Happy Monday, beloveds. I hope you’re still basking in the glow of Mother’s Day. Make yourself a cup of tea, let the cool breeze dance through your window, and enjoy this truly lyrical story of the day a woman gave herself over to the rite of passage of becoming a mother. I love the way my friend and mentor Baraka has with words, and the way she tells the story of her natural, nearly unassisted homebirth is sweet indeed. Tomorrow, her husband, Todd, will share his recollection of the day their daughter, Akasha, arrived Earthside. —xoxox jenni
The First Letter I Wrote to My Daughter
By Baraka Elihu
I write letters to my daughter. A collection of yet un-opened heartsongs about the struggles and the honors of being a mother. I write letters to my daughter. So she’ll know some pieces of herself as a young woman, and so I pass on the stories of my own Mother, whom I long for and ache to call on sometimes during this wild, stunning journey of mothering. One day, as Akasha prepares to fly the nest, I’ll offer her this collection. This was the first letter I wrote to my daughter, days after her beautiful birth, in the early dawn hours of our family, 5 years ago. Birthing Akasha was the very best experience of my life. I didn’t realize something at the time, though… I did not imagine my heart could ever expand any further beyond the pinnacle of love I experienced at our birth. Akasha teaches me every day that my heart’s terrain is far wider than I can imagine. Akasha is patiently teaching me the limitless, boundless nature of love.
The weekend before you were born the rains came. The majestic storms beckoned your father and I indoors where we spent the weekend loving each other and creating a family space, quiet and holy. We sanctioned off some time from the distractions of the outside world. We watched movies and ate, laughed and talked, walked around our neighborhood and mused on our lives, and I flowed with the subtle rhythms of practice labor. The rains cooled the Earth by 10 or more degrees. I watched the signs of this beloved Earth and took her messages as affirming omens. I savored these last days of pregnancy, for holding you inside me was truly a joy beyond measure.
My pregnancy with you was unhindered and unmanaged. It opened a space within me to tune into our process and to cultivate faith. I traveled much of my first trimester: first out west for yoga training and then slowly up the east coast. Spending a month alone, I explored my inner terrain. I retreated at an ashram and took a writer’s workshop at Omega Institute. I took my time driving through this country, talking aloud to you in the car, dreaming about you. It was important for us to be alone together at the beginning. I focused my graduate work on the archetypes of Birth.
I ritualized the journey into motherhood side by side my beloved husband, sisters, and friends.
My second trimester, I belly danced and created artwork for you with your father. I sat in circles of women and laughed and cried. I decided firmly I would not include medical care in my pregnancy. My heart echoed with your spirit’s soaring, “Birth is a Rite of Passage, Mama, not a medical event!” I had never doubted my ability to give birth, but I did struggle with expressing this truth to others, especially those people who carried a lot of fear around women’s bodies and birthing. I transformed this struggle into a mature self confidence, one I would need to be a conscious parent for you in this culture.
My third trimester, I spiraled ever more inward and enjoyed nesting with full abandon. My home had never shined quite so brightly, full of charged energy, full of magic. I ritualized myself, body and soul, and I ritualized the journey into motherhood side by side my beloved husband, sisters, and friends. I wrote parts of my thesis curriculum, which I titled Birthing Ourselves into Being. We planted a spiral garden. I watched Nature with new eyes—the slow evolution of Spring, the abundance of the Earth ripening in harmony with the flowering of my body.
The Earth Bathed Herself
When the rains came that weekend before you came to us, I knew something was changing—all the Earth bathed Herself in preparation for you. The freshly chilled air brought relief to me as it assured I would be able to comfortably birth outdoors in the spa altar your father so lovingly built for our labor.
When Monday came, I felt completely at peace and ready for your entrance. The colors of the day sparkled, aflame with the light of the inner worlds pouring out onto the Earth. Green became clear Emerald. Blue blazed suddenly a Sapphire streaking across the landscape.
I knew you would come to us this day, but I held the knowledge within myself like a secret treasure, savoring our last moments together.
Your Godmother Whapio was coming to stay with us for a few weeks and would arrive later that day. She was a true mentor for your father and I during this pregnancy and assisted us in learning how to care for ourselves during the entire transformation. A witness, a friend, another dreamer on the journey, she was coming to help us hold a space for the birth and to be there should we need anything—a Midwife in the most ancient sense.
The day went by sweetly; I was alone as your father went into work. I tidied up the house and arranged my birth altar with the little gifts that all your aunties had offered in your honor: yoni shells and goddess statues, salt and herbs and candles and sage. I knew you would come to us this day, but I held the knowledge within myself like a secret treasure, savoring our last moments together. I consciously did not call for help. It felt completely natural and ease-full to be with you, crossing over onto this plane.
Throughout the day, I passed blood and mucous from my body and the gentle surges that massaged me all weekend became more noticeable. I danced about my day as usual. I was in no rush. Each moment of interesting sensation lured me ever deeper into the vast ocean of myself. Your father arrived home around 3:30pm and the energy heightened in my body. He fed me and harried about making sure the water in the spa was just right.
When Whapio arrived around 5:30pm, I was certain that this was labor. We laughed at how intelligent your timing was! (From here on out, time had no meaning, but later on we determined active labor lasted approximately 4 to 5 hours.) I spent some time alone in the bathroom letting loose, feeling my body dilate with the surges, touching myself and breathing and relaxing. When I did finally slip into the spa, luxurious warmth encapsulated me. I listened to my Hypnobirthing CD, and opened up progressively as the cool winds danced through the trees and the sunset melted into the Earth. Whapio kept her distance and tended the periphery, writing poetry for you. Your father did Yilu in the backyard and kept his energy telepathically close on me in case I needed him. In the water I gracefully flowed with the surges of labor, visioning you circling around us and visioning my cervix opening like a lotus flower. We were humming in the most exquisite altered state I had ever experienced.
A Child Will Soon Be Born
Time passed like this, your father coming in closer and closer until he was there with me in the water. I found myself shrouded in darkness. Nighttime had arrived. The energy moving through my body was becoming very strong and your father helped me to move back into the bathroom so I could empty myself. It was at this point that I felt truly tested. The energy was becoming so powerful I could no longer contain it- I bellowed out and rocked and spiraled my hips. I could hear Whapio in the distance chanting, We are feeling very open, a child will soon be born… I found my voice and allowed the energy to pour out into deep vocal tones. I believe this is what people call transition.
There was no chatter, no distraction. I wept and my heart exploded in gratitude.
Your father helped me find my place back into the water. The energy was shifting from allowing my cervix to dilate to simply riding the waves of birth. The ultimate test of waiting for dilation was over and was replaced by an overwhelming connection to the source of life. It felt like a glorious annihilation as the surges passed through me. I did not consciously push. My body did everything on its own, and I reveled in the experience- it was like being pummeled with heaven.
Your father sat right at water’s edge, and it was as if we shared a brain. There was no chatter, no distraction. I wept and my heart exploded in gratitude. I cried out to your father, Thank you for your Seed!
I cried out to you, Akasha, as your spiraling came ever closer to us, I am so excited to meet you! I could see the tree branches far overhead shake electrically in the windy night. Akasha! Akashaaaa! I Love You! The sound of the leaves shaking echoed down my spinal column. Throughout labor I felt intrinsically connected with you, as if you were guiding me through the process. But this connection felt like some kind of ethereal communication.
Then, there at the end of the labor, and as I began to feel you passing through the birth canal, the ethereal was replaced by the physical promise of you. It was amazing to feel your descent into the water. Your spiraling descent downward from the skies, closing in, closing in, tunneling like a tornado through my body and into the water. Your father watched you emerge and Whapio came in closer.
Your placenta emerged radiant and glistening, the Tree of Life leading the way. We left you attached to the placenta for the first couple of hours, and then your father tied and cut the cord.
You were born at 11:39pm. I caught you with my hands, completely in awe of your slippery body. Stunned by our new reality. Your umbilical chord (which we later deciphered was 2 feet long—the longest Whapio had ever seen) was loosely wrapped around your neck twice. We tended to this and I was helped out of the water and into a warm pallet in the living room. I was not quite ready for the distractions of the outside world. I wanted to hold you in silence for longer. But the excitement swept us up. You took a little while to land, your soft breaths sounded a little mucousy to us, so we warmed you and talked to you and you found your rhythm. I was not for a moment concerned. I felt you still connected to my body through our shared umbilicus. Your placenta emerged radiant and glistening, the Tree of Life leading the way. We left you attached to the placenta for the first couple of hours, and then your father tied and cut the cord. We were both tended to during this time, until you were crying and feeding lustily, and I was cleaned up and my yoni checked.
Your father and I, in the bustle of this immediate postpartum, chanted Hu together and I acknowledged the Vairagi Masters as they circled around us just across the veils. Everything passed in a blur. We were finally tucked into bed for the night. I did not sleep that first night with you, but I went in and out of Soul Travel, flying over mountaintops and forests when I closed my eyes to rest.
Compassion for Mothers Everywhere
My postpartum recovery was more challenging than I had imagined. I sustained a tear and some injury to my yoni, despite birthing upright in water at my own pace. This challenge brought with it a lesson in receiving help from others for healing and a deepened compassion for mothers everywhere. It also taught me to balance the pelvic floor strengthening I practice and teach in Chakra Belly Dance with plenty of rest and softening. My sense is that my pelvic floor was so strong, it needed to be literally blown through. I experienced this sensation as extremely powerful, however, not dangerous or painful.
Today it is a week out from your birth, and I am amazed at the power of the body to heal itself. The tissues of my yoni have gathered themselves back together and are like new—changed forever but strong and perfect. Whapio has gathered strong medicine to care for me: comfrey and homeopathics, ledum and sepia.
We are madly in love with you, daughter—we sit and stare at you in amazement.
Your father prepared your placenta according to traditional Chinese medicine and has been nursing me back to vibrancy. We both ate the rich meat the day after your coming, and it affected us like a very smooth hallucinogenic. We laughed together in the kitchen amongst the heavy aroma of the steamed organ. I will never forget that feeling and that primordial smell. I have been taking tablets of the TCM placenta since, and it has nurtured me wonderfully.
I am almost fully recovered now and you, my beloved daughter, are an amazing being to be with. Your father and I have spent these past days with you enjoying every moment. You are nursing so well. You love your Baba and your late night walks with him. You are very peaceful and seem very aware of your surroundings. We are madly in love with you, daughter—we sit and stare at you in amazement. We have vowed to serve you well in your mission on this planet. We are here to support you in whatever way you desire. It is a joy to introduce to you to your community and to your world as everything is poised to receive you.
your Mama, baraka.