Midwife in Morocco!: Birth Story

Lila Canela Fina Tazi born at home in water Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 4:03 p.m. 7 lb. 7 oz (3.5 kg) and 20 inches long Wow! I can't believe that I am already writing the birth story! What an amazing day! Sadek's father predicted that today would be the day the baby would be born-- he was right! The three of us had an amazing Friday and Saturday together, and I felt our relationship as midwife and family really reached a new level of trust and connection. I had been planning to stay overnight Saturday at their house, but got invited to a party in Dar Bouazza, so adjusted my plan to go back to the beach. I joked with Aurelia and Sadek, that often when I have a party I want to go to, someone goes into labor and so that this was a good sign! They drove me to the mosque on the edge of the city and Jess picked me up there and we all kissed goodbye, promising to call the next morning before I went with Jess to El Jadida (a town about an hour south of Dar Bouazza) on Sunday morning to make sure no contractions were happening.

Sure enough, the midwife at the party mojo worked! Contractions and a small gush of fluid started around 3:30 am. But the contractions were about 15 minutes apart to start and so Aurelia rested in bed between them. They got closer but continued to be on the short side and of light-moderate intensity until dawn. She called me around 8 am to share the news and make sure I didn't head out of town! We chatted a bit on the phone and agreed it was too early for me to come and to check back in a couple hours and to go outside for a walk. Around 11:00 am we spoke again and contractions had spaced out a bit to every 10 minutes but were getting stronger and longer-- good signs! I suggested they eat a good lunch, try to rest and touch base in an hour or two. At 1 p.m. we talked again and things were still moving forward. We agreed I wouldn't rush up there but would start making my way to check in on the baby, get my things set up and etc. Aurelia had been listening to the baby with the fetoscope I had left with her and she was moving a lot and doing great. I had commented that often things don't really pick up until dark sets in, especially for first time moms so had emphasized the need to rest and eat and be patient.

I updated Trish and we agreed to leave in an hour or so. I went for a short walk on the beach and was in the midst of my third sun salutation when the phone rang again and I knew that it was time to go. Sure enough Sadek said that the contractions had really intensified and could I please come now. Of course! I loaded my things in Amine's car as Amine had taken the kids to his mother's with Trish's car. Somehow, Trish thought that she had a copy of the key to their second car, but upon trying it realized it was actually an old key to a car they no longer have! We didn't have a key to the car-- visions of taking a taxi blanca-- the crazy long distance taxi's that go up and down the road ran through my head, and my adrenaline started pumping. Every birth needs a little drama. Luckily our neighbor Jess had no plans since we had been planning to go to El Jadida together, so he let us use his car (a very cool little BMW- thanks Jess!). We were on our way!

We arrived shortly after 2 pm to find Aurelia in active labor and Sadek filling up the birth pool. I had brought the UK "Birth Pool in a Box" inflatable tub that I had rented from Mothering & More in Reading, and this would be the first birth I had used that tub. Per as usual, the task of filling the tub and managing the hot and cold water balance, pots on the stove, etc. was a bit distracting and kept dad busy for a bit. Sadek asked when I thought the baby would come and I answered truthfully that I didn't know, maybe in 3 hours, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow morning. My feeling was that this was going very fast, but I've been fooled before so I certainly knew better than to make predictions! Aurelia was doing so beautifully--positively glowing, walking through the contractions, breathing, and sometime lying on her side in bed. I did a little massage to help her remember to relax her shoulders and she realized that the cold of my hands (cold hands-warm heart!) felt good so we started using a cool cloth on her shoulders and face and head which proved to be very useful for the rest of the labor.

The contractions were coming about every 3-4 minutes at this point and were quite strong-getting stronger each time. Aurelia was saying "I love the breaks!" and radiantly smiling, knowing the day was here when she was to meet her baby! As the strength of the contractions increased, and it very much looked to me like she was approaching transition, she started moaning a bit more and I think Sadek started to get a little worried, as very often happens around this point for the father. Trish (who was our lady in waiting in the kitchen in case I or we needed help) and I both assured him that all was normal and Aurelia was doing beautifully! Aurelia was so present- so in the present moment with each breath, using her breath as her guide, vocalizing low and open sounds like she had learned in yoga, in her pregnancy singing classes, that we had practiced together.

It was such an honor to witness. After the birth, she commented that last night she really tried to just let go and accept and surrender to the baby coming when she was ready. We had been talking a good amount about the balance between letting the baby know she was ready and could come, and not feeling like she was forcing it. She said she just consciously let go of wanting it to happen now-- of wanting me to get to travel, to stop keeping the secret of the homebirth from her family, to stop feeling impatient for the baby to arrive, etc. and trust that it would all unfold when and how it was supposed to! This was such a great lesson in how letting go of trying to control or force something allows it to just flow into your life.

Though the tub was only half full, I suggested Aurelia get in while we continued to fill it as things were building very quickly and I thought it might help take the edge off the pain and intensity. She loved the tub and we continued to fill it with very hot and then cold water until a point that I felt it would be fine if the baby was born there as I didn't want Sadek to be distracted anymore with that task. Aurelia was handling the fairly continuous flow of contractions amazingly well. Brightly smiling as each rush began to wane, wide-eyed and glowing in between. Sadek was behind her outside the tub for now, giving love and words of support and I was in front of her, helping her ground with eye contact and helping her bring her vocalizations lower and deeper. She said she felt very safe and surrounded by love with me in the front and Sadek in the back. After a couple particularly intense contractions, something shifted and it seemed that her body started to push a bit. She was on her knees, hips wide open working with gravity, opening for her baby, Wawita (their pet name for the baby in utero- that Aurelia learned as a name for baby when she lived in Chile) She was so in tune with exactly where the baby was the what the different sensations she was feeling were--for a first time mom this was pretty incredible.

After a half hour or so, I suggested Sadek get in the tub-- partly to allow him to be closer to the experience, partly to help physically support Aurelia and partly because I knew he would help bring the water up to a level I'd feel more comfortable with for the actual birth! Once he got in the tub, it became clear that Aurelia's body was spontaneously pushing. And she loved it-- she felt here baby moving down, felt her body working! We moaned and ohm-ed through the contractions together and gazed deeply into each other's eyes (Monique, if you are reading this, it was very much like at your birth--gazing into the eyes of the eternity of women who had given birth through the ages), I was smiling at her nodding, saying "this is bringing your baby, don't be afraid, you are doing it, your baby is going to be born soon". Thankfully I had brought my new underwater flashlight, so I could easily see what was going on. Aurelia had the natural instinct to give some counter-pressure at the top of her labia, and could feel the baby's head bulging. At one point I reached down to feel the baby's head right there and assure her everything was all right-- that was the closest we came to any vaginal exam.

Within 10 minutes of sensing the shift of her body pushing, we started to see the baby's head--I shared with them "your baby has black hair!", which was very exciting for mama and papa. Aurelia had changed from a hands and knees squat to sitting back semi-reclined towards Sadek. The baby was coming and she knew it! With each contraction I could see more of the baby's head through her labia, more of the hair peeking out. With Sadek supporting her from behind, I offered reassurance that all was okay and that she was doing this beautifully and did not need to be afraid. Every contraction ended with a deep breath and a smile--Aurelia has a smile and radiance that lit up the room, it was such a gift to be sitting right in front of her as she gave birth. As she felt the baby coming down with each contraction and then retreating between, I explained that soon the baby would stay down in between contractions and then be born, and that she was stretching beautifully and this was giving her perineum a chance to stretch around the baby's head. As she and Sadek had recently started doing perineal massage, she understood those sensations. The whole baby's head was bulging in her perineum-- it was a perfect birth video "live". After the birth, Aurelia commented that she was so happy we had watched several birth videos together, including some that very closely showing the actual crowning and birth as it helped her visualize what was happening and understand what her body was doing.

The crown of fire began and this little being was about to join us! She was stretching beautifully and with one last push, the crowning of the head, eyes, nose, mouth. I reached in to check for the cord, and there was a loop around the neck that I couldn't reduce over the head so I just held it over the shoulder- which was presenting within 20 seconds of the head being born. And then, came the baby! The cord was around the neck, under and around the arm and around the trunk of the body, thick, pulsating and beautiful. I tumbled the baby out of the cord and brought placed the baby on her mama! It was 4:03 p.m. on January 21, 2007.

Wawita was completely covered in thick white vernix-- more than I have seen on a baby, especially a baby at term, in a long, long time, making her look even more new, a creature from the spirit world not yet fully transitioned to our realm. It was amazing to see her unfold and transform over the next hours into her full baby self. (Sadek kept remarking through the evening--"She's changed!" "She's changed again!" It was so sweet.) Such a fast and intense labor--everything happened so quickly I think we were all a bit stunned. Could it be true? The baby was born ten days after my arrival, after we had connected and bonded and belly casted, baby was born in the tub with Sadek in the water with her, with lovely music playing (which I found out afterwards was shamanic music from Peru that was very special to Aurelia), diffuse late afternoon light, the fire in the fireplace. It was all as we had visualized and hoped for, but had done our best not to be attached to and it has manifested that way! Amazing! Baby in her arms, with wide present eyes and an even bigger smile, Aurelia explored her little baby. After a few minutes she looked at my kind of tripped out and blissed out and said that she couldn't really feel present, that so much energy was coarsing through her. I told her not to worry, just breath and do whatever she needed, that she would come back to earth soon enough.

I ran out to the kitchen to "tell" Trish that the baby was born. She of course had heard everything and was sitting in the kitchen with tears in her eyes. She came in to meet the baby for a couple minutes soon as Sadek and Aurelia thanked her for all her help and support. This little pink flower, Lila, continued to blossom and unfold before our eyes. She gazed wide-eyed up at her mama, and was so calm and content, reacting to her parents voices and singing, taking this whole birth thing in slowly and peacefully. Her cord was pulsing strongly for over 10 minutes.

If there is anything I am proud about in this experience, it was my excellent multi-tasking as midwife and birth photographer. While I didn't get the actual birth since I had to catch the baby, I got some great shots during labor and immediately after the birth. Within minutes of the birth, Sadek and Aurelia were singing their welcome song to the baby, whose pet name on the outside became Canela Fina "the best cinnamon". "Hola Wawita, bienvenida, Canela Fina" and I tried the video function on my digital camera for the first time since Christmas day and shot a very sweet 45 seconds of this family discovering each other, loving each other, honoring the birth of their beautiful family with the music from Peru in the background. There had been some bleeding right at the birth, which in the tub looks like a lot (like food coloring in water) but all within normal. After a half-hour, I cut the cord and we planned to have Aurelia squat next to the tub to birth the placenta which has separated. Sadek held his little girl skin to skin and brought her to the bedroom and Aurelia birthed the placenta once I promised her that it really, really, wouldn't feel like the baby being born! The placenta plopped out and mama joined baby in the bedroom. It was an interesting placenta-- I forgot to take a photo after I examined it and put it in the freezer-- it had an extra area extending in to the sack from the main disc, kinda like a stem off an apple or strawberry. But it was all there and very healthy.

The baby latched right away in the bedroom. Calls to family disclosing the exciting news as well as the home waterbirth were made to Sadek and Aurelia's parents and siblings. Trish and I laughed as we heard them explain in French-- "no we are not at the clinic. The baby was born in water at home. We had a sage femme (midwife in French) extrodinaire!" All were excited, if a bit taken aback by the news of the location and manner of the birth. Aurelia's father put their sentiments best when he said, "It sounds like it was wonderful and beautiful and I'm so glad I didn't know about it beforehand." Aurelia was a perfect example of the sentiment that "women birth as they live." Her approach to life is peaceful, aware, present, creative and beautiful and that was all reflected in her approach to the pregnancy, her openness to the journey with this little being, her beauty and grace during labor and trust in her body and her baby.

What a gorgeous vision of love and family union to behold--and what a contrast to what is available to women here, even more stark than what I feel when I'm at a birth in the U.S. Trish remarked later-- how sad that this will probably be the only baby born at home (planned) in Casablanca this year. It would have been so wrong for this birth to have taken place in a clinic here--it just couldn't have happened, and Aurelia's deep, clear knowing of that is what got a midwife she never met from Philadelphia to come to Morocco to help her safely fulfill her vision of a different way to birth her baby. Of course, it is only because they have considerable resources that this was able to happen, but I have no doubt that this mama is going to spread the word and do the work over time of helping to create options for women here...I've already encouraged her to think about how to start teaching childbirth classes once her baby is a bit older-- she has a gift, great intuition and instincts and such a passion and belief in her body and all women's bodies to give birth--perhaps she will become a midwife herself?

vamos a ver...