14 years ago tonight I was in labor with the child who would swoop in and transform my life beyond anything I could dream. I was 24 years old and had been feeling her spirit dance around me since I was in the 4th grade. This indigo child’s presence was strong and became a guardian angel to me the same year I discovered 2 truths: that death is not something to be feared because it is inevitable, and that no one on Earth can make me do anything I don’t want to do. Hell, maybe it was this spirit’s presence that whispered those epiphanies into my ear! 15 long years later, I was about to give birth to this child; to give a human body to house this sprite which I had come to know. As a child I didn’t walk around touting “there’s an unborn child that follows me around” because I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling AND I didn’t want to sound like a crazy person. By my early 20s, however, I was realizing that this benevolent spirit that traveled with me was waiting for me to make her a vessel to be born into. I knew Daniel was the right father. She had chosen him for me when I was 14, nudged me to marry him when I was 20 and finally here we were, Feb 18, 2005 6pm heading to Rex hospital to meet this creature.
When we arrived at the hospital I put on a gown that someone had probably died in an few hours earlier (thanks Jim Gaffigan for that tidbit) and our nurse was a lovely woman in her late 30s with an Irish accent. I gave her my birth plan and settled into a nest, turning off the fluorescent lights, setting up music and playing out the birth story that I had rehearsed in my head so many times. At 7pm the shifts changed and our lovely nurse was replaced by a woman my age who had just given birth 6 months prior and who told me repeatedly that I was going to want an epidural and not to hesitate to ask. I despised her. “Read my birth plan. Don’t say the word epidural to me again. Don’t even talk to me- just let me be.” My husband was refreshing my ice chips and trying to be supportive as he battled a nasty sinus infection which caused him to cough up mucus chunks loudly and often, then describe the color and consistency to me. I felt like I was in a crazy house. I went into isolation mode where I remained for the rest of the birth- if Daniel or the condescending nurse spoke to me I barked “no talking! I’m working!” Lots of rocking and meditating made the time pass swiftly. As the intensity grew stronger and the pain more widespread I suddenly remembered eating jalapeños for the first time and used that wisdom to accept the sensations I was feeling: “trying to make the jalapeño not be hot is pointless…trying to not feel the pain from this is pointless.” I was able to get inside the pain with my breath and allow it to be exactly as it was, knowing that it was impermanent and that a minute long vacation was coming. During some of those moments between contractions I fell into a deep sleep. I woke up fresh a minute later ready to surf the wave of pain and stay with it, accepting it. My mantra became “this is what this feels like. This is only what this feels like. This can’t feel any different than how it feels.”
At 2:19am on 2/19 my beautiful soul mate was born. I did it!!!! I was aware for the first time in many hours that my husband was there too. Inside the trance of labor, it was only Violet and I- working together- reaching from beyond- transcending time and space, to deliver this child into the world. Adrenaline rush….no epidural, no ibuprofen. Just my body and my baby.
But wait….she wasn’t crying. Something was wrong. The doctor and 2 nurses took the baby and left the room. I screamed “go! Go with them!!” to my frightened husband who wanted to stay by my side.
I cried hard. A love I didn’t even know was possible had blossomed the moment of her birth and then she was gone, without an explanation, without a trace. It was surreal. It was dark. I wasn’t afraid: I felt immortal, timeless, powerful, pure light, experiencing emotions my human body couldn’t comprehend. A nurse spoke softly to me “the baby wasn’t breathing well…..obstructed….mwah mwah mwah….NICU….” Adrenaline coursing hard through my veins, unable to stand on my wobbly post-birth legs, I cried harder and harder. I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless. Truly alone. I felt a fight in me that I had never felt before. In that moment I could kill. I would kill. I needed only to gain strength in my legs and then I would unleash a fury Raleigh had never seen. Dark and light would spew from my finger tips and toes and screams that wold deafen ears and break glass would shriek from every office in my face. I wanted my fucking baby. My body couldn’t take me to her. Nurses cleaned me and prepared my recovery room then finally placed me in a wheel chair and took me to the NICU.
When I entered the NICU I became soft- I shed another layer of judgement and preconceived notions. There, each in plastic incubator-esque boxes were 6 babies, 5 of them much smaller than mine, each ranging from 2-5 pounds, and then there was Violet 6lbs 13 oz looking like a hearty giant next to the tiny miracle babies. I was humbled. My husband had his hands inside the “petting tubes” for lack of a better description, and he was gently petting Violets cheek with on finger and holding her foot between two fingers of his other hand. I remembered then that he was a human that I loved, and he bent down and kissed me. He filled me in that Violet had aspirated too much fluid on the way out and the oxygen helmet she now wore was helping her breathe until her lungs were clear. She was hooked to a couple of monitors and sleeping peacefully. I reached my hands into the tubes and pet my baby. After some amount of time, a measurement that doesn’t seem real in a hospital environment, the nurses convinced me that I should take advantage of the down time and go sleep. “You should go recover now- you’ve been up through the night laboring and now it’s time to sleep. Violet will be ok and then the real work begins- please let the NICU nurses care for her until she’s ready to come to you.”
The hormonal roller coaster was almost unbearable. And then….I went numb. A switch turned off my emotions. I wasn’t terrified or happy or any registered feeling- I was a zombie in a hospital. When we got back to the room we curled up into our respective balls and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos until the sun came up. Then I slept. The belles of the ball, my angels, the lactation consultants and recovery nurses held me. They cried with me. They reassured me. They squoze my breasts and showed me how to pump my milk. They convinced me that it was ok to now take some ibuprofen. I remember the day nurse said “girl, you had a natural labor like you wanted. The labor is over. And it’s just ibuprofen. If you don’t take it to help yourself heal, you’re not being courageous and tough anymore- you’re being dumb.” This made me so happy- to have someone take charge and tell me what to do. It was the first time I remember feeling like everything would actually be ok. By now I could walk slowly and Daniel and I went to visit the baby. My mom and sisters and my In-laws were coming and going, visiting us and peering at Violet in the NICU. Daniel asked if he could feed the baby first, so he took the syringe full of colostrum and put it in the baby’s mouth. She slurped it right up and I felt my milk let down to see her eat. I asked the NICU nurse if I could try and feed her from my breast now that her oxygen helmet was gone. She agreed that this could be done but cautioned me that she wouldn’t latch and suck yet. She thought this was a great time to try skin to skin contact but that the baby wasn’t ready to feed. There we were, 16 hours post birth and I got to hold my precious child for the first time. She latched on to my breast and sucked like a champ. I giggled, and tears streamed down my face. Daniel too was crying and smiling. The whole entourage made up of family members were standing outside the NICU, witnessing our baby nurse for the first time.
14 years later- my intelligent, multi-talented, diligent, fierce, intuitive, exquisite beauty, Violet is still the light of my life. Thank you child, for choosing me.