The Nearly Free Birth of Forest: EPILOGUE

The river of life flows on… and the more time that rushes past, the more surreal my lived stories become.  Sorta like grapes to wine. And now is the moment when I decant some of July’s finest vintage for you…

 

You have yet to discover why Forest’s birth was “nearly” free.  The birth itself was free… but over here in Italy, I was enraged to discover that aside from the air I breathe and the spring water that flows like wine from Bacchus’s blessed font, NOTHING is truly free.  

 

After Forest emerged, Giordano became preoccupied (to an obsessive degree) with getting him “registered” as a viable human… you know, the whole birth certificate business.  I appreciate that Hubba-Hubby was so on top of it… But he has a rancid tendency to expect the worst and bring fear and anxiety to affairs that could just as easily unfold with peace, harmony and grace.  

 

Giordano went to the “Commune” of our enchanting city, Gualdo Tadino, to discover what we needed to do to register our boy.  They told him a “witness” of the birth was required in order to verify that Forest was truly our baby. The witness is usually either a midwife at home births, or a doctor at the hospital.  Neither of us qualified as a valid witness. Vafanculo! (Me and Serena’s new favorite Italian exclamation. It literally means go fuck your self (in the ass). It’s fun to say with an over dramatized Italian intonation!)  Who invents this smelly bullshit? Yeah, I stole my baby… but I’m lactating, I have an empty, saggy belly and my yoni is streaming bloody lochia. I’m getting pissed just writing about it. The memories are definitely coming into focus again…

 

Giordano got quite worked up by this news.  The peeps at the Commune had never dealt with a scenario like ours before (Italians are too tribal-minded to choose anything as radical as Freebirth), so their information was awash with nebulosity.  They had no solid source of reference for the information they provided. But they told us we had TEN DAYS to submit our documents (including said witness verification).  

 

Navigating this situation was like grasping at mist.  Giordano’s anxiety mounted as breaths, hours and days passed.  I chose to trust. Giving birth had ripped me wide open. I was raw.  Feeling and digesting my husband’s anxiety and fear felt like a fucking curse.  I just wanted to rest and heal (and take necessary steps… but sans the element of toxic, emotionally charged, fear-based drama).  Not to mention that I had very little help postpartum. (Giordano’s mama brought over a few lunches for the first couple days, when I could barely walk without feeling like my yoni was on fire and about to fall on the floor when I stood up.  Which I did waaaay to often.)

 

So on day three of Forest’s glorious earthside journey, our family of four set out on a quest for the Holy Grail- a witness who would verify that Forest was ours.  Giordano is a creature of instinct. Mostly I find this sexy, but also sometimes a bit alienating, because he doesn’t make decisions or take action until the last moment… and then he does what he feels.  (It’s hard to make plans with him or feel included. But his instincts are keen like a wild animal.) So we were driving down the road out of town as he grappled inside for the “sense” of where to go first.  Talk about a thrillride.  

 

And remember, I am ripped open to the heavens, I can barely walk and am pouring with bloody afterbirth fluid called “lochia”.  Oh, and I was wearing my last pad!…

 

In a timely lightning flash, he resolved to head to a pediatrician in the next town over, who was recommended to us by friends with small children.  Supposedly she was relaxed about “normal” (not so normal if you ask me) protocols such as vaccinations. We were tense as we drove. He got lost. We were late.  We fought. I reminded myself to breathe deep and relax the relentless tension in my belly, chest, neck and shoulders. Ugh.  

 

We finally made it.  We stepped out into the thick July heat, clothes clinging to our sweaty bodies.  I walked ahead of my superbly anxious husband and fumbled in broken Italian to discover where to go.  

 

The pediatrician was a decent woman.  She asked us basic questions (in Italian), such as his full name, the date and time of his birth and his weight.  Then she told me to take his diaper off so she could weigh him. It was all pretty benign and doable. Until she took him and put him on her table to “examine” him.  To her credit, she was gentle. But to me her protocols were superfluous and stressful for one so new. She tested his reflexes, tossing him around to see if he reacted when he fell backwards.  Poor little guy. Of course he reacted. He cried. Hard. My raw heart bled and I filled with fire. She told us that Forest was slightly jaundiced. Duh. He was a bit yellow. She wrote out a prescription for him for vitamin D, which I tossed in the recycling at home.  Didn’t anyone tell her that my body custom blends his breast milk according to what his body tells me it needs based on the information passed in his saliva?

 

She wrote us a paper verifying that little Mister Grace had received “care”.  This was to make us look like “sane, respectable parents” through the eyes of The System”.  

 

Next stop was the “Consultorio”, which is where I was receiving “prenatal care” (Not really “care” at all… more like a group of well-intentioned ignoramuses who pretended to know more about my body and my baby than I did, were way too trigger happy to ultrasound me without asking my consent, took my blood monthly, told me I was at risk for toxoplasmosis, didn’t listen to me when I told them exactly when I ovulated and instead spent way too much time at EVERY visit calculating and recalculating my due date based on the first day of my last period with a little cardboard wheel.), until about half way through my pregnancy when I got bold, listened inside and permitted myself to stop going and instead TRUST and truly CARE for myself and Forest.

 

Since I don’t speak Italian, Girdano did all the talking.  Even though it “crushed him the ball” (another of my favorite Italian expressions!) to have all the responsibility for communicating, he was very poised.  I could not understand all that was being said, but there was a lot of fear energy coming from the characters at the consultorio. Meanwhile, I had bled through my last pad back at the pediatrician’s office, and replaced it with paper towels, which had slipped out of my stained panties at some point.  I felt a warm rush of liquid. Cradling my newborn, I headed for the large roll of paper towels in our exam room, went behind a white shoji screen and put a fresh wad in my undies. I felt like a renegade cowgirl.

 

The peeps at the consultorio sent us to the nearest hospital, twenty minutes away.  It was lunch time. The heat was opressive. Giordano told me that I would probably need to be “examined”.  This ENRAGED me. I spent the whole ride spitting fire. Giordano handled this really well and did his best to allow me space to express my feelings, while keeping us on track.  He was not happy about the way things were going either, but apparently this is what needed to be done.

 

At the hospital, we were sent to the maternity ward, where we were greeted by two warm and helpful women.  Serena and I sat on a loveseat in their office while Giordano spoke extensively with them. They knew his father and commented that they were not surprised that HE would choose such a radical course.  Apparently it runs in the family…. 

 

After about twenty minutes of talking and waiting and talking and waiting, he explained the situation to me.  They were hesitant to “take responsibility” for our out-of-the-box birth. They deliberated amongst themselves how to handle our delicate situation.  They wanted to help us… and cover their own asses. They sent us to a small, chilly, fluorescent-lit waiting room down the hall. Serena was wiggly but well behaved.  Forest slept in his carseat. I breathed. My hunger swelled. It must have been two or three o’clock. Giordano and Serena went foraging at the cafe downstairs. He ate a hamburger and brought me back some organic coconut chips and raw cashews.  Perfect.  

 

Around the time we were done munching, they came in and said they would sign for us… but first I would need to be examined.  Holy hell. We were led down the hall to the exam room. The nurse said I had to go in alone. There were FOUR italian speaking women inside who gazed scrutinously upon me.  I felt cornered. They asked me a few questions in Italian, which I mostly understood and was able to answer. Then they told me to take my pants and undies off and get on the table.  Fuck. They told me to scoot forward. My body screamed NOOOO. But I felt like I had no choice, if I wanted to get the damn piece of paper and the ensuing birth certificate.  

 

The sourest woman of the bunch stuck her fingers in my vagina.  Without consent. Without even a warning. Without a damn shred of sensitivity.  She concurrently palpated my lower belly. I felt violated. I yelped and pulled away.  I didn’t know whether to cry or kill. Then they lathered my belly in blue goop and gave me a fucking ultrasound.  I don’t trust ultrasounds. I did NOT want that. As far as I’m concerned, they are only appropriate in extreme circumstances.  When they were finished, they didn’t even offer me a damn paper towel to clean myself off.  

 

But they gave us the fucking paper.  

 

They told me to come back in forty days for another fucking check-up.  Yeah fucking right.

 

By the time we got home, it was early evening.  I was exhausted.  

 

I was not able to speak with anybody throughout this process, so I don’t know for sure that all of this REALLY had to happen.  Maybe there was a way to avoid this violating experience… but if there was, it was not revealed.  

 

I chose to freebirth, because I wanted to bring Forest into the world on MY terms.  I wanted to stay at home, in peace. I wanted sovereignty of my body, my baby, my choices.  I did not realize that this was not an option in this archaic, medieval, Palpally-persuaded, boot-shaped paradise otherwise known as Italy.  

The nearly free birth of Forest (Part 1)

Forest

The second one is sposta pop out like a ping pong ball… right?

 

That’s what I thought….

 

I was wrong.

 

It took about the same amount of time laboring to get Forest out, as Serena.  Twelve hours.  But this time, I did it at home.  Alone.

 

Well… alone with Giordano.  Was this intentional?  Yes and no.  I wanted to have a woman/women with me… who would just sit quietly in the corner and hold a streaming vigil of prayer and presence.  But apparently God did NOT want this… since both of the women I asked to be with me were cosmically thwarted from attending.

 

“Free Birth” is the term for birthing without a slew of “trained professionals” getting all up in a birthing mama’s grill.  I was intrigued by this idea while pregnant with Serena… but not nearly courageous enough to trust my deepest inner knowing in the boundlessly deep waters of the feminine mystery that is birth.  So I deferred my inner authority, and opted for the hospital route with her.  Which was perfect.  (Marin General is the creme de la creme of hospitals that truly support natural birth.)

 

But this time, I was familiar with the territory. (As familiar as one can be with the cryptic wilderness of the Divine Feminine! Ha!)  Well, lofty philosophy aside, it’s what I FELT TO DO.  So I spent the months of my maternity gathering information and validation, mostly via birth stories told on the “Free Birth Podcast”, and by the time my tiny man was ready to emerge, I felt ready, and even enthusiastic, to do The Thing!

 

Everyone knows that expectations are the devil.  Of course I tried not to have any.  But this was impossible.  I imagined that as with Serena, I would go into labor on my due date, July 14th.   Or at LEAST by the full moon (lunar eclipse), July 16th.  Nope.  Besides the painful fights with Giordano, those days passed without much fanfare. Only a few egoic efforts to get my labor juices “aflow”… long walks, sex, orgasm… the basics.  But as it turns out, all “magic feathers” and lore aside, birth has its own cosmically informed intelligence, which I boldly hypothesize has NOTHING to do with the overlay of “wizardry” many of us get off on professing.

 

For about five nights straight, I went to bed fondling the precious hope that I would awaken in the night to contractions, as I had with Serena.  At two am on July 18th, my hope materialized.  Elated, I opened my eyes to the juicy, round, beam-dripping moon, dancing beyond my bedroom window.  I savored every twinge of deep, delicious ache in my womb.  God those moments live legendary inside me now… I felt totally alone and yet sweetly intimate with ALL.  My heart steeped in transcendent joy.

 

As with Serena, the contractions stopped when I got out of bed.  My labor had a very keen intelligence, and when I was focused on caring for Serena, it would ebb… After I dropped her off at camp, the waves resumed.  When she returned from camp, another pause.  It wasn’t until my saintly friend Benedetta came and picked Serena up (with her own nearly-newborn and four year old sun in tow) at around 4pm, that labor REALLY went full throttle.

 

I had imagined laboring in the little wooden house, nestled in my garden (which I have adopted as a temple…) but by mid afternoon, it was way too hot in there, and the mattress felt like a granite boulder.  After turning a few too many dizzying circles of indecision, I realized there’s no place like bed.

 

Oh dear… This event occurred exactly two weeks ago, and by now, the whole epic event is a goopy smear in my mind’s eye.  I guess I had a butt-ton of contractions in said bed… It didn’t take long for them to start firing off fast… which made me certain that Forest would soon emerge.

 

I was inspired by the birth story of a woman named Jinti Fell… She had an idyllic, peaceful freebirth in water, with only her husband, three year old daughter and sister present.  She said she concentrated on affirmations of opening and surrender.  So with each contraction, I relaxed my yoni and imagined my cervix blossoming open… melting INto the pain, rather than contracting in reaction to it.  I felt powerful and courageous doing this.

 

Until I hit a point where the contractions were coming so strong and rapid, that I lost access to this enlightened response.  It became a matter of survival.  No holds barred.  I felt that if I gave myself over in melt, I would be eaten alive.  This continued for hours.  I focused on my breath… and alternated between chanting gutterally based AUMs and “blowing through an imaginary straw” with each exhale (Benedetta taught me that technique, touting that when the jaw is relaxed, so is the yoni.  She said her first baby slid right out of her as a result… ummm… I can’t say that was MY experience…)

 

What of my wild card husband?  As I imagined, he was not the Masculine Rock that I wished he could be.  When I looked to him in the heat of intensity, his eyes were perpetually a-wander in far-off lands.  This was no surprise.  A restless, wild mind is his M.O.  Still, I wouldn’t help wishing for his solid, unwavering presence.  But given his nature… he did well.

 

As I had requested, he didn’t impose himself in my space.  He made himself available… but hung back until I made a direct request for support.  I felt the wounded place inside me, where I was tentative to ask for help from him… fearing rejection or disconnect.  (By now, our “track record” is brimming with disappointments and blood-bathed conflict…)  But when one is in enough pain, one must transcend the fear of rejection.  I asked him to rub my sacrum, which by now was screaming with ache.

 

At this task, he succeeded beyond measure.  I felt… profoundly felt.  He touched me as if he were inside me.  And at this point, I didn’t care if he was thinking about all the money we owe, or his perpetual craving for pizza, or whatever runs through that man’s mind… I was journeying through a realm of unceasing pain, and he was minimizing my suffering.

 

Until he got hungry.  And then the salvation of his touch withdrew and wandered to the kitchen.  A while later, he returned to the bedroom with a plastic tupperware full of tuna salad.  The smell ruined my life.  He innocently offered me a bite.  DISGUSTING.  I shunned him from the bedroom.  But the smell saturated the warm, thick atmosphere of late July.

 

When he returned (I had no sense of time by now), I asked him to light an incense to mitigate the terrible stench.

 

Then what happened?  Contractions raced through my body like a freight train with never-ending cars.  The sun crept toward the horizon, and eventually sunk into darkness.