Samhain: Death, Labor, and Rebirth
And finally it is Samhain. The ancient Celtic fire festival, All Hallows Eve, Halloween, The Day of the Dead. The day when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. The celebration of the season when the energy of the world begins to draw inward. A time for us to contemplate how much we have grown, what we have achieved, what we have learned, what challenges we faced, and what we have lost.
Today is the day to reflect on all that is passing away -- including previous versions of our selves -- and to celebrate such passing. For death means that rebirth can arrive.
As Chani Nicholas says:
Our little shaman baby has chosen this time of thinning veils to do a lot of work of his own. He is all about toying with coming into the world -- but not quite all the way.
I have been in prodromal labor for over a week. My emotions swing and shift every day. Some days the contractions are few, and my optimistic energy allows me to clean the house and even work with clients. Some days I feel certain the contractions are bringing the baby and can't stop crying when the baby doesn't come.
On Sunday, after 7 days of this, I was given the option to induce labor, but I chose not to. Induction is guaranteed pain but no guarantee that the baby will come. Plus, as he has made abundantly clear during this process, he will not be rushed. And he knows exactly what he is doing.
And so I wait. These days have taught me more about surrender and letting go of expectations than years of therapy. I must simply follow the waves of what is, knowing I cannot control them, and let go once they have passed.
After days of laboring hard, of long walks, of warm baths, of chiropractic care, of energy work, of massage, of cupping, of crying, of eating, of drinking, and of all the recommendations anyone has tossed my way, we are still in the same place we began. There are no "actions" to take that I have not already done, no "fixing" that can speed along the process. I must wait. And I must accept that this is an actual state of being -- this liminal place -- and not something that I can blaze through on my way to "achieving" a baby. Even if I never anticipated this version of life could happen, this is motherhood. This is pregnancy. This is life.
The Franciscan Blessing has been especially poignant and soothing for my heart these days. In this time of moving into the darkness of winter and accepting the death of the versions of our selves that we have been...
My version goes something like this...
May we embrace the labor of life.
May we embrace the surrender to death.
May we embrace the vulnerability in rebirth.
May we be blessed with the rebirth of stronger, light-filled self as we slough off the no-longer-useful past self.
May we be blessed with hope.
May we be blessed with guidance.
May we be blessed.
I hope you light a lovely fire tonight. I hope you revel in burning off all your old ways of being. I hope you howl into the darkness with gratitude. We are entering a time of nestling down into our warm cocoons for the winter so that we can blossom open as new butterflies in the spring. Now that is worth celebrating.
Below are posts from the past week to illustrate the spectrum of experiences I have been having.
If you run across this post while going through prodromal labor, please contact me at email@example.com. I would love to help walk the path with you.
36 hours of labor with no dilation. Doctors and nurses looking at me with pity "well, there's nothing we can do... just keep laboring, I guess..." More walking, more rocking, more laughing, more and more and contractions... and still nothing. It's enough to make you insane. The pain isn't the issue -- it's the feeling of being a failure. Like no matter what I do, it's just not enough. My family is all exhausted. I'm beyond exhaustion -- I'm now to the giving up point. Everyone wants to see the baby come, and I feel powerless. I know childbirth is supposed to test our limits -- I never once thought this was a possible option for what my "limits" could be. Pain, I can handle. Failure... failure is fucking awful.
As an update for all the sweethearts who have been checking in: yes, I'm still in labor.
We are nearly 48 hours in. My pelvis feels like it has been decimated by a Mac truck. The "diagnosis" is prodromal labor, which means I am laboring, but baby's head isn't locking into place long enough to help move things along. It's exhausting and yet it's nobody's fault. Prodromal labor could end today -- or it could end 2 weeks from now. Yes, really. 2 weeks of labor. Gut-wrenching, contraction-filled, vomit-inducing labor.
I had never heard of this, so for all you potential mommas out there, if you ever go through this, PLEASE CALL ME. I've got your back.
I cannot express how much love and gratitude I have for my husband, my doula, my mom, and my sisters. They have stood by me every step of the way, advocating for me, lovingly reminding me that I'm not crazy, feeding me, walking miles and miles of trails with me, holding me as I cry, and proving to me just how much we can't do this "life" thing alone. I love you all so dearly. I wish you had a baby to hold right now too. I know you have all been just as excited as I have been - and just as beleaguered by the roller coaster nature of this.
Last night was incredibly demoralizing after a horrible experience in the hospital (in which Abi proved her doula stripes and straight up fired a midwife -- seriously this woman is the best doula ever), but after a lot of swearing and a few hours sleep, we are all feeling more positive today.
This isn't what we thought having a baby would be like, but we can do this. And Björn will be with us soon. Sometime. Eventually. 😳
The best thing I've read today is: "Prodromal labor gives you relaxation and breathing technique practice for delivery day. Also, those who experience prodromal labor often have very quick labors and deliveries. So think of it as getting some of the time spent in labor out of the way early. You’ve got this, mama!"
Thank you to everyone who has been prayer-warrioring it up for us. It is truly saving our sanity right now. We love you. Keep holding us up. And feel free to message so I don't totally lose my mind!
A new normal. 122 hours. There is nothing before this labor and there is nothing after. Pain arrives and leaves with no rhythm or reason. It lasts as long as it lasts. Nothing moves it forward. It just is. Baby's heartbeat is steady. Doctors and healers of all kinds have been consulted, and still we are here. In the veil. In the in between space. Because for some reason we are supposed to be.
Suggestions fly from all over, and we try to muster optimism only to have it washed away 6-8 hours later when nothing changes.
It's a shamanic death of surrender to absolutely no control.
Today, on my daily walk - the ritual that is keeping me calm - I was alone for the first time since before this began. I shuffled along through tobacco fields with the three family dogs.
As we neared the pond, Dobbie began yipping constantly. It was unlike any sound I'd heard her make. I called and called - nothing changed the pace or pitch of her yipping.
I circled around the briars to try to see what was happening. She and her friend had cornered a beaver - the beaver who was the caretaker of the pond.
I clambered through more briars, throwing any stick I could to try to get the dogs off the beaver. They would look at me with delight and kept going. I yelled and yelled and nothing helped. I clambered until I fell hard on my butt when a rotted log gave out underneath me. I yelled and yelled. Dirty, scratched, and sobbing, I climbed back up the hill and collapsed in the grass.
I listened as they took 20 minutes to finally kill the beaver. I sobbed and wailed. The third dog - 16 years old - sat by my side as my protector.
Finally, they trotted out of the gully with the beaver limp in the alpha dog's jaws. He trotted around the whole pond with his kill before setting it on the ground to feast.
As we all slowly made our way back home, I thanked the beaver for his sacrifice, his bravery, his strength, and his commitment to life.
Life ends so that life can begin again. He taught me there is nothing I can do. When it is time, it is time. To live is valiant. To fight is valiant. To die is valiant. And we are allowed to cry and mourn because it is never what we expect.