Your blog was my gateway to the birthing blog world. Ten months ago, I gave birth to a baby girl in a homebirth-turned-unplanned c-section. I was so excited about birthing my baby at home. The c-section was incredibly traumatic. I have been working on recovery since the birth. As my daughter's first birthday approached, I felt a more urgent need to heal spiritually from her birth.Anna blogs about faith, feminism, and spirituality at Sotah.
Writing the story has helped enormously – writing down my anger at God for letting this happen to me has allowing me to slowly let go and grow in my compassion.
Besides writing the story, I have been working on several writing projects, including my blog. In one way or another the majority of my writing is prayer for my daughter. Her soul was unable to enter this world peacefully, writing for her, addressing my writing to her in the final sentence is my way of sending her divine peace.
Writing is my prayer.
My Alien Baby
I believe that is possible to birth yourself.
That I can get down on all fours, open my womb, and emerge from within – whole.
My mother birthed me in a small hospital in Baku, Azerbaijan, a hospital that by all accounts (and by all accounts I mean my mother’s account) was a third world shithole. She was there for three weeks before my birth in a high risk ward, because I was Rh+ and she was Rh-, a potentially fatal mix without a RhoGAM injection. Though it had been available in the west as a routine matter for women at risk since 1968, it was not available in the Soviet Union, even in 1984. Ten thousand babies a year are saved by a RhoGAM injection to the mother. This terrible combination of lacking the real cure, RhoGAM, and still attempting to be helpful overtook the medical establishment. And so, listening to the advice of her doctors, my mom checked herself into a hospital a week before she was due and spent the next three weeks living in a room with a dozen high risk women, whose babies, generally, did not make it. Three weeks of the dead baby parade – followed by labor, alone. Visitors wore not allowed in soviet maternity wards. My mother is laboring alone with her first (and only) baby, knowing little about birth. She has never been to a birth or seen a video of a birthing woman. There were no birthing classes for her to attend.
On the shores of the Black Sea, in the small town of Sudak, Ukraine, a radical apprentice trained midwife, Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova, is running birthing camps where hundreds of women are coming to birth in the sea’s shallow lagoons with the dolphins. There is available footage of eleven of these births in a documentary called Birth as We Know It. These images are alive. I am wet with the ocean water. Elena talks about the spiraling motion of galaxies and of our hips: they are the same.
I am born in the hospital, finally. We are drugged and I am sluggish in the birth canal. The doctors cut an episiotomy. It will be stitched up without drugs – female genital mutilation. I was born after six hours of labor, a short labor for a first birth. No one ever asked my mother to draw her birth energy with washable crayons on white poster-paper, such things did not exist for her in Azerbaijan, and yet there was Sudak and the dolphins.
Three days after my birth and after bribing a nurse, she was finally able to see me. Another woman was breastfeeding me for those three days. Was I lying there, mostly alone, for my first three days? I feel petty wondering how this birth affected me – how I might have been different if I was born into the sea. If my mother welcomed me on to this good earth and laid me on her chest and snuggled my gooey, vernix covered, unfurled newborn body? Would I then have peace?
My mother told me the story of my birth many times – I have always known this story. It is a sad story of the pathologizing of birth. It is a typical story of modernity gone wrong – characterized by an authoritarian imposition of power acting upon the most vulnerable, a laboring woman and her infant.
I need a radically different story to tell the un-born creature; to tell myself. In the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, characters are constantly rebirthing themselves in new stories. Each new story is a tikkun, a metaphysical and proverbial fixing of the story that came before, a rebirthing of itself. I want a tikkun for myself and for Eve, who was cursed to bear children in pain. In an inflatable kiddy pool, decorated with fish drawings, on the second floor of my DC apartment, I would undo Eve's curse with my very own birth. There would be no dolphins and no black sea, only my inflatable pool where I would know God in the moment of her birth – a creature emerging from between my legs. Z, welcome to the good earth.
At five am, when I get out of bed to pee, my water breaks like it does in the movies. Many women labor the entire time with their amniotic sac intact, only to have it break at the very end. Some women's water never breaks - the baby is born in caul; this is auspicious. Babies born this way are believed to have shamanic powers in some cultures, including in medieval Europe. My water just burst open, gushing down my legs. It bursts clear and beautiful. I cannot feel any contractions. And as the amniotic fluid continued to leak out, the color changes from clear to yellow to green. Meconium
It is a sign of fetal distress – routine in late stages of labor, but abnormal at the start. My midwife arrives and I know what she is going to say – hospital. I did not pack a hospital bag. I bought home birth supplies instead; gloves, gauze, wash clothes, dozens of receiving blankets in a warmer, mesh underwear, chuck pads, plastic sheets and umbilical tape. I spent the previous week trying to make sure I had the right connector from the water hose to the sink, so the inflatable pool could be filled. I did not pack a hospital bag.
I mourn the birth I will not have – the peaceful, undisturbed birth in the dark, on my knees. The earth, the Universe, God, all of you, how can you let this happen to me? I am so sad. I cry for the next four days – I cry till I am finally home, and then I cry some more. I can barely walk around the block. I am scared to shower alone. I cannot lift my baby from her bassinet – it’s too deep. I go to a shrink and she tells me that I am turning birth into a contest, that it is not my fault. I never go to her again. I don’t blame myself – I blame God. Hospital-pitocin-epidural-csection-hospital-potocin-epidural-csection-hospital-pitocin-epidural-csection. I was going to be a mystic, a seer, a conduit for the energy of the earth, spiraling my hips like the galaxies: I wanted to be a birthing woman.
I read a story of a woman giving birth, squatting on the cold hard earth, howling with the coyotes. I wanted to howl with the coyotes and dance with the moon. I wanted Z's birth to be the exact opposite of my own – no fear, no pathology, no suffering. I dreamt of my birth, imagining the opening of my womb – until she and I emerged on the other end. I was thrilled that Z was female, perhaps, one day she might find herself dreaming like this – dreaming of her own birth.
This was not my way – not this time.
Z was born in the hospital operating room. The operating rooms are insanely cold (for the prevention of infection they told me). I was shivering on the operating table, warming blankets all over the body parts I could feel, mostly my arms and neck. There was no way Z could stay in that room for more than a moment, wet and new, simply because it was far too cold for her. She screamed when she was born – the TV scream, loud and distraught. I held her three hours later – after she was cleaned and the IV port was inserted. She was wrapped in the blue and pink stripped blankets – appropriate for both females and males. I saw the babies in the nursery wrapped in the special blankets their parents brought – we did not think of bringing any special blankets. When the nurses brought her, I read the number from my hospital bracelet, and then they give her to me. My baby.
Maybe Z is an alien. C-sections are really an alien invasion, where our human babies are being taken by the aliens, and they are sending instead little aliens, disguised as babies to study us. Z is sending back messages to her home planet, I hope she likes us and we will be spared when the invasion comes.
I am sad because I did not see her emerge from between my legs. It disconnects me from my body, leaving me wanting for prophecy and vernix; for words, for my placenta, which I did not make prints from. The prints I have seen look like trees. I never saw my placenta. Was it more like a maple or a spruce?
My first nurse after surgery was wearing a gorgeous cap – brightly colored, absolutely fantastic. I love nurses who accessorize their uniforms. She had three c-sections. She tried to birth her first two babies; with the third she scheduled the c-section from the start. Michelle Dugger, a mother of 19 children with a show on TLC, had twelve children vaginally after a c-section. Did she howl with the coyotes when she opened again during the birth of her eighteenth baby? Do her hips spiral with the energy of galaxies? Her nineteenth baby was a preemie and a c-section. She was due the same week as Z, but born over two month earlier. Z and Josie Brooklyn are the same real age – both aliens.
The c-section scar is surprisingly small, a thin line only three inches long. The doctors put their hands in this small wound took out my baby, feeling good about themselves. A textbook c-section and healthy baby. The doctors do not know what I am mourning for. I wanted to birth us both, on my knees on the dirt, howling at the moon with the coyotes, and swimming in the sea with the dolphins in my DC apartment. Would the doctors be sad if they knew?
Z, my c-section alien baby, happy birthday – welcome to this good earth.