My daughter’s birth didn’t go as planned. I’d envisioned a birth at home, that she’d join us peacefully in a tub of water with our midwife and doula present. But a week past my due date and after 4 days laboring on and off, encouraged along by two doses of castor oil, she still wasn’t here. My waters had been opened for 72 hours and we were required to transfer to a hospital due to concerns of potential infection entering the amniotic sac. Covid restrictions still didn’t allow for anyone but a parter to be present in the hospital, so we were on our own with an unknown care team. After several hours on Pitocin, her heart rate started decelerating with each contraction. We were both low on reserves. As I was wheeled into the OR for a C Section, I remember feeling total shock at how far we’d come from our birth plan. I came away from the experience feeling like I’d personally failed both of us somehow, and for months I grasped at should haves and what ifs.
When I fell pregnant again I was gentler on myself and the expectations surrounding the birth. I held space for a VBAC, hoping that I’d have a birth closer to the one I’d envisioned the first time around, but I also detached myself from the outcome: I committed to surrendering to any turn the birth would or could take.
Early on, things looked worryingly similar on the outside. My due date came and went without labor starting spontaneously. I had on and off contractions, pre-labor, that lasted days. Thankfully my water bag didn’t open, so I wasn’t “on the clock” to birth because of worry of infection. So I rode the waves, resting when I could and meeting surges when present, trusting in the process and that baby and I could do this.
Just like his sister, our baby boy arrived exactly 8 days past his due date, after several days of on and off labor. Unlike his sister, he arrived via an unmedicated vaginal birth that left me feeling flooded with joy and gratitude and awe.
Our doula came by for a postpartum visit and we processed the birth together. After she’d answered many of my questions and we’d relived some of the funny and challenging and powerful moments, she was quiet for a moment. And then she said something I’ll never forget: “there was something striking about your labor. You were so clear on what you needed at each stage. You’d ask me a particular question about other births I observe, or request I repeat or expand on a visualization I’d offered, you’d insist that the last song be played on repeat for a bit, or decide on a particular position with such conviction. Like you knew exactly what nutrients you needed and how to digest and incorporate them into your experience … and they fueled the labor forward.”
I was left totally speechless. She doesn’t know about Agni, or that my work centers around nutrients and digestion. But she chose the analogy anyway. And I recognized immediately that the process she’d described, that’s a journey that started with Agni: to care that my body is asking for nourishment. To hear what kind of nourishment. And to find that nourishment on my own behalf. I never imagined that it’s exactly that process that would bring me closure and healing around my first birth experience.
Sending wishes that everyone may attune to the nourishment they need and find it with effortless ease.