A mother surely experiences a rite of passage as she births her baby from womb to world. She journeys from womanhood to motherhood, and her life is altered in the most incredible ways. So too the journey for a father, who holds the honored space of Witness. Along the passage from manhood to fatherhood, there is little action a man can take. There is nothing to fix. There is little to fetch. But there is plenty for him to do: Watching, waiting, witnessing the mother of his child, a father’s awe and encouragement for the birthing woman fortifies the sacred space where his child enters the world. A father is ever the protector for mother and child, for his family. Yesterday, Baraka shared her story of birthing Akasha. Today, her husband, Todd, recalls the experience of awaiting Akasha. —xoxoxo jenni
Silent, Loving Support
By Todd Elihu
With Baraka’s due date a couple of days behind us, we decided to block off the weekend to be together and “put on the catcher’s mitt,” as our friend Tim said jokingly. It would just be the two of us awaiting our unborn daughter and holding a sacred space in case she decided to make her entry into this world sometime over the weekend. Our friend Carl dropped off the Lord of the Rings trilogy and we had a little movie marathon as Baraka experienced the toning surges of what we thought may have been early labor. Rainy weather washed the Earth. On Sunday night, after Frodo and Gandalf sailed off to the far distant shore with the elves, we fell asleep to the soothing affirmations of our Hypnobirthing CD.
The weekend had passed without birth, so Monday morning I headed out to work with the assurance that Baraka would call me if anything progressed. Before leaving, I took a water sample to take to the pool and spa store to make sure the chemical balance of the hot tub was alright. I left work around 2:30 and headed out to the pool store. They told me I needed to add a little bit of this and a little bit of that to get the water quality up to snuff.
During the last several months of the pregnancy, she made use of the tub often as it really helped relieve the pressure of gravity upon her body. The tub was also one of our primary birthing locations as part of our birthing game plan.
When I got back home, the surges had definitely picked up for Baraka. She said that she had thought about calling me a couple of times during the day, but she decided to ride it out and see. She was glad that I was home, though. I was, too.
I started amending the water chemistry of our tub according to what the people at the pool store had recommended. This took about 2 hours as I had to let some of the chemicals dissolve and integrate for 15 minutes before adding the next chemical. Baraka was anxious to get in the tub. I had installed this hot tub on our back deck back in January in lieu of remodeling the bathroom in order to accommodate a tub/shower unit. In case you don’t know, Baraka has a close affinity for water. Bless her sweet heart, she endured living in this house for 3 years without a proper full body soak. During the last several months of the pregnancy, she made use of the tub often as it really helped relieve the pressure of gravity upon her body. The tub was also one of our primary birthing locations as part of our birthing game plan.
As soon as the tub was ready to go, Baraka was in it. I stroked her head and arms as we listened to Sade in the waning sunlight of the early evening.
About the same time, Whapio, our wise woman mentor pulled in the driveway. She had been planning on coming down today anyway. She had just finished teaching a midwifery intensive course in Asheville the day before. I greeted her and apprised her of the situation. She sat in the front yard by the hemlock tree with her notebook in which she jotted some things down. She said if we needed anything she would be there. She would also let us know if she had an intuitive nudge about anything that needed our attention.
I soon felt like I needed to be by Baraka’s side.
I sat by the edge of the tub and caressed her.
I checked in on Baraka who was floating around naked in the tub, moaning with each movement of the uterus and moving more and more into an altered state. She said it was alright for Whapio to come back to the porch if she wanted to.
Whapio came around and kissed Baraka on the head and held her hands. She then sat at the table and continued writing in her little book. I went into the backyard to do a bit of Taiji.
I soon felt like I needed to be by Baraka’s side. I sat by the edge of the tub and caressed her. I put a bathing suit on and got into the tub with her. As soon as I got in she wanted to get out so that she could use the bathroom.
She felt compelled to stay in the bathroom and labor while sitting on the toilet for a while. We turned off all the lights and lit candles. We brought the pallet we had prepared (a thin mattress with a plastic sheet underneath a flannel sheet) from the living room. I sat on the bathroom floor and began to go into the altered state along with her. I offered my silent, loving support as Baraka wailed and moved around. She naturally fell into an intoxicated reverie of belly dance, gyrating her hips and waist, her beautiful belly swollen with life. Whapio was chanting in the darkened interior of the house. Things were changing.
We interlocked arms and she tugged on mine as a surge came on. In the intervals in between we would kiss, exchange loving words, or just remain silent.
After one of the surges, which were coming every minute or so, we made it back out to the hot tub. Baraka needed to be in the water again. We were surrounded by pitch blackness save the starlight as the moon was hidden behind the eastern trees. It was quite cool now and after I put on a sweatshirt and some jeans, I sat on the edge of the tub melding with her. At first she was self-conscious of her wailing during the surges, wondering if the neighbors could hear, but as time went by her self-consciousness was superseded by the journey inward.
We interlocked arms and she tugged on mine as a surge came on. In the intervals in between we would kiss, exchange loving words, or just remain silent. Whapio would pop in and out bringing water and checking to see if everything was cool. At some point Baraka felt her waters break. My sense of time had long since disappeared into the darkness. It was easy to remain totally present and to focus on our love; the moment demanded it.
I noticed that the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck so [our midwife] held the baby as I unwrapped it. It was wrapped around twice.
And then, with a triumphant declaration, “Alright, we can do this, Akasha!” Baraka stood up for the next few contractions. She then told me the head was about to emerge and to turn on the light in the tub. Soon after I turned the light on, Baraka had another intense surge and there was suddenly a red orb in between her legs. “Oh my God, it’s her head!” Whapio drew in closer. “One more push and she’ll be out,” Baraka said. She was not actively pushing, only riding the natural reflexes of her body. As the next surge came on, Akasha dove into the water of the tub with a rush of blood. Baraka grabbed her and gently brought her up to her chest. I noticed that the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck so Whapio held the baby as I unwrapped it. It was wrapped around twice.
The baby had a bit of trouble breathing at first. There was mucus in her lungs that she was trying to expel. We blew on her to try to show her how to breathe. Whapio wanted to move us into the living room because it was chilly outside. Baraka held the baby as Whapio and I helped Baraka out of the tub.
Whapio had moved the birthing pallet from the bathroom into the living room again. We sat Baraka down and swaddled the baby, who was still struggling to expel the mucus. Whapio said this mucus was natural, it kept the sacs of the lungs from sticking together. She gave the baby a homeopathic remedy, Antimonium Tartaricum, to help the baby get rid of the mucus. It did seem to help.
The placenta was birthed soon after. We weighed the new babe and she was 8.5 lbs.
Baraka had a little tear on her bottom and we’ve been healing it naturally with comfrey sitzbaths, comfrey tincture, and homeopathics.
We are a happy family and very blessed to have such an alert and healthy daughter. Give thanks!