Jan. 1, 2006, 11:59 pm. journal entry, edited
It’s the third time in twenty-four hours that I’ve brushed my teeth, flossed, and gone to bed. I must have had at least six meals today, and at least as many desserts, but maybe that’s my imagination. Maybe it wasn’t six. I don’t really remember ever feeling hungry or full.
How many worlds have I lived in today? Certainly they couldn’t have all taken place in one day? Each piece of the day seemed like an eternity unto itself, and then everything would change and the experience before would feel like lifetimes ago.
The most recent world was that of the cheesy love story we rented on New Year’s Eve to help Liz get her mind off the pain, but never got around to watching until just now. Do you ever get that feeling when you’re watching a movie? Where you’re completely immersed in the film’s reality and everything before and after seems surreal? It was like that. So was every other part of the day.
The movie was full of synchronicities. The characters went to a New Year’s Eve party, and there was mention of birth, and a character named Bridget appeared five minutes after I got off the phone with Bridget. There was even an LA/San Francisco love story. No matter how often I come across synchronicities, they never cease to amaze me. Maybe it’s because they appear so often. Each time I feel like I’ve witnessed a little miracle, a reminder of the intricate magic of life, all pieces intentionally interwoven with each other in a conscious piece of living art. God playing with us. Everyone else seems to dismiss them as unimportant, but I can’t help but stand back and appreciate the art.
Before the world of cheesy romance was the world of Dan’s three kids coming back over. We ate dinner, talked, made phone calls, and they played. It was just like any other day, except that they were much more peaceful and attentive than usual. And of course it was nothing like any other day.
Before that I brushed my teeth, flossed, and went to bed. Two deep, solid hours separated the old world from the new.
The reality before that one is a bit blurry around the edges. I made everyone breakfast. Eggs for most people, yams and greens, pizza for Liz, tea all around. The midwives gave lots of instructions and advice. Time slowed down. Relief. I didn’t feel the exhaustion anymore, even though you’d think that would be when I was feeling it the most.
Skipping backwards several worlds, to midnight, twenty-four hours ago, I sat on the living room floor in front of Liz, encouraging her to hang in there for the “lightening” (not lightning) I had seen in my journey happening just after one a.m. I imagined it might be the birth, but I was wrong. That’s the problem with interpreting information from journeys. The information is always correct, but be wary of the mind’s elaborations.
A journey, for those who don’t know, is basically going into a meditative space to retrieve information or guidance that will be useful to oneself or others. We can all do it, it just takes practice and dedication. You could say that the assistance comes from spirit guides, or God, or ancestors, or the collective unconscious, or from yourself in the future because time isn’t linear, whatever makes sense in your belief system. It’s something
I’ve been doing regularly for a long time. You can’t always choose what information will come, which is why I don’t buy lottery tickets. It’s more like sitting quietly and listening to what is there.
I went into my meditation on Friday afternoon to see what I could feel for the weekend, asking whether the baby would come and if there was anything I could know that would be of assistance. This time I was able to feel only three things: 1) That there was no baby on Saturday; 2) That Sunday felt much different than
Saturday; and 3) There was a feeling of lightening just after one a.m. Sunday morning.
So I urged Liz to hang in there for another hour. She had been in labor since Friday evening but the contractions were irregular, sometimes coming every few minutes and other times waiting a full quarter hour. The midwives had warned us that it was possible they could stop all together, as they did after a painful sleepless night on Thursday. But by this point I knew they weren’t going to stop.
At the blessingway, Liz had asked all her friends to write a thought or wish on the side of a candle, to be burned during the birth. We had a few blank ones left over, and I wrote a few more as the night went on. Now she walked over to the candles, with their beautiful messages glowing, and looked for a new one to light.
She picked one up that said “You know what to do!” and put it back down again. “I wish there was one that said ‘Your body knows what to do’, because I sure don’t.”
I picked up the one I had written an hour before, sitting apart from the rest.
“Your body knows what to do.”
She smiled and lit it.
Little bits of magic to help us along. Like the Osho Zen card she pulled the night before, as her labor started and stopped and her mind raced over her fears and concerns. Out of 79 very different cards, she pulled “The Creator,” which read “You are carrying a masterpiece hidden within you, but you are standing in the way. Just move aside, then the masterpiece will be revealed. Everyone is a masterpiece, because God never gives birth to anything less than that.”
We moved back over to the couch and Liz threw up. Three and a half minutes later, she groaned as another contraction began, her face twisting into the now-familiar pained grimace. I tried not to let her see me look at the clock. She had gotten sick of that hours before. Dan and I would whisper the times in the next room, or hold up fingers when she wasn’t looking.
“Three and a half minutes.”
“Between four and five.”
“Was that only two?”
“Back up to six.”
Dan took out his drum and sang a Lakota song. Lakota is the culture with which Dan identifies most. He lived on a reservation for a year and a half, leads sweat lodges, and makes the culture and traditions a regular part of his life.
We pushed the pillows behind her to try to ease what she described as her back splitting in two. The contraction finally eased and she slumped back, exhausted, hoping in vain for a minute of sleep before the next one. Dan called the midwives. Even if the contractions were still irregular, it was time. We needed them here.
The bird clock chimed midnight with the call of the house finch. In the distance we heard fireworks.
One a.m. came and went with no incident. Liz was beginning to look desperate. She begged the baby again to come out, as she had been for hours. Our reassurances weren’t doing much good anymore. A midwife had suggested over the phone that the baby might be in the wrong position. Nothing seemed to be changing. We got up and slowly paced the floor, Liz leaning against the wall with each contraction. It felt like we’d been doing this forever. I can only imagine how Liz must have felt.
It was only a few minutes past one when headlights lit up the snow-covered driveway. Oh, thank you. They’re here.
Everything changed once Maureen and Manya arrived. They suggested positions that hadn’t worked when we tried them before, but suddenly offered relief. They got a hot water bottle on Liz’s back, and moved us all up to the bedroom for a change of scenery.
They reassured us that all was well, and this was normal. Their heart monitor told us the baby was healthy. The mood lightened. They insisted that Liz try to sleep between contractions. Impossible, I thought. But before long, she was, if only for a minute or two at a time.
Maureen asked me if I was tired. “No,” I said, and I wasn’t, until a few minutes later when I realized I was exhausted. She suggested Dan and I get naps. I brushed my teeth, flossed, and was in bed about around a quarter past two.
Only a couple of hours passed before I found myself awake again. The house was quiet. Why am I awake? I wondered. This might be my last chance to sleep.
I should really trust by now that my body knows what it’s doing. Right about that moment Manya was deciding to wake me up to stay with Liz so she could go downstairs and prepare for the birth. Five minutes later she knocked on my door.
Liz was standing again, leaning against the bed, and I pushed the hot water bottle into her back during contractions, which were coming more frequently now. Between them she slumped onto the bed in semi-consciousness. The rest of the house slept.
Before long she wanted to go downstairs, and the day began. Dan sat behind her with the water bottle, while Maureen, Manya and I took turns sitting in front of her with reassurances and suggestions during contractions. I watched the midwives carefully, and did my best to emulate them. Despite my lack of experience, I felt like I knew when to say “relax”, or “stay with it,” or “you’re doing great.” Nothing about the labor or birth really surprised me. Maybe an experience this powerful is so strongly embedded in our collective consciousness that we all have some instinctual awareness of having been here before. Or maybe we hold a shadow of a memory of the day we ourselves came into the world.
After a while the gentle light of dawn glowed from the frozen windows. Maureen decided it was time to check her cervical dilation. They had been waiting as long as possible to avoid unnecessary internal exams and possible disappointment.
“There’s no cervix!” Maureen exclaimed. Full dilation. She was free to push when it felt right. They called Betsy, the other midwife, and told her it was time to come over.
“Do I have to wait for her?” Liz asked with a slightly panicked look on her face.
We all smiled. “You don’t have to wait for anyone,” I answered instinctively.
When Betsy arrived at eight, Liz had already been pushing for a half hour. She took Dan’s place with the hot water bottle so he could be in front to catch the baby. When the first little tuft of dark hair was visible, I got my hand mirror to show Liz. We were all in awe.
I picked up the camera. I hated to be behind a lens at a time like this, but I knew Liz was going to want to see this later.
It is absolutely amazing what the human body can do. That baby was huge. I never thought seven pounds two ounces could be so enormous.
Torbjorn (Norwegian for “Thunder Bear”) Yacobellis came into the world at nine a.m. sharp on New Year’s Day, all in one push with a huge wave of blood. He let out a gentle little roar and put his hand in his mouth. Dan handed him to Liz. I cried. Betsy let me cut the umbilical cord. Dan burned sage and cedar over us all and played Lakota songs.
I think Liz reflected the mood of all of us when she stared at him and said in quiet awe, “Look… he has fingers!” Maybe the feeling just can’t be translated into words, but they were the most amazing perfect fingers I have ever seen in my life.
That was the end of my journal entry, but before I send it to you I have to add on a bit about an odd little dream I had last night, Jan. 2, just as I was falling asleep. Maybe it was inspired by an earlier conversation about names for the little one. It was one of those very lucid dreams, and it came after I was no longer awake but before I was really quite asleep.
There were no visuals, just a voice. It said, “ee-na-te,” which I spelled in my journal as “Inate.” It was a man’s voice. Not a young man, but not an ancient man either. Maybe a grandfather, somewhere in the middle of life.
“What does it mean?” I asked him. I had never heard that word before.
“It is a name,” the voice answered.
“What does it mean?” I asked again.
“It means… ‘the unity’,” the voice answered. And then he started laughing as if it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.
It took me a minute to register what he was saying. When the meaning hit me it jolted me awake. “Unity” was the name Liz and I had chosen for our affinity group years ago in San Francisco, then again for our organic urban gardens project, as a reminder that if we are to succeed in creating the kind of world we want to live in, we need to work together and not let our differences or judgments divide us. We are all connected, and as much as we may be experiencing separateness, we are, in a very real sense, all One. That’s where the magic comes from.
“That’s interesting,” Liz said when I told her about the dream the next morning, “it’s Ina and Ate put together.” I didn’t understand until she explained further.
“‘Ina’ is Lakota for ‘mother’ and ‘ate’ is ‘father’. You didn’t know that?”
Liz and Dan didn’t decide to change Tor’s name to Inate, but maybe that will always be my private nickname for him. And maybe he will always be a reminder for me of magic, laughter, and birth, and that all life comes from Unity.
Happy New Year, Everyone. May it be full of miracles.
- Winter 2005: Argentina, Uruguay, San Francisco
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