Eight years ago I was sipping castor oil in a gin fizz. It was Easter and a girl has traditions. The baby girl inside of me was now two weeks past her equinox due-ish date and I was urging her along. But since the brother before her came at 43 weeks, I wasn't particularly worried. Just excited to meet her and wanting to make sure our homebirth went right this time.
I like pregnancy. In fact, I never feel better. So if the babes decide to stick around it's cool with me. I know how fleeting the transcendent experience of a little being moving, stretching, kicking, rolling, hiccuping...well doing all of that living right under the roof that is your heart, well, how fast that goes.
I also knew that this baby girl was smart as a whip. We had a language, her and I. She played games already yo. Seriously. I'd tap my belly and she'd kick. I'd tap again, she'd kick again. When we went to rock concerts, she danced. And when the music was done, so was she. When I needed her to move so I knew she was fine, I'd ask her and she'd oblige.
At the time I was running some serious mileage. All the way until a few days before she was born. She liked the rhythmic moving and she'd sleep. Then she'd wake to play. She was a fully formed human and I could tell. Or maybe I was just more aware my second time around.
But I digress. The gin fizz. Take notes mamas. Castor oil is notoriously, riotously awful. It is hard to get down so people have come up with lots of tricks to get the job done. Some swear by oj, peanut butter, scrambled eggs. Fuck all that. Go straight to the gin people. Straight to the gin. Whip it up with frozen lemon or lime aid, some half & half, lots of ice and you have a cocktail that simply tastes like someone else left too much lipstick on the rim.
My family, we all toasted to birth that Easter Sunday and after some slight action. Nothing. So the Tuesday after Easter I tried again. A sunny spring day and the blender on high and I was chilling in the back yard on our hammock when shit got serious.
Birth in retrospect, eight years later, is interesting. There are details that stand out as if they happened yesterday and others that have faded away completely until I read my old journals. But a birth story, eight years later, has been refined into a framework of unforgettable moments. I'm sure critical details have been lost but the movie plays on in my head...
A parade of people filed in, one or two at a time. Sisters and brothers and moms and dads and my brand new niece in a sling on her mama. Night came. They brought balloons and heated the food I had prepared. Midwives with birth kits came. Music was on, candles lit, my room and bath a private sanctuary while all the people I loved most in the world were just beyond the doorway - holding space and being festive and waiting for our girl to arrive.
They cuddled little 5 year old Satchel who would come and go into the birth space and then out again. He high-fived me every time I said "FUCK" because I had prepared him for the intensity of labor and the lion roaring I might do and the blood and the sailor's mouth I would most likely have.
At some point I reached down and felt her head. Her hair!!! And I pushed and roared and pushed some more. The midwives opened sterile packaging and hurriedly arranged all the birthy things that a newborn needs.
There were only a few contractions that felt beyond my ability. When they came I'd barf and then I'd move on. But mostly it was do-able. So unlike the pitocin induction I'd had 5 years earlier with Satchel.
But soon minutes became hours and I had my legs on the door jam and someone else on the opposite end of towel so I could push (and pull) with traction. From hands to knees, from tub to bed to floor to toilet. A circus of activity and effort...and I couldn't budge her down and out.
Labor had been going for hours now. Something like 17 and I'd been pushing for over 6 of them. We made the call. I'd gotten to ten centimeters in the sacred space of my home, in the birth cave of my own making, in the tub that Matt had rigged with a shelf for resting and half-inflated birth ball to sit on, with Taras Riley playing in the background and candle light and ice chips and hard work and Satchel's sweet hand patting my head and Matt's strong arms holding me up while I pushed and pushed and pushed, with a protective shield of people around me and my sweet baby girl with hair I could touch.
Give me a minute I said.
I showered. Told my body that we were changing plans. That I would ride in the car to the hospital and that contractions could stop now. And they did. How I could get my body to stop contractions when I couldn't make them strong enough to push her out, I will never know. But I walked outside to our big oak tree and felt the sun on my skin. In that moment I made peace. A kind of peace anyway, that I had birthed at home and now I was going to do the rest of my birthing at the hospital.
Warmly welcomed by a midwife and homebirth friendly staff, in a gorgeous new labor and delivery wing in a wine country hospital, I was treated so kindly and they helped me birth my baby by cesarean. My baby girl was here.
Her eyes were so blue.
They placed her in my arms and all I could think was Who are you and where did you come from? What ride are you going to take me on little girl?
She clearly came to this planet with something to finish. With a destiny to fulfill. Her energy was sheer power and she was coming here on her terms. Her earthly home was a temple and she had work to do. I was in awe of her. And overwhelmed with a vibrating energetic love.
Our eyes locked and I felt the warmth of her in my arms. The weight just inside of me now resting against my skin. Somewhere in the haze of drugs and hormones I worried that she couldn't see. Not really but I was disoriented and confused and trying to get back in my body after the birthing journey.
Those crystaline eyes and thick black lashes, they opened up and looked right into my soul. My heart was no longer her roof. Now it was her home.
It took time to come to terms with another home birth turned hospital cesarean. It was a journey of its own. But the healing work I had done after Satchel's birth, and thanks to the profound work of Pam England and Birthing From Within, this time it was different. My spirit, though bruised, was in tact. Not shattered. I fairly quickly returned to normal. My heart was home to two gorgeous children and there was living to be done. Giving myself space for grief allowed me to work it all the way through.
I also believe that encapsulating (and eating) my placenta helped. My doctor-sister thinks I'm a nut job (in the best kind of way) but even she says that medicine is medicine if you believe it works. So whatevs, I believe in placenta magic. In traditional Chinese medicine the placenta is an organ with powerful uses. Once dried, it serves many purposes in addition to combating post-partum depression.
One of it's purposes is hormone replacement in menopause. My babies placentas have MY hormones. And if preserved properly the placenta has a long "shelf life" so when the next phase of life comes, I have leftover placenta sitting in my freezer. You can bet I will be dosing myself proper.
The placenta is also considered the baby's first home. It's own earth. It's first planet. The baby placed roots in this soil and grew, drawing nourishment from its earth like roots on a tree. And so it is used to ground and nurture the child through transition - physical and emotional. When Temple was a baby I used some of her placenta powder to make a tincture, much like her very own bespoke Rescue Remedy and I'd sprinkle drops of this on her crown chakra through temper tantrums, teething, and illness. Each birthday I have sprinkled a capsule of her "first earth" in a special cake just for her. To remind and re-root, to ground and nourish.
One of my favorite accupuncturists, Laurel Brody, prepared the placenta for me. She said 108 prayers over it as she ground it by hand and then capsulized it for me. Laurel tied Temple's umbilical cord in a sacred knot and dried that too. Then she wrapped it all beautifully like a gift. When Temple was 5 days old we took our first outing to the healing center where Laurel works, a beautiful piece of land in Sebastapol, and we collected the placenta pills along with heated charcoal packs for my belly, a binding band to help with womb support, and herbs for replenishing blood since I had lost a shit ton of blood in surgery.
Blood loss was significant. For weeks my gums and the inside of my eyes were pale from blood loss. It took me a very long time to regain my strength but great care from my midwife Claudette, lots of dark leafy greens, beef soup, and Floradix, I recovered without the blood transfusion they debated giving me in the hospital.
You can see how pale I was in this pictures. But mostly you can see how tender and little she was, and how precious she was to me.
Luckily she was easy on me. Allowed me to recover because she was such an "easy" baby. (I know that term is tricky, but to me she did feel easy, groovy, simple and attuned so we sailed right through.) Temple slept through the night in Matt's arms the first night at the hospital. From the beginning she was a sleeper. An easy nursling, a restful sleeper, content when she was in my arms or on my body. Or in Matt's lap in the hammock where they would swing for hours during the warm spring days. Matt was off work back then as we prepared to move to Vancouver BC for the next two years. We took advantage of the time to sink in as a family and enjoy the lull before what would become a 5-7 year storm of moving and a bad economy and building new businesses and basically be ON for years.
Looking back at the last months before she was born and the four months after, they were like heaven. She was a little human product of a heaven-like time in our lives.
Her habits have always been solid, robust, healthful. Sleeping , eating, pooping like a champ. She was born at nearly ten pounds and she was solid. My boobs made milk like cream for her. Her body put in the order at the milk factory and I complied, pumping out half and half instead of skim.
Affectionate, funny, musical, sensitive, silly, fierce, independent, willful, strong. This girl is a powerhouse in every sense.
With her work yet to be discovered and frustration with not being able to do the amazing, adult, complex things she wants so badly to accomplish, it makes her vulnerable and tender and even lost at times. She can be daunted by the things she most desires and her nervous system often gets sent into a tailspin.
Being her mother is an honor. Truly. Sometimes it's not easy and she is a beautiful mystery to me. And I have to stretch and reach and sweat and deep-breath my way to serve her. To be the guide she needs me to be. In as many ways as I have failed her, I think that mostly I get her. And when I don't, I keep trying. That I am her ally in this confusing world. That I am the caretaker of her sensitive soul.
When I found out I was having a girl - or rather, they confirmed my inner knowing that I was having a girl - it hit me.
A daughter. I'm having a daughter.
A wave of gratitude for her, for the opportunity to mother a daughter, a flood of recognition and legacy and hope filled me with a burning purpose to live as her guiding light. And then they put her in my arms, this little powerhouse, and I realized that I had it backwards. She was here like a comet to light the way.
My journey with Temple has been to stand back, to stand out of her way. To hold and shape and steer but there is no holding back a force like hers. Sometimes incorrigible and brazen, this little Aries girl is a do-er. A walk through flames-er. A get needs met-er. And I've taken note: Help her claim this power, don't make her shut it down.
From outfits that make me laugh, to those that make me cringe, there is little room for small fights with this one. She is big picture and she is self-knowledge. And she has the backbone to stand by her own side and shout her version from the rooftops. Who am I to take such a bright burning flame and turn her into a good girl?
Do you know how hard this is for a "good girl" like me?
And power like hers is a lot for such a little girl to handle. It runs hot through her like an electric storm and if her own mama isn't there to comfort, to be on her team, then the world is an insane place to puzzle through. So I deep breathe a lot. I realize that these are my triggers and she is paving her way. And mine. I'm relearning so much with her as my teacher. With her asking me to challenge my hot spots and see them through her eyes. To offer compassion and understanding. To worry less about being good or following rules and to listen more to the white-hot passion that guides her through this life.
She is a gift in so many ways. All children are. Her gifts have been a surprise. Unpredictable and juicy and sweet and difficult and heartbreakingly tender. She is trailblazer, pioneer, wildheart. She can tear shit down and build it back up. I love her for this. For teaching me these things.
We spent her birthday at Indian Springs in Calistoga, enjoying the mineral pools. The rose-scented spring air. Shuffleboard and croquet and watching the night sky while floating on life rafts in water as warm as the womb. Her head on my heart, we floated and counted stars.
Happy 8th birthday Temple Lova Tiger-Lily!
Love you woods to the ocean twenty and fifty.