My pregnancy lasted 41 weeks and 4 days. Then our little one arrived and transformed everything with light. Through the birth of my first child and the subsequent opening of the deepest parts of my heart, I came to see that the balm for my pain entailed a loving return to the wounded place.
At first, the contractions were mild enough. I moved through my evening routine with joyful anticipation. My husband, Clark, and I walked around a nearby neighborhood full of houses that reminded us of Mobile, Alabama, his hometown. We talked, dreamed, and laughed. When the contractions came, we fell into silence so I could practice slow deep breathing.
I also squeezed his arm. By midnight, the contractions stopped. Already skilled at the art of practicing pregnancy patience, we went to bed. I slept until 3 am. Then for some reason, I got up and meditated for an hour. It was a deep and peaceful place, a calm before the storm. I began to tire and fell asleep. At 4:30 am, I awoke from a vivid dream. In the dream, my uterus was a large,healthy, pink balloon contracting around a mysterious box. Somehow the box needed to be born and this soft, powerful organ could do it. The moment I recalled the details of the dream, my contractions started again. This time they did not stop.
The doorway to Labor Land opened. I knew full well that the birth experience soon would transform my very sense of time. At first, normal daily life routines are punctuated by ten-minute pauses. As the birthing mother’s contractions intensify, she enters into a trance-like state. For six years prior to my pregnancy, I served as a trusted confidant and birth doula for many women as they surrendered to this transformative process. Now it was my turn to cross the threshold.
Breakfast, artwork, rest, and a simple walk on a bright winter day filled our time. My contractions continued to intensify. By 3 PM, the women chosen to support us began to arrive. Clark referred to them as “the dream team.”
We hired extraordinarily gifted and down-to-earth midwives. Pam and Louise offered us holistic and no-nonsense support. They specialize in homebirth and were well known as accomplished teachers of midwifery, often providing expert mentorship to midwives in training. Pam and Louise maintained full hospital privileges for patients who needed to, or preferred to, deliver in a fully equipped medical setting. How grateful I was for their guidance throughout my pregnancy. They were the heart and soul of our dream team.
THE WILD WOMAN EMERGES
The intensity of the contractions steadily increased and soon reached mind-altering crescendos. I couldn’t help but move with them. I buried my head into Clark ́s chest and swayed and moaned. A wild woman slowly emerged inside me and began to rock my body with intensifying energy. My labor was coming on strong. It was not stopping and not slowing down.
At this point, my memory of the birth feels like a dream. I remember Pam saying I looked beautiful as I worked with the energy coursing through my body. I intuitively dropped to the floor moaning or moving into various yoga poses. I let my arms dance and move at will. Primal sounds emerged effortlessly.
We are, undoubtedly, mammals, animals, and creatures of this earth. Birth brought this truth home loud and clear. I remember entering the water. Clark had lovingly assembled a rented birthing tub in the kitchen. My descent into a profoundly deep and scary world accelerated and an unconscious power overtook me.
An abundance of Kali energy arose during my arduous birthing experience. Kali, Hinduism’s dark and fearsome goddess, is depicted with her bloody tongue hanging out of her mouth. She wears a necklace made of severed heads. The word “Kal” means time and Kali represents the inevitable end of the body’s existence, ignorance, and ego-centered living. One must surrender everything and walk through the fearsome doorway leading to her grace.
Kali is revered and beloved as a sacred mother goddess. When she ends our ignorance, she bestows the beatific vision of truth on us. During my birthing experience, Kali moved through me and cracked open any hesitation to fully express the overwhelming sensations coursing through my body.
Excerpted from Birth, Breath, and Death—Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula by Amy Wright Glenn.
Amy Wright Glenn has an MA in Religion and Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, a DONA certified birth doula, and a hospital chaplain. Amy’s first book is Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.