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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! For now, I’ve returned from my Joiyssey to participate in the "revolution":I’ve been at many Occupy sites across the country:1st in D.C. Freedom Plaza I faced & challenged racism/white supremacy, sexism/patriarchy, classism, heterosexism & eventually was kicked off the island; then I offered workshops as I drove to CA:“Anti-Racism Geared for White Occupiers”; “NO DRONES” "Successes and Pitfalls of OWS"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Journey to Grandmothering: When your child has a child... to be continued

Sunday morning my daughter begins her first milestone of labor: the bloody show. All day she has ‘mild’ contractions on and off. All day long the bloody show continues, seeping out slowly, depositing the little gobs of treasure thru the folds of her yoni, every few hours.

All day long and nothing Tessie can identify as being that much stronger than the Braxton (k)hicks

Tessie wants to watch the dvd “The Business of Being Born” one more time – especially the sweet and empowering births. I’m struck once again with the info that over 80% of births in both Europe and Japan are home births with midwives and very low infant mortality rates, while in our country less than 8% are home births with one of the highest infant mortality rates of all the ‘developed’ countries.

In the early afternoon, we go to C’s baby shower (she is due in one month), eat good, chat with various folks including the remarkable Karma whose 6th birthday it really was but she celebrated the day before so the shower could go forth, and watch as C opened presents.

We return home to nap, Tessie on the sofa and me upstairs, until dinner time when we leave to pick up Tessie’s doula and daughter to go out for burritos. As we are driving, Tessie glances over at me and affirms I better start timing these contractions and my heart flips – it has begun! 7:02pm and they begin coming every 10, 12, 15 minutes apart –not necessarily in that order.

I sleep in Tessie’s bed that night, worried I wouldn’t hear her if she calls & needs me. And it is my job to time the contractions and inform the midwife and doula of her progress.

Monday morning arrives coming with only ‘hard enough’ and not ‘hard’ labor, i.e. regular contractions less than 10 minutes apart. Beverly comes over, as did Yael, the midwife, checking the baby, massaging Tessie’s belly, back, and legs, and giving us last minute instructions: eat carbs, drink fluids, walk, walk, walk. And time the contractions.

We soar around the neighborhood, hike over to the park, meander through the trees and past the community garden, drink enchanted water and juice, snack on delightful nuts and pasta and pancakes. And Tessie labors on, swinging her hips, leaning on lamp posts, squatting beside giant oaks, lingering on iron benches.

We return home with dusk to try to watch a movie. Tessie wants to see a comedy, but her movie selection is limited. We put on a dvd with Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon that we viewed 3 nites earlier. Beverly’s daughter Celeste has arrived with her Isa baby, a 7 month old Suma wrestler baby who is just an inch or two short of being the sum of her 2 older twin sisters that are 20 months old.

Isa coos in Tessie’s arms, tilts over sliding her open mouth around Tessie’s belly, leaving a trail of baby wetness as she drools and babbles into Tessie’ womb. They both tell the baby it’s time to come out.

No one can focus on the movie. Women talk softly, Isa gurgles, we hug each other, rub Tessie’s back, legs and feet in anticipation, lean on the kitchen counter, and eventually migrate upstairs to check the birthing kit for the 50th time: towels, sheets, oils, snacks, plastic, mineral waters, a pretty wrap for Tessie, a soft blanket for the baby – it’s all still there anticipating.

Beverly and Celeste take Isa home. Tessie and I lie down in her bed and try to rest. Seemingly seconds later, 10:10pm, Tessie abruptly propels forward and claims wondrously either her water broke or she’s peeing in the bed. It is the former of course and once again we get giddy with anticipation.

I call the midwife, the helper, and the doula. Beverly and Celeste turn around, Phoenix is on her way to check baby and mom.

The contractions increase in intensity but not frequency. By 1:00am, Tessie & I are sleeping, everyone has gone home to grab power naps, but Phoenix who finally arrives, waking us up. The baby is strong as ever, Phoenix does an internal exam and finds the baby’s head and shoulder facing posterior, the cervix not effacing, and her head between -1 and -2 still (with +1 or +2 being the optimal position).

Phoenix has locked her keys in her car. It is now 2:00am and Tessie is trying to recapture her sleep. I alternate between holding the flashlight to help Phoenix break into her car and running back upstairs, checking on Tessie. Finally, at 3:30am I tell Phoenix she’s on her own, waiting for a friend to bring another key.

Tessie needs help relaxing between contractions. We move to her birthing room (formerly her office) where there is a low bed and the bathroom is that much closer. I put pillows on the floor for myself and proceed to help Tessie take advantage of those minutes between contractions to put herself into a deep sleep. Tessie says I do sleep hypnosis.

By 8:00am Tuesday morning, the contractions are still not consistent and rarely closer than 4 minutes apart. I call Beverly who says she is on her way over. We hit the streets once again. This morning, the sun is shining brightly – and hot – again, but it is early and there is a nice breeze. We stick close to the house and walk under the trees, in the shade whenever we can, stopping frequently to allow the contractions to build and recede.

Yael arrives around 10:00am, checks Tessie and announces she has dilated 3.5 centimeters, her cervix is nice and soft, but the baby’s still posterior and at -1. Tessie is feeling good – I’m struggling to keep my mounting anxiety off my face – so she recommends another walk and then a rest, which we do.

The midwife has another prenatal appointment so she leaves for a few hours. When she returns around 5:00, Tessie gets up from her ‘napping’ between contractions, and starts walking up and down the stairs, rolling on the labor ball, and doing deep squats, rocking her hips.

The doula has lit candles, created alters, placed photos, and burnt sage all around the house. The air is mystical and ripe with anticipation as fans blow and gusty beats emanate from the special cd Tessie made for this moment. Baby Isa and her mom are back and we are all dancing in the birthing room to Stevie Wonder, Sweet Honey and folks I don’t know but Tessie leads our movements onward as she labors.

The contractions stay stubbornly inconsistent. The baby hasn’t turned. The midwife gives Tessie a concoction of castor oil and alcohol, which we all sample in solidarity with Tess. She promptly throws it all up several moments after downing the concoction but we don’t stop dancing!

8:00pm and suddenly her labor steps it up, irregular contractions coming now 2-3 or 4-5 minutes apart and lasting 45 to 90 seconds. It has rained, is still drizzling. Tessie is hot and demands ice and cold washcloths on her forehead and around her neck.

We go to the porch to continue laboring. It is now so quiet, so intense, so beautiful, so surreal. It is dark and a mist has risen, hovering over the front lawn and draping the trees that surround her home. Rain still falls rhythmically from the huge branches that hang over the porch roof. Tessie is ohm-ing, humming, singing scales now with her pain, eyes softly shut, face angelic, breath surrendering, body swaying, arms conducting, shoulders dropping, hips rotating, spinning as the contractions build and the baby descends.

There are 5 of us, assisting Tessie with her birth, acting as a finely choreographed team, even though we’ve not rehearsed. It feels ancient and so profoundly natural, our moving into her space, flowing together, stepping out to rest as another steps in, fresh and ready, highly tuned into her slightest motion, her tiniest need. We are as delicate as a web yet as sure as dew perched on that web keeping her hydrated, focused; and as strong as the strand of love spinning thru life as together we weather her contractions.

1:00am and Tessie gives us the word: let’s go upstairs, get into the tub. She is going to have a water birth.

Celeste has been resting on the sofa. Isa is sound asleep. Phoenix begins to run the water into the tub, Tessie continues laboring on the floor of the bathroom. Celeste comes in to check Tessie’s progress before she gets into the tub. We are all ready.

Celeste waits for the contraction to subside and then slips her gloved hand into Tessie’s body to feel the dilation, the cervix, the baby’s head. The water runs loudly as the words pour out of her: 3 ½ to 4 centimeters dilated, minus 1. No progress into the birth canal.

We are all devastated, especially Tessie. She looks stunned and even says, no, it can’t be. Exhaustion fills her every surface, her face, her hands, her shoulders, her belly. Phoenix turns off the water, pulls the plug. I desperately try to get her attention, tell her to stop, put the plug back in, wait for Tessie to leave the room.

Celeste answers Tessie’s fatigued inquiry: what shall I do? Is it time to go to the hospital?