• Rebecca Burkett, LM, CPM

'You Were Born With Great Power'

Written by {Sam} and shared with permission, on 1/27/21




"Six months. You are six months old today, my darling one. You have been on this earth for one half of one year. There were days in the last six months that were oh so long, when we were oh so tired. But mostly, the time flew by. It flew by with your yawns, your coos, your pterodactyl noises. It flew by with you learning new things every day! There was the day you found your thumb. The day you dipped your tiny toes in Lake Michigan. The day you first turned a page in a book. The day you rolled from belly to back, then the day you rolled from back to belly. Days and days of you saying mama, and zero days of you saying dada. In the summer, you met many friends outside from 10 feet away. In the fall, I’d put colorful leaves in your hands, and you’d crinkle them up. In the winter, we bundled up and took walks in the snow. There have been many reasons to be sad lately, there is a pandemic after all, and the routine of daily life in quarantine can feel like time is being pulled like taffy, stretching out longer and longer. But you, our best gift, our little love, you have made this sad time bright. You have made it zoom by with delight.

And so now, six months to the day after you were born, it is time to tell your birth story. On the eve of your birth, dad, Tawny and I went for a long walk around the neighborhood. I was 41 weeks pregnant, it was a hot July evening, my feet were swollen, and I was tired, but I was determined to start walking you out, so off we went. We returned home after an hour of walking and I was convinced I was no closer to being in labor. It seemed you were quite content to stay put.

I woke up the next morning at 2:30am with some minor cramping and the urge to pee (though at this point in pregnancy, a 2:30am wake up call to go to the bathroom was nothing new). I was delighted to find that I’d had some bloody show and texted your midwife, Becky, excitedly. Knowing what she would tell me, I proclaimed I would drink a big glass of water and return to bed, ignoring the cramps and trying not to get too eager. This could be the start of a very long journey, I thought. Best to rest up.

By about 4:30am, the cramps intensified, and I could no longer sleep through them. I laid on my side and breathed easily through each contraction, catching a short nap between each one. I gently woke up dad to let him know thought I was in very early labor but suggested he keep sleeping until things got more intense.

At 7:30am, I needed to get vertical, so I got out of bed but still tried to ignore the contractions until I couldn’t. Your dad made me some toast. I nibbled at it. The surges were getting stronger, but they were coming at irregular intervals, and so I kept telling myself that I was in early labor. “Don’t get too eager,” I thought. “This could just be practice.” Before you were born, my love, I had the privilege of witnessing 50 other babies come into the world, so I knew the process of bringing you earthside could be a long one. I was preparing to sink into the process, to be there for a while. I wanted to let labor take whatever course you needed it to take.

Though Becky would indeed call the period I just described “early” labor, it was not practice. By 9:30am, we were rocking and rolling. I was walking and upright through some contractions, but by far my most favored position was hands and knees, or some variation of that. I began vocalizing through each surge, focusing on keeping my sounds low, my mouth soft. Could you hear me? Did you know I was singing for your arrival?

I got on my hands and knees in your nursery, envisioning you in it, swaying side to side through each peak, sipping water through each valley. I could no longer ignore that you were coming. Things were getting strong and intense. At some point, I talked to Becky on the phone and she asked if I would enjoy a shower. I said I would, and so I climbed in the shower and let the hot water pour over me. I sang and sang and sang my labor song.

We decided it seemed like it may be time to ask Becky and Sandra to come. Dad called Becky again and put her on speaker phone. She listed through a few surges, she heard my song for you, and she agreed that labor was moving and she should head over. She told your dad to start setting up the pool.

While I could barely focus on anything but the surges of labor, your dad ran into a snag when setting up the birth pool. The brand new hose we bought for the sole purpose of filling the pool broke! We quickly sought solutions. I told him to fill up large pots and pans with water to pour into the pool and he called your grandpa Glen and asked him to run to Meijer and grab a new hose. I couldn’t wait to feel weightless in the warm water.

During this time, I had transitioned to the bedroom, standing up but leaning over the bed. Becky and Sandra both arrived, and I remember being so thankful they were there. They would watch as labor unfolded, they would take note of progress, they would keep us safe. They unpacked their things, set up the items from your birth box, and got to work listening to your heartbeat and taking my vitals. Everything looked good. Becky applied counterpressure on my sacrum. She knew just the place that would provide relief. Sandra massaged my lower back and hips. Their hands were magical. The warmth of their nurturing touches wrapped me in reassurance. “We’re here,” the hands said. “You are strong,” the hands said. “Your baby will be here soon and YOU are birthing them,” the hands said. Midwives’ hands do so much more than catch babies.

At last, the pool was full and when it was the right temperature, I was asked if I wanted to hop in. And so I did, gladly. The water felt so wonderful. It was a gift to be weightless, to relieve some of the pressure from your ever-descending head. You were low, little one. You were working your way out quickly.

Then began the stretch of labor, which, in my memory, felt slower than the rest. It’s not that the contractions slowed down, quite the contrary. But it’s that everything was in its place. There was nothing left to do to prepare for your arrival – I was in the pool, the equipment was set up, the flameless candles were flickering, the dog had been fed, the grandparents notified. Now that I was swimming, all I had to do was ride the waves. Becky and Sandra found their places in our tiny home, I leaned over the side of the tub (hands and knees, again), and your dad sat in front of me through some contractions and applied counter pressure on my sacrum through others. He handed me my water. He read us poetry. He gazed at me lovingly as I labored you into the world. He made coffee for the midwives (I’m pretty sure).

Soon after, though the exact timing is blurred, my body did the most amazing thing. It started pushing! It is very difficult to describe how involuntary and surreal this experience was. You know how, most of the time, you don’t think about breathing? Your lungs expand and contract as you they need to, your nose sips in air, and you don’t really notice the process. It’s miraculous that our bodies can do this, of course, but it’s so automatic that we take it for granted. Anyway, the pushing was automatic, as essential as breathing. It just came, it just was. My uterus was bearing down, and so my song for you (my low but audible moans) became a roar. My little Leo love, I was roaring you into the world.

I labored this way for a while, leaning over the tub, roaring, resting between the peaks of surges, sipping water, the pressure building in my pelvis. After letting my body push for a while, I began to aid it, again in an involuntary way. I followed my body, for it had ancient wisdom encoded in my cells, it knew what do to. Just as my mother and her mother and her mother birthed, so would I. I had no doubt that this body had knowledge and that you, my baby, did too. You knew when to come. You knew how.

After some time, Becky asked if she may check my cervix. She was curious to know if this pushing was being done while fully dilated. I agreed. I sat back on my bottom in the tub and reclined back as she was checking. After laboring almost entirely on hands and knees, this was uncomfortable. It was new. It was very different. Again, my body told me which position to take. It felt unnatural to be reclining back. It was a temporary measure, however, so that we could gain some good information. My cervix was not fully dilated to 10cm. I was 9cm with a cervical lip. Becky recommended that I stay reclined for a while and try to stop pushing through contractions. My goodness, this was difficult. I tried and tried, my love. I made horse lips and blew raspberries through the surges. I stayed reclined for as long as I could. But it was obvious, my body had different designs.

At one point, though I can’t remember if it was before or after the cervix check, Sandra said to me “your water may break soon. Just let me know if you feel a pop.” Within a few contractions, there was indeed a pop. And so the midwives listed to you (they had been listening periodically this whole time, but it was especially important now to make sure you were okay) and Sandra let me know that the contractions may become more intense. Of course, they did. And I sang your song, and I roared through them.

As I prepared for your birth, dear one, I envisioned a slow, calm labor. I envisioned vocalizing, but I did not imagine myself roaring as I did. After you were born, I meditated on this idea. Why did you need to be roared into the world? Of course, I don’t know for sure. But my theory is that you needed to be born powerfully. You were born into a pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen in over a century. You were born during a time of political divisiveness, a time where racial inequities and police brutality were being brought to task. My best guess is that I roared you into the world to infuse you with the power you will need to guide you through these next few decades. Do not be afraid to stand in your power. Hold onto it. Speak, roar out in the face of violence and inequity. Be soft and be strong. Be what you need to be, when you need to be it. All of you is loved.

Sandra had the idea that I may be able to more easily stop pushing if I got out of the pool and got onto the bed in a version of hands and knees, where I’d sit on my knees with my butt high, and my chest low on the bed, hugging some pillows. I was convinced it was impossible to leave the tub. I had a classic “I can’t do this” labor moment. You were so close, my love. Becky and Sandra told me they’d help get me out, they promised me I could do it, and so in between the oh-so-close-together contractions, I stood up and they helped me out of the pool.

As I got out, your dad, Becky and Sandra dried me off with towels. My knees were shaky, I was out of breath, but I felt so loved to be dried off like that. To be taken care of when I felt at physical capacity. I somehow managed to get to the toilet – Becky wanted me to pee before we settled into the bedroom. I sat down and had a few contractions on the toilet. We waited through them to see if I could void my bladder, but I couldn’t. You were so low. You were so close.

Becky helped me stand up to walk to the bedroom, and just as I stood, a huge surge came and I leaned into Becky and she held me up as I swayed through the peak. It was our first and only hug through the pandemic. I had so missed hugging my friend. And there she was, holding me at just the moment I needed it most.

Once on the bed and in knees and chest position, Becky asked if she could check my cervix again. I agreed, but asked her to wait a few contractions. She was happy to wait. A few contractions turned into maybe 5 or 6, and eventually she told me she could start to see your head! I gleefully asked if this meant she didn’t have to check me and if I could let my body push and she said “yep!” I was overjoyed.

And so, we pushed. Me, you and my body. I followed the surges, my uterus bore down, you wiggled ever closer, and I added a little extra conscious chutzpah to each one. I stretched as you came closer and closer to the light of the afternoon, and soon your head came through with your left hand right beside it. Then, there was a rest. Your head was here, and your body remained inside. My body had just done this incredible thing, birthing your head. It knew it needed a rest, a breath, a pause. If even for just a brief few seconds, if even for half of one moment. And then, with one or two more pushes, you were here, on this earth, with us. You were born at 4:39pm on Monday, July 27, 2020. Becky caught your slippery body and handed you to me through my legs (I was in a hands and knees position with one leg forward in a lunge). I set you down on the bed in front of me for a moment, gazing at the wonder of your being, before we held you up as I turned over and sat down and placed you on my chest.

“Welcome to the spinning world,” the people sang, as they washed your new, tiny hands. “Welcome to the green Earth,” the people sang, as they wrapped your wet, slippery body. And as they held you close they whispered into your open, curving ear, “We are so glad you’ve come!” (Debra Frasier)

It was our wish to not know your assigned sex the moment you were born. We asked our midwives to let us soak you in completely with no gendered expectations. To just love on you, adore you, take in your beautifully tiny features without knowing whether they belonged to a “boy” or “girl.” And so it was, for about 45 minutes, just us and you, your soft skin, your beautiful cry, our midwives looking on and keeping us safe. Eventually, it was diaper time, and we were delighted with the news that we’d created a daughter. But know this – our wish for you is that you may become whoever it is you are, whoever it is you want to be. May you express yourself in whatever wonderfully creative way that feels authentic to you. We love you. We call you “daughter” and we say “she/her” when we refer to you. But these labels will be yours to play with once you find the language. We will be here to help you find it.

Your name came to us after the midwives left us for the night. You were Charlotte, and I wanted very much to give you my middle name, Sonnier. We’d call you Charley, which is also your grandfather’s name, though we spelled it differently so you’d have a nickname of your own. Charlotte Sonnier Gallmeyer-Breaux. It is a big name, and you were born with great power. I roared you into the world. My wish for you is that you live a life you love, and sometimes that takes great strength. I know you have it. May it be so.

Endnote There was more to your birth after you were born. A lot more. I think that should be a story for another time, and I look forward to telling you about it. It’s a story about being brave amidst uncertainty, about my best friend and midwife keeping us safe. It’s a good one."

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