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Letter to Katrina-A birth story | KERRI EIKER

Letter to Katrina-A birth story

October fourteenth 2013 happened to be an incredibly beautiful fall day.   Several days of heavy rain had recently washed away anything heavy or old in the atmosphere and the air was crisp and clean. The turning leaves and fall flowers were bathed in brilliant sunshine and the gentle warm breeze carried the smell of something new, lending an element of excitement or anticipation that something good was about to happen.  Fall is a time of change, change can bring enormous joy and be exhilarating and challenging and frightening all at once.
My phone rang at 1:20 pm. I was in the noisy hallway of the middle school picking up my son for a doctor’s appointment.  I looked at the screen and saw that it was Annika.  I felt a little leap of excitement inside, it felt like a thousand butterflies fluttering about right there at the top of my heart and into my throat.  Annika didn’t usually call but rather communicated through messaging.  I figured all the high and low pressure changes in the weather lately had brought on labor and prompted her call.  I put a finger to my ear so I could hear her over the shrill preteen voices echoing the hall.
“Hello Kerri?”  Annika’s sweet voice sounded higher pitched than usual and I could sense excitement and anticipation in the little abnormal quiver as she spoke.  “I just wanted to give you an update, I am having contractions and I’ve lost the mucus plug…We have an appointment this afternoon…should we go or just stay home and labor?”
I waved hello to my son Josh as he approached and pointed to the phone indicating that I was on an important call. “Is it the baby?”  He whispered excitedly.  I shook my head yes and smiled at the fact that a 13 year old boy would be excited for a woman in labor and happy for the blessing of a new baby for a family he didn’t even know.  My children’s deep respect for the birthing process, women, strong family bonds and life itself have been a beautiful side effect from my many years of having the privilege and honor of lovingly assisting new precious little lives into this world.
Josh walked down the hall to his locker while I waited in the lobby.  The cafeteria doors opened and the long ago familiar smell of school lunch pizza and tater-tots poured out of the open doors and into the hall which caused the noise level to rise.  I couldn’t hear my phone call any more so I stepped outside in the warm sunshine to wait for Josh and finish the conversation.
“If I go to the appointment I’m afraid labor will stop.”  Annika explained. “I think they will want to check me.”  Annika had been adamant that there be no internal exams.  I understood this, these exams are invasive, sometimes painful and can make us feel vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable in labor often slows or stops labor and can bring about a whole cascade of unnecessary interventions that interrupt the natural flow of love and hormones between mother and baby.  Unnecessary interventions, stalled labor and fear can throw a new mom into depression and negatively impact the crucial bonding process.
“Remember, you’re in charge here.  So if you choose to keep your appointment just confidently stick to your plan.” I advised.  Annika decided to keep her appointment.
“Okay, just give me a call when you get home.”  I said smiling into the phone, my adrenaline rushing, I could tell from her voice it would probably be sometime tonight that her labor would start to progress, most likely in the middle of the night.  I envisioned all of us welcoming a new life into the world just as the sun started to rise the next day.
At 4:00pm I got a text from Annika rather than a phone call to report her doctor’s visit.  I assumed the medium of communication indicated that labor had indeed slowed from having to deal with issues that needed to be thought out in the mind rather than just felt in the body.  Our body’s shut down when we use the mind.  Have you noticed when you’re working on the computer or studying hours and hours can go by before you become hungry?   If you are simply digging in the dirt or watching a sunrise your hunger pangs come at regular intervals.  It’s like this with birth as well.
Annika’s message read; “Kerri, We saw a doc. today.  Glad she’s not on call today boy she was terrible.  Anywasys were at home, contractions are getting stronger again and sometimes closer than 15 minutes apart.  They want to see us when it’s more like 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 1-1.5 minutes for 2 hours straight at least.  I am thinking late tonight or early tomorrow morning will be the time to go.  I will keep you posted.  I will try to take a nap.”
After reading the text I leisurely prepared dinner, slowly packed my bags…I took my time pouring over what essential oils to bring for Annika figuring on a slow and long but gentle labor.  By 5:50 pm I was curious that I hadn’t heard from her and checked my phone to see if I had perhaps missed a call.  There was a text; “Kerri Please come to my house now!  The contractions are much stronger and closer together!  I will see you soon!”  Damn!  How long ago was that text???  I checked the time and saw it had only been fifteen minutes. I tossed my daughter the dinner recipe and handed her the spoon I was holding and an apron.  “You’re on kitchen duty Elizabeth!”  My daughter looked at me with one of those teenage glances that indicated that she was terribly inconvenienced with the sudden unexpected kitchen chore. I grabbed my bags, kissed her on the forehead which melted her frozen face into a smile.
“Good luck mom!”  Elizabeth said and gave me a hug.  Then she pulled back and looked at me for a moment.  “Don’t you think you outta put on some make-up or something?  Or at least do something with your hair.” I smiled at her concern for my appearance or perhaps rather it was concern for her reputation, what if I ran into someone who knew us? I looking frumpy as I did would be a negative reflection on her.  I looked in the mirror that hangs by the kitchen door.  I blew a clump of hair away from my eye and saw that Elizabeth was right.  I smiled in the mirror then tousled my hair, the tresses framing and hiding imperfections in my face.
“I look better when I smile Elizabeth, I’ll just smile a lot and make sure to have lots of hair in my face.”  She rolled her eyes at me as she was fussing with the apron.  I walked out the door with a smile.
I arrived at Annika’s and Mike’s house just as the sun was beginning to melt into that liquid golden dancing light of sunset.  The shadows cast by the setting sun in the yard were long and surreal as I waited for someone to answer the door.  Mike opened the door and welcomed me with a sincere although sort of faraway smile and pointed upstairs.  “She’s at the top to the right in the bedroom.”
An older gentleman stood next to the stairway wearing the same sort of faraway smile as Mike.  “You must be grandpa!”  I stated and held out my hand.  His warm hand grasped mine as his smile broadened and he proudly confirmed my suspicions as to his identity.  I excused myself from the normal appropriate social exchange of pleasantries when meeting someone for the first time with a gesture of a nod toward the upstairs bedroom.  “Grandpa” broadened his smile even more and slightly nodded his head understanding my abrupt exit.
The door at the top of the stairs was cracked open and a soft glow cast a line of light into the dark hallway.  I slowly opened the door and found Annika sitting on her green birth ball.  She greeted me with her soft smile.  “Do you think this is it?”  She asked.  “I thought I had another week?”  She said and laughed, gently caressing her belly.  “What if this isn’t it?  What if this [all these contractions and excitement] is for nothing?” I reminded Annika that even if this portion of labor were to pause for a few hours, a day, a week, it’s not all for nothing, it’s all part of the process.  And it is a process that is always very unique.  Annika sighed and agreed then again lovingly caressed her beautifully enormous belly and openly talked to her baby “You can come out whenever you like little one, no one is going to rush you this time.”
Mike came into the bedroom with a tablet that he plugged into the wall.  “So when was the last contraction and how long?”  He asked.  Annika explained to me that they had found a free app to record contractions.
“But once you’ve recorded so many then you have to buy the app.”  She said laughing.  “I don’t want to pay for it.”  Annika gave Mike some information about her last contraction and I watched him type it in.  I smiled thinking that recording contractions is a sign that she is still in early labor.  Once active labor kicks in the dads will sometimes try to continue to keep score but the moms, if laboring naturally almost always abandon the distracting record keeping activity.
Annika had a contraction as Mike was typing in details of the last contraction on his tablet.  “Soften your shoulders….”  I suggested and she immediately allowed her whole body to melt.  Mike abandoned his notes and sat on the other side of Annika, whispering encouragement in her ear. They were very quiet.  The room was dimly lit, the whole house was quiet, a peaceful yet excited quiet.  The kind of quiet that happens when the ground is covered with about a foot of snow and tiny dry flakes continue to swirl and fall.  Everything outside on a crisp snowy day has a slightly blue cast to it as the light filtering through the clouds bounces and reflects off of the accumulated crystals.  The experience of being bundled up and warm while out in the middle of a virginal snow feels full, like nothing else matters but the beauty surrounding us.  Time, like the ground is frozen and everything is okay.  The house felt like that.  A perfect environment for a birthing process.
At the end of the contraction she laughed then asked me if she should go to the hospital.  At this point the contractions were about six minutes apart and while they took some work at surrender to endure they were not yet active labor.  “I think you might be about three or four centimeters Annika.”  I suggested.  “How do you feel?  You should trust your instincts here.  At three or four centimeters you likely have a good bit of time left and you also know that this is your third baby.  You also might progress very quickly.”  Annika closed her eyes to think/to feel for a decision while smiling and caressing her belly.
“I think we can wait for a bit.”  She decided and relaxed down into her ball, rocking back and forth, side to side.
I went downstairs to brew some strong black tea with lots of honey for Annika and myself.  The whole house was vibrating with a visceral excitement similar to how it felt on Christmas Eve when I was a kid.  I heard the low hum from the television in the basement where big brother Johnny and soon to be big sister Anna were being entertained.  The basement door opened and Mike appeared for a moment before quickly ascending the stairs to tend to Annika.  Good men have the ability of being in two places at once when their family needs them to be.
“I’m here to brew some tea.”  I announced and apologized to the woman at the stovetop for invading her space.  “You must be grandma, I’m Kerri.”  I said.  Without looking up from her task which was stirring the thickening cream of wheat in a sauce pan, she very grandmotherly-like supplied me with an array of teas and sweeteners, and an assortment of cups.  I chose some loose tea because it had the caffeine I was looking for.  I managed to scatter it all over the spotless countertop. I also dribbled sticky honey down the sides of the jar and onto the counter.  “I’m sorry I’m making a mess.”  I said to “grandma” Knowing I was going to pour the boiling water into our cups and leave the mess, just like I left the house without doing my hair…
“That’s what we’re here for.”  Grandma said, again without looking up and grabbed a sponge with one hand, expertly cleaning up my mess while filling bowls of the steaming porridge with her free hand.
I returned to the upstairs bedroom where Annika was just finishing another contraction. “Let me get some coasters” Mike said slipping out the door to get something to protect the fine bedroom furniture.  I hadn’t thought about furniture.  My mind was elsewhere.  I put our teacups on the carpeted floor and immediately spilled some on the white carpet.  I mopped it up with the ball of my foot onto my tie-dye sock feeling like a little kid, hoping no one would notice.
“How about taking a hot shower while your tea steps Annika.” I suggested as raising the body temperature and the cascading water itself will often augment contractions for some reason.
Annika experienced several strong contractions in the steamy bathroom.  Slowly and carefully stepping out of the shower and still smiling she put on her bathrobe and resumed her comfortable seat on the ball.  I handed her the tea and grabbed my cup.  We chatted while sipping our tea.  Annika told me that a friend of hers requested that the baby be born on October 14th because it was her mother’s birthday as well as the fervently celebrated feast day of The Intercession of the Theotokos or the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos. In Russia and Ukraine it is celebrated as the most important solemnity after the Twelve Great Feasts. The name of the feast is variously translated as the Protecting Veil of Our Lady.
Annika laughed at her friends request then a strong contraction gripped her mid laugh.  Mike took her tea cup, sat it on the night stand…without a coaster…a sign labor was progressing.  The tablet with contraction timings had also been abandoned I noticed.  He whispered in her ear what a wonderful job she was doing.  He gently touched her shoulder and she relaxed under his hand.  At the peak of this contraction she threw her head back, eyes closed then slowly placed her head on my shoulder until the contraction was over.
The way she moved during these contractions looked more like there was a rush of energy going through her whole body rather than just a uterine tightening.  It was beautiful.   Mike handed her the tea cup and we all began chatting again, picking up where we had left off before the pause for labor.  “I don’t know…” Mike said looking at the clock referring to October 14th as the birthday.  “It’s already 7:00 pm…”   and we all agreed that it was pretty unlikely that Annika and baby would be able to accommodate her friends request. But then another contraction came only about three minutes later.  Mike scooted downstairs after lovingly assisting Annika through this strong rush to help Johnny and Anna get ready for bed.
Annika was still smiling and relaxed but I could tell she was becoming more focused.  I looked at the clock, 7:20 pm.  “Annika, I think you are probably about 5 centimeters now, which is great, maybe we should think about getting ready to go.”  As soon as I finished suggesting heading for the hospital Annika surrendered to yet another rush; Her eyes closed and this time she began to hum, low sweet groans in her throat.  Keeping her eyes closed she blindly reached out for my hands, so innocent and childlike. Her hands grappled in the air before finding my fingers.  I knew what she instinctively wanted and enveloped her hands in mine. I remember being in this stage of labor myself and how much a simple loving grasp of another’s hands transformed the enormous almost overwhelming sharp sensation of intense labor into a  warm hard squeeze with softer edges. I no longer felt alone with the pain but as if an angle had stepped inside my body, from a portal created through love from another human being and helped me to bare the force of birth.  I held Annika’s hands and let all the love I had inside of me flow out of my heart, up through my throat, well up in my eyes then cascade down my arms into my hands and out through my fingers.
When the rush was over Annika caught her breath and said “Okay, go tell Mike it’s time to go.” When she opened her eyes I noticed that glazed trance sort of look a mother gets when the labor is becoming very active.  I suspected that that last rush probably opened Annika up to 6 or 7 centimeters and knew that we had better begin to move quickly.  “I want to say goodnight to Johnny and Anna before I go.”  Annika told us.  “Wait, let me have a contraction first and I will see them in between.”  I stepped out of the bedroom to ask Mike to round up the kids.  I left the door opened and heard Annika go into another rush, a big beautiful whole body rush that had her humming and rocking on the ball.  I rocked with her holding her hands, her head resting on my shoulder.  When it was over she took a deep breath in and smiled.  “I’m ready for the kids now.”
Johnny came in first, freshly showered and ready for bed, his eyes twinkled and he let himself be wrapped up in his mother’s arms.  “I hope the baby comes tonight!”  He said so sweetly and innocently, not really knowing how the baby would arrive, even if he had been told there is no way such a young boy can grasp the enormity of the event.  He was so happy and trusting that all was well.  His naive innocence and trust was touching and made me smile.  I also felt sad that it was inevitable (as it is for all of us) it wouldn’t last forever.
Then Anna came in.  “Why are you sitting on the ball mommy?”  She wondered. Anna seemed a little more concerned, leery that the distinct absence of her mother’s typical role in the family’s evening routine could mean something was wrong.
“Because it feels good.”  Annika answered without showing any signs of pain or discomfort.  She was calm and gentle with her children, conveying to them through her incredible strength that everything was okay and that everyone was safe.  I was deeply touched at how she was able to send her kids off to bed comforted and secure, not showing any outwardly signs of the intense journey she was right in the middle of!  Anna’s concern turned to a pleasant focus of what bedtime story she would like to hear.  As soon as the kids tootled off to bed Annika surrendered to another big rush and allowed that trance like stare to wash over her face.
“Okay, let’s go.”  Annika said and looked at me with what I inferred to be a bit of worry.  From our previous conversations I was aware of her fear of going to the hospital, of being rushed through a process that for her was very sacred.
“Annika,” I said locking my gaze with hers “We are going to the hospital together, you are surrounded by loving support.  There is all kinds of energy out there so right now cover yourself in a protective blue veil.  Nothing but good energy can penetrate that veil, anything negative will just bounce right off.”  Then I remembered the Russian feast day celebrated on this date. “The blue veil is Mary’s mantle, it’s very powerful.”  She smiled and nodded, took a deep breath and headed out the bedroom door.
Annika’s journey from the bedroom to the car in her very active labor seemed like navigating  an elite athlete’s obstacle training course rather than just a simple descent down the stairs.  Annika’s hips opened with each step and baby’s head to pressed down onto the cervix.  We paused three times before getting to the car honoring the extraordinary force of the birth process with each pause.  “Okay, I’m ready.”  Annika said midway down the stairs.  Taking one step at a time we reached the bottom, Mike opened the door when Annika turned around and slowly got onto her knees, her head resting on her forearms on the bottom stair.  “I’m not going anywhere!”  She said as she began to moan and sway.  Once more we headed toward the front door after the contraction had subsided, this time actually making it outside.  It was dark.  There was a new moon and very little starlight.  The cool air felt energizing.  “Ahhh!  That feels good!”  Annika said taking in a big deep breath of the fresh clean air.  Under the lamppost by the driveway the ivy glistened where little puddles of water sat in its leaves.  “Did it rain?”  Annika asked.  How deeply we had all been involved in her labor none of us were aware that it had rained?
Annika attempted to get into the car but it was as if she had never seen a car before.  We had to help her decide which foot to pick up first and where to put her hands. At this point in labor it can be excruciating to sit so I suggested Annika ride in the back of the car on her knees.  Anna’s car seat was still latched in the back seat.  “Can we get rid of this Mike?”  I asked and Annika began to shake a little, a sign of labor progressing quickly.  I didn’t feel panic but definitely an urgency to get on the road.  I think I must have told Mike to hurry or something because he began moving hastily, rather than thoughtfully as he usually did.  I held Annika through the contraction as I watched Mike give up on removing the seat properly and just tossing the whole chair over the back seat still attached to the seatbelt.  Mike and I wedged the big green birthing ball behind the passenger side seat so Annika could lean into it while having contractions on the drive.
The drive to the hospital was about 20 minutes.  It occurred to me that we might not make it.   “Annika,” I said locking eyes with her in mid trance “If you begin to feel rectal pressure I want you to keep your butt in the air and drop your head and chest down on the seat like this okay?”  I modeled my instructions with my body.
“Okay.”  She answered and smiled at me.  Mike looked at me quizzically and I explained that if rectal pressure were to occur we wanted to get the pressure of the baby’s head off the cervix just in case she reached the pushing stage in the car.  His eyes became hard, not in an angry way but as if he just got strict and urgent orders and was bound to carry them out at all costs.
I jumped in my car and tried to keep up with Mike’s fast driving in front of me but his nighttime driving skills far exceeded mine and he sped down the fast lane of the highway and out of my sight.  On my drive to the hospital I kept my eyes peeled peripherally for their car pulled over on the shoulder so I could jump out and help bring the baby safely into the world on interstate 70 if needed.  It’s happened before in my career as a doula, not often and I always try to avoid a side of the road birth but sometimes those babies just come when they want to come.
When I pulled into the hospital parking lot I saw Mike struggling to maneuver a wheelchair that Annika uncomfortably occupied.  Her head was thrown back and hands on her belly, her back arched probably in attempt to take the pressure off of her bottom that being in a chair creates when baby is so very low.  I threw my bag over my shoulder and ran to catch up with them.
From the front door to the admissions office, which is all of about 25ft we made two stops for two contractions, each lasting about two minutes.  Finally reaching the desk I stayed by Annika’s side as Mike filled out the necessary paperwork, his eyes were back to their regular soft, kind gaze, this phase of his mission (getting Annika, still pregnant, to the hospital) accomplished.  Annika continued to labor on the chair.  She scooted forward and fell into my shoulder, her body was swaying.  The admissions clerk came out from behind her desk and placed a clipboard in front of Annika.  The clerk quickly rattled off details of the waivers and permission forms, Annika opened one eye and raised an eyebrow as if thinking “really? You are interrupting me for this trivial issue?” but she dutifully held the pen and scribbled her signature where she was guided.  Those admission routines are so surreal when someone is in very active labor.  A laboring mom who has gone inside, deeply connected to body, spirit and baby gets this little tug to emerge from that all-consuming world to sign a seemingly meaningless piece of paper.
As we made our way back to the birthing center we were greeted by a young attractive nurse who had found the time to do her hair and apply make-up before work.  It was nice somehow that she was young and pretty.  She made the hospital atmosphere seem softer and less intimidating. At each stop in the hall for contractions the three of us fell into place to support Annika, the nurse fitting right into our established routine, chiming in with perfect harmony.  “There’s lots of good energy here.”  I whispered to Annika. She nodded in agreement.
We had to make yet another stop at a security desk before being allowed to enter the center.  Annika’s contractions were coming one after another.  “I just want to get settled in my room.”  She softly pleaded.
“Soon” we all assured her but time slows down in labor and minutes turn into what feel like hours, a few steps seem like miles.
Once in the room Annika’s furrowed brow melted into a soft expression of relief.  Mike ran to move his car and a couple of nurses came in the room quickly setting up the table and neonatal instruments as the birth was clearly imminent. Being in the hospital was such a stark contrast from the soft atmosphere at home.  The lights were harsh and bright.  I could hear their irritating hum.  The beeps and bells from monitors hurt my ears and startled me because I was still immersed in the dreamy land of labor where there is only earth and bodies, human and angelic voices, smells from the kitchen or the rain outside.  It was almost confusing to hear the sounds generated from machines or equipment and be surrounded by the sterile smell of iodine and bleach.  But Annika was in complete command of “Her Room” and she made it her own.
One of the nurses asked her to get into the bed to monitor the baby.  “I want to be on my knees.”  She confidently and yet kindly stated.
“Um, ok…we can try…I don’t know If I can monitor the baby that way.”  The nurse continued to question Annika’s request but it was clearly not a request as she climbed into the bed in the position that felt right to her despite the nurses’ misgivings.  Of course the baby’s heart rate was easy to pick up on the monitor and it was healthy and strong.  After a few contractions Annika asked for the birth ball. At this point the nurses had prepared the room with all the necessary implements and had been assured through the monitor that baby was tolerating labor well.  One of the nurses thoughtfully asked if Annika would like the lights dimmed.  Once the lights were low, the rest of the noise making equipment volumes were turned down and the nurses became soft and quiet as well.  It reminded me of a little nativity scene, all the benign onlookers offering support silently, in awe of such a holy event.
Annika sat on the ball and leaned into the bed, rocking back and forth, humming and chanting.  I positioned myself at her back slowly pressing into her sacrum for counter pressure as the baby descended with each contraction.  Mike was across the bed at her head, holding her hands, his soft eyes locked on her face, whispering his litany of supportive phrases.  After an incredibly long and strong contraction, for some reason Annika began laughing. One of the nurses behind her, thinking she was crying, supportively said “Hang in there Annika.”  Then leaned forward to wipe Annika’s face with a tissue where she expected to sop up snot and tears.  “She’s laughing!”  The nurse said delightfully surprised, then laughed herself and stepped back to fuss with the monitor.
“Open…..Baby, baby, baby…”  Annika chanted through her contractions which were now coming almost continuously. “I’m afraid to stand up. I’m afraid the baby will come.”  Annika slowly said and laughed.  The midwife, who I didn’t even realize had entered the room spoke and said “Well, that would be a good thing.”  I turned to see who was there and met a smiling thin healthy looking woman in her late forties, early fifties.  I smiled back and moved over to give her access to Annika.  “You’re fine!”  The midwife said waving her hand as if erasing the thought that I should give up my position.  “Stay right where you are you all have a good thing going here I don’t want to interrupt it.”  And she found herself a stool and sat back as a happy spectator adding to the wonderful loving energy in the room.
“Annika,” I whispered after a contraction “How about standing up and hanging on Mike’s neck?”
“Okay.”  She immediately said and I was surprised at her willingness to get in a position she knew would bring more intensity.  She stood up with grace and ease as if she were just getting up from a chair on any regular old day.  She was so surrendered and committed to this process that all her movements were fluid, like waves rolling in and out on the shore from a calm ocean– the kind of beach day where there is complete silence in between the crashing of the waves.
Annika held onto Mike’s neck and I held her back.  We all danced together with her lead as she continued with her chant.  “It’s getting lower…”  She added to her chorus line.
“What?” The midwife peeked her head into our little dancing trio.  “The baby is getting lower?”
“Yessss…”  Annika sang her answer. Just a few moments later her water broke with a loud pop and a splash.  While physically supporting Annika I was careful to keep my feet at what I thought was a safe distance away but my white canvas shoes were splattered with the crystal clear amniotic water that bounced up off the floor like a fountain before settling down in a large clear puddle.  Little speckles of bright red blood dotted and bled into my shoes forming tiny little bright red x shapes.
Annika stopped her dancing and began to squat.  Again I was surprised at her ability to just go into the labor.  Usually when someone’s water breaks the increase in the intensity causes a laboring mom to first pull up and away from the sensation, of course there is nowhere else to go but it’s natural to try to escape.  Annika just sunk right into the sensation, following and trusting a force stronger than anything else in that room at the moment.
“Let’s get you into the bed.”  Someone suggested.
“I want to be on all fours…”  Annika sang out in her low slow chanting song voice and she just knelt down on the floor.  There was no moving her.  I think a couple of people tried.  We grabbed a couple of pillows and placed them under Annika’s arms.  She held her body up with her left arm and rested her head on her bent right forearm on the pillow on the floor.  Her pushing sounds came from low in her solar plexus. That unstoppable grunting and bearing down that is such a relief from the contractions flowed naturally in and through Annika, completely un-coached. I could see Annika’s face, her eyes clenched she would bear down and also clench her jaw, then let go of everything, completely relax, take a breath and dive back down into her pushing. The lights remained dim but the room became brighter with the energy coming from mother and baby in this most holy moment.
I looked back to see that the head was out.  The midwife was maneuvering baby’s head in a way that suggested something were a little stuck. The midwife was on the floor on one knee and held the baby’s head with both hands, she twisted the head trying to encourage the shoulder rotation that needed to occur to expel the body then dropped down on both knees, holding the baby’s dark blue head with one hand while reaching into Annika with the other hand.  Her whole body turned while she manually twisted the shoulders, like a dance move, like she had become connected to or fused with mother and baby.  Annika pulled away from the pressure of the midwifes efforts but the midwife followed her lead, so gently and perfectly, patient yet on top of the urgency to fully bring the baby into the world.  With another gentle twist from the midwife and a collaborative push from Annika a big beautiful plump baby emerged with one arm tucked tightly against its head instead on down on its chest which was the reason it was a bit stuck.  The baby was blue and pink and shiny from being covered in the fluids.
In those first moments at a birth all I am aware of is the baby.  Everything else in the room fades to black and white and any objects other than baby seem to slide far away and become silhouettes. As I watch from some ethereal plane where I seem to have been cast by the force of birth I notice each detail, color, sound and smell.  The smell from a new born is warm and sweet like coconut or fresh baked cookies and the scent gets etched in my memory banks. An indelible pleasant memory that becomes reinforced each time I witness a birth. There are sounds of water falling away from skin, little drops hitting the floor or a blanket.  Tiny gurgles from the baby attempting to clear fluid from its lungs turn into rattling cries.  I saw that it was a girl then came back to the room, back to time.  All surroundings returned to normal.  All of this occurs in about a half a second.  I’m not sure why or how but it happens every time.
“My baby, my baby!”  Annika called in a high pitched voice heavy with emotion.  “Give me my baby!”  Annika twisted to reach for her baby and the midwife held the baby up to hand her to Annika but the cord somehow had gotten wrapped around Annika’s leg.  Mom was reaching for baby and we were all trying to untangle the cord when the midwife and I looked up and saw that baby was also reaching for mom.  We stopped and looked at each other then back at the scene.  The baby had her head thrown back, her right arm reaching and almost touching her mother’s face, her left arm reaching down towards and almost touching mother’s breast.  “I wish I had a camera.”  The midwife said.  Then someone managed to untangle the cord and Annika picked herself up and in what seemed like slow motion reached out and grabbed her baby as the baby grabbed her mother. “What is it?” One of the nurses asked then peeked for herself and announced that it was a girl.
oMike strked Annika’s hair telling her what a wonderful job she had done. “What’s her name?” the midwife asked.
“We have to discuss it.”  Annika answered after looking at Mike but then just a moment later announced “Her name is Katrina.”
Annika, Mike and Katrina all held one another as little Katrina made big healthy lung clearing cries.  They snuggled and nursed.  At one point the nurse took Katrina over to the scale next to Annika’s bed.  “9lbs 9 ounces!”  She announced.  “And you only had a small tear!”
The room quieted and cleared in stages, like turning pages in a picture book that’s story was coming to an end.
Annika spontaneously grabbed me and gave me a hug…once again I was surprised by her strength I hugged her back and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  It was time for me to go.  I walked around the bed and gave Mike a hug and left the beautiful little family in their temporary little nest.
Not one bit of love was held back or stolen from Katrina at her arrival.  If we could all come into this world this way I truly believe there would be peace.  It all starts here, at birth and this child already has experienced a wonderful life surrounded by love that has fed her spirit and nurtured her soul.
I would like Katrina to know how very grateful and honored I am to have had the privilege of being present for her birth
I took all of the love I received from that journey of hers and brought it home to share with my family who go out into the world and share the love, and so it goes.
Welcome to the world baby girl.  The earth is now a much more beautiful place because you’re in it!

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