The Birth of Albion
By Beatrice Jasper
After Dora’s mild, gradual warm up and fast culmination of birth with no show, etc., I am experiencing something different to show me that I don’t know everything. I went to bed at about 8:30 last night. I kept semi-dreaming through some really strong, crampy expansions. Finally got up to pee at about 12:30 am, and noticed a tinge of pink. I called Matt up and he set up cameras. I put laundry away (so the couch would be clear), very excited.
Pink went to dark heavy blood in no time. Frequent strong expansions. I had so much fun welcoming them (enjoying them while sitting on the couch with my feet pressed together sole to sole, back nice and straight), happy that the baby was coming. It was incredible– as my belly tightened and pulled up, my mouth was stretched up into the biggest grin. I even got a few candles lit this time; something I had wanted every other birth. I felt very certain that baby was actually coming at 2:36 am (I dreamt the time). Then Dora woke up at 1:30-2:00ish. She was up and chattery, wanting mama and daddy in bed. Still wouldn’t go to sleep. Two hours later, William was up, too.
All this time, my belly action had slowed way down. I was still getting them now and then, and very achy through my back. Finally, I felt frustrated enough by about 4 am– between annoying children and a husband who was so tired that he was difficult to deal with (yay, my earlier euphoria banished by bickering)– that I simply left the room and stayed on the couch for the rest of the night. At least I sort of slept for a few hours, but was still annoyed that what felt so much like a fast progression towards birth was halted. I had a strong urge to get in the car and drive away for some peace. I still do. I woke to a grey day, which invariably gives me a neuralgia behind my left ear, and feeling in a less than positive frame of mind, as is everyone else. I don’t particularly feel that I should have to be the All-Nurturing One right now.
Shortly after I wrote that, I began to feel in a better frame of mind. After spending time alone upstairs, I decided to come down and get on with my day. Concentrating with joy on my body’s actions hadn’t made the baby appear. Sleeping hadn’t made the baby appear, so why not try acting as if it were any other day and ignore my body for awhile?
Matt and I were getting along, the kids were not as freaky. Matt jokingly told me, “I expect an heir by 7 o’clock.” I told him that it wasn’t all that likely, since my expansions were few and far between. They were not usually more frequent than every half an hour to an hour, and not very strong. There were one or two that I rocked my hips and breathed for, and Matt said, “Now that looks familiar!”. There just didn’t seem to be a feeling of imminence in the air.
I was a bit discouraged; because of the weather, because of my expectations, because of the sorrow over my mama’s death a couple of weeks before (February 8, 2002), because I was very tired, and to top it all off, Matt and I were both getting the kids’ cold. It didn’t feel like a good day. However, I did let go of my expectations. I knew that baby would come when it was the Right Time, and I needed to let go and let it happen, not try to control it.
After a while, I went upstairs to rest and spent some time thinking about what was happening. I realized that my being was in conflict, at least in part because once I had the baby, I would have to face not being able to tell my mama about it. This made me cry for a bit and helped me to let go of that to some extent (not totally) up to and after his birth. I still felt wrong that mama would not be the first person we called, as we had with all of the others.
I put Peter Gabriel’s “Passion” CD on, and did some walking, bellydancing, and lying down through expansions while I listened to it (on endless repeat). It is wonderful birth music, and this is the third time I have listened to it while bringing a little one into the world.
A little after 4 pm, I thought about whether Max should go to karate class that day (between 4:30 and 5:30). It seemed silly not to have him go, because birth did not seem to be close. At that point, I don’t think that my expansions were any closer together than they had been all day. On the other hand, it seemed equally silly to not have Matt and Max here, so they decided to skip class. Matt and Dora came up to visit a time or two, and it felt good to have them with me, as being alone upstairs felt alien. At some point, I asked Matt to bring the boys up, or they came up on their own (not really sure). I think they might have come upstairs to eat dinner. We have a huge, round clock in the bedroom (for helping the kids learn to tell time), and I did glance at it now and then as I walked past, but never to time how far apart the expansions were. At 5:30, I thought to myself, “Darn, I guess I won’t be able to give Matt that heir by 7″.
Continued writing Friday, March 1, 2002, about 4:00 pm:
During this period, the expansions were getting very intense and taking all of my concentration. Though I haven’t a real idea how close together they were, it seemed that they were every few minutes. There was a lot of crampiness localized in my lower belly, and my lower back and hips were very achy. Sitting on the couch and relaxing through them was getting difficult, as I felt the need to be up and moving. During one on the couch, my back arched and my bottom came up; I felt as if I were being lifted by some outside source.
It occurred to me that I might be moving to get away from them, so I started to stand still through them while leaning against something, often with my head down on my arms. Though this sort of made them feel more intense, I also felt it was the right thing to do. Being still made my body more able to focus on its task, therefore completing it more effectively. It felt good to be in the room with the kids while I leaned against the sink through expansions. I liked leaning on the sink best because it was cool and also gave me some breathing room. When I leaned on the bureau, my face felt a bit suffocated.
About the intensity: I hesitate to use the word “pain” in connection with birth, as I feel that it is a matter of how one accepts the sensations. What I was feeling could easily have been felt as “pain” by someone else. But because I knew that it was part of my body’s actions to get the baby born, and was therefore purposeful, it all seemed intense rather than painful. It took a bit of time to integrate this, as Dora’s birth was effortless. This was far from that, so it took me by surprise. I did do a bit of thinking now and then about how different this was, but tried not to focus on it. I knew that it was its own experience, unlike any other; comparing it to another would detract from what I was doing in that moment.
At any rate, birth still did not feel very close. I think that because I had started up the night before and stopped, I was no longer focusing on when the birth would be, but accepting each wave as it came. Having the rest of the family upstairs made it easier to let go of the when too, because I no longer had to consider getting them up in time to witness the birth. This let me go into No Time (“Birth Time”, “Nowhere Land”), and simply wander about. There came a time that I realized I was merely getting through each expansion, with no joy in my heart and a grim set to my face. So I began smiling to greet them, and this helped make me feel excited and happy again–after all, our baby was coming to us!
During one of my glances at the clock, I noted that it was 6:15 and I thought that maybe, just maybe (told myself it was probably wishful thinking) the baby would be born by 7. A little time after that, I began wanting to kneel on our wonderful red Flokati rug and lean against our futon couch, which has a beautiful red bedspread on it. A couple of times, Matt asked if he should bring the camcorder out to that room but I was a bit surprised and said no. I was still planning on going into the bedroom and my birth nest (a pad and lots of blankets and pillows) on the floor when birth was actually close. He apparently knew better than I! Though the rug was a nice place to kneel, it was so filled with red that I was a little superstitious about it. I didn’t want to encourage my body to bleed so that it could fit in with the décor.
While kneeling there, I began to feel a different force moving through me. I was feeling it on a physical level, but also seeing a vision in my head of a blueprint (really, a blueprint-type diagram) of the baby being pressed downward. What I was “seeing” was a cross-section of my body, and a line drawing of the baby’s head moving down into my birth canal. A bit strange; though it was an odd way to see it, it felt like very spiritual knowing. This felt even more intense and I had to deliberately relax my back, letting the energy flow down and out to get through each expansion without fighting it. Knowing, from the blueprint vision, that the baby was descending gave me an added incentive to let it flow through me more easily.
A little after this, I decided to try out my birth nest since I hadn’t spent any time there at all. I remember thinking to myself that it felt way too soon to be in there, but that I could try it out for a little while and then go somewhere else. Once again, I noted the time–it was 6:35. I kneeled next to the nest and leaned against the bed.
The expansions were very strong, and I felt a strong need to clutch at the comforter, though I knew that having that much tension in my hands might not be a good idea. I felt as if I might be blown away by my body into another dimension if I didn’t. I also (on a more rational level) remembered that I had a lot of tension in my hands during Dora’s birth (when I was holding on to the changing table), and this didn’t adversely affect the birth. But, I didn’t fight my body during Dora’s birth. This time, I undoubtedly did (much as I hate to admit it) to some extent. Matt says that there was no outward sign of this, but I did have a number of thoughts along the lines of: “This isn’t what Dora’s birth was like. This isn’t what I expected.” Not once did it cross my mind that there was something wrong with what was happening. I knew fully that all was well, but it was disconcerting.
I had been through so much in the previous month– my mother being in the hospital, having to fly down to Florida to say good-bye to her, then having her die, my subsequent grief and deliberate pushing aside thinking about it, topped off by a night of little sleep and getting a virus–it all put me in a much different place than I had been in when Dora was born. My being felt much lighter when she was born, and there was nothing else to do beforehand but look forward to her birth with joyful anticipation. This time, I barely had time to think about being pregnant, much less prepare myself emotionally for the birth.
So, back to the birth.
During some of the expansions, I felt my breath go a bit shuddery, as it does when my body begins to push. My body felt as if it were being taken over and driven by an outside force. Matt and the kids came in the bedroom, and the kids got quite boisterous, so I asked them to leave. Just after they left, I suddenly knew, and said, “Come now.” It had the desired effect of having Matt gather the children in the doorway to watch the birth (just in time!).
While leaning against the bed, I began feeling immense pressure, and then two distinct pops deep inside (the amnion and chorion popping one at a time as his head pressed against/through them). I felt my whole body shuddering with the power of my baby’s descent. I wanted to feel my yoni to see if the baby was crowning, but was scared to because I thought that if I didn’t feel a head, I would not know what to do (not rational, as obviously, I wouldn’t do anything but wait). Also, the sensations were so overwhelming that I didn’t even feel capable of putting my hands near there, thinking that it would intensify what I was feeling. It seemed better to disengage a bit and let my body do what it needed to without interference.
I began feeling a need to push with the surges. They no longer felt like expansions, but one continuous downward force of pure, soul-splitting, Earth-shaking Power. I held back pushing a bit, as the pressure intensified when I pushed, but it then became impossible not to. As I was still right next to the bed, I turned and kneeled on the birth nest. My body was forced into hands and knees, and I began pushing more, even though it frightened me a bit to feel this Immensity. I had a strong need to hold something for leverage, but I didn’t have anything, so I grabbed the sheets (highly unsatisfying when one wants leverage!). I could feel his head pass through my cervix (which burned in an otherworldly, outside of me way), one millimeter at a time, and also felt his shoulders pass through. My body and soul felt as if they were being turned inside out, pulled downwards, pulled apart, shaken and taken to another place. How overwhelming, how wonderful, how frightening, how perfect!
I had begun vocalizing and heard (through the roar in my head and body) Dora laughing at me. She was also saying, “You’re funny, Mom!” This lightened my spiritual load a bit, and made it easier to get out of the way of my body. Since it was clearly inevitable that the baby would emerge, and tensing up against it wasn’t going to help, I did my best to relax into it. The laughter also made me feel able to be fully upright on my knees. Each of her laughs brought me further upright, and I was smiling through my noises and grimaces. What a joyful darling to help her mama!
Once I was all of the way upright, his head came down further, though I couldn’t feel it at first when I touched my yoni (thinking, “Surely I must be crowning now!”). He came down a bit more and I could feel a little of that wonderful, wrinkly scalp. Slowly, slowly, it began emerging. It felt such a tight squeeze (and what a surprise that was!) that I began massaging my yoni all around, not really stretching it, but trying to gently get it out of the way. The day before, I had read one of Jeannine Baker’s birth stories– in “Prenatal Yoga & Natural Birth”– in which she pulled her vulva aside so forcefully that she injured herself.
I remembered this while birthing, and decided not to do the same, though I sure wanted to! I was saying to baby, “Come on now, baby”, “It’s OK”, “Come on out”, and, “Big head!” He flexed his head a little, and I said with joy, “Baby’s helping!” At one point, everything stopped, and I was stuck there in an endless moment with this enormous head stretching me. I tried to look down to see, but couldn’t see over my belly. More pressing down by my body, then that beautiful release as his head emerged fully. Oh, what a lovely feeling–his warm wet head in my hands! I exclaimed, “There’s the coming the baby!” (My poor sentence structure can be forgiven here, I believe.)
Slowly the rest of him birthed, with a warm flood of birth waters, right into my hands and up to my chest. As I was sitting down, I felt something soft next to his bottom, and thought, “Oh, that’s a penis.” Matt brought all of the kids over next to me, and I looked down at the baby, began laughing and said, “It’s not Ursula!” just as Matt was saying, “I know!” Through most of my pregnancy, I had felt strongly, nay, known completely, that this was a girl. For months we had been calling her Ursula Grace. Despite this, all I felt was complete and total satisfaction. I was utterly thrilled to have my little boy in my arms. (That morning, I had the quiet realization, “This is a boy,” so it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it might have been.) He began crying immediately, and was completely pink right away. I actually thought to look at the clock and noted that it was 6:53 pm. I had produced Matt’s heir by 7 after all!
A couple of minutes later, I felt warm fluid (that I presumed to be blood) flow out. I said, “I have to have the placenta now,” and got back onto my knees to give a little push. The placenta came right out in a splash of blood, and I sat back down. Very simple. I ended up sitting on my foot, and it took me a moment to decide how to get my foot out without getting tangled in the cord. I lifted the cord up and pulled my foot out, explaining to Dora (who had been behind me saying, “Look, mom, blood!”) that this was what the baby had been inside of in my belly, and that it was all right to have some blood when giving birth.
A little later, she said, “You gave birth, Mom, to a baby and a placenta.” (Interesting note about his placenta; it was slightly bigger than the others I’d had and was not round, but almost kidney shaped. Of course it was completely intact and very healthy. I have noticed that baby’s hair whorl on his crown is slightly off center, and have heard from others that had odd shaped placentas that their children also had off center hair whorls.)
At this point, there was a lot of everyone talking about the baby, blankets being given to me, baby crying some still, and me offering the breast a few times. After four kids, a crying baby automatically means, “Offer breast!” William also kept saying, “I think he wants to nurse, Mom.” He finally quieting down and latched on. He did well, but didn’t nurse for too long. Matt mentioned that the baby looked bigger than the others, and I said, “His head sure felt like it.”
That night was pretty uneventful–a few meconium diapers to change, beautiful baby to smell, cuddle, stare at, and ooh over. He was very content, not crying, and spent time quietly looking around. He was not very interested in nursing, preferring to put his fingers in his mouth to suck on instead. However, by a day or so later, he had discovered the joys of nursing and is now extremely good at getting on the boob. He can even do it in the dark on his own.
We had planned a Lotus Birth, but after about eight hours began to think about cutting the cord. Managing baby attached by his cold, clammy cord to a package that kept seeping blood, no matter how well wrapped it was, began feeling tedious. When I have a new baby, I sleep best with him on my chest between my breasts, and I couldn’t do this with the placenta still attached. Because of this, I wasn’t able to really sleep.
Also, with three other little people in the bed and running about, I couldn’t leave baby lying on the bed while I did things like go to the bathroom or get myself drinks. I had to pick him and his placenta up (a bit of a juggling act) each time (not to mention that I simply hate not holding my baby every moment anyway). Perhaps if I had a room apart, and Matt had not been so busy with sick children (William turned out to have pneumonia), he would have been able to focus more on me, and I could have lain about until the cord detached on its own.
In retrospect, however, I think that my main reason for not feeling totally comfortable keeping the placenta attached and waiting for the “Little Mother” (as many call the placenta) to release herself had a lot to do with my mother’s death. Every time I felt the wrapped placenta, I had to think about death. It felt cold and still, and hit a nerve deep within me. Since I was doing my utmost to not think about my Mama having died, this constant reminder was very uncomfortable. I wanted to wholeheartedly concentrate on this new, warm little Life in my arms, and pretend that Death did not exist. Since the placenta was obviously dying, that was impossible.
All of this combined to make it feel fine to cut the cord, which we did ten hours after birth. When we first thought about it, eight hours after birth, I was shocked to find that he still had a faint pulse at the very base of his cord. By the time we actually cut the cord, there was no pulse at all. Matt boiled my Fiskar sewing scissors, then doused them in Betadine. I cut the cord at 4:45 am on Tuesday, without tying it off. It did ooze some, so I tied it with braided embroidery floss (very stylish!). The stump fell off when he was 5 days old, though his bellybutton did ooze for a few more days.
The next day we weighed and measured him, for the sole purpose of showing that I do indeed produce only 6 pound, 10 ounce babies (all three of the others were that weight, were between 18 and 20 inches long, and had 12 1/2 inch heads). Well, I broke my track record. Baby weighs 8 pounds, is 20 1/4 inches long, and has a 14 1/2 inch head.
Perhaps there was a reason that his emergence was on a different level of intensity than his siblings had been! It explains why his face was a bit puffy when he was born and why he has a couple of broken blood vessels in his eyes, yet he had no head molding (he came down so fast!). It also explains why my tail bone was sore and felt out of place. Matt said, “You got out of his way.” Glad I am to have done it! I would rather be sore than have my baby be.
My body fared very well, considering how shaken apart I felt when birthing. My yoni had no damage at all. Though the whole area felt a bit swollen, it wasn’t visible and there was no stinging when I peed. It did feel a little numb for a couple of days, and I had to be careful to hold myself together there when I coughed (which I did a lot, since I was sick) or a bit of pee would come out–another new experience for me!
I had afterpains that were more intense than after Dora’s, and lasted for three days. Motherwort and Motrin once again helped out. I bled more than after Dora’s birth, but it was still pretty minimal. It was like a medium flow period that lasted for about four days, then began lessening. My milk came in Tuesday night (I think–it might have been Wednesday morning). Part of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, my breasts were quite engorged. Cabbage leaves didn’t help quite as much this time, so I encouraged a more than willing Dora to nurse a lot, which helped lessen the swelling. (Tonight, she asked to nurse, and as she was waiting, she lay in bed rubbing her tummy and whispering, “Yummy, yummy…”)
As we were sure that it would be Ursula Grace joining us, we hadn’t totally settled on a boy’s name, though Albion was our top pick. We decided to simply let his name find us. Albion kept coming back to us, so it became a matter of what his middle name would be. The night of the 27th, Matt dreamt that Wilhelm was Albion’s middle name, and early in the morning of the 28th (same night), Wilhelm just popped into my head as the obvious and perfect name. Mama was apparently here and helping us out… (Wilhelm was Mama’s maiden name). So, our little boy is Albion Wilhelm Jasper.
Dora’s choice of “Poopy Head” did not win, though she insists that it is his name. William wanted his middle name to be “Love”, which is a beautiful thought. Max thinks that Albion is just too weird, but thinks he will get used to it (caught him calling baby “Bob” today). Matt is planning to call this poor little guy “Al”.
Everyone is totally in love with Albion. All of the children are doing wonderfully, being very gentle and loving towards him. Dora, being sick, is a bit needier than usual, but doesn’t begrudge the baby what he needs. Only one time, when she was exhausted, she said to me, “I want you to hold me instead of the baby.” So we spent a nice time cuddling in bed…
I feel so blessed to have this little person in my life. He is sainted and brilliant, and utterly divine. When he is awake and looking around, the depths of his soul shine through his eyes. He sees us fully, with sweet humor in his eyes. He has been smiling since the night he was born, and each one feels like an incredible gift.