Happy Mother’s Day! Every so often the date of my fourth child’s birth falls on Mother’s Day, and this year is one of them! He was born on May 10th, 1988. This is the last installment of my children’s birth stories that I’ve blogged about. We thought we were finished having children after the birth of my daughter, but there was a real sense that there was another person waiting to be born to us. When I created The Birth Empowerment Workshop®, an experiential, multidimensional weekend intensive for pregnant couples, I had the distinct impression that I had to practice what I was preaching. The decision to have a fourth child was born out of the workshop development and my husband and I agreed to go ahead for #4.
Jasper was conceived on the night of the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, a cosmic date out of the Mayan calendar, where people all over the world were converging in vortex centers. The closest one to us was Woodstock, New York, and we had planned to drive up to take part in this momentous occasion. However, I had been taking my basal body temperature to see when I ovulated for conception, and as it turned out, that was the day! No drive to Woodstock – staying home to conceive a child became the new agenda for the day. I had been reading Jeannine Parvati Baker’s book Conscious Conception, and followed some of her instructions for creating a ritual for this conception. Having just returned from the Birthkeeper Summit in Berkeley, California in memory of Jeannine (who passed away 10 years ago), I can feel her energy as I write this story. I decided we would conceive outdoors on this August night and set up a sacred space in our back yard. Our elderly neighbor was very curious about what I was doing and spent a good deal of time by our joint fence observing, so we had to wait for him to leave and go inside before anything happened! It was indeed a cosmic moment when he was conceived in love, and we both felt the presence of spirit very close by during our lovemaking.
Pre and Perinatal Psychology
Just a month before his conception, I had attended the 3rd International Congress on Pre and Perinatal Psychology (PPPANA, now called APPPAH) in San Francisco, and heard Raven Lang speak about Blessingway into Birth. It awakened a love of ritual and ceremony for me while I was in the preconception state. Shortly after Jasper’s conception, we were celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of my first son Erik, and friends came to visit from California for this occasion. The pregnancy was confirmed by pregnancy test on that day. Afterwards we created a short blessingway for the pregnancy, a ritual that honored the spirit of the child taking form and a healthy pregnancy ahead. Pre and perinatal psychology had been a significant influence on the development of The Birth Empowerment Workshop®, and my colleagues at the conference had a real presence through the ritual aspects of the pregnancy. I had the opportunity to speak with Raven Lang again at the Birthkeeper Summit last week about her influence on my evolution as a celebrant.
It’s a boy!
The pregnancy was healthy although I was much older this time. I knew I wanted to have a home birth, and there were more options for that where we lived at the time. I knew the midwives who would become my care providers, as we had worked together in referring to each other. When the time came for me to have an amniocentesis, I had a lot of misgivings about it, and spoke to many colleagues about whether or not to go ahead with it. In the end, I developed a neck spasm that had me turning my head from side to side to maintain a range of movement, and when I looked in the mirror I saw myself saying no! The appointment was cancelled. However, during this pregnancy, my unborn child was consistently staying in a transverse lie in my pelvis, which is contraindicated for a home birth (requires a cesarean section) and this became worrying. So at 31 weeks I decided to have an ultrasound done to see if there was a problem with the placement of the placenta that might have prevented him from putting his head down in a vertex presentation as all his siblings had. When I went to the radiologist he asked me what I had (gender of my children) and I said I had 2 boys and a girl. Without missing a beat he put the transducer on my abdomen and said, “no, you have 3 boys and a girl.” I was shocked, because I was sure up until that moment that I was having another girl. I asked for a picture of the genitals, and he also took snapshots of his face, and one of them was a smile for the camera! I came to believe that Jasper needed me to know that he was a boy, not a girl, and that was why he stayed in the transverse position. Once I accepted that this baby was male, he put his head down and it never changed in the next two months until his birth.
Blessingway into Birth
As the pregnancy was drawing to an end, I created a Blessingway into Birth that I invited my friends to take part in. Normally there is a celebrant that conducts the ceremony on behalf of the woman of honor, but in this case I was playing both roles. My friends really rose to the occasion and helped to perform all the little rituals that are part of the ceremony. It bonded us as a community, and the women who participated came away from the experience moved and inspired. The energy of the house and garden was perfectly ready for birth, primed with positivity and joy for the journey ahead. Mother’s Day was the day after the Blessingway. I had a back-up doctor who I had been working with for many years, and we had not had our ‘just-in-case’ conversation yet, so I called him and he came over after work when I was 39 weeks pregnant, two days after the Blessingway. I wouldn’t let him come inside because I didn’t want to bring all the negative energy into the house, knowing that our conversation would be based on what went wrong. We chatted outside on a cold and damp May evening, and he said if I did this again, I would have to let him come inside!
The moment of truth
Once that final detail was addressed, and riding on the high of the Blessingway energy, labor began with contractions the following morning around 5:00am. This was the first pregnancy that ended before 40 weeks, and I wasn’t expecting to go early. In previous pregnancies I had been effaced and dilated before labor, but this time I was only 50% effaced and only 1 cm dilated. This was also the longest labor that I had, because the first several hours of labor was accomplishing was my body had done prior to labor in the past. We called our friends to come over – we had negotiated with the midwives to have our own ‘extra’ hands rather than the midwife assistants they worked with. I can still hear Michel Odent saying to me “what are they going to do with all those hands?” in his delightful French accent! After the previous birth, I wanted to keep the number of people present down to a minimum, since the family was already a large group. These friends (both nurses) had also been clients in my birth preparation course and The Birth Empowerment Workshop®, and their baby was just 12 days old. They came and hung out for the day while I labored. My son Graham was a great help as he was the one who walked with me outside and stayed with me through contractions (he sat in on one of my birth preparation courses to learn about birth). My 7 year old daughter would hear me start a contraction, usually with a moan, and would run to get someone saying “she’s having a retraction! She’s having a constriction!” – she couldn’t get the word right!! The midwife came around 10:00am when I was still not fully effaced and about 2 cm dilated, and then returned in the evening around 6:00 and stayed. At that point I was fully effaced and about 4 cm dilated. Soon after I went into the bath to relax and spent a couple of hours there. Mariel came into the bathroom and asked where she should go to bed, as she was used to going to sleep in our family bed. That was the first night she went to sleep in her own bed, and many years later I learned that Graham read her a bedtime story that night!
I expected that the water would provide instantaneous relief from the contractions but it actually took a while to feel the benefits of the immersion in water. I started to feel the urge to push while I was in the bath but I only pushed gently because I also sensed I was only about 7cm dilated, confirmed by a bloody show in the water. I was also getting a strong message that I should get out of the bath, as this baby wanted to be born on dry land – he is a Taurus after all! I pulled myself out of the bath and the midwife gave me an internal exam and confirmed that I was 7cm, but while she was examining me my water broke and there was a little meconium staining. She suggested I continue to push. I stood up and pushed in the supported squatting position for about an hour and a half, until about 9cm and developed a cervical lip. What I didn’t know, and I praise my midwife for not telling me, was that Jasper was presenting in the military position – brow first, not occiput. Maria, the midwife, pushed back the lip, and I moved into an all fours position to push him out, with my friends helping to support my arms and my kids in the background shouting “you’re doing great Mom!” I kept pushing on hands and knees until he was born and was passed through my legs so I could hold him. It was truly a sacred moment meeting him on my chest for the first time outside my body. He was born at 11:34pm. The placenta took a while to be born, on the following day after midnight! I could see that the midwife was getting a little nervous, so I agreed to let her clamp and cut the cord after about twenty minutes, long after it had stopped pulsating.
Jasper Maxwell Speier
Despite all the supplies we had purchased for the home birth, we didn’t manage to put any protection down on the floor and there were many blood stains. Jim and Steve went out to get something to clean up the stains, and Mariel was woken up to meet her baby brother. We took a picture of all of them with Jasper and I got into bed to have my perineum repaired. I had torn a little from previous episiotomies (I’ve had 2 episiotomies, and 2 tears). When it came to weighing Jasper, we were surprised when the scale said 10 lbs.4 oz.! He didn’t look that big, being nearly as heavy as his sister who was 10½ lbs. and she was much rounder. So we weighed a pound of spaghetti and then weighed Max, the newborn of our friends, and had to believe that this baby born early was over 10 lbs. I can’t imagine how much he would have weighed if he’d been late like this siblings!
We didn’t have a bassinette yet because we had expected to pick it up later in the week, so Jasper stayed with me in our bed for the night. Friends went home, the midwife left, our children went to bed and we settled in. I was so glad to be home since our previous home birth ended up as a hospital transfer. I thought I couldn’t give birth naturally to a 10 pound baby, but that belief was transformed. When Maria told me afterward that he had presented with his brow, I was so glad she hadn’t told me or I would have become extremely anxious about it. Instead, by keeping that information to herself I just pushed him out (and into the proper position for delivery) without any concerns – and he was a big boy to push out! I’ve never had a cesarean section, but I’ve given birth in every other way – hospital birth, birth center birth, home birth/hospital transfer for a forceps delivery, and a home birth. Being able to birth at home with my family around cheering me on was a wonderful experience!
Happy Birthday, Buddy! You have brought more joy into my life than you can ever know. I’m so glad you were persistent in letting me know that you wanted to be born. And Happy Mother’s Day to me and all the other mothers celebrating today.