We Are Mothers

Episode 4 Essay

 

The birth of a family
by maya p. ginzburg

Your first moments in this world were quiet. Very quiet. The tears of joy that I expected to fall from my eyes were stuck because as I held you in my arms, you weren’t breathing on your own and I just stared at you, waiting for those precious sounds that would tell me that you were okay. Those few minutes that we waited felt like a lifetime. Your father and I were helpless, but Shanee, our midwife, quickly went to work to give you oxygen and encouraging words. She told me to talk to you, so you would hear my voice. “Come on, Cami – you can do this…” I urgently repeated over and over.

The first sounds you made were quiet sounds of life coming through you - I never heard anything like it - like a baby chick that had been underwater for a moment too long. When I heard those sounds, it felt like the cork that was stuck in my heart was removed, and I could breathe again. Despite the relief, there were no  tears of joy yet. Those tears would only come days later when we were finally alone together and I became raptured with my unconditional love for you. We spent 40 weeks and 3 days living as one, and now you were in my arms, looking into my eyes.

That was the end of your birth story, but let’s go back to the beginning. It was 5pm on Saturday, and we heard a knock at our door. We had been out all day and has just settled onto the couch to soak up some of the last moments just the two of us. The door opened and I jumped up in complete shock and excitement - your uncle David was standing there - he came all the way from New York to Tel Aviv to meet you and it was an amazing surprise! I think you could feel that your whole family was now here and ready to meet you! After going to a lovely dinner, I came home, got in bed and before I could fall asleep, my contractions started. Although I had been having a lot of practice contractions throughout the pregnancy, I knew this was different and I started timing them early on to see if they were regular. By 1:00 AM your father set up the pool upstairs (which we never used), and I had informed my parents, and Michal and Shaynee - the doula and midwife - that it was happening. For the first hours, I was OK on my own, and with your father there to lean on during the contractions. We stayed in bed, since I knew I needed to keep my strength for the harder stages that were quickly approaching.

Around 5:30 AM, I came out of the bedroom and watched the sunrise from our windows as I moved my hips to the sound of Michal’s soothing voice instructing me to breath deep into my pelvis. You were starting to make your journey down, and all I needed to do was let you do your thing and not resist it. Easier said than done, but I found different positions that gave me support, mainly leaning on things - the wall, the couch, the physio ball, the kitchen counter, and anything else that I could lean my weight on. Once things got more challenging, I just wanted to be close to your father, to feel his arms around me, hear his breath with ours, and know that he wouldn’t leave my side. It’s scary to feel so much pain, but I knew that the pain was bringing you to us so I kept telling myself to just accept it and breathe through it.

Before you were born, there were a lot of big, adult choices to make. The choice to stay at home instead of going to the hospital was not an easy one - we decided when I was 36 weeks pregnant (!!!). Looking back, I think I always knew that that was how it was going to happen - I felt safer at home - and that was what we needed in order to bring you into this world as peacefully as we could - with familiar smells, sounds and people that you already knew.

In the weeks before your birth, I had asked my girlfriends to send me encouraging words for labor. I realized how many of my close friends had gone through this transition themselves, and their words of wisdom built layers of strength inside of me. One gave me a beautiful mantra to work with:

I trust my body. I trust my baby. I am a woman and I know how to give birth. We are doing this together little girl. You know how to do this!

This pain is bringing me my most precious love of my life.

I am present, just this one contraction is all I have to work with.

Their support nourished me with a power beyond my own, the power I would need to go through labor.  Connecting to the feminine strength that surrounds us and lives in all of us, but is often dormant and quiet, was a big part of your birth story, Cami. Reflecting on my own mother’s strength to birth me, further cemented the power in me to bring you into the world. Your grandmother has a quiet ease about her and she stands so strong in who she is, never wavering to please someone else. But at the same time she embodies the word nurture, and I felt that running in my blood as the contractions started coming, and I was almost there, almost a mother myself. I had a photo with me of my mother and I moments after I entered the world, blood on her leg, holding me in her arms with a look in her eyes saying “I will protect you, I will love you forever.”  When I would close my eyes to exhale through the pain, I would see the photo, my mother’s face and her unconditional love.

After ten hours of intense labor, I didn’t know I could go on. I lay on the couch ready to give up. At one point I even dozed off and lost track of time - I didn’t have the capacity to hold space and be present for how much was being asked of me.  I was sure someone would need to come and take you out - I was done. But then I wasn’t - I mustered up the strength, and remembered the words that my incredible friends had sent me. One had said - “When you are in active labor, there is no break between contractions and that is the kind of Divine power that you as a woman get to feel. It is a privilege to feel that much power inside you. You will never be the same”  

I can do this, I WILL do this, I thought to myself. And from that moment on I just surrendered everything - any bit of control that I was still holding on to. I released into the reality of the pain and the fear of what was to come, and just allowed it to happen. I used the support of your father to bring me comfort - at times I even felt like we were birthing you together. In those last hours we were in the bathroom, he was sitting on the bathtub, my chest and head draped in his lap, his hands massaging my lower back whispering “you can do this” into my ear. He could feel you coming to us and we were so ready to receive you, to become a family.

Suddenly, during one of the contractions, I heard myself make a new sound – it was the sound of pushing. We had entered a new stage, and you were on your way out. Now I could use all my strength to push you out and I knew that my body was prepared. I felt strong, and motivated. About an hour and a half later, along with a lot of sweat and sounds that I had never made in my life, you were almost out.

And just like that - you were in my arms. Our teamwork was done for the moment, and now it was all up to you… I couldn’t do anything but wait for you to find the strength to breathe and enter your life. We will always be a team, but you will also always be your own person – just like my mother and I are a team, but we ultimately stand on our own. I hope you never forget that we are all there for you, with all the love and support possible, but ultimately you are strong on your own– you chose to breathe, and face this life all by yourself.     

My strong, beautiful daughter – this is the story of your birth.