By Stela Murrizi
I was one of those women who felt exceptionally well prepared for my perfect birth. I consciously chose to become a mother, I knew what I wanted out of my pregnancy, and I knew the kind of birth I'd have: a gentle, natural birth delivered in the tub, preferably orgasmic (why not!?). I would deliver my baby at the birthing centre with the midwives present, my priceless doula, my mother, and the man I lovingly chose to share my life with. No doctors, no nurses, no medical intervention. And that's exactly how the birth of my firstborn son started.
Quite frankly, I simply could not have imagined what actually unfolded...
I walked into the midwives’ centre that Saturday afternoon, at 41 weeks and 6 days pregnant, to get my third membrane sweep. At this point, the 42-week mark was fast approaching. I had been worrying about that arbitrary number because I did not want to be induced! My contractions had started on Friday at midnight, and that afternoon, my midwife said, "this baby is coming today.” Knowing we were hours away with nothing to do but wait, we went for lunch at a local restaurant and that's where the contractions intensified. It was quite comical being in the presence of people enjoying their lunch all determined to pretend they didn't notice a lady, literally, about to pop!
Following that lunch, we went to the birthing centre and my perfect birth began to unfold. I had the people I adored beside me, I was warm in the tub, and I thoroughly enjoyed each of the contractions. I was so relaxed and deeply in tune with the rhythms of my body. I was having a wonderful labour! I was drifting in and out of this world. Time disappeared. Space collapsed. I was in such a beautiful trance state, every contraction bringing me closer to meeting my son! I felt everything and I loved every minute of it.
An Unexpected Turn
Then, seemingly out of the blue, everything changed. My contractions became painfully intense and there was no longer any break between waves. They moved upward rather than downward. The baby had turned and he was stuck against my pubic bone. My cervix was swollen and I regressed in dilation. The pain was so intense that I would let no one touch me. I had a visceral sensation like I was going to die. I knew something wasn’t right. I made the decision at that moment to go to the hospital—I needed an epidural. I dropped all notions of what "should be" and all the plans I had, and I opted for what felt right in my body.
Thank. Goodness. I listened.
When I arrived at the hospital, the staff noticed that my baby’s heart rate was erratic, sometimes too high and other times much too low, and dropping. The doctor warned me that his heart rate might be too low to give me the epidural, but my little guy's heart rate went up just enough for them to deliver the much-needed epidural. Immediately after the epidural, his heart rate dropped critically low—58 beats per minute! When I saw that number, my own heart skipped a beat. It confirmed what I already knew: this wasn’t normal.
At that moment, the doctor walked in and said that we had to rush into emergency surgery—this baby needed to get out now. So I gave up any and all notions of control over how I wanted this birth to unfold. I let go. I trusted the process. I accepted what was.
Everything happened so fast. Two minutes later (I'm not kidding!), I heard the voice of an angel crying. The time was 11:58 p.m. I looked over and saw my little guy and waited to meet him. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, the staff wrapped him up and placed him beside me. Hello, my dear Declan. He was truly the most beautiful being I had ever seen! Immediately, he made and sustained eye contact with me. Those deep, dark eyes staring right into mine... I thought to myself, this child is alert, aware, and awake. That moment is forever frozen in eternity for me.
Then, the Totally Unexpected Happened
Unfortunately, the moment didn't last long. Declan had meconium in his lungs and it was keeping him from getting a full breath. The doctors were concerned that his heart rate wasn't stabilizing, so he was whisked away for more interventions. My son spent his first day in intensive care, out of the warmth and comfort of my womb. At least his devoted father was by his side every single moment. Meanwhile, I was left in my own room “recovering” and had to wait until the next morning to see him… that was the longest night of my life.
Being in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the hospital was the safest place for our son to be, yet we still didn't know if he was safe.
The next time I saw my newborn son was heartbreaking. His delicate skin was poked countless times with needles for blood tests and an IV; he had tubes down his throat to remove the meconium; he was pumped full of antibiotics to fight off infections; he had a CPAP machine covering half his tiny face; his heart rate was lower than any of the other babies in the NICU. I couldn't see his face... I couldn't pick him up... I couldn't hold him... I couldn't comfort him...
In our inability to know any particular outcome but choose to trust anyway, my husband and I allowed our tears to flow.
The next day, the hospital staff decided to send Declan to a specialized unit at a pediatric hospital. Fortunately for us, one of the top children’s hospitals in the country was less than a half-hour away, but this still meant my baby being taken further away from me while I was stuck in my room. Before we were further separated, I held him for the first time. Such a magical, bittersweet moment.
How did this happen?! Twelve hours ago, my body was Declan's home… and now, we were miles apart, sleeping in separate beds, in separate cities. None of this was part of my plan!
Although I had asked my family and friends not to visit because I wanted to be alone, they showed up anyway. I felt supported in ways I didn't expect. My heart filled with joy to be surrounded with so much love; to know that, no matter what, I am never alone.
Sleeping on my own in the hospital bed that night was incredibly lonely. I felt immense guilt that I couldn't be with my son. I felt I was failing him at every turn. I was pumping colostrum through a mechanical device so that at least I could support him in that way and ensure my milk would come in. I cried like never before.
The next day, I finally decided to release myself from the hospital and I spent all day with him. I wanted to stay with him all night, but I had nowhere to sleep, and so I agreed to spend the night with my parents. The massive heartbreak I felt in my chest turned into a pervasive panic attack. I couldn't fathom the idea of being separated from him one more whole night! Everything hurt. I felt like I was failing him. So much for my plan of not leaving his aura for the first forty days! So much for minimal medical interventions! So much for that magical latching moment!
But my husband saw things differently. In his own wise way, he reassured me that I was doing my best. He reminded me to let go of notions that were not serving me, our son, or our family. After all, my protective aura is massive and all-encompassing, transcending both time and space. I was fully present to my son, myself, and our co-created experience. To take good care of him, I had to prioritize myself. I trusted that he was in good hands, both with the staff and his loving father.
During those three days in the NICU, little by little, more and more wires came off my son. I could hold him and comfort him. Though he wouldn't latch, he was drinking from a bottle just fine. On the afternoon of that third day, finally, we took our son home with a clean bill of health!
When we got home, overwhelming relief took over me. We could finally enjoy our son, our new life as a family. I couldn't stop crying tears of absolute joy. We were safe. We were home. We were the lucky ones.
The following few months were as beautiful as they were challenging. They were perfect in their immeasurable imperfection.
There’s Always Lessons Learned
It took me many months to grieve the loss of the birth experience I thought I’d have. In the process, I discovered that there is tremendous intelligence in the birth experience I did have.
The birth of my son taught me so much about planning that which is magical and unknown: it simply isn’t possible. Many of us have notions of what we want, but we forget that the birth process is one of powerful co-creation. No matter the books, the classes, the yoga, the meditations, the advice… birth is unknowable, and it is divine.
Our birth story also taught me the power of epigenetics in re-creating that which isn’t healed. You see, my own birth story isn’t too different from the one I co-created with my son: emergency caesarian, baby born unwell, mother and child separated. In the retelling of the story, survival was emphasized, but not much more… So I know that my son and I co-created this intense, erratic, chaotic, majestic, joyous, massive, beautiful birth so that we can heal the trauma of my own birth story and evolve.
My son and I co-created his birth so that I could stand in that pivotal moment of choosing history or gracefully moving forward. We co-created his birth so that I might witness my son growing up free of birth trauma because I consciously healed my own and lovingly accepted the totality of what is. For that, I am eternally grateful. In that, I feel free.
Finally, through the process of his birth, I discovered my own strength, resilience, and determination that reflected back to me from my son. I discovered also how wise this little being is in his ability to keep calm even in the toughest situations. I discovered that although he is tiny, he is immensely brave, curious, and mighty. He is a partner in the co-creation of our lives together. I can’t wait to experience him unfolding more into exactly who he is.
It’s been a year and a half since Declan was born, and looking back now, I know that I would have it no other way. I believe there is intelligence to how everything unfolds and I choose to look for that in my life. Birth, like life itself, is highly unpredictable… and that's what makes it so spectacularly magical. The story of the birth of my son is one of resilience and resourcefulness. It is unique in its unfolding. It is majestic. It is powerful and immense. It is magical. It is a story filled with intensity and joy, love and heartbreak, learning and discovering. It isn't the story I had imagined, but it is the perfect birth story, because it is our story.
Stela Murrizi is a curious observer of life. As a personal coach and educator to those seeking an alternative and more expansive way of living, she embraces the darkness and encourages her clients to dare to discover, with divine curiosity! There is no conversation too big or too small to be had. Stela enjoys writing, research, painting, DIYing, teaching Kundalini yoga, and eating well. She shares her life with her loving husband and dear son Declan. She lives her life in the process of perpetual discovery of her own truth...she knows that, in life, there is always more than meets the eye! Follow her on Instagram at Stela_Shakti or follow her blog and work at stelashakti.com.
Don't miss the virtual Birth Sharing Circle 2021 on Zoom on October 30th at 2 p.m. (EST) Come meet the winning writers, including Stela, who will share their birth and writing experiences. Many of the jurors and readers will be there too! It will be a unique heartwarming event! Tickets are available on Eventbrite by donation.
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