Take A Step; Learn A Word

"Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn't think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart. Before we live what's next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it's played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings."

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I've had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family--Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco--and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Living With Change As The Only Constant

Life changes so fast. Just when I get used to things being a certain way, everything rearranges. I'd like to think this is always for the good. Always. For the good. It's absolutely terrifying to live this way. To think that bands break apart and marriages break up and children break off into the big bad world--and it's all for the greater good. To think that everyone is going to die and somehow, we need to accept this if we want to delve deeper. I feel pain. Not just my own, but yours. You feel my pain, too, don't you?

I hear horrible stories about children drowning and men taking their own life and I feel the residual pain on a very physical level. My heart moving upward. Grief squeezing the hope out of me. None of it is okay. The tragedy never disappears. It follows people everywhere. It follows their children. It stops them from living.

What if our pain is perfect as it is? What if there is a purpose behind it? I have a hard time finding purpose in a murder, for example, but maybe that's part of it. We are mere mortals. We cannot begin to wrap our heads around good and evil, though maybe we can untangle the two if we never give up. Maybe that's what pain is, at its core. An untangling of truth and lies. A separation. A deconstruction.

Who are we and what do we want and why do we always want more when we finally get what we want?

Of all my failures, it might be my hunger for more that hits the hardest, digs the deepest. Instead of focusing on being happy with everything I have, I tend to believe that I'll be happier once I have this or I've done that. I know this is flawed, and I know why it is flawed and I have been working hard to release this belief. There will always be something else, some reason why now is less than perfect.

Instead of congratulating myself for writing for 20 minutes, I usually feel defeated. Only 20 minutes before I picked up my phone or the baby woke up or I had to pick my daughter up from school. 20 minutes doesn't get you very far down a page.

But it gets you somewhere. And before you know it, you've written a book. And your baby is now a kid and your house with a sprawling yard is now a flat on an urban block and your exercise routine looks different. So do the trees. So does your hair.

You wonder how long it will be until you understand that now only happens now and it is absolutely perfect. Even the fat salty tears are perfectly formulated to smooth out the rough edges of pain.

I loved school as a kid. Especially September. New classmates, new classroom, new teacher, new routine. But by the time spring rolled around, I was over it. Bored, mostly. Ready for the next thing. Then, summer would come and go and finally it occurred to me that I missed the energy of my old class. Something so familiar and boring, gone forever. Last year when I intuited that we would not live in our Seattle house much longer, weeks before we actually had plans to move, I walked the perimeter of the yard. I tried to memorize it.

Soon this time in our lives will be reduced to a memory. We think we have the good stuff memorized, but eventually, we will forget most of it. I cope with the passage of time, the temporary nature of existence, with my words and my camera.

That bald little head. Her bouncing curly head. Tiny round teeth. Precocious eyebrows. Squeals. Squeaks. Giggles. Deep questions. Baby babbling. Kid-isms. Snuggles. The baby's breath. A hungry little mouth. Those voices. The word "mama" and "mommy" and "daddy." My hair and skin still relatively thick with youth. My twenties, my husband's thirties, both of which are nearly over. My life as a fresh transplant in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The stories untold. The possibilities.

I cope with challenges by remembering they are temporary.

The sleepless nights. The query letters. The rejections. The exhaustion. The messes. The laundry. The temper tantrums. The screaming. The uncertainties. The travel. The loneliness. The tedium. The waiting.

My sister won't always live on the other side of the planet (RIGHT?!). I won't always be the new kid in my city. My children won't always want me 24 hours per day. We won't always have to prove ourselves.

But maybe the proving could be just as enjoyable as being proven.

Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour. - Walt Whitman

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Savoring October (10 ways)

I woke up yesterday morning and I felt cold. I missed the space heaters that I already purged because I thought we'd be gone before the drafts in this big old house began to crawl under the covers.

But it's October now and they've arrived, making me even more reluctant to emerge from my bed, which I didn't think possible.

October usually makes me giddy, but this year I'm in a funk about fall. The great purge showed me that we have a million costumes and dress-up clothes and I have no business taking my kids (or myself--let's be honest) shopping for Halloween costumes. Not even at the Goodwill.

This year I miss the summer. I miss the tilt of the earth towards the sun, bringing my patch of ground that much closer to the light. I miss eating dinner outside and sunbathing at the lake with my best friend and our babies. I miss chilled cans of Sofia Coppolla sparkling wine. I miss sweet berries from the farmer's market. I miss long days and Bicycle Sundays and bare feet in cool grass. I miss ice cream because sadly ice cream doesn't taste (nearly) as good to me in the colder months. (Unless it's atop a slice of warm crumble.)

Maybe it's not the summer that I miss but my entire life as it was this past summer and will never be again. Of course everything's always changing but sometimes, sometimes it's slow and easy to ignore, and sometimes it's so quick I can hardly keep up.

But I do. I always do. Life goes on.

Yesterday, October began. The first day of a new month holds great symbolic meaning for me. A lot can happen in a month, a lot of pleasure and happiness and change and unhappiness.

So I felt compelled to slow down and make one of my favorite months count, starting with a list. Here's a 10 point bucket list to get me (and maybe you) into the spirit of October:

1. Go to the farmer's market and see what's still growing in the Pacific Northwest. (CHECK!)

2. Spend a sunny afternoon in the Washington Arboretum. Take pictures with the Japanese maple.

3. Fry some famous Washington apples in coconut oil and cinnamon. (CHECK!)

4. Consume as much butternut squash as possible, preferably in the form of a creamy soup.

5. Go on a pumpkin-themed Trader Joe's shopping spree.

6. Mull some wine. (A first for me.)

7. Visit a nearby pumpkin patch.

8. Paint and/or glitter some pumpkins.

9. Use my slow cooker.

10. Write every damn day. (Because I will be moving this month & will have so many reasons not too. But life is too short to put off doing what we love, even for one day.)

Is it obvious enough already that I really really really love food and pumpkins?

How will you savor October? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Creatures of Passion

I sit down at this computer day after day because I'm searching for something. The internet is my portal and my nemesis. I used to write poetry on a regular basis. Sometimes I'd post it on my short fiction and poetry blog sometimes I wouldn't. I would write to get the words flowing and hopefully create something beautiful to read.

If I were alive before blogs and internet and instant gratification, I wonder who I would be. Would I write poems just for my family and my self like my great-grandmother? Would my children later bind my poems together into a book? Or would I put down my pen in favor of the washing and the cooking and the children? Would I write more because I felt no pressure, or would I write less because I had no one to share it with?

Does the internet paralyze or liberate? I daresay both. It depends on how we use it or let it use us.

When I started writing poetry back in the third grade it was for the love of it because everything we do as children is for the love of it. Back when we were creatures of pure passion. Now we have bills to pay and ourselves to impress. Distractions that shadow our passions. We stop creating just for creation's sake. We're too busy.

I think the people who really have got it going on, the people who inspire and move and make change with their life's work are the people who never lose that part of themselves: that creature of pure passion. They let their creature loose everyday whether they're solving problems in corporate america or pounding the pavement in a pair of running shoes or raising children or designing websites or churning out content or making dinner or teaching yoga or...

Creatures of pure passion feel indifferent towards accolades and money and fame. They want only to kiss the earth and leave an imprint of love. The more we allow space for the creature to play, the less frightened we will become by her creations, and the more freely we can create in all our favorite ways.

When I stopped writing poetry I shut down one of my creatures. Now I'm inviting her back by sitting down with my pen and letting her be free, unconcerned by the scrutiny of the internet or the passage of time.

She loves tall trees and dandelion wishes and she's not afraid of sharing.

Subscribe to my poetry blog here

Are you searching for your creatures?

Are you letting them out to play?

What do your creatures love?

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Facing Impermanence

The sun came out in a profound way, the last day of April rivaling the best of summer. My mother-in-law arrived on a jetplane to meet her nine week-old granddaughter. James came home for lunch and early for dinner. Giovanna had her Grandma. None of us could keep our lips off of our squishy gorgeous baby. Love was in the balmy breezy sweet clean air.

They were making dinner together; my husband and his mother and my daughter; while I cared for Skyla. For once I didn't have to multitask. Two of my three major evening responsibilities (Giovanna and dinner) were out of my hands.

So what did I do?

I took a walk.

I slipped Skyla into my trusty front pack and I walked through the city in the heat I love so desperately, the heat I'd been craving since it sidled away eight months earlier. The sky shone robin egg's blue and flowers popped out of the ground at every opportunity and the trees loomed like giants. Bicyclists whizzed by and people walked their dogs and children drew on the sidewalks. The lake brought certain peace while the volcanic mountain, so big it looked like a painting in the sky, humbled us mere mortals.

We are at the mercy of the earth.

And on this day, Mother Nature graced the Pacific Northwest with a lush and lustrous aura. The juicy green and glassy blue landscape like a highly addictive drug, the ether charged with something golden and Good.

I was getting exercise while connecting with nature, roaming my patch of the planet both paved and wild. My husband was at home. My daughter was happy. My baby was strapped to my heart, a smiling cooing suckling sleeping angel, the light of heaven pouring out of her in the form of pure unadulterated love.

I became rigid with contentment which isn't as lovely as it sounds. While climbing a long set of stairs, I had to stop. My heart cramped.

I was afraid.

How could life get better than this? How long could I hold onto these riches? How could I possibly feel this happy when so many people are starving and sick and depressed? I was standing at the top and looking over the edge.

Anxiety wanted to ruin my moment. If everything Good is ruined by worries, what's left? Why is it so hard to let ourselves feel mind-numbingly happy?

My theory? Because we grow attached to the current picture of our life. And we know deep down we can't take it with us. Everything exists only in fleeting passages.

My baby will soon be grown.

The weather will soon turn.

Everyone dies.

We intuit these truths of impermanence and we fret that everything will change before we are ready. Before we have really gotten to know someone or told them how we feel or followed a dream or appreciated the perfume of prolific oxygen.

I stood there for a moment, deciding that I deserved to feel Good without guilt or anxiety. I'd hit some lows the week before and I'd learned some lessons. I'd waited long and patiently for this baby and for the spring.

So I gathered presence around me and I breathed it in and I knew it: the best is yet to come. I could learn how to move comfortably within my natural state of joy. Instead of aching along with society, I could take my birth right and use it to weave light into the dark places.

My joints loosened and I noticed the moss on the edges of the stairs like a decorative trim. I took the next step and emerged out of the shade. Sun flooded my eyeballs as if to say, yes.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson

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Spring Intentions

As winter softens into spring, each day stretching longer than the last, I have created an on-going list of my intentions for the season. To me, intentions embody both goals and fresh ways of thinking. New perspectives and new practices.

I love to celebrate the beginning and end of each season by articulating my intentions. This practice helps me to feel more connected to the earth and rooted in my values.

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(If any of these intentions resonate with you and you'd like to join me, please let me know!)

1. Family always comes first. Mothering is enough.

I don't need to be a famed author or a wealthy entrepreneur to be joyful. Yes, I need to write and I need to create, but the end result is irrelevant as long as I am doing what I love.

On the other hand, when it comes to mothering, the fruits of my labor mean everything: the happiness of my kids. It doesn't matter how prolific I am on a day to day basis as long as my family is happy.

I wrote this intention because I have days when I feel like I'm not doing or being enough. I would like to revise this belief: I am caring for my children every day, and that is always enough.

2. Write when you can. Don't feel like you must.

See #1.

Writing is like an addiction, and though it can sometimes interfere with my relationships (like all addictions, I'd venture to say), it's better than many of the alternatives. I set this intention because I want to be easier on myself; free to enjoy my life rather than obsessing over the next opportunity to get to the keyboard.

3. Cultivate inspiration. Live an inspired life.

Take walks. Sit in the sunshine. Draw pictures. Notice small beauties. Experiment in the kitchen. Talk to people. Ask questions. Read good books and good blogs. Make lists (see #5). Write poetry. Pick flowers. Brainstorm pitches. Make pitches. Window shop. Talk to trees. Stare at the sky. Play outside.

4. Love yourself. Know your potential.

Take nothing for granted.

Remember achievements of the past, appreciate the perfection of the present, and dream big for the future.

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5. Take notes. Don't expect the brain to hold it all.

This has been especially helpful for blogging. If I don't write down my ideas and thoughts right as they manifest, they will often fade away, shadowed by more pressing matters. Such as feedings and tea orders and what's for dinner.

6. Blog weekly.

At least once per week. Preferably two. Maybe three. Because I love this creative outlet. And because writing about my life is incredibly cathartic and empowering and enlightening.

7. Drink one green smoothie per day in April.

My friend Jessica posted on Facebook about the 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge and I immediately agreed to do it. I already drink green smoothies on a regular basis, but I was excited to step up the frequency a bit. 8 days in and I fall more in love with green smoothies every day. Someday soon I'll post my current favorite recipe.

8. Exercise 30 minutes per day.  

This one was inspired by the #1800minutechallenge which challenges bloggers to exercise for an average of 30 minutes per day April 1-May 30. Since I am still recovering from childbirth I am pretty liberal with my minutes, counting every thing from easy walking and gentle stretching to cleaning the house with a baby strapped to my chest. Really, at this point, I just want to get back into the exercise habit and figure out how to make it work for this particular season of my life.

9. Connect.

Make plans with friends. Talk to friendly strangers. Schedules dates with James, even if we don't leave the house.

When I choose to venture into social media land, I will not click away without connecting at least once, leaving comments and likes and replies.

Listen to people. Listen deeply to what they're really trying to say. Read between the lines.

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The Home Water Birth of Skyla Winter

“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”

~ Laura Stavoe Harm

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This is the story of the at-home water birth of my daughter, Skyla Winter. The details are intimate and plenty, which I willingly share with the ether in hopes of dispelling the myth that birth is anything but a sacred, empowering and normal physiological process.

Saturday, February 22, 2014 started the way a Saturday should. I slept in and woke up hungry. Two days past my due date, my hunger had escalated. My belly stretched and my stomach grumbled.

Still, I was happy. I practiced patience. I dressed in a tight shirt to savor my bump and we headed off to breakfast at our favorite neighborhood cafe then to a park with big trees where I sat in the car while James and Giovanna braved the Seattle rain. After that we went downtown to the shopping district to make a return, and then to the Central Library to read children’s books. By then I had become very aware that the Braxton Hicks contractions were not slowing down as they usually did, but speeding up. I hoped, but I didn’t count on anything. They could stop at anytime.

At home I had the urge to clean, a sign of impending labor but nothing I took seriously since I’d been feeling this way for a while. I’d grown a bit obsessive about keeping the house as tidy as possible. I wanted to bring my baby into a neat and peaceful environment rather than a cluttered and chaotic space. I couldn’t control when she came, but I could try to be ready for her. Even if it made me slightly batty.

As I moved through the house the Braxton Hicks became tighter and more frequent. I took a break, lying down to see if they would stop. They didn’t. Around 6 pm they were coming every 3-4 minutes. Not painful but slightly uncomfortable, a hard gripping in my center. An hour later, when they still hadn’t slowed and after I’d confirmed with my friend (and former doula!) that her second labor had started like this, I sent text messages to my midwife, my doula, Giovanna’s birth buddy and my mom. Just a heads up, I said. It could happen tonight, it could not. My midwife agreed, they could change or they could stop. And so I put Giovanna to sleep in her bed, I sat on the birthing ball, I read, and I waited. When the contractions did slow down I ignored my disappointment and drifted off to sleep.

By the time I woke up I was joined in bed by both James and Giovanna. I went to the bathroom and while slipping back under the covers I felt a small gush of fluid in my underwear. Similar in size to the gush I felt when my water broke during my first birth, but without the accompanying pop nor the subsequent blood. I checked the time. 11:30 PM. I investigated, smelling and feeling and pondering. If my water had broken, I needed to know. I’d tested positive for Group B Strep, a normal bacteria in healthy adults but one that causes infection in (1 in 250) babies as they pass through the birth canal. When antibiotics are given the risk decreases to 1 in 4000. I needed to get the antibiotics sooner rather than later if it was, in fact, my water that had broken. I sat on the birth ball and swayed my hips and wondered if the contractions would start on their own, like they did my first time around. If they didn’t, what would I do? How would I know?

My prayers were answered. I’ve never been so happy to welcome pain. The contractions started 20-30 minutes after I’d felt the leak. Cramping so slight I didn’t know for sure that it was real. I waited. I moved the air purifier from Giovanna’s bedroom into our bedroom and turned it up to drown out any potential noise. I gathered my candles. I set up the iPod speakers. The cramps became more apparent and they were coming about every 3 minutes. At 12:33 AM I paged my midwife, I woke up James and I alerted the rest of my birthing team. When my midwife, Chenelle, called back I told her that I thought my water had broken but I wasn’t completely sure because the leak was so small and there had been no pop or blood like before. But regardless, I was feeling crampy at regular intervals. She agreed that it was probably my water and she would come right over.

This was happening. I didn’t need to swallow my excitement.

Solveig, who lives close by, arrived first to my candle lit lavender oasis. Solveig would be my doula. She is not just my doula but also my soul sister and the soccer teammate of my 10 year-old self and the classmate of my high school self (one year we had 5 out of the 7 classes together) and the sorority sister/roommate of my college self--among many other things. She probably couldn’t even tell I was in labor. The contractions were mild enough that I could easily talk through them. My midwife, Chenelle, arrived at 1:15 AM and began to move in all of her supplies. Her assistant, Marquita, a midwifery student, arrived 5 minutes later. When asked, Chenelle said she would not check the dilation of my cervix, not then and probably not at all. I had done this before we would follow the cues of my body.

My body was in charge. It was my body that would get the baby out. Alone but very much not alone.

A few minutes later came Jenna, who would take care of Gigi should she wake up (hence the term birth buddy). I grew up with Jenna, we’ve been best friends since the first day of sixth grade, inseparable until we graduated from high school, still inseparable in spirit. In middle school we created an alter ego of our combined personalities. Her name was LUNA, the LU from Lucy and the NA from Jenna. Our adolescent selves had no idea this is the spanish word for moon. Now, well over 15 years later, there we were. About to welcome my child by the light of the moon.

James had started filling up the birthing tub by using a hose connected to the shower and also by boiling water on the stove. Jenna went to work to help him and Solveig played with my hair to help me relax. Everyone knew just what to do, just what I needed. I played my birthing playlist at a low volume and we spoke in loud whispers and I crossed my fingers that Gigi, separated from us by a door, would sleep though it. I knew Jenna would take good care of her if she did awaken, and maybe drive her to Grammy’s house if she wanted to go, but I also didn’t want my girl to lose a night’s sleep. Losing sleep can throw off a little person for weeks.

And so I labored like that for a few hours though it felt like only one hour. Eventually I moved off the ball, searching for a better position, a position that would allow me to relax more fully between contractions. I started to get the shakes and I needed to manage them. During my first labor I didn’t get shakey until transition (the period right before pushing) which made the most painful stage nearly unbearable. Of course the whole thing is nearly unbearable yet you bear it anyways. Because what choice do you have? No matter what you do, those rushes keep coming to take you away. There’s no escaping.

It took every ounce of concentration, focus scraped from the deepest caverns of my physical body, to smooth out the tremors. Even breathing and long exhales helped. If I lost focus for a moment, my limbs responded with twitches and tremors. There was no time to think about the pain, there was time only to breathe. I alternated between wide-legged child’s pose and all-fours. Solveig waved lavender essential oil under my nose and applied pressure to my lower back during the contractions which worked some kind of magic.

As Marquita approached to take the fetal heart rate once again and I moved onto the edge of the bed, I felt a pop in my uterus. It was strange and alarming. I told Chenelle but she wasn’t concerned. I went to the bathroom, said hi to Jenna in the hall, and there it was, the first sign of blood, my cervix opening.

After this, everything sped up. Moaning through the contractions helped me to cope, as did Solveig’s encouragement by moaning along with me. James hovered in the background, coming in to give Solveig a break and then receding back into the shadows. While some women rely on their partners completely for labor support, I feel most comfortable having my husband present for emotional support but not responsible for helping me to manage the pain. I need a professional for that, specifically a woman who has studied labor and childbirth. And I recommend that every pregnant mother hires a doula. These women provide invaluable expertise and morale. They remind you that birth works. I know I would have survived my births without the presence of my doulas, but would I have looked back upon them with such fond memories? Would they have gone so smoothly, so quickly? I can never know, but I do know that I love my doulas and I am forever grateful to them for being with me--and James--as we welcomed our children.

I digress.

Marquita gave me permission to get into the birthing tub at about 3:45 AM (see a photo of the tub at the bottom of this page). They had me waiting as to make sure the water did not slow the process. After the next contraction my clothes came off and I submerged my body in warm water, not unlike my baby submerged in the warmth of my womb. I found myself floating up and down with each contraction, moving with the rhythm of the mysterious force that rippled through my body, squeezing my baby down towards the earth. Solveig held me through each rush, her arms hooked under my shoulders so that I could let every muscle relax, every muscle but my uterus which seemed to have harnessed every unit of life force in Creation. I became aware of a clenching in my rear end which was exactly what I knew not to do. How can a baby come through if you fight the opening? Immediately I let it go. Through the thick of the pain, I focused on softness and allowing.

Though the water was merely body temperature, the power tearing through my core generated heat, escalating my discomfort. A cold wash cloth on my forehead soothed and calmed. As did Solveig’s words: you’re doing such a good job, mama. And the quiet presence of James, bearing all the reverence for birth a man should have. The shakes had finally dissolved, swallowed by the smooth caress of water, an element essential to making life.

I made a life, her flesh and blood built with my flesh and blood, and the water would help me to welcome her.

The contractions worked me, turned me inside out. Some of them came right on top of each other. The pain turned me into a wild animal, living purely in the moment. I wasn’t thinking of the prize at the end and I had no way of knowing how close we were. I did not know it, but I was in transition.

When I felt my baby’s head descend down the birth canal, I said, I can feel her coming. And Solveig said that’s right, she knows what to do. Recalling those words brings tears to my eyes. My baby knew where to go just as my body knew how to make her; my doula knew what to say and my midwife knew what to do.

On the next contraction I felt her come lower, which was both frightening and promising. I'd anticipated this stage the most, this homestretch, this opening of my body. It would all be over soon. I could think like a human again, I could foresee the future. A future that included this tiny person emerging from my loins.

Spontaneous pushing began. There was no stopping my body from bearing down, the urge uncontrollable, and like God, greater than myself. I remembered this feeling well from my first labor, but unlike my first labor in the hospital where the nurse checked me before I was allowed to keep pushing, no one questioned my body’s lead. (And I did not tear in either birth, which is more likely when we push in response to the natural urge rather than when directed.) I told them, I’m pushing. This began at 4:20 according to the labor flow sheet. Chenelle appeared on the other side of the tub and I felt so much gratitude for her smiling face and her capable hands ready to catch my baby.

With my baby on the brink of life outside of my body, my body stretching to accommodate her passage, I felt the power of the universe pushing its way through me. And it wasn’t painful in the way you might imagine it to be, but rather it was momentous. My pelvis opening to its edge, my baby’s life hinging on my ability to push her through. But I couldn’t push without the help of the contractions. Waiting for the next rush, with my baby’s head engaged in my pelvis, I asked aloud, where is the next one? Those few seconds between stretched and stretched, like my perineum.

I wanted her out. Chenelle could see her head. She felt for a cord around the neck and announced no cord. I reached down and felt for her head. I pushed and I grunted and I spread my legs and held my thighs and I used my abdominals as I had been mentally and physically and spiritually preparing to use them for months.

When Chenelle said, you’re going to get her out on the next contraction, I knew I had to make it true. I gave it everything I had, and then I gave it more than I thought I had in me. Motherhood seems to often require us to give more than we think we have, doesn’t it? We find ourselves continually surprised by our own capacity, leading us to the question: what else is possible?

And then, at 4:34 AM on Sunday, February 23, 2014, the rest of her head broke free into the water and her little body slipped out. In my excitement I reached down to grab my baby from Chenelle’s hands, and when I pulled her up to my chest, perhaps too quickly, the cord broke. It broke! The cord was too short to bring her past my belly and I broke it. Chenelle clamped it shut with her fingers and called to Marquita in an urgent tone for a clamp. I had wanted to keep the cord attached until it stopped pulsing but this no longer mattered. All that mattered was that we were both okay. And we were.

I held her squirming little body and marveled at her pink rosebud lips. She didn’t cry and I like to think she didn’t cry because she knew she was in the arms of her mama. Marquita slipped a hat on her head and they covered us in towels. Eventually they helped me out of the tub and sat me on the birthing stool where I pushed out the placenta and the midwives pushed on my uterus to help it contract. I knew that it hurt somewhere, but I barely felt a thing. My baby was here.

My baby is here.

Some other things I’d like to note:

Everything sped up like crazy once I heard that “pop” while moving around during a contraction. Proof positive that labor goes quicker when the mother is not confined to one position.

My sweet Giovanna slept through the entire birth and did not wake until 7 AM! She is a light sleeper and rarely sleeps through the night even at 4 years old (hence the trip from her bed to our bed), but the white noise from the air purifier kept her in a peaceful slumber. Now she tells people: when I waked up, the baby was born! 

When I went past my due date, I practiced trusting my body and my baby, I knew that she would come at the perfect moment. And she did.

Jessica of Jessica May Photography recorded the hours right after Skyla’s birth, including the moment Gigi emerged from sleep to meet her baby sister, and I am so thrilled to share some of them with you. So stay tuned for the next post.

At-home birthing tub

Giovanna's beautiful bedroom transformed into my birthing suite.

Please comment below or reach out via email (lucy [at] lucilleinthesky [dot] com) with any questions you may have about giving birth in the water or at home or with the help of a midwife and doula. If you live in the greater Seattle area and are interested in using my midwife or doula for your own prenatal care and birth, I highly recommend both of them and would love to pass along their contact information.