Birth of Shahmar Natshi
Nearly every single client I have served this year, has experienced something new and unusual to them- prodromal labor. The rate of occurrence I have seen has doubled since the year of covid. I don't know if its mere correlation, or if there is something tied into the illness and birth patterns. In our birth communities we have also seen higher variations of placenta abnormalities post covid. It is interesting to note.
This birth, like many of the others I attended this year started with a casual text about some mild cramping. Nothing too bad, not consistent, mama thought labor was a far ways off still. I struggled between the urge to rush to her side, and patiently wait her communication more than I usually do for several reasons.
1- Prodromal labor can last for weeks. It comes and goes, it gets strong, it stays mild, its unpredictable. Prodromal labor is real labor, but it stretches out over time. It is more intense then Braxton hicks, and does dilate and prep your body in ways that Braxton hicks does not. It makes it difficult to tell when real labor is. It can hold strong patterns. This mama had been enduring it for over a week now.
2- This was a mama of many. She knew her body, and as a student midwife, she knew birth. Her instincts told her it would be quite a while before the actual birth, she was thinking the next day. This made me want to wait.
3- I was about an hour and 40 minutes away. This made me want to leave sooner rather than later.
Balancing a mothers instinct (hers) with my own instincts and experince, is always a fine line. Mama texted me around 2pm. This was the second text of the day, it was only an hour and a half later than the first text. It read: "they are getting stronger, you may want to come."
I was grateful to have had already started that way. I waited a bit after the first text, eventually deciding it would be better to be in the area at least. As soon as I got the second text, I headed to her house from wherever I was at the time. I arrived, and alas, mother was embracing her infant, they were wrapped up in bed together.
Though I missed the moment of birth, I didn't miss any of the excitement afterwords. Or any of the tenderness, any of the awe. Mama was amazed at her body, and at the strange pattern of her birth. Her contractions never followed a pattern, they came and went for stretches of time, up until the moment she was pushing. Baby was born into his fathers loving arms.
My tears are welled up in remembrance. This woman, this family, touches a place in my soul that is deep and spiritual and tender.
This mother and I, we have worn many of the same paths. We intended more then once to travel them together, but seem to just miss eachother in timing. Always coming together afterwords for closure and communion. It feels like a dance that was quite meant to be.
The first time I was hired to document a birth for this mama, I had begun a labor of my own the moment she went into labor. It was my birthday. I had woken up that morning with a spirit upon me. I knew two things without being told.
-I wasn't going to make it to her birth, which would be soon, and
-I was going to loose my baby. I was 12 weeks along, and my grandmother passed away the day before. The day after, I flew to her funeral. That week while grieving and burying my grandmothers memory, I also gave birth to my own baby who had passed away in my own womb.
This mama, gave birth to her beautiful living baby in the comfort of her home during that same span of time.
The next time our paths crossed, she was expecting again and we met in her home. I documented a beautiful intimate maternity session/falling water session for her at 38 weeks along. We soaked in sunlight and prayer and laughter and friendship and water. We parted expecting to hold space with eachother again within days. I was home awaiting her call, knowing she would birth soon, hoping I would attend this time.
As I walked through my home preparing my camera bag and such, my hope dropped suddenly and I dropped to my bed holding my heart. I was touched by a spirit. I knew again without being told, two things.
-Something was wrong, and
-I wouldn't be attending her birth.
This time though, she was the one loosing her baby. I began to sob, seconds later I received a text from her confirming, letting me know. Her baby had passed away, and there was nothing anyone could have done. There was no reason. One day, his heart just stopped.
Unable to do anything but send her love, and offer my services if they decided they wanted them, I took space and time to grieve silently while she faced a journey no mother should have to face. A journey I know I could not stop with all the will in my heart.
Our griefs mingled, our paths intertwined again and again, sharing sentiments and tea and conversations. Holding space apart and together, for ourselves and one another.
Then, one morning, while we were sharing our stories over breakfast, and talking about our babies, who's names we always long to hear; she told me that she was expecting again. The mixture of intense joy and grief here, is palatable. Like butterscotch and chocolate. I can taste it even now. For a pregnancy after loss tastes, feels, and is- so unique. Heavy, victorious, and new.
She carried the grief and the weight of parenting a child she could not hold again, with the joy and relief of carrying another child who would be born healthy and well.
Our world and our future lays in the arms and on the backs of the dear brave mothers in our world. I feel so fortunate and honored to be trusted to witness and document their stories.
Documenting these moments, of hope and blessing, is healing for me. This birth especially. I sat next to her, observed in her space, and we shared knowing glances. She looked at me, and I could feel it all. All of the grief, all of the joy, all of the relief and the emotion. All of the everlasting journey that stands outside of time. The weight of this joy was heavy and deep and real. I am so glad I was able to be there in this tender ethereal postpartum moment.
The grief of their previous loss impacted every soul in their house. It touched the lives of mother, father, and all of the siblings from toddlers to teenagers. They smiled now, they laughed, they tended and cared for the new baby and the freshly postpartum mother. Her birth attendants were gentle and wise. Not all of her children were present but the ones that were were curious and asked brilliant questions.
The father doted over his child, rocking back and forth smiling and cradling the treasured moment and child. He whispered to him in Hebrew, and whispered the word "shalom" over and over. Shalom, shalom.
This is a word that people from different cultures use for various reasons. It has been with me in my walk of faith, learned and gifted to me on a spiritual trip to Israel with my husband years ago.
For this family, it was a tender greeting and a daily word of blessing for their family and their faith.
Shalom means, go with peace. Peace be with you. Grow in peace.
And so, I pray they always shall. <3
Here are just a few beautiful moments form their ever unfolding journey.