–I have only told a few people what happened to me after S’s birth at home last June. Labor was a fast 3 hours. His position was what some might define as shoulder dystocia, it was challenging to get him out and I bled quite a bit afterwards. About two hours after birth, something happened that I cannot explain.
S’s head came out in the water, but our midwife couldn’t get the umbilical cord unwrapped from his neck with me being in the water, because the cord was stuck between the head and shoulder. She calmly asked me to get out of the birthing pool. With my baby’s head between my legs, I hurdled the tub as fast as I could and squatted on the floor to get him out. I knelt with my right knee up and held on to the side of the tub for support. I had my backside to my midwife, who encouraged me to keep pushing. There was a sense of urgency, and at this point, it felt more difficult rather than painful to get him out. I had an out-of-body experience for a few seconds. I was up in our ceiling, in a corner, watching my birth. And I prayed. Prayed deeply that my baby would be ok. Please Dear Lord. Take me. Not him. Let my baby be born. And there he was, slipping out of me swiftly and silently. We rubbed him and told him we were ok, I held him tightly, kissed him and rocked him, and there he was. Crying in my arms. This fresh tiny being brought to us by God.
I moved over to our bed with P’s help. We were still attached by the umbilical cord (which we wouldn’t cut for a few hours to allow all of the oxygen-rich blood to go into our son) so I inched up slowly. Relief in our bed, then the delivery of the placenta, and then lots of cuddling and skin-to-skin contact. We did it. Our third baby was here. We brought in our other two children who examined every toe and every movement of their new brother.
I soaked it all in. I praised God for this moment. After a while my whole family came in. Everyone went around with a blessing for the baby. We celebrated. We shared. We laughed. And once everyone left the room, I got up to go to he bathroom. My midwife was with me. She led me to the toilet and that’s when it happened. I remember hitting the wall. I fainted. P says I was only out for about 30 seconds.
But I traveled so far away in that short time. I was looking up as women with long brown hair looked down at me. Warm golden light surrounded us. They smiled at me. I felt the most pure calm and joy I have ever experienced. I remember thinking: “Finally, I feel so much peace. Finally. I can rest.” I heard someone calling my name. And then I woke up on the cold bathroom floor. P and my midwife looking down at me. I wanted to go back to sleep. Back to that peace. Please let me go. But they wouldn’t let me close my eyes. “Maria, Maria. Drink some water. Drink some water. Come on!” But I didn’t want to. Can I please just go back to that light-filled cloud? I didn’t go back. My midwife said we might have to go to the hospital if I kept bleeding. And that’s what got me to react right away. I perked up, still down on the floor. She told me to stay there as long as needed. She gave me a second shot on my thigh to help stop the bleeding. One of the post-it notes I had up with affirmations and Scripture caught my eye. “Be not afraid. I am with you always.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened to me. In the craze of the summer, and then new schools, juggling kid’s activities, trying to deal with our daughter’s diagnosis and helping her find her brave voice, I have frequently felt stressed and overwhelmed. What if I could somehow reach that level of peace I experienced after birth? How can I keep calm and connect to that holiness I briefly tapped into? That’s what I’m exploring these days as I continue to try to do it all. Life would definitely be heavenly if I am able to remember and reproduce that feeling of weightless peacefulness. I believe that I can do that through yoga and relaxation, but mainly through prayer and the Holy Spirit. With Pope Francis’ visit last week, I thought a lot about what it means to make life more simple, to focus on family, to pray more. As he said: “Love is a festival, love is joy, love is to keep moving forward.”
Wherever I went for 30 seconds served as an example of what we’re capable of feeling if we just let go and let God work with us, in us, and through us.