“The Hunter” aka Baby M

“She would give them order. She would create constellations” – Thomas Pynchon

August 29, 2009

Born at home, a sweet little Virgo.  His mama, a dear friend of mine, magically became the tree that I’d written about just weeks prior in a poem to her.    Her feet rooted, her arms transferring the energy of birth to the walls she pushed into.

It is in your blossoming and swaying

that you appear to dance, rooted to the earth…

You stand grand like a lone Elm on

the edge of the wilderness, silently prepared

to cycle through rebirth. ready to shed your leaves

convene with Winter’s shadow and wait for the blooms of Spring

Earlier, I’d joined her as she smiled and quietly conversed, folding cloth diapers in her spacious bedroom.  Between surges, we snapped one quick photo of her ripe belly.  Soon, the surges hushed her, and I followed her steady breathing out and stood silently as she braced herself on her bathroom counter.   Down she would sway, into a deep dip, with each wave of contractions.   Down with her breath, down with her body, down down down her baby slid.   Her lips pucker gracefully with each breath.

In between a surge, she graciously instructed “Here’s my chapstick, and here’s the birth kit and towels, and here are the cameras.  I’m telling you this before things get too intense”.

Before long, it was time to fill the bathtub and she peacefully sank into the warm water as if it were her lover for the evening.   There, with a singular candle as the only light, her body flickered and moved, mirroring it’s flame.   Her hair was silken, as charcoal black as the night sky.  She had just had it styled that afternoon, as surges began to wax and wane in her belly.

Ahh, sweet water relief

Her daughter – born almost two years ago in this very same room – joined the labor party.  She read books and rode around in the Ergo on her Daddy, keeping a watching eye on Mama.

“Should I call the midwife now?”, I asked kneeling beside the tub.

“Yes.  Yes, I was just thinking that.  I think it’s time”.

The sun rose over the mountains as she moved out of the tub to the bed,  smiling between surges and giggling at her daughter’s antics.   She told me later she felt a sense of peace during this time, knowing she’d be holding her baby soon.

She found the doorway and stood alone inside it’s threshold, cradling her belly.  Short in stature, she became a towering goddess of light and strength;  a pillar.    From my spot on the floor, I snapped some photos as her husband soon supported her from behind.

Daddy faking a smile for Lucy as Mama uses him for support

The waters that held her son were strong and healthy, remaining intact until three minutes before her son was born.

And sometimes we all want the strongest things in our life to give way, to break us open so that we can be reminded of the fortitude and resilience of Life and Birth.   So that we can howl at the moon as we ride the waves, cursing the fiery sun, screaming out the years and wounds.   We need to be able to release, to know that birth, life, and death are all transmutable.

And thus began her howling call, her “singing over the bones”, her begging to be released.

“Soon”, whispered the midwife “Very soon”.

In the long and narrow water closet, a midwife, a dad, a doula, and a mama crouched.  With her moans, her son emerged into his Daddy’s hands and was pulled immediately up to Mama’s chest.

And at the moment of his birth, as I stood behind her to steady her, some of her amniotic fluid tumbled on my bare feet.   I still recall its warmth, perhaps made even stronger by a visceral memory from Indigo’s fluid on my own feet as she was born.  It didn’t bother me.  In fact, I felt honored to be a bit united with the magical, sterile stuff of life.   The mama cooed and snuggled her son and was almost instantly ready to walk to her bed to nestle in with her StarBoy.

Mama and baby

Not long afterwards, the room was silent in reverence as she birthed her placenta, which was later lovingly used to make “Tree of Life” placenta prints and then ground into the most incredible dark chocolate hearts by her midwife (I would love to try to explain the blissful honor I had of being offered some of this chocolate and then ingesting the PURE energy into my body.  So much energy it reverberated down my spine and through each chakra.  The energy of 10,000 chants in 200 languages simultaneously.  I would love to explain it, but words do not suffice and I already sound overly crazykookycrunchyhippy).

His Daddy asked us if we’d noticed the Orion constellation, and I commented that I looked up at it as I pulled into the driveway that still, perfect evening.

Though there were two, unspoken names in the running, he was yet unnamed.   The midwife commented “Oh, he has wild eyes!”.

Mama giggled and nodded knowingly, saying “Well, I guess we have numerous confirmations of which name we should pick”.

Max Orion

Max, like in “Where the Wild Things Are”.   Wild Eyes.  Max.

Orion.  Born under the clear display of that celestial body, one his Daddy had gazed at a few weeks prior on an overnight vision-quest in the mountains of New Mexico.

She lives as she births, and births as she lives.   The sunlight broke through the curtains and we all crawled atop the mattresses and smiled for this photo.

Our entire AMAZING birth support team - thank you!!

I smiled and smiled, for a multitde of reasons.  For the knowledge that two of these women have had my own birth blood and fluid on their hands.  For the mandala paintings above our heads.  For the giddyness that she added a boy to her family.  For the way her daughter watched in safe arms as her brother was born, with an expression on her face that make me think she totally remembers this gig.   For the honor of holding her hand, rubbing her back, smoothing her lips with chapstick, and listening in the other room as she spent time alone with her man doing the work only she could do.

Her daughter and new son lay upon her chest nursing and snoozing.   A picture of life-giving motherhood and nurturing.  A snapshot of birth.   Almost too normal to believe that a first breath of life just occurred minutes before in this very space.

So sweet - sibling bonding

We later reminisced and remarked on the poem again, how much of it rang true.

“Your baby guided me”, is all I could think to say to myself.

And she said with a breathless sigh and radiant eyes, “This part, Leigh, this part is like when you were behind me holding me and my fluid fell onto your feet.  We were intertwined…”:

As the Equinox approaches, and day and night become

equal lovers, let me be a sister tree to you

Lean on my truck, for I can carry you

Hang from my branches, for they are sturdy

Let the soft earth beneath me be your landing spot

Let my roots intertwine with yours as a reminder

of this sacred woman’s work that you do with grace

and that we share with honor and joy


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Chelsea says:

    Oh Leigh – another beautiful birth story that brought me to tears. How lucky you are to be able to experience these amazing births, and how lucky these mamas are to have you….

  2. Sarah says:

    Leigh, you are just amazing!

  3. Sarah aka Baby M's mama says:

    Words can not express how truly, deeply, profoundly grateful I was to have you as my birth guardian. Then for you to recapture the moments of that night with such grace and perfection…it is all just a little too much so I’ll just sit with it for a while. I’ll let the depth of your words, and how they bring me back so vividly to that day (8 weeks ago), sink deep within. Birth, “sacred women’s work that we share with honor and joy.” Magical. (oh, and, yes those chocolates were blissful!!)

  4. leighsteele says:

    Love you so much, Sarah. And my words still don’t capture the grace and power and total surrender in which you birthed Max! Namaste.

  5. I love reading these stories.

  6. mb says:

    can i just say how much i love you for quoting Pynchon? he’s one of my favorite novelists and that quote…..aaaaahhhhh.

    you are a good witness, a great server. know that your work is felt, those babies feel the love.

  7. Becca says:

    Lovely Lovely Lovely

  8. Maisha says:

    Leigh, my love, you are magic!

  9. Rebekah says:

    Your friend is BEAUTIFUL in labor! Absolutely beautiful. And what a beautiful birth story she has!

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