The Birth of Indigo Persephone Jackson
8.15 a.m., 7 November 2001
I felt that I’d been in early labour for about two weeks, or even longer. I’d had crampiness and even some regular contractions for what seemed like eternity … so when, at ten days past my due date, labour was truly imminent I was surprised to find myself quite nonchalant – very calm and peaceful. It was almost like something higher had taken over. It wasn’t like labour written in a textbook – it was just my body, my baby, doing what it knows best.
On the morning of November 6, I awoke to find fluid coming out of me onto the bed – it felt different to the discharge/mucousy stuff I’d had all through pregnancy. I ran (almost!) to the loo – was there any blood? Yes! It’s show! HOORAY! Although I knew that you could have show and still not go in to labour proper for days or even weeks, something very deep inside “knew” that it was very close.
I went to the Breastfeed Drop-in (a breastfeeding support group held in our local community centre), kept rushing to the loo to mop up more and more show. Came home, I think I lost a glug of water as I got up from the sofa at one point.
In the evening Stuart and Ruby and I went for a late evening walk to Queen’s Park – up lots of hills! God! This baby feels like it’s going to fall out of me …
When we came home, Stuart and Ruby went to bed. I crawled into bed next to Ruby, but contractions were coming now, kind of regularly, not very strong, but it was too uncomfortable to lie down. I felt almost other-worldly as I went downstairs to hang out by myself. It was now almost 10 or 11 o’clock. It felt mystical but at the same time completely and utterly normal. And safe.
I’m trying to recall exactly when these mild contractions started, but can’t seem to – in fact, this is something which defines my second experience of pregnancy and birth as a PROCESS – I had been having contractions for a long time already and labour starting was just very fluid – they just began to be a little more regular and stronger – but there was no definite “start” point. Women’s bodies are not easily compartmentalized!
I must have known this was it though, as I started preparing the environment a bit, lighting a few candles, putting floor cushions and a duvet down and getting my tape recorder set up. I remember switching on the TV at one point and it was Dallas on UK Gold!
I watched a bit of Pam and Mark having an impossibly elegant dinner whilst bouncing on my gymball – then I just couldn’t focus on lip gloss and Stetsons and off it went.
I felt from very early on that something very powerful was beginning to take over. All the way through my labour my intellect was working away, trying desperately to rationalize and order what was happening, yet this was not a time for the mind – this time belongs to the body and the soul – a primitive, eternal river of deep knowing which flows so powerfully pushing everything else aside.
So, when I decided to call Pat and ask her to come over, I wasn’t thinking about whether it was the right time – I just did it. It felt right.
Pat and I spent most of the time hanging out – I was having regular contractions but they weren’t strong. I bounced on the ball, sipped water, and chatted. All at once I felt worried and emotional.
I said to Pat: “I can’t do it. I can’t have a baby. What am I going to do?”
I cried and cried and Pat reminded me that it was probably something related to my mother – I knew she was right, but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it. I had thought, as the birth got closer, that perhaps during this labour, I would feel a connection with my mother, feel that she was with me. Actually, I didn’t get a strong sense of that. However, the labour felt very emotional and very energetic in an almost metaphysical way: I cried during a few contractions (once in strong labour) and felt sure that the emotional release was deeply connected to letting go physically and also allowing me to gain awareness of the divine forces at work in the world.
After talking and crying with Pat about how I couldn’t possibly have another baby, the contractions seemed to slow down and I wanted to sleep. I think we both napped for a short while, Pat on the sofa and me on the floor cushions. I then became gripped by an overwhelming desire to cuddle up to Ruby; to see her, smell her, feel her. I imagined getting into bed with her and just lying close. (When Pat and I “de-briefed” after the birth, she noted that she’d been thinking about sleeping and/or going home and going to bed at the same time as me having the above thoughts – we marveled at the power of thought in connection! When I look back, I’m amazed by how connected we all were in this process: me, the baby, Pat, Ruby, Stuart, Ruth the midwife – like we were all held together by an eternal string.)
I said to Pat: “I want to see Ruby – NOW!” and it felt as if almost immediately after I voiced that need I heard her wake up. She and Stuart came downstairs and I was sitting on the green ball. Contractions had started again but were still mild. I hugged her very close to me and it felt fantastic to feel her realness, her actuality – I needed to be sure that she was here and safe before I could get on with birthing this new baby (which still seemed abstract and ethereal).
I remember hearing Stu and Ruby merrily making breakfast in the kitchen. It must have been about 4.30 a.m. It was then that I felt the first strong contraction. I was standing up, holding the table and I knew something had shifted because I began to moan softly through contractions. “This is different”, I thought, and it was! From that point onwards, the contractions strengthened very quickly and were coming every few minutes. Ruby was still in the house, bouncing around and chatting away and I just couldn’t deal with it! Stuart took her off to the Park (at 5 am!) and then to Kathy’s, a close friend who’d agreed to look after Ruby during the labour. I remember them leaving the house, and then I felt it would be right to get into the birthing pool.
My intellect – which was working all the way through like “mind-chatter” – said: “But it’s too early! What if you’re not 6 cm? Blah blah blah.” Pat’s response was: “Trust your instinct,” and I did. Entering the pool, I thought: “Great, I’m looking forward to experiencing the wonderfully soothing qualities and blissful sensations of the water”, but it wasn’t like that for me at all! The contractions seemed to intensify hugely and lengthen considerably in the water, and it was at this point that I began to make LOTS of noise. Pat was shouting: “Yes!” through each contraction, and I began to chant “Yes” with her, a moaning sound at first, rapidly becoming a ROAR as the sensations in my body intensified.
I remember a very tender moment when I was all at once aware of Stuart just sitting at the other end of the room, and I was crying at the peak of contractions. It’s important to point out that the tears weren’t from physical pain, but a genuine emotional release which was a product of the labour process, but which also fuelled my physical opening. “I hope Stuart doesn’t think I’m crying because I’m in pain, or that I’m feeling negative about handling this” was my immediate thought. But I couldn’t voice it, I was too much inside myself to speak much. The crying was such a key part of the way in which the labour took shape: it felt like emotional walls were being broken down, barriers melting away so that every muscle in my body could relax and allow my baby her entry into the world.
I believe that a woman needs to be as clear and free emotionally as she can be in order for her physical body to labour easily. Crucially, the environment needs to support this – if a woman feels inhibited, judged or closely observed she may not be able to express her feelings as they arise and this may obstruct the natural flow of labour.
Maybe I began to go into transition whilst still in the water, as I did have a fleeting thought (my only doubt that I could do it unaided during the whole labour) along the lines of “Epidural…I think I want a …need an epidural!” and then it was gone, as if taken by the wind, never to re-surface.
As all this suggests, I didn’t actually feel that comfortable physically or emotionally in the water. This surprised me, as I had fantasized about labouring and birthing in the pool. But I felt too floaty, too suspended. I desperately needed to feel grounded and secure as those oh so powerful waves engulfed me. I wanted to feel earthed and rooted, on solid ground. I ended up leaving the pool and holding onto the table again. What I could really have used, when I look back, is a rope or similar, hanging from the ceiling. What came to mind during labour is a strong, low branch of a tree. In fact, I often visualized being outside, in nature. That image felt even safer than being inside the house.
What I am so in awe of now, as I analyze my labour and birth process, is just how exquisitely tuned and balanced the female instinct is. I feel as if my inner self was working in perfect synthesis with the gods, with the finest most delicate timing, and everyone else around me co-operated with this.
I think I went to the loo shortly after leaving the pool, for a poo. I kind of “knew” that I was really close to the birth because I was emptying everything from my body. I also feel, as I look back, that I may have dilated from 0 – 8 or 9 cms in just that short but intense spell in the pool. So much for medical models!!!! Ha!
I went to the loo again with Stuart and I remember saying “Oh, the contractions feel much gentler out of the water; I can handle them better” and then I had one mutha of a contraction as I was getting off the toilet. I felt angry for the first time and yelled out when the huge, all-encompassing wave had subsided, “I fucking well take that back!!” Pat said “That was a strong one, wasn’t it?” and then I was back at the table in the living room again, grasping it in an attempt to anchor myself in what was becoming a rapid, express-train-like ride.
It all moved very fast now. I’d now begun ‘stepping’, a kind of frog-like movement where you bring your legs up, bent at the knee, towards the ceiling one at a time. I’d practiced this in Active Birth Yoga classes throughout my pregnancy – Karel, my teacher, had explained how it really opens up the pelvic area and helps the baby descend the birth canal. This is one point where my instinct just amazed me. I had a brief moment of thinking “Oh, this is what we do in Karel’s class and she said to do it if labour slows down or something”, but my body started doing it totally spontaneously before I had that thought. It was exactly the right movement to do at that time, and all I had to do was just follow my body-wisdom.
I then felt myself moving over to the sofa and knelt down on the rug with my arms resting on the sofa. As soon as I’d got into this position I experienced the first of the most awesome sensations I’d ever felt in my body. I don’t want to call it a contraction, it was really an EXPANSION – it felt very different to the contractions so far. I just KNEW that my baby was close to coming out of me, but yet again my intellect was chattering away: “It can’t be so soon, you’ve got hours to go, it can’t be this straight-forward, etc.”
But these words, this reasoning, and such negative, fearful, anti-trusting rationales – they were bullshit. I knew in the deepest, crystal clear way that my baby’s head was passing into my birth canal. I knew it in my flesh, my bones, my muscles and my blood – this vast energy being generated inside me was a connection with something far higher than anything the intellect can make sense of. Textbooks, medical models of labour and birth, suggestions from even the most humane of midwives – I felt like all of them were irrelevant, superfluous, unnecessary and wrong.
I’m so in awe of what then transpired: no midwife had yet been called, although I was clearly very close to birthing this baby. The expansions were HUGE; rollicking, rumbustious, thunderous – imagine the most tumultuous of waves, the -stormiest of seas, water crashing – worlds colliding – onto vast rocks. I rode the crests of these waves, yet I was in them; they were violent and angry, yet tender and nurturing; they rocked me, tossed me, wrenched me and cradled me all at once. I was birthing my baby and re-experiencing my own birth simultaneously.
I was so aware that everything now felt very different, and wanted to make Pat aware of that, but I couldn’t get the words out. Also my damned mind-chatter was going again: “Don’t say it, don’t say it, you’re not this close, you can’t be, it isn’t this easy….if you say you can feel the baby then Pat will just disappoint you…she’ll tell you that you’ve got ages to go” and so on. But I didn’t have to worry for a minute because my awesome body spoke for me, in the clearest way possible! I’d already felt the baby’s head pushing very hard on my bum, a pressure like you’re going to do a massive shit! And then, I did start to poo uncontrollably in the midst of the huge expansions. Apparently there was a lot of poo to clear up!!!! I remembered, at that point a line from a book I’d read: ‘Where there is maternal poop there is a little head not far behind’. This floated through my consciousness and I knew that Pat had picked up on it! I felt anxious though, as I couldn’t speak and I wasn’t quite sure if she did know that this baby’s head was coming soon…soon…SOON!!!
Then (and this is all very blurred for me) Pat tried to get up from where I was clinging onto her hands and I did manage to say “No, Pat, don’t go, I NEED you”. I needed her so much at that point: I was squeezing and biting her hands (!!) and she felt like this huge anchor…the thought of her leaving me then was indescribably horrible. I needed her physical presence, but more than that it was her unbending, immutable belief in me that I couldn’t bear to be without at this most intense of moments. I’d never felt anything like this in my life, never comprehended the sheer enormity of this birthing energy...I was riding the most majestic, writhing and ferocious of dragons and I needed Pat to help me stay on its back!!!
She reassured me that she wasn’t going anywhere, and then I vaguely heard Stuart speaking distantly on the phone.. and then, gone…gone back deep into the birthing wave….swept under the most violent of currents into depths of myself that I never knew existed. And then I would rest, briefly, head on hands, self-doubt creeping in. With hindsight I can pinpoint this feeling as so typically end of second-stage: “I can’t go on, this is just TOO MUCH, this is fucking ridiculous – Pat you’re a bloody liar this isn’t ecstatic its bloody fucking awful I can’t handle it help me help me just get this thing out of me pat pat ……” and then I hear Pat saying,
“Now when this one comes STAY ON THAT DRAGON – RIDE THAT DRAGON – STAY ON IT…..”
“…use the breath…use the breath….USE THE BREATH!!!”
Then Stuart was nearby and Pat was asking him to get plastic sheeting and towels I think, and I was thinking ‘Oh no, we haven’t got any plastic sheeting’ but I knew Stuart would sort it out!! He used bin bags in the end and all the towels in the house!
I could sense something in Pat’s voice; what was it? Anxiety? No, not fear at all, but a growing sense of urgency. I knew that she knew that I was zooming, rocketing towards birthing this baby – in fact, I remember her saying, when asking Stu to call the midwife, “We’re going like the clappers here!”
And then there was someone else in the space, a shadowy figure whose identity I couldn’t work out…then it was closer, and speaking to me – “Hello Sophie,”: a very gentle voice, yet authoritative. She went and sat behind me for a few minutes and I remember looking around and noticing that it was Ruth! My antenatal midwife! I was quietly stunned that it was her (could have been any out of a whole team of midwives) yet also knew that she’d really wanted to meet Pat and be at this birth so I guess her desire was powerful in creating this situation, too.
Despite feeling glad that Ruth had arrived (I had wanted a midwife to be present at the actual birth), I must state that the atmosphere undoubtedly changed immediately with her presence. She is one of the most gentle, unobtrusive midwives I’ve met, yet of course she is obliged to ask questions, try to listen in to the baby and so on. I do feel that Ruth aided my birth process from that point onwards, but I know that I would have birthed Indigo without her if she hadn’t made it.
Ruth asked me softly if I wanted to get into the pool. I looked over to it and it just didn’t feel right. The contractions were obviously continuing in the same intense way and I was simply concentrating every atom of my being into staying atop that dragon!! She tried to listen in to the baby a few times, unsuccessfully. Indigo was too far down the birth canal for the heartbeat to be heard. She was so nearly here!!! It felt strange to have someone trying to monitor things at such a late stage, as I’d had no interference whatsoever until that point.
Then I heard Ruth say, “Sophie, I think the baby will come quicker if you turn around into a supported squatting position,” (or something similar – things were pretty hazy for me at this point). Something in that idea obviously resonated with me as I did it very readily. Ruth was in front of me, Pat was to the right and Stuart was supporting my body by standing behind me with his arms under my armpits. The expansions continued their thunder and lighting show within me and I felt like a roaring, primeval goddess as I got closer and closer to the moment of birth. I will never forget just how I felt then: I think I had an out-of-body experience as I can see myself quite clearly in that scene. I was out of time and space, a totally altered state of being. I remember thinking:
“I am birthing the world;
the universe is passing through me”
I knew that I was partaking in a miracle. I have never even thought of myself as religious yet I know that I was as close to God at that moment as I will ever get in this reality. Tears are coming to my eyes now, as recalling this part of the story moves me so much, in such a deep, deep place. I really am struggling to convey this through language. Words usually come very easily to me, but by the staggering profundity of this experience I am silenced.
Ruth said that she could see the head and asked me if I wanted to feel it. I really didn’t’ want to – I just couldn’t do it. And then I felt Indigo’s head stretching me, and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me and then I didn’t’ get another contraction for what seemed like eternity!! That sensation was the only part of the labour that felt like ‘pain’. The next thought that came to me was:
“If there is any God up there, anywhere, give me another contraction NOW!!!”
And then there it was, a huge contraction and then out slipped my baby, Indigo Persephone Jackson!!
She’d shot out in one contraction, to be caught by Ruth and handed straight to me, with vernix still clinging to her limbs (so much for a post-dates baby!) and shouting out with the shock of her fast entrance into this world! She latched onto my breast within five to ten minutes of birth and has never looked back. Now, at five months, she is still exclusively breastfed and is a chubby, gorgeous and bouncingly happy girl.
Pat gave me some homeopathic remedies to aid the release of the placenta and I drank a tea made from Shepherd’s Purse and Motherwort to prevent haemorraging. Ruth respected my wish to wait for the placenta to detach naturally. I think it took about half an hour, maybe more. I was surprised at the strength of the contractions that came then. It felt very hard to put energy and commitment into handling them: I couldn’t help thinking “But I’ve finished! I’ve done it! Please don’t ask me to do more now!!”
I could feel, after a while, that Ruth was getting just a bit nervy. She asked me if it would be okay to pull on the cord a bit if the placenta didn’t come soon. I can’t remember what I said but it must have been pretty noncommittal. I knew that I didn’t want her to pull it. I’d just birthed a baby for goodness sakes, I could deliver a placenta, couldn’t I?!? I never once doubted that the afterbirth would come in its own good time. Sometimes you are asked to be very patient around birth. This is one thing I notice professionals often find challenging. They feel that they need to be doing something all the time: that just being there, honoring the mother and the baby, respecting and trusting the process, is not enough.
So, once the placenta had come we asked Indigo if it was okay before I cut the umbilical cord, and tied it with a white shoelace. (I’d read about this in some ‘Compleat Mother’ publications and loved the sound of it; so much more gentle than a big plastic clip.)
I’ve just realized that I never once used the word ‘push’ to describe birthing Indigo, and that’s really because I never felt that I did!! I never got a pushing urge – it just felt like my body was doing it all or Indigo was pushing herself out. Perhaps the Raspberry Leaf tea I’d drunk during the last three months helped, too.
This birth experience has transformed my life. I feel as though I have emerged from a spiritual experience, to see the world through new, enlightened eyes. I understand the world differently: I feel that I have the power to create anything I choose and truly see now how we are the creative forces in our own lives.
Birthing Indigo has taught me how to really trust the process of life: to listen to that voice which whispers to you what you really want, how you really feel. You can trust that voice which comes from deep within you. It is safe to go against the flow, the sea of other voices, if that is what you hear. It is safe to be here, it is safe to feel.
Whenever I feel jittery and anxious about something now and I’m trying to control life too much, I try to remember to look at my baby daughter and, when I listen to her, she says to me,
“You gave birth to me, Mummy, I’m here – we did it ourselves and it is safe to trust. Everything works out just exactly right. You’re so powerful, infinitely creative. The world has limitless, endless possibilities… you are bursting with new beginnings. Listen to yourself. You know what to do.
Trust and wait.”
Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
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