Our birth story

The story of what changed me more than any transformation retreat or entheogenic trip in the world ever could.

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After having some serious time off from social media and blogging I thought it’s good to start from where I left off, the birth.

It’s been almost nine months since our little Light Brother was born. Yes, we really did name him Light Brother, but in a couple of different languages. Valo, which means light in Finnish and Txai which is language of Kaxinawà peoples and is often translated in short as ‘brother’. His father did not know the meaning of the word but he just knew that it’s his name name, and now when I’m searching for the meaning of it I am amazed how beautifully it fits:

More than a friend, more than a brother. Half of me dwells in you, half of you dwells in me. When someone calls you a Txai, this person is ready to give her life for you.

Yesterday I was having a walk in the snow. Nobody was around and I was thinking about the birth, feeling like “Oh! Now I’m ready to write about it!”. Before I wasn’t even sure if I want to share it in public or not, since it didn’t go by the script. After reading this widespread article in TIME magazine I realised that I wasn’t alone with my confusion. Now it feels important to share my story for the sake of having varied image of different birth experiences. The thing is that births have a tendency to not go by the script, but sharing only the ones that do can lead to unrealistic expectations.

Before I got pregnant I hadn’t heard about anyone’s birth. Not even my own. Then during my pregnancy I surrounded myself with orgasmic birth stories and videos of women giving birth in nature without medical assistance. Slowly my idea of birth giving changed from thinking that home birth is not for someone like me, to deciding to give birth in our house without midwife or electricity, neither do we have running water. It was where I felt most at home. I had nine moths to prepare and good support network. We had moved to a friends apartment for couple of months and first planned to give birth there, but I realised that I didn’t feel free there in case I really needed to use my voice to get the baby out and all the electric noise made me unfocused. I started to read a lot of birth stories and everything I could find about natural birth.

I soon noticed that the whole birth giving scene is very polarised. I was in free-birth groups in Facebook and noticed that specially in US the medical birth givers and unassisted home birth givers were opposing each other strongly. Lots of women who decided to go to hospital at some point in their planned home birth wrote about themselves in a negative and judgemental tone. Feeling guilt for ‘loosing courage’ and disappointment at themselves and their bodies ability. The private health care and obstetrics in US seemed also full of guilting. Women wrote about pressuring of going into induced labour with out any reason and taking all possible tests and drugs against the mothers will. In my experience the public health care in Finland and Sweden is often better quality and more transparent in it’s practises than many private doctors. I decided that I will not join this or that bashing group, but make myself prepared for both home birth and going to the hospital. I didn’t want to make birth into something where I need to prove to the world how brave or proper I am. It made sense to me to have home birth since in itself birth is not an emergency or accident. Statistics support the safety of home birth and I think it’s more calm and soft start for life on earth.

My labour went 16 days over due date. It took a lot of faith to trust that the baby comes when he is ready, and I think he was also waiting that we were really ready. The hospital did mention that they would definitely recommend me to start induced labour, but since they knew that we were against it they didn’t keep pushing. We asked if there was any reason to do it, but they couldn’t give us any. It was just the habit of the hospital. Actually there was an older midwife also treating us, and she told us that it’s good to wait that both the body and the baby are ready, that it’s only recently that hospitals have started to to hurry these things. It calmed me a lot.

People often asked me if I’m nervous of giving birth when it started to get closer to due date. After a month of being in constant ready mode I just wanted to get the baby out of there. I felt like I was pregnant forever and some days feeling really low, convinced that all my beautiful home birth plans were for nothing and I will end up having induced labour in hospital. I read about some Mormon mothers being pregnant for even 45 weeks and I got a bit calmer. Other days I was just floating in trusting bliss convinced that my baby will come in the right time.

Eventually after all that preparing I decided to take some space from everything. Lot of people had been organised to help me in our cottage when the birth would start, to bring water and other things, but that night I just had to be there alone without anyone knowing. It was heavenly to sit in that silence. It still always amazes me when I come back from travelling in cities, how silent our home is. It’s like all my senses are drinking that rejuvenating peaceful stillness. I made fire and did a little singing. We have this big window next to our bed that I call the nature TV, it’s the best art we can have and it never looks the same. I watched deer eat moss between the last snow patches. They are not a rare sight in here but to me they always come in times of transitions.

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When I felt content with my time alone I invited my partner to sleep with me. Around four in the morning I woke up to contractions. I had had those for days but now finally they were more frequent! I got so excited that there was no way I could go back to sleep, although I knew it would be recommended to gain energy for the birth. I was walking around outside, singing to myself and the baby. I sent few messages to people who had been organised to help me. I called to my mom who showed no signs of nervousness, but that changed later on.

The day went on and the contractions got stronger. I tried to eat a bit and remember to drink. To our amusement our friends had isolated the part of forest where we lived with construction tape so that I could walk around peacefully. Apparently they had a whole singing and drumming ceremony going on, but little did I know about it then. I tried a little walk, hugging and leaning on trees when contractions came, but soon felt like it was too much and got back into the cabin to rest. I thought it was time to fill the bath tub that was also carried into the middle of the cabin for some pain relief. It was old retro blue bath tub that we got from our friend. Just to make sure that it was good enough our other friend had decided with my partner to kind of re-seal the plug. If you would know these lovely hippies you would guess that they have so strong trust in the universe that they did not check if it was actually water proof after this fixing. Then you’ll probably guess what happened next, the universe having such a sense of humour. After already filling around 60 litres of water into it, my partner noticed that it was leaking all over the floor. The cardboard and plastic that we had prepared for little spills wasn’t really enough to protect the wooden floor. There went all the towels prepared for the birth. We figured it was time to get our helpers in. While they were rubbing my back and supporting me, my partner dried up the rest of the water and after a while we got back on track.

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The contractions kept getting heavier though, and I couldn’t keep anything in. Luckily the dry toilet that was built by the same friend who fixed the bath worked better than the bath tub. I was also throwing up a lot, which my friends thought was a sign of the labour getting closer. I knew from throwing up several times from period pain that it’s quite usual for me, but I really wanted to believe them rather than my feeling. It was getting late and I was loosing power as well as hope. Finally the little plug came out that holds the baby water in, but I could feel measuring with my fingers that my cervix wasn’t open almost at all. By that time it had lasted around 18 hours and I started to loose my focus. I couldn’t keep my hands clean and I just wanted to keep checking if I had opened more. I started to be afraid that I might get an infection before the baby comes out. I was so tired that I just wanted to lay, but I knew it will make the opening even slower. I didn’t want to wait until I panic completely because the hospital is about 40 minutes drive away from our home. I decided it’s time to go to hospital and get some medical help.

In the ambulance I felt the worst ever. They didn’t have anything to relieve the pain, but I have a flash image of other one of my friends hugging me when I was laying in the ambulance. I pressed my face against her belly. It was so comforting, closest to mom energy that I could get. In the mean while my mom was trying to reach some news of me, understanding that something was going on since she hadn’t heard of me in so long time. I was so sad and afraid that now everything is out of hands, they will have to just put me to sleep and cut the baby out of me and I will wake up alone in my own body. I could not see any way how I could after all this still have the energy to push the baby out.

In the hospital they told me that they can give me some morphine to sleep over night and then we start the real work. I could see the surprise on my partners face when they told us that I am only 3 cm open, meaning that I’m just over the first stage. In relief he thanked me that I decided to come to the hospital, we both needed to be taken care of. Morphine, as you might have heard, was great. The birth could wait, self judgement for not being able to give birth without drugs could wait, worrying if my partner was OK sleeping on the cold floor could wait, and I just fell into comforting blanket of sleep.

In the morning they came to check in on me and we agreed to have the epidural, even though I had feared for it quite much in advance, but I had realised at this point that the pain was too much to handle for me and I needed to take what I could to deliver the baby through the birth canal and not have a c-section. The anaesthesiologist came in. He was a young guy with a student with him and I could just sense that this was going wrong. I always know when I go to get blood sample if it’s going to hurt or not by looking at the person, and I really wanted to ask for another doctor but there was nobody else. So after couple of times hitting nerve going down my leg he found another spot that worked. I could feel the pain on my spine for five months after the birth, but I’m happy that now it’s gone and I didn’t have permanent damage like some women. With the epidural I could still feel the contractions, but instead of pain they were these warm massaging waves like I have heard the orgasmic birthers have. “I can’t believe some women just feel like this without medicine!” I thought enviously. The epidural allowed me to move so I could stand up and wiggle a bit to the music to help the opening go faster. Then I started to feel the pressure on my bones and I knew that something shifted. Against my expectations I felt most comfortable giving birth laying on my back, common in modern hospitals but apparently not the most beneficial position for the baby to slide out. Our baby came out quite fast though, as I was pushing with all my force. I knew I will tear a bit, but there was no way I could have slowed it down or hold it back. The feeling of pushing my body apart from inside was so strange that I was convinced that I die, but the only thing I could think in that state was that I need to get the baby out before that.

It has been very few moments in my life where I would get to that point where there is nothing else to do, and there comes this sudden longest second ever, when everything clears and my whole being is in the state of ‘this was my life’. It’s a beautiful experience, in all of it’s terrifyingness. This was the thing that was hard for me to cope with after the birth, that even though there had been my partner and the midwives, in that state I was completely alone. For few weeks after the birth I felt very dissociated from everything and saw strange dreams where I travel between different realities.

And then there it was, the baby was sliding out. My partner was looking at me with this face that I had never seen before, so pure from any holding back and crying from amazement.

They lifted the baby on my chest and I just wanted to be left into the room all three of us. I told them to leave and they told me that I had teared quite some and they would really need to stitch me together. “No! I want you to go now, tell them to go!” I said to my partner and he was looking helpless, not knowing what was best for me. So they showed him since they couldn’t show me, and argued why it’s important. Eventually I agreed, although grumpy.

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Despite all of the medicine that I ended up taking the baby was fully awake and grabbed on to my boob like a little hunger monster. We kept the placenta connected to the baby for few hours, and I was watching my partner holding the baby on a chair across the room, trying to balance the placenta on his shoulder. It was the first time that the baby was so far away from me, and it felt good. From now on the parenting would be shared.

The hospital staff wanted to test and keep us in surveillance without being able to give any reason to be worried. We waited and waited to be told where we should go next, but it was a busy day and there was no sleeping place for my partner so he would have needed to go home without me for our first night as a family. As kindly as we could we told them that we really appreciate all of their help and care but we are going to go now. We were so tired that when we got home we fell asleep the baby laying on my chest, and 3 a.m. I woke up to the soft thump of this loose potato sack rolling off from me.

The blood had dried up on me and I really felt like I needed a wash for my stitches as well, so I left my family to sleep and filled the bath tub. I was just sitting there in shock shaking from all the medicine and all that my body went through. Organs were travelling back to their places and I was alone, just one being for the first time in 10 months. I did not feel the sadness that some women talk about when they feel their emptiness. I felt like we had had our time in one body, but I was sad for my womb. Bleeding and hurting and having this strange relationship with me where I could never really accept it as part of my body since I want it to be healthy and painless.

I didn’t feel like I got the first bonding moment with my baby until few days later when the fever had gone down and my partner was doing dishes singing silly songs and the moment was just enough ordinary to not be raising expectations of how I should feel. It was the first time I really looked into my baby’s eyes, and they were so deep and dark and held the wisdom of the whole universe. There was no person yet, no smiling reaction back at me. Just firm stare, baby looking what he came into, who are these people that he chose as his parents.

I kept bleeding quite heavily for few days and felt really weak. The fever kept rising for couple of weeks. It really surprised me how trashed I felt and I really empathise with all the c-section mamas who need to spend the first days and weeks with the baby just recovering from the operation. Yet another friend came to my help and brought me a blender and a recipe for placenta smoothie. I hadn’t planned to eat it but I knew it will help to recover and stop bleeding from the womb. With enough cranberries it was quite tasty.

A while ago I saw a dream where my womb came out, it was a small flat disc that just slipped out. I held it in my hand and looked at it sadly thinking that now I never get to heal our relationship. I saw as a small animation egg travelling into the womb being ready to be fertilised and I thought that now I really couldn’t get more babies, and it felt a bit sad too even though I remembered deciding that I don’t want more children.

When I came back to our community people kept asking me ”How was the birth?” like a casual question. I didn’t know what to say, it felt so absurd. It took this long to write it down and accept that it was not how I expected. It was hard and beautiful, although there was no real threat at any moment. The baby never showed any signs of stress, even though I felt like it was the end of me. One mother told me how after her birth she was just looking at other mothers thinking “I cant believe we all did this and do it all the time and the world just goes on like nothing happened!”. Even though I write this text nobody can ever really know how it was to give birth for me. In a way it was the end of me, the life before feels like a past life. In so many ways I have had to give up on the ideas of me and what I identify myself with, and just surrender to being with the baby. Because he is in the constant being. People who don’t have children keep referring to him as enlightened, but he is not in the least bit capable of observing the self. That comes clear in his irritations when he falls while trying to balance standing, or when he is hungry. But a master of being he truly is.

LEAVING THE WORLD A BIT BETTER THAN HOW WE FOUND IT – Part 2

I published the first part of this text yesterday, you can read it here. In this text I focus more on the ethical challenges in keeping up a healthy responsible community, and what invisible aspects are keys to either thriving or collapsing community.

Part of building and maintaining a succesful community is recognising realistically the resources it has to support the ones in need of support. There might be a need to decide some limitations, like that a person with drug addiction or heavy mental problems can not join the community until they have succesfully treated themselves, because the community has no professional help to offer for that. This is why some people think that community is an unrealistic bubble, and choose to not live in one. It is a difficult ethical question. It’s hard to find a person who wants to be in a position to try to objectively evaluate how many people with special needs are too many to tilt the community out of balance, and where to draw the line of being in too bad shape, since we all crash and have special needs in some time of our life. What happens when someone who has grown to be a big part of the community gets too sick to be useful, or when that happens to too many, and there is no resources to maintain their lives without more money? In a small community this is still relatively easy, we can support each other before things get totally out of hands, or we find help from outside world so that there is something to support people who have to leave. The city doesn’t have this benefit to send people away to a bigger system to deal with, and every time I come out I see more and more people in need of help and less and less people who can be the ones supporting and holding space for others to heal. This is causing a chain reaction where more people burn out, get depressed, become drug addicted or in some other way just drop out and become useless for society. More pressure is build on the ones who are still trying to hold things together, so more of them crashes. Sometimes I hear that communities are places for people who don’t manage in the real world. Sure, many of us were labelled in the outside world unable to work for one reason or another. However, I see all those cases working just fine in the community, and that makes me wonder what is it about the society that makes it so harsh to just manage every day life that more and more people drop out. People who are for long time convinced by doctors and unemployment offices that they are useless, find themselves extremely useful in maintaining the community. We hardly care if someone is doing the dishes or being the manager, because nobody makes any profits in organisation anyways, and because of living so tightly together we understand that equally without cleaning and without managing we couldn’t keep the place running. Everyone has an identity that doesn’t depend on their working task. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better in terms of equality than what I see outside.

Nobody wants to be useless, it’s one of the worst things you can tell to a person since one of our core needs is to be needed. Even people with succesful careers in terms of money often suffer of underlying nagging knowing that the job they do is, at the core, pretty useless, since many well paid jobs nowadays are. One of my most eye opening conversations was when I got a car ride from an owner of big pharma factory. I haven’t made almost any income for years, and he was stressed out because he had some family meeting the next day, but at least he had a helicopter to fly the kids there. Saves a lot of time, you know. He was such a sincere sweet man, and out of the blue he started sharing with me all his reasoning why the work he does is important. I listened, more the tone under his words than what he was saying. He knew perfectly well that the pharma industry doesn’t heal people, it just takes the symptoms away. Many of the people I know think that pharma company owners are the devil himself. If it was him, I sure wish him well. He had no false beliefs that he would in reality be any richer than me. I sensed that he felt in some way trapped, also living his life for someone else. A person who is seen as someone who doesn’t need to answer for anyone, has actually hundereds of peoples income on his shoulders and can’t afford doing any mistakes. I suddenly realised how free I am, to change my mind and direction at any time, to do mistakes, search my way and start again.

From what I have heard it seems like there is a growing belief both in communities aswell as in the cities that people nowadays care only for themselves. When I look at people I think of the pharma factory owner and I’m wondering where are all these people putting themselves first. Obviously the ones saying it don’t identify as those people, since they are more feeling like victims of circumstances. When I was first time visiting the community where I now live in, I was still suffering from panic disorder and social anxieties, so I wanted to know as much as I could about what was expected of my time of volunteering there. I read all the rules and guidelines that I could find about how to be in service, and I really thought if I agree with those values before I applied. There was one sentence in the guidelines that made me do the decision that I can go, and it was “I aspire to serve others, our planet and its inhabitants. I recognize that I must also serve myself in order to practise this effectively”. I feel like this is something our society as a whole have totally missed out. It is socially expected and accepted to help others even when we don’t want to genuinely do it or don’t feel energised enough to do it, because it’s just what we “have to do”. When people do things out of guilt or fear of not being liked anymore, they expect it also from others, and get extremely upset when someone refuses to do it. This has become so common that if we do something out of joy we feel guilt about that too, even if we have been more productive and efficient. It’s not work if it doesn’t feel like work, and everyone knows what “feels like work” means in this context. It sucks.

It seems like some colletive guilt trip that somebody mistakenly thought would make people work more, but failed to see the consequenses of long term unhappiness in a mass of people. People actually believe that they can choose to do something they dont really want to, and then like they could choose to not get burn-out, cancer, depression, drug addiction etc. When some of those things happen it just triggers another guilt trip, at least for a while. Eventually most surrender to the fact that their life is ultimately not in their hands, or to be more accurate, its not in the hands of someone else, even if they really believed that they could give that power to someone else, but their body and mind is not agreeing. Genious. But maybe it takes a lot of crashing first, and thats what we are witnessing now. When the economy in Argentina crashed lot of businesses went bankrupt. The employees all lost their jobs and there was no money left to pay the compensations, so lot of new co-operatives were born when people took power in their own hands and just decided to go back to work. There is a big hotel in the middle of Buenos Aires completely owned by it’s former employees. Imagine the empowerment when one day you are an elevator boy and the next day you own the elevators and everything else, as much as all your co-workers.

I wonder, when is the critical mass reached in the city where I used to live in, so that people will get involved in their own well-being and stop giving the power over their lives to someone else. It doesn’t have to mean catastrophical chaos anarchy. It can be a small shift in attitude that will have massive consequenses. When we take the power in our own hands we also take the responsibility in our own hands. At some point we need to wake up from the wellfare country illusion that there is always some higher institution where we can send the people who we don’t want to see, and start taking care of ourselves well enough so that we can take care of others. Punishment doesn’t work, so we need to find other ways for crime prevention. Mental hospitals and rehab centers are full, so we need to come up with something else. There won’t be space anywhere else to send refugees and immigrants, and integration courses offered by the government are full, so at some point it’s time to stop complaining and start integrating people by ourselves. I have a baby in my belly so I’m just hoping we get there a bit faster, but I know that eventually, maybe after some turbulence, we’ll get there.

YOU CAN ALSO JUST SHUT UP

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But I just had to get that out there! Sometimes you need to take things to the extreme to notice that something is off. Few days ago I was sitting in a small lounge full of people coming and going. They were sharing their frustrations and other burning emotions with the whole room and drifting out again. I had stubbornly decided that I will not get out until I have answered a message that had been waiting to be replied for days, and since this was the only room with working wifi for that day, I didn’t have any calmer options to be in.

The people coming and going are my community family. We have amazing support from each other and abundance of about anything except private space. We have seen each other crash over and over again and there is no taboos here. Plenty of difficult topics that cause conflicts, yes, but it’s hard to keep something as untouched as a taboo when we share our everyday lives so tightly.

As I was sitting in the lounge trying to get my head together I started to feel really bad. I have felt drained by social situations before but then I have left to a calmer place and restored my energy. Now I was just observing how does this feel in my body. It felt terrible, like head ache and nausea that comes from sitting in a cigarette smelling car for too long. The worst part is that it’s impossible to focus and think what is good for me right now because the brain is constantly poked with different triggers and leaves me with so thick fog that it’s like somebody has directed the gas from the exhaust pipe inside from the car window.

I wrote the message to an end, I have no idea what I ended up scribbling on it. Then I went to my room and just laid in the dark, in confusion. I went through what people had felt the need to share, and the expressions on their faces. Nobody seemed energised and content. Some had laughter in their expressions, but most carried their part of some collective frustration of not being heard and seen enough to get their needs met. The thing about living in a community is that what ever is going on, is in one way or another touching all of us. We all carry each others energy, and often we can pick up emotions that are actually not ours to begin with (I’m not sure if any energy is ever ‘ours’ though). When there is no private space to deal with your own state, the only option left is often to vent it out on someone or everyone in the common spaces. I have seen over and over again how a person comes here in quite a present and grounded state, and after a while has totally lost the direction of who they are and what they want to do.

People drift to the kitchen or lounge and mumble “I don’t… I don’t know what I should do. Everything is just off today… ” and then I hear them desperately chasing a story to explain themselves what exactly happened that caused this off-the-flow state. Others notice this as an invitation to share what ever is off in their day, except that it wasn’t an invitation, there never was any invitation. The need to be heard and seen is just so big that the lack of interest is ignored and so it goes on to more and more people tagging along complaining about their day, not knowing what to do about it.

This happens everywhere, not just in communities, and that’s why I’m writing about it. The percentage of people who have the communication skills and the energy to be the listener that cuts this repetitive monologue is much smaller than the people who need the listener.  Listeners burn out and learn to withdraw to protect their energy resources. It is nobody’s duty to listen, but the favour these people do to the whole community is massive, because it’s often the only thing that protects our balance from drifting to complete dissatisfaction and frustration of the whole community at once. As I was listening and observing in the lounge, it became obvious that the things people felt upset about have gained such big proportions because we get so involved here. That happens when we forget to take our space. I realised how often I have jumped on to this collective being upset about something , without making a conscious choice if I want to care. I haven’t taken a moment to feel, does it serve me to get upset out of principal that we don’t order anymore peanut  butter? And now, the more I see others do it, the further away I drift from it, and the easier it becomes to notice. I can just shut up. It doesn’t take my suffering away, but it stops the anxiety of needing to change how things are.

This is amazing. I really want to point this out to people, but I know that they can also hear the irritation from my voice if I say “How about being quiet? Just give it a try! Be quiet, see how that works out for you.” Because with all honesty, even though it helps to be quiet myself, I still get drained from listening to their complaints. It’s for a reason that the term energy vampires has evolved. When something is said with irritation it has much smaller chance of getting into understanding, specially for someone who is just in the middle of a sentence explaining their drama to everyone. Personally, I don’t take it very well either, when someone who is tired of hearing my drama without consent tells me to get empowered and fix my own problems. I don’t care that it’s true, it’s the listening I was going for. I just often forget to ask, do you have the energy to listen to me right now?

We all need listening, but specially in the chronic lack of being heard it can be the worst kind of torture to be exposed to constant meaningless chatter. When a community can’t get past this phase it feels like it’s stuck in some kind of eternal teenage. As hard as it is, it’s vital to take a step back and think if there is any way we could provide ourselves the listening that we need. The best way to listen is to stay quiet and let everything be. It’s a wonderful feeling to choose to shut up.