for their daughter’s birth.  A joyous occasion indeed, among the myriad of intense emotions, I told them.

Maybe my spew of words was all bullshit to them.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  I could not, would not, know in the space of that time.

I kissed her forehead, red and warm with a spiking fever, and said “You will meet her soon”. We locked eyes, held a gaze, and said nothing after that.

*****************************************************************

Watching her husband cuddle his first child through the same nursery window my mother, midwife, doulas, and family peeked through three years ago, I let the memories I never had flow through me.

I wanted to crash through the door and grab her chubby body and curl her to my chest.  That’s what I wanted to do.   I recognized the projection of my feelings and experience and let it float and sink and bob within me.

And I was okay.

And sometimes healing is just like that.

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9 thoughts on “Healing: Take Two

  1. Leigh, thank you so much for sharing this. As we heal together, grow compassion for each other, it’s all about each other and nothing to do with each other. Those births had nothing to do with you, yet how you are so intricately connected to them. I remember the day you told me Kaia’s birth story; so strong and positive and willing to feel it. I suppose for always you will be pulled back to it, to gently piece it together. What a blessing those women you birthed were. What a gift those babies were. What an open force of love you are, to be there. If I could not be with my babies post birth (I am so lucky to have been) I imagine a Leigh to be the face that Original Face can gaze upon.

    Your writing about birth is so perfect, so unattached and yet so present and poetic. Nothing is quite like it.

    And here I am, reading this, feeling it so deep inside, I am there, quivering and shaking, crying with you, with all of them…and it hasg nothing to do with me, I did not get cut open to give birth, I was not their doula. But yet this is about me, about all of us, all women and mothers and babies. Somehow it is. You make it apparent that birth is perfect.

    my arms around you.
    mb

  2. These words just reached out and grabbed my heart, touched it, melted it.. … this is such a lovely post, Leigh. Simply beautiful, and breath-taking. What a gem you are.

  3. And dads too..

    It is before dawn….home from my mission trip….and there are tears in my eyes.

    Your narrative placed me in the OR with you. I could see you as you cuddled that tiny bundle and welcomed him into the world.

    I love you,

    Dad

  4. my precious, precious leigh-leigh…what a gift you are indeed – to your clients, to that baby, to YOUR babies, to all of us.

    I know the pain you speak of, although not all of it, but that longing and yearning for a baby who should have been in your arms but yet was not, could not be. There are common threads in all our experiences, both good and bad – they are what weave us together as women and mothers.

    Thank you for being part of the fabric of my life. How blessed I am.

    j.

  5. mb said it better than I ever could. This post made my cry with you. I also believe those first moments should be in a mother’s arms, although it doesn’t always happen that way, and did not for me and M. I have not let go of my regret over that, don’t know if I ever will. I know it is what it is, and is as it was meant to be. But it is still painful, and perhaps always will be … perhaps always should be.

    So much love to you, and the women and babies you witness for.

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