A whole new journey
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
by Marlowe Dibb
becoming pregnant as a non-binary queer person was no easy task. it took years and multiple sperm donors despite no identifiable fertility issues. it took navigating a healthcare system that is setup for straight and cisgender people and has additional costs and wait times for people who are queer.
my donor and I would have had to quarantine his sperm for 6 months, (including paying for travel to the only facility in the country, and storage fees) to be given access to the same fertility treatments that others have access to right away. simply because we weren’t having sex.
then I got pregnant, at home, with no medical assistance. this brought a huge relief and marked the beginning of a whole new journey.
I anticipated that being cared for as a non-binary pregnant person would not be affirming. we are taught being assigned female at birth means we identify as a girl and then a woman. if we birth a human we are expected to be born into motherhood. the language I use to describe myself involves removing gender descriptors, or using gender-neutral language: person, birther, parent, partner, sibling and child are examples. My pronouns are they/them. Using gender-affirming language takes effort; I’ve found
not everyone has capacity to learn and practice.
in the early weeks of my pregnancy I became a client of a local midwifery clinic. I hoped my pregnancy and birth could have minimal medical intervention and I felt midwifery care to be the best fit. I expected my birth team would lack the literacy to provide gender-affirming care. I set the intention to focus on the health of my sweet baby and to shift the attention away from my non-normative gender. I believed my midwives were there for physical care and that it was unrealistic to hope they were willing and able to use affirming language.
my assumptions proved incorrect. my midwifery team was open, curious and willing to learn. it was humbling to be wrong. I don’t remember if they got my pronouns and preferred language correct each time. what I do remember is that they tried. their efforts to affirm me were one of the many ways they were inclusive of my whole self during pregnancy and birth. I felt a safety in their care I wasn’t even aware of needing. I believe this safety had a significant influence on the incredible birth that would ensue.
it was early on a friday morning when I became aware something might be happening. I didn’t feel ready. it was two weeks before the due date, I didn’t have the bassinet setup and hadn’t yet prepared labour snacks. I clung to hope what I was feeling were simply Braxton-Hicks contractions. I had been having them for weeks as my uterus prepared for its epic finale. my partner commented that the waves seemed to be coming regularly and wondered if labour was beginning. I sat on the toilet in tears “not today, please, not today, I’m not ready”. she gave me space, allowed me to feel, and reminded me she was right there. she also reminded me that we were in a pandemic, that errands took extra time due to lineups and physical distancing and that she needed to go out and get us some supplies before things picked up their pace.
it was a warm and rainy spring day. I went for a walk with my dog. I reminded myself of what I had read, “go on about your day”, “rest as much as you can”, “save your energy for active labour”. I held my hands to my belly and told my baby we would be okay, we would work together to bring him here, and we were safe. I threw the ball for my dog and tried to be present with that moment. I remember futilely trying to swallow a feeling of overwhelm the way trying to swallow a spoonful of nut butter simply does not work without liquid.
“get in the bathtub” I heard my brain suggest.
for as long as I can recall water has been a safe haven for me. earlier in my pregnancy our doula asked me about places I felt safe and in the tub was top of the list. as this conversation returned to mind, I returned to water. I crawled into our beautiful tub, underneath skylights that look north towards the mountains. the warm water was soothing and offered a familiar comfort.
it is here where my memory’s perception of time and space becomes hazy. I remember events, but not the order they happened. the day in one way seems like it went on for weeks, and in another way seems like it was over in an instant.
I remember my partner coming home, bringing me snacks, and offering her calm and spacious presence. she was the other place of safety that came up in the earlier conversation with our doula – her arms, her chest. I had what I needed all around me. it was time to surrender.
our doula arrived in the afternoon. I was still managing the waves, but they were becoming more challenging. our doula’s earthy and peaceful presence with centuries of divine feminine wisdom emanating through their core was exactly what we needed. they stepped in and offered me different ways of finding comfort. we discovered positions that worked, and ones that didn’t. everyone followed me. I followed my body.
I remember our doula and my partner having a conversation nearby, figuring out where we were at in labour. the conversation went something like this:
my partner: do I need to keep timing these contractions?
doula: no, you can stop that. we are in active labour now.
my partner: we are already in active labour?
doula: we are probably in early active labour
me: (silently) WHAT? EARLY active labour? this isn’t almost over?
that feeling of overwhelm returned. I knew early active labour for a first-time birther would likely involve many more hours, possibly days. I didn’t believe I had the stamina or strength to make it. “get back in the tub” said the voice inside. in the tub I would calm briefly and then my contractions and labour would progress at an unendurable pace. my body knew when to pull me out of the water, and return me to bed. back and forth I went, tub to bed to tub to bed, trying to endure what felt impossible. I remember lying in bed announcing I could not go on, begging loudly for the pain to stop. I pleaded to escape the inescapable while my body tenaciously forged on.
me: I CAN’T DO THIS
the room: you ARE doing it
what I didn’t understand in those moments of absolute desperation is that I was in transition and our sweet baby was nearly in our arms. it happened much faster than any of us could have anticipated. our midwives were not yet in attendance and where we live, two of them are expected.
as our doula and my partner scrambled to contact the on-call midwife, I returned to the tub where I would remain until our baby was born. thankfully, as the midwife answered the call she was outside our home. I think there was a collective sigh of relief knowing she and the wisdom she comes with, had arrived.
I remember that midwife moving about the space setting up all the necessary materials. her presence felt competent and calm. a sharp contrast to my primal and uninhibited state. I can hear her telling me I was going to meet my baby soon, a statement I wasn’t able to comprehend in that moment. I can hear our doula reassuring me the pain I was experiencing was safe. I can hear my partner reminding me of my mentor’s wisdom. none of their words got past my skin and yet my body felt infused with their care.
I do not recall the moment my partner gently stepped into the tub, sitting behind me while the full weight of us draped itself onto her. I can, however, still feel the support of her, right there.
as my body opened and my baby descended, the tangible world slipped further and further away. the intensity and force of the physical sensations devoured me and I instinctively surrendered control. our midwife told me I was pushing, I was not aware of any pushing. the sounds I was producing changed, I had no influence on this. the power of my body stretched far beyond what my conscious mind could contain. my body knew how to birth, my mind did not.
I remember being told the other midwife had arrived. the one we connected with most during pregnancy. the one we hoped would be in attendance. the state I was in prevented me from acknowledging her presence, and yet, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me knowing she was there. minutes later I remember being told “you are going to push baby’s head out at the next one” and doing just that. for the first time, I deliberately pushed, and his head emerged through tremendous pain. seconds later his slippery body shot out like an arrow.
I welcomed our little love, and began to sing to him. I sang the song that had echoed through my body for most of my pregnancy. a song that offered solace during a time of global crisis and personal transformation. a song that helped my body touch the ground while I expanded with life.
and there he was,
beginning a whole new journey.
Marlowe Dibb is a writer, thinker, dreamer and therapist. They live on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. They have a passion for supporting mental health within marginalized communities. In their spare time they might be camping in the forest, baking a pie, or writing a children’s song about feelings.
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