Birthing Gabriel: My first home birth, Part I

Part I: A watched pot never boils…

Pregnancy and birthing are too often plagued by fears stemming from media hype and societal myths.  Naturally we all confront some form of doubt during pregnancy.  Some of us may question our ability to cope with the physical intensity of birthing.  Others may question whether we are ready to accept the role of mother or what kind of mother we will be.  In addition to dealing with these inner voices, I faced outside pressure from all sides.

Yasmin 8 months pregnant with Gabriel

Here I am, 8 months pregnant with Gabriel, 2009.

I, and so many others, expected that I would give birth before my “due date.”  When it did not happen by week 36, a flood of calls to clock my labor began.  I responded by turning off the phone ringers. My blood pressure had been creeping up slowly the weeks before and I had to ensure that outside stress wouldn’t jeopardize the birth I had been planning.  I wasn’t necessarily happy with the choice to cut off communication with folks. I wish I had had a bigger support network. But too often when I would speak to someone, I would be met with the “what ifs” or the “you’re crazy to labor without drugs” to even, “if you’re baby grows too big, just have a cesarean.” Although these comments were coming from folks who care for me, they only served to shake me out of the place I needed to be in order to go into labor and birth successfully—particularly  to birth at home as I planned.

Practicing birthing positions at home with birth instructor Karma Cloud. I actually did birth on that sofa.

Practicing birthing positions at home with birth instructor Karma Cloud. I actually did birth on that sofa.

If outside commentaries were going to make me fall off my path to a safe, peaceful, natural home birth, then I would do all within my power to securely remain on that path. I spent the whole month of March preparing and revising.  | analyzed everything in my life to ensure that no items were left pending that would hinder my labor. The nursery wasn’t ready, so we got all the furniture and baby things together and made sure it would be ready. Any pending chores, spiritual items, personal needs, I addressed to ensure that the path would be clear for labor. Yet the so-called due date came and went. Then the email and voicemail campaign restarted at full charge: “I hope you’re not answering because you’re pushing.”  “What’s wrong, you don’t want to have your baby?” “Shouldn’t you be going to a hospital?” “Aren’t you going to have to be induced?”

I haven't rested like that since becoming a mother.

I haven’t rested like that since becoming a mother.

I could have told myself that the baby was just not ready, but instead I contemplated what I had done to hinder the onslaught of labor. I spent several occasions with contractions, even one complete day with regular contractions and was sure I was in labor. I went to sleep that evening to get rest for what was ahead and woke up the next morning to the rising sun, feeling just fine. Labor, or what I thought was labor, had vanished.

We tried several homeopathic remedies with my midwife, that didn’t seem to push things. I’m sure they did help prepare my body but in my mental state at the moment, all I saw was the failure to jumpstart labor. I had speculated dates of when the baby should/ would be born and each of those came and went and nothing. I was days away from week 42.  Laws in this country aren’t much on the side of midwives and home births so to push past the 42 week mark may have meant that I would have to birth in a hospital, something I did not want.

My cemi painting, created the day before I went into labor with Gabriel..

My cemi painting, created the day before I went into labor with Gabriel..

I decided to retreat.  I went into my studio and painted swirls of color that evoked the inside of my body. They spiraled outward, opening and expanding. It was my subliminal demand that my body do the same.  I created another painting of my own pregnant body channeling the triangular form of an indigenous Taíno, three-pointer cemí, a sacred object associated with fertility.  It is interesting that I chose this symbol as it is associated more with male energies.  For some reason, I didn’t choose the image of Atabex, the Taino symbol of fertility, mother of the supreme God Yucahu, the latter being more closely associated with the three-pointer cemí.

I marveled at how large my body seemed and how it had been overtaken by some other force. It didn’t seem like my own body anymore.  I had gained 50 pounds during the pregnancy.  Magical tattoos mysteriously appeared across my belly, almost overnight, in the form of carved burgundy stretch mark patterns.  Uncomfortably large and heavy, with changes in color and shape, my breasts were unrecognizable.  My whole body underwent a metamorphosis in which I became a huge cocoon for a butterfly waiting to fly out. Astonished by these changes, I painted my body as cemí with metallic gold and copper paint evoking the sacred guanín metal of the Taínos, associated with the turey (sky).  I included geometric embellishments on the belly and breasts. Some of these evoke snake patterns since the snake is a fertility reference in various Native-American cultures.  In the usual cemí figure, the central point represents a mountain or conuco (mound of soil in which the staple yuca root was planted) pointing up to the heavens.  In my painting, my belly becomes this central mound.  Instead of being full with a fertile crop of yuca, it is full with my baby.  This seemed right to me at the time, despite the fact that the image had me lying on my back. Something I hadn’t planned to do during the birth.  The true Taíno fertility figure of Atabex is upright, squatting, legs open, showing women how to birth.  

Detail of my Cemi painting

Detail of my Cemi painting

Creating this art helped me get into my own world where I could get my body to do what it needed. The negative comments, my defense of our decision to have a home birth and thus my seeming position as the home birth “experiment,” was a burden that I had taken on and that was hindering my entry into labor.  Feeling that bets were being placed on my ability to do this made me obsess about what might happen if it did not go as planned. I had to reclaim this experience as my own and erase all the outside pressure and commentary from this process.

Here are Ivan and I showing Gabriel's belly some love.

Here are Ivan and I showing Gabriel’s belly some love.

This was nothing new for my husband and I. After 16 years together at the time of our first pregnancy and having grown into adults together, we were criticized for our “alternative” approach to everything. We grew resentful of the questions and of others projecting their own fears and doubts on us.  We had done a ton of research on pregnancy and birthing and researched the “what ifs” that folks insisted on haunting us with at this late stage.  After losing several loved ones and dealing with cancer in our family, we knew that having a quiet, peaceful, intimate home birth was the right decision.

That day in my studio, I realized that our son would be born into this same chaos. We would raise him to pursue his own truth and not give in to what everyone else says just because it’s what everyone else does.  He would be challenged in that same way.  If I had given in to the fears and doubts, I would have checked into a hospital because that’s what everyone thought should happen, not because my body was incapable of doing what it had to do. I realized that giving birth at home would be another act of “defiance” on our part. In my definition, it would be a triumph of truth, of belief in oneself against the doubts of what has been carved out as the norm—a male-dictated, medicalized, manipulated norm.  So I sat down and wrote a poem as a letter to my son in my womb.  It invited him to enter this world, in the same form his parents chose to live. I had always believed that he would not be ours solely, that he would be on loan, a soul belonging to the universe that would be entrusted in our care for this particular existence/ mission on earth. I knew that he wasn’t just a product of our love, a physical being that we had created. I knew that he was his own soul who in return chose us as his parents for this lifetime. So on April 6th, 2009, I wrote these words…..

I challenge you
to enter this world
In a way few thought possible
Through strength doubted by many.

I welcome you to come
as testament to the possibilities
of light brought and light given
when we step out of darkness.

I call upon you
in small, strong timelessness
transcendent defiance
To only comply
with the power of love.
To smash fear
Challenge conformity
And bring spiritual cleanliness and light
where it has been clouded and diminished
where we’ve been beaten to submission
Under the pretense of spiritual inferiority

Shine like the sun, son
Through my womb
Your portal to another life incarnate
In this place in such need
Of spiritual refreshing

Embark on your journey
Your mission here
Characteristic of your inopportune arrival
That fits no one’s schedule
Your refusal to be penciled
Into plans and dates convenient to others

Angelic intervention
To free us from enslavement
To liberate us from clocks
Calendars, rules, fears
And the confines of conformity

I invite you to arrive
When no one expects
To the amazement of all!

I went into labor the next day.

Explore posts in the same categories: Birth story, empowered birth, Home Birth

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4 Comments on “Birthing Gabriel: My first home birth, Part I”

  1. Ariana Says:

    Beautiful. Love the painting too.

  2. Yasmin, your birth story is so lovely. I felt all these emotions and joy and wish that every woman could. I am saving your print, framed, to give to the Atlanta Birth Center which my midwife hopes to open one day soon. I’ll have to order another print for me 🙂 May I share a link to your birth story on the Atlanta Birth Center page to inspire other women?

  3. […] 6 months pregnant with my first child. Watched my brother in the height of his cancer battle. Birthed on my sofa. Nursed everywhere. Pumped milk. Traveled to Vieques for an exhibit there. Came back in […]

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