Part One: The Backstory and Pregnancy
The Flow was unmistakable. Sometimes I just can’t question these things, no matter how they may appear on the outside. But when the Divine is guiding and my hands are up, the spirits/God/Source (whatever label) always seem to come up with a genius plan that I never would have even dreamt up.
Campbell’s waterbirth story was no exception.
The intention had been out there, since I was a little girl. I always wanted kids (yet somehow I questioned whether the “family/partner” part would be in the stars for me.)
Maybe it was growing up with divorced parents, maybe it was my fear of being inadequate – but either way, I knew I would have children, and hoped I would fall in love – in that order.
My twenties were spent well, in my opinion. After a couple years of college, partying, and scratching the insatiable “wild life” itch, I quickly began an inner exploration process – just fascinated with the unknown “out there” and “in here.”
I was unhappy, and first and foremost, before I tried to satisfy my love of learning with another expensive level of higher education, I decided to embark on the soul journey I deeply desired.
It started with psychotherapy (with a hypno twist), which led me to spirituality, which led me to metaphysics/new age, to Inner Visions (Iyanla Vanzant’s intensive two-year foundational program that changed everything), to Shamanic Healing Institute and Paul Sivert (which initially brought me to Peru), and out into the Ayahuasca Medicine of the Amazon.
There, I fell in love with the spirits and my True Self, releasing the remaining extra weight (I had been up to 230 lbs at one point) and diving into the darkness of inner demons to move them out of the way – all with the intention of sweet freedom – to be who I am, walking in True Self and Life Purpose (which, for me, involves helping others do the same thing.)
About three years ago, I started getting strong intuitive hits that there would be a baby soon. At the time I was dating Luco (in Peru), and we kept having visions of potential children, so I assumed the obvious that this baby would come through him.
I felt a strong pull to take out the Inter Uterine Device (IUD) I had keeping conception under control, the message being “let go and stop micromanaging this, it’s time”.
What I didn’t know was that Luco and my relationship would be gradually coming to an end, and the message wasn’t for the children we once saw together (real spirits who exist, but only in the Spirit World). It would be for someone who caught me totally and familiarly off-guard.
I spend a significant chunk of 2009 and 2010 doing “relationship emotional purging” (mostly high school junk that had skewed my image of myself, leading to attractions and choices that perpetuated those false beliefs.) After all the time in Peru (working on/through relationship stuff in the Medicine with Luco, I had discovered how deep the rabbit hole of issues really went.
I had always written this stuff off as “high school bullshit”, and judged it as superficial and petty. I was deeply mistaken. Love is where we are the most vulnerable, and closest to Divine. It’s the scariest, most amazing, “closest to the sun” part of us.
The ability to open up the doors to love of another person (forcing us to actively release our fear that it might go away someday) allows us that same level of love/trust in the Divine (since they really are one and the same.)
I basically realized that my “boy troubles” were more like “letting in the Divine” troubles. Much deeper than I thought. In fact, the deepest I had ever been down the rabbit hole.
It was a long process, I won’t lie (and I was doing the accelerated Medicine version, with active intentional purging.) But it takes as long as it takes, as Iyanla would say. Can’t skip steps in the Life Apprenticeship. Only direction to meet the intention is through.
So I kept going, doubting myself the entire way (thinking that these belief systems were so ingrained in me, that there was no way I could release them and somehow actually manifest the type of partnership I was looking for.)
Not Meant to Fly
Fast forward to summer, 2011. I had been trying to sneak out to Flagstaff to surprise one of my best friends out there, but for some reason the Universe just wasn’t having it.
There was only one weekend I could have made it, and there was glitch after glitch with the flight, etc. So clearly blocked that I remember consciously thinking, “This is just not meant to be. I wonder if something important will happen that weekend.”
So I went to a Future show (one of my best friends’ band whom I deeply love to rock out to whenever they’re in town.) An old friend was there – a nice surprise. We had been friends for about thirteen years, since high school when we worked together at a local hardware store. I remember the show clearly.
He was floating in and out (I was getting hit on that night by a couple people – must have been something in the air – so he kept a safe distance but never disappeared.) Something clicked that night – a long time coming as we’ve had a couple of close calls.
Try and See
But an energetic door opened – to the point I apparently was talking about him to my friend on the ride home. The next day he was driving by my Dad’s house at the same time I happen to call him. Something was brewing after all these years. After a couple of lengthy conversations, we decided to “try it and see.”
By the end of the summer, we had enjoyed our new relationship honeymoon phase (interspersed with fear-based, knee-jerk flare ups coming from my moving closer to the sun than I’d ever been). He stood strong through my emotional whirlwinds and purges (which I had warned him may happen).
This was a new phenomenon for me, as I actively decided to try dating someone who had all the pieces of what I wanted in a relationship, including the emotional availability, physical proximity, and lifestyle that matched mine. This went again my ego’s mechanism to date at arm’s length, hence the freak-outs that continued to pop here and there.
I was called by the Medicine spirits out to Peru for a couple of weeks, where I was given a lot of healing and information about embracing my new future with him (and working through these fears.) I came back strong and clear, ready to embark on a new level with him emotionally.
I invited him to come on family vacation to the beach in August soon after Peru. It was a beautiful time. Cut a little short because of the hurricane, but relaxed, full of love and bonding. Four days of sweet enjoyment of each other’s company.
Once We Gave Permission…
We had a conversation as to whether we were using enough protection. We both felt intuitively that if somehow we got pregnant, we’d be in. Little did we know that during that time, the spirit who had been waiting for us slipped into conception. Literally the next day. A loving, peaceful, beautiful start to a time on Earth, near the water and salt air.
First Trimester was my trial by fire. Emotional rollercoaster fueled by hormones, uncovering real fears and issues I had no choice but to face. Take away my ability to “manage”, and we quickly see what still needs work. Quit smoking, quit drinking – though these were not used in excess, they were still my “go to” ways to chill out. Done in an instant.
Dating for three months to committed for life (at least through the child). Turns out I was the biggest commitmentphobe of all – and all of a sudden my old subconscious defense ego tactics designed to “keep me safe” were out the window.
Can’t run this time Meghan, there’s a child on the way. Fears of losing myself in a “soccer mom/Suzy Housewife” identity went apeshit.
Basically, the Divine held my feet to the fire and allowed all the extra wax protective layers to burn away, leaving me vulnerable and freaked the hell out. But it was time to up my game. The last message I got in ceremony before I left Peru was “prepare for the next level, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
I had done the work I needed to do, worked through the fears, and the hormones had died down. I went back to Peru for a couple of weeks to strengthen and clean up, and got more than I bargained for (including a tough training into holding my own in motherhood in the face of adversity, especially with a lifestyle that goes a bit against the grain.) It was exactly what I needed and then some.
My boyfriend and I had moved in to a townhouse together and were preparing our nest. I was still working (sign language interpreting at the local university – something that was supposed to be a side job that somehow overtook my time more than I’d really wanted.) I was hanging in there, but really done after ten years, praying I could find a way to make money while staying home with my son, and helping people get into True Self and Life Purpose.
The Sunday before Campbell’s due date, I went to Inner Visions Sunday Service. Several ministers held a prayer blessing circle around my womb, preparing and welcoming Campbell into the world.
They loved the name (Campbell being what my boyfriend has wanted to name his firstborn son since he was a child, following his father’s tradition of keeping the CEH initials through the line. Elder, the middle name, was mine. I wanted a strong tree name to ground him, and the Elder tree is sacred in both the sacred and some African traditions, integrating both of our heritages.)
After a beautiful spiritual blessing at Inner Visions, I told Campbell I was ready when he was.
* * * * *
Part Two: The Birth
Wednesday, the night of his due date (a little Taurus baby!) at 10:47pm, I felt a noteworthy “click-click” in my belly, followed immediately by a welling in my lower stomach (as if I had eaten some bad food.)
I looked at my boyfriend in suspense, unsure if this is what a contraction felt like or if I really did just have something strong in the bowels. After trial with no avail, we waited. 20 minutes later, there was another.
We called my mom (since the birth was to be held at her house) but decided to wait awhile before calling the rest of the birth supporters just to make sure this was legit (since it was midnight on a work night.) Ten minutes later, another. Then five, five, five. We were packing the bag when we figured it was time to move – contractions were five minutes apart!
Driving to Mom’s
The ride to Mom’s was perfect. No traffic, very chill. My boyfriend turned it on the gospel channel, which he intuitively knew was the right choice. We breathed through the contractions, hands held, knowing what we were about to embark on. Tears pricked our eyes in anticipation and love. He was coming.
Purge and Prepare
Upon arrival to mom’s I immediately threw up dinner (which continued to be a theme throughout the birth) and cleared more bowels. My body seemed to be purging in preparation. I wanted a bath but the pool wasn’t ready, so my boyfriend and I went upstairs for awhile.
By the time I got downstairs, my Mom, midwife (Tammi), and birthing assistant (Camilla) had set up the birthing pool, my Aunt Allison had lit candles in the fireplace and started the birthing playlist she created for me (ranging from dolphins birthing to Celtic flute music) and my friend Shaela had called in the Four Directions and used sage to smudge and prepare the space spiritually.
My sister-in-law Ramsey would surprise us soon with an arrival. We were ready for this, and good thing, as Campbell had nothing in his way.
Spiritual Ceremony in the Water
Everything started feeling like a dream. A layer of trance-like ether infused my experience from this point on. I attribute this to the hormones that get secreted during natural childbirth (the pain sensory sends messages to the brain to bring on hormones to help manage it, and I imagine part of that is not being so acutely aware of the pain by being in a dreamlike state.)
But also, I can’t call it anything less than a spiritual ceremony, which would account also for a trance-state experience. I had gotten a lot of information while in Peru indicating that the tools, skills and muscles built while apprenticing through hundreds of Ayahuasca ceremonies would significantly enhance my ability to navigate the birthing ceremony, and that’s exactly what happened.
I quickly moved to the birthing pool. It was apparent that while I wanted everyone there (including my dad, stepdad, and brother upstairs, but away from the birthing space) I was not going to be pulling my strength from outside people.
I needed quiet and a strong, supported space to focus and tap into my primal, carnal resources in order to manage what may be one of the most physical challenges a women can face. The lights were dim, the music was soft, my family was strewn and relaxed on the floor, holding space as I walked the path of labor.
Each contraction felt like a welling bubble in my lower abdomen. “Contraction” really doesn’t seem like the right word to me, as it really is the uterus pushing out (not in) in preparation for the head. Some were stronger than others, and they came in waves.
Breathing deeply was my immediate natural response, followed by occasional rhythmic sound releases (almost in “ohm” like chanting as my aunt put it.) I found my most comfortable position was on all fours in the tub, buoyed by the water.
My boyfriend said I looked like a lioness circling (not a surprise, as lion is a power animal for me, and I was definitely tapping into some animal instinct and strength.)
Different midwives have different approaches, and I intentionally chose one who would let my body be in charge (meaning no vaginal exams to see how dilated we were, etc.) Instinct, intuition and physical signs would guide the process, not a person.
In between contractions, I found myself “coming up for air” so to speak. I was hot, mildly nauseous, and so exhausted I wasn’t sure if I was falling asleep and dreaming, or just having visions. Even once the contractions got so close together that the breaks were shorter than the contractions, I would see things, hear things, etc ( I don’t remember the specifics.)
Prayer and Icaros
I do remember praying a lot, and calling in the Medicine and signing Icaros internally. Aunt Allison and Shaela both reported seeing a lot of energy and spiritual activity in the room as well (not a surprise, since it’s a birth!)
At some point, I figure out that if I slightly “pushed back” with my pelvic muscles through the peak of the contraction, that it didn’t hurt as much. It created some kind of counter-pressure relief. In time, I found myself playing with the idea of pushing more, though I was scared to. Then one time, I just did, and felt a huge ball coming through what felt like my sphincter.
Getting Confused and Panicked
“Something’s wrong, he’s not in my vagina!” Discombobulated and confused by the sensations, the midwife reassured me that he was, in fact in the right place. I felt the intensity higher than it had ever been before.
During our Bradley Method childbirth classes, we had learned that one of the telltale signs that you are in what’s called Transition Phase is self-doubt. The utterly common “I can’t do this” yell that most women experience right before their baby starts to crown.
Calvin and I had set up a plan for this. If anything like that comes out of my mouth, remind me that we are in Transition and we’re almost done. With what felt like my asshole stretched out by a giant burning head, exhausted at 5am from contractions, I spat out the key phrase, “I can’t do this!”
My boyfriend leapt into active pose (since until then, I had required quiet and my own space) and give me exactly the encouragement I needed. Tammi and Camilla had moved over to the pool by then (they had been monitoring me from a distance before, shy of an occasional baby heartbeat check.) He suggested I try a squatting position, and I ended up in a halfway one.
I had to re-center emotionally, and mentally prepare for the next push. Birthing is a very present-oriented experience. Once I got my bearings, I rode the next contraction wave into a push, moving his head from the asshole sensation to the vaginal (which, while it hurt, was less confusing for sure!)
Tammi and Camilla started fishing around the pool with little fishnets, searching for feces I didn’t realize I had expelled (I include this in the story because it’s quite normal to poop during birth, and fear of it/holding back can slow people down. No shame! I remember thinking not to hold ANYTHING back, and I’m glad I didn’t!) We were very close now.
Once he had turned the corner, I felt my vagina stretched to what felt like impossible levels. “It’s hot!” I told Tammi. The infamous “Ring of Fire”.
“You’re stretching, good job Meghan,” she replied. “Is his head out? It feels like he’s crowning!” Camilla advised me to reach down and check, and sure as shit, a tiny, slimy, beautiful head full of hair crested out of me. This was it. I took another moment to breathe, center again, and release the fear.
Breathe Him Out
I remember from the HypnoBirthing book that you can “breathe” instead of push. All of a sudden that made sense to me. I was so stretched out that a push would have ripped my girl to shreds. The only thing that made sense in the moment was to breathe, and kind of “massage” his head out with the vaginal muscles.
By now my family was standing in a row, holding hands, anticipating the moment of arrival. I breathed – gently, gradually, in small increments. One, two, three…
Pop! Head is out. “Can he breathe?” I ask Tammi. “Yep, take your time.” “Can’t you just pull him out the rest of the way?” (Again, discombobulated.) My boyfriend responded with the right encouragement, and I began the next round of massaging his body out. One, two, three…
Like a baby dolphin, he slid right out into the water. It was the greatest relief I have ever experienced. I gasped in joy, as the midwife instructed me gently to pick him up out of the water. I reached under and found my little boy, lifting him up.
First Moment Frozen in Time
He opened his eyes, and we stared at each other for a moment frozen in time, in shock and awe of our first face to face meeting. He was absolutely beautiful. All of us held our collective breath in this suspended space.
Soon, Tammi came over and rubbed his back to stimulate his breathing, and he began to clear out his lungs and mucus, followed by his first little cry. The family let out a sigh of relief and joy, as my mom ran upstairs to alert the media. I felt a tear from my boyfriend fall onto my shoulder. Our son had been born.
A gentle, relaxed, peaceful, six-hour entry into Earth. We spent the next hour or two bonding with him, swimming in the goo of a warm, fuzzy, brand new family. The relationship I never thought I could have. The family I never thought I’d be part of. Here we are, basking in our Divine love. And this is just the beginning…
~ Meghan Shannon Elder (@beyond_meghan)
Ayahuasca Preparation and Integration Specialist at Beyond the Ceremony
Accelerated Spiritual Development Coach at Beyond the Whirlwind
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