(For 20+ years I was a massage therapist. This was one of my avenues to where I've arrived today.)
One day, while performing a massage on a neighbor, a regular client, she asked me if I would go to Lamaze classes with her and be her birthing coach. Her husband had run off after eight years of marriage when she'd become pregnant. I accepted knowing this was something few bachelors would ever get a chance to experience.
In my training as a bodyworker, I had learned of studies concluding that babies of mothers who got regular massages were quieter and more well adjusted. So we decided that regular massage therapy would be in order for the next eight months, along with a perineal massage we both learned but she performed on herself to reduce tearing during the birth. Since her husband refused to send her more than a few dollars here and there, we worked out an arrangement whereby she would be my housekeeper in exchange for massages. As a long time bachelor, I probably got the best of that deal.
We began researching aromatherapy for pregnancy. I'd found a book called Aromatherapy for Women and Children by Jane Dye and we purchased it along with some of the recommended essential oils. We also purchased a blend of essential oils we planned to use for the delivery. We played the same music during massages that we would play in the birthing room: Native American Flute music by Carlos Nakai and some wonderful harp music by Mary Kahmann off her latest CD The Stirring.
We'd also done some research into what exactly a baby is, and queried some of this directory's listings for information, discovering a whole new world. For instance, we learned that an amazing number of people who have been regressed back to their birth report that they were telepathic, that they knew what the doctor was thinking, what the nurses were thinking, and what the father in the waiting room was thinking. At least that's what they reported.
Along with the Lamaze classes and our own research, we were fully and wonder-fully prepared to bring this child into the world. We knew what we were doing and we knew what we were receiving: a baby.
A baby is spirit suddenly become flesh; a courageous spirit who chose this time, this place, and this woman as its starting point in its earthly existence; a powerful spirit filled with love and light, who knows more at birth than all us adults will ever know; a piece of infinity suddenly encumbered by a limited and fragile body whose only means of communication with us is crying.
One evening after her massage, she lost her mucus plug and phoned all her friends telling them that her labor was beginning and that we'd be at the hospital in twenty-four to forty-eight hours. She rested the next day having only a few contractions, but feeling a great need to sleep, perhaps in anticipation of the very next day when her waters broke at nine thirty in the morning. She fixed a cup of tea and I took a quick shower and again we called all of her friends. We gathered up all we'd prepared for this moment and headed for the hospital.
The day went slowly. At one o'clock she was at only four centimeters and I ran off to get a quick lunch. When I returned, she was kneeling up against the raised back of the bed, and she turned to me and said, "It's beginning to get really bad." I took my position at her side and helped her with her breathing. The pain was very powerful and I did everything I could to make her comfortable. I rubbed her ankles with the essential oils we had chosen for the birthing. I helped her focus, I held her hand, and at times I cried along with her because her pain had become mine, but I wasn't about to give in to her: "I can't do this." Two of her friends showed up to lend support and the nurse attending her monitored her progress and prepared the room. Her doctor checked in once in a while, and at twenty to nine at night she finally reached ten centimeters. The pediatric nurse came in and the doctor sat at the foot of the birthing bed and said, "Let's start pushing."
Coming from the old school where fathers were told to wait outside, I was amazed that her friends were allowed to stay in the room during the entire process, and then the doctor, a remarkably sensitive person, asked if they would like to assist by holding her legs up and apart, taking the place of stirrups. The birthing nurse and I wrapped our arms around her back and rolled her forward with every push, and after a little over half an hour of everyone in the room pushing along with the mother, the head appeared. The doctor warned her that she was about to feel a burning and tearing sensation, and within seconds he was telling her to stop her pushing so he could clear the baby's mouth. Then he said, "Ok, now get mad and push." Just two good pushes later the baby appeared in the doctor's arms and I saw it was a boy. She had been hoping for a girl, and I too had secretly wanted a girl, for when I saw its little genitals the first thing I thought was that someday his country would ask him to go to war. But we weren't disappointed in the choice the great spirit of the universe had made; there are many other things boys can learn to do that aren't as silly as war.
It was very hard to keep the tears back, and I was honored when the doctor handed me the scissors to cut the umbilical cord. He was a beautiful purple baby boy who cried only for a few seconds before the doctor handed him to his mother, and only for a few seconds when the pediatric nurse took him away to clean him up and run her tests. His mother kept laughing and exclaiming, "I did it. I did it."
We were told that babies usually stay awake for about an hour and then quickly fall asleep, but this one didn't show any sign of wanting to sleep. After he had nursed, I held him against my chest and burped him. I'd never thought that warm milk dribbling down my neck could feel so good. We turned the music back on, and the baby rolled his eyes about the room, almost as if he recognized the music we'd played during our massages. Seeing that he wasn't about to go to sleep, and that his mother really needed to rest, I turned down the lights and looked at Galen Daniel and said, "Hey, David Letterman's on. Wanna watch?" I plopped into a chair and propped little Galen into my arm so he could see, and we watched his first David Letterman show with the sound on softly. A nurse came in and said that she was going to have to take him away for some more tests and to dress him up for bed. He began to cry, and I tried to comfort him with, "Don't worry, little Baby, David Letterman comes on nearly every night."
I visited the hospital the next day, bringing the baby his first booties and his first moccasins. The day after, I called and she was nursing. I told her to put the phone next to his ear. I said "Hello, little Baby," and his mother quickly came on the phone saying that he seemed to recognize my voice. I arranged to pick her up the next day after she had had time to recuperate from having her tubes tied and the baby had had time to recuperate from his circumcision. I discovered when I showed up that they had also removed a cyst on mom's ovaries. She was feeling pretty beat up by now, and since she hadn't been able to pay off the $600 phone bill her husband had left her and had no phone, I told her to move in with me till she was feeling better.
The first night Galen slept like the proverbial baby. It was the second night when we learned that momma shouldn't eat certain things that cause gas in babies. I went to bed about two in the morning, and his mom woke me at four saying she just couldn't take it any more. I took up the baby and began the poppa pace across the floor, talking to him gently, patting him on the back, and bouncing up and down. I understand how a parent could get very frustrated and exhausted with a crying baby: it hurts to see someone so tiny crying in pain for so long. I'm not naive enough to believe that a crying baby can't push some people past their breaking point, though I'll never understand it. He was communicating his feelings, and that night he'd simply had a long message to deliver. I worked on some acupressure points for relieving constipation. I turned him over and patted his little back. I jostled him, I kissed him, I held him and massaged him, and suddenly he farted and went directly to sleep.
Galen Daniel is a quiet, peaceful baby learning new things every waking second. Being so close to the spirit, his mother will try to keep him spiritual, to teach him to love and cherish every second of his earthly existence, never to judge another person and to see only the perfection in the people and the planet his creator has created. As Becky at the Shoppe of Enlightenment says, "It's better to build a baby than to repair an adult."
This entire experience, from lending support to a woman suffering the depression of both abandonment and pregnancy for nearly a year, right up to the last kiss I laid on Galen Daniel's soft head of hair has been exhausting and wonderful and enlightening. If ever asked, I'd do it all again.
Galen and Ahzoova, Easter 1999.