Mama Bear & the Dream Team Climb a Mountain: The Story of Gabriel’s Birth

mama_bearThis is the story of how Mama Bear and the Dream Team climbed to the top of a mountain, where they met a little angel called Gabriel who had just descended from the Celestial Realms (or Heaven, depending on your preference) to spend some time on Planet Earth.

It was a stormy afternoon, my favorite kind of weather and a good reminder of the forces of nature I would need to embody in order to bring our baby into the world.  I almost bundled up to go for a walk in the rain, but decided I wasn’t quite ready to tap into those Forces of Nature. Instead, I looked out the window at the stunning view of White Buffalo Mountain, blanketed in snow and embraced by clouds, and reminded myself that I was preparing to climb a Mountain.

It was already six days past my due date, but I was finishing up a grant proposal, the last bit of work I needed to do before I could officially go on maternity leave, and waiting for The Dream Team, who would support me during the birth, to assemble. Our Doula, my dear friend Brittany, had flown into Denver from Minnesota that morning and gotten caught in a blizzard while driving the treacherous mountain passes between Denver and Paonia, the small town where we live. “I’ll be so upset if I miss your birth while I’m in the same state!” she had protested when we last spoke on the phone a couple hours earlier. So I decided not to take any chances starting my labor until Brittany had safely arrived.

a_bestiesThe day we found out I was pregnant, Jeremiah and I happened to be in Minnesota visiting Brittany, who is a midwife. Being the wonderful friend that she is, Brittany went out and got me a pregnancy test after I told her I had woken up in the middle of the night with a strong intuition I was pregnant. And when the test came back positive, Brittany gave me a copy of a book called “Spiritual Midwifery,” written by Ina May Gaskin, a midwife at The Farm, an intentional community and birth center in Tennessee.  The Farm midwives were initially virtually self-taught, trusting in the power of mind-body connection and a strong, positive support system to achieve some of the best birth outcomes in the world: a 1.4% C-section rate, no maternal deaths and just 8 neonatal deaths out of 2028 births, and a 1% rate of post-partum depression. These incredible statistics compare to a US national average of a 32% C-section rate, notoriously high maternal mortality for an industrialized country, and a 15% rate of postpartum depression.

Since I’m a bit skeptical of our modern medical system—particularly how it handles birth—and two of my closest friends are midwives, I always assumed I’d have a home birth with one of them delivering the baby. But synchronicity led us to build our nest in Colorado, far away from my midwife friends in Minnesota, and when we settled into our new community and began seeking recommendations for childbirth providers, several women recommended the birth unit at our local rural county hospital.

spiritual-midwifery-4th-ed-After reading Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and talking to a few mothers, I had a good sense of the kind of birth experience I wanted to create: safe, supportive, and as relaxing as possible (which helps the cervix dilate and labor progress), with as few medical interventions as possible. Armed with a list of questions, Jeremiah and I went to tour the birthing unit and meet a local family practice doctor who could deliver our baby. The doctor was kind and laid-back, and the luxurious hot tub in the birthing suite (which I fantasized about throughout the winter months living off-grid where hot water is a scarce commodity) outweighed the fact that the hospital bed was too small for Jeremiah and I to fit in together. I felt hopeful that if we did plenty of research and were well-prepared, we could have the kind of birth experience we wanted, even in the hospital environment.

Over the coming months, I read both Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (each twice) and talked to plenty of mothers about their own birth experiences. Ina May Gaskin encourages women to think of contractions as Intense Rushes of Energy that require all of your focus, rather than as Pain. Addie, a powerful woman in our community who birthed five of her own children and has helped deliver many more, pulled me aside one day and gave me a pep talk. She said birth would be like Climbing a Mountain. It’s hard going up, so you have to really push yourself and maintain your strength, but when you get to the summit the hard work is over and the view is incredible!

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Jeremiah and I went to a childbirth class at the hospital, during which we got to know some of the nurses in the birthing unit and learned about the protocols for labor and delivery, which informed our birth plan. The playful nurse who taught our childbirth class warned us that a strict, extensive birth plan can sometimes backfire and end up being “a ticket to the operating room” – in other words, leading to a C-section if the labor isn’t proceeding smoothly and the birth plan doesn’t allow for interventions to help things along. So we kept our birth plan short, sweet, and flexible.

My intention was to not use any painkillers—so that both the baby and I would have as much clarity as possible during his birth, and, I realized in hindsight, as a personal challenge to test my own strength—but I knew it was possible that I would feel like I needed painkillers and promised not to be hard on myself if I did use them. I also wanted to avoid the use of Pitocin or other labor-augmenting drugs, which I’ve heard to be quite harsh and likely to increase the chances I would need painkillers. And, because I’m very queasy when it comes to needles and piercing flesh, I tried to opt out of receiving the IV line that is normally inserted in case the woman needs to receive painkillers, fluids, or other IV medicines during labor. I thought the presence of a huge needle in my hand would distract me from my job.

But, perhaps as a reminder not to get too attached to my own desires for how the birth would go, I tested positive for Group B Strep, a common and generally harmless bacteria that can be dangerous for babies if found in the vagina. My doctor informed me that this meant I would need to receive IV antibiotics throughout my labor. I was disappointed, but it was a good reminder that the birth might not go entirely according to our plan.

My due date was February 2nd, but I expected my baby to come late: the average first pregnancy lasts 10 days past the due date. Though she wouldn’t be delivering the baby, my midwife friend Brittany was committed to being there for the birth and supporting as our Doula, which made me feel much more confident in giving birth. Between Brittany and Jeremiah (a very sensitive partner and massage therapist extraordinaire), I felt like we had a birthing “dream team.” But Brittany could only take one week off of work, so we decided to bet on the baby coming late and have Brittany arrive on February 8th. I mentally prepared for a February 9th due date, asked my unborn son to hold out until Brittany arrived, and took care not to do anything that might stimulate my labor before then.

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We also planned for our wonderful landmate, Sarah, to come with us to the hospital. I thought Jeremiah and I might each need our own doula! The week leading up to our birth, every time Sarah came home and our car wasn’t there she would text and ask “Are you at the hospital?” I promised we would let her know when things started happening! There was also a chance that our dear friend Natalie, who lives in California but would be in Colorado visiting her family that same week and planned to visit us for a day or two, might be able to attend.

I was a little nervous about having so many people participate in the birth, but I knew they would all be very supportive and I trusted each of them enough to be able to be fully relaxed and fully vulnerable in their presence. One of the success factors at many of The Farm births was a strong support network of women, usually close friends or relatives.

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Brittany made it through the snowstorm and arrived at our house just as I was wrapping up the grant proposal. I had begun having gentle contractions about an hour earlier, and thought Brittany had arrived just in time!

Brittany, Jeremiah and I went out to dinner together, and at one point I asked her if she thought I might be in labor but just didn’t realize it because of my strong pain threshold. She laughed and told me no, I would definitely know if I were in labor! After dinner, when we were getting ready for bed, Brittany noticed a couple of spiders in our guest bedroom and was not excited about connecting with those Forces of Nature, so we ended up all sharing our king-sized bed that night.

The next day, Thursday, we showed Brittany around the small town of Paonia, and all three of us went together to my doctor’s appointment. I told the doctor I had been having gentle contractions, and she asked if any of them were strong enough to take my breath away. I said no, and she told me she suspected my labor would start within the next couple of days. We knew Friday was going to be an auspicious day, with a full moon and a comet, and thought these Forces of Nature might help bring our little one into the world (apparently this happens often). We scheduled a follow-up appointment for Monday, and I knew that if I was still pregnant at that point – 11 days after my due date – our doctor would want to consider inducing labor, which I was not excited about. At that point I was on a mission to get the baby out!

On Friday, Brittany, Sarah, Jeremiah and I went for a hike in hopes of stimulating labor. That evening I again had gentle contractions, but by Saturday morning they had subsided. I was beginning to feel like the baby would never come. Brittany reminded me that for months I had been asking the baby to come late and telling my body not to go into labor, and it could take some time to shift gears. Rather than sitting at home waiting, we decided to go to some hot springs an hour and a half away. Our trip was relaxing, with no signs of labor. While we sat in one of the pools (me being careful not to get too hot), Jeremiah massaged a pressure point in my hand that was supposed to stimulate labor.

When we got home that night, there was a hot meal waiting for us, the first of the “meal train” (a wonderful practice where friends and community members bring new parents meals) that Sarah had organized for us. I felt a little guilty eating it since our baby hadn’t even arrived yet! Sarah told us about a fun Valentine’s-themed event happening that night at the juice bar where she works, and I tried to convince Brittany and Jeremiah to go. I wanted to give Brittany a taste of Paonia’s “night life,” but neither of them felt up for it. So instead I read my book, The Autobiography of Malcom X, and took a nap on the couch with my head in Jeremiah’s lap and my hot water bottle relieving some of the gentle contractions I was once again experiencing. I woke up around 10:30 and convinced Jeremiah to come up to bed with me. Brittany had already gone to bed (we were still all sleeping in the same bed). I walked over to the window and bent over to pour out my no-longer-hot water bottle into a plant, and was struck with an intense sensation that took my breath away!

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I told Jeremiah what had happened and waited to see if it would happen again. It did, about ten minutes later. I thought my labor might finally be starting! We decided to try to go to sleep for a few hours before things got too intense, and went up to bed. But neither of us could sleep – my rushes were coming on strong every 10-15 minutes, and I needed to moan pretty loudly to make it through them. Jeremiah was applying pressure to my back to help relieve the pain. I was getting more and more excited that things were finally happening and felt like I was getting high from the intensity of the rushes. Somehow Brittany managed to sleep through this for an hour or so. She told us later that she heard me moaning but didn’t want to get up so she chose to believe I was either “practicing” for labor or we were making love in the bed next to her!

After about an hour of trying to get some rest, I needed to go to the bathroom and went downstairs. I also decided to pull a few jars out of the freezer, goodies I had prepared for the birth: carrot-ginger juice and bone broth. I knew that most hospitals discouraged laboring women from eating solid foods (for fear of aspiration under anesthesia in the case of a C-section), which can lead to fatigue and make it harder to push the baby out, so I wanted to have some nourishing liquids on hand. Then Jeremiah came to join me downstairs and stoked the fire, and we lay by the fire timing my contractions. Around 12:30, when the contractions got closer to six-eight minutes apart, I asked Jeremiah to wake up Brittany to have her come assess whether I was ready to go to the hospital. It had begun snowing so I was a bit nervous about getting caught in a storm—the hospital was 45 minutes away—but Jeremiah assured me we’d be fine, and we decided to wait as long as we could before going to the hospital. Brittany went back to sleep on the couch in the next room and Jeremiah and I tried to go back to sleep, but once again the rushes were too intense and I was moaning too loudly for either of us to sleep. Plus, in his enthusiasm Jeremiah had gotten the fire VERY hot, so I needed him to get up and open the outside door every so often to let cool air inside.

By 4:30am, my contractions were about 4 minutes apart and I was READY to go to the hospital. I couldn’t imagine navigating the car ride and the hospital admissions process with my contractions being any more intense than they already were. Plus, the sooner we got to the hospital, the sooner I could get in that hot tub!

hypnobirthJeremiah woke up Sarah and we all got ready to go. We left home a little after 5:00am and listened to a Hynobirthing CD followed by some Tracy Chapman on the snowy drive to the hospital (I had Tracy Chapman stuck in my head for days after the birth). I texted our friend Natalie—who was planning to visit us that day—and told her to meet us at the hospital. I sipped some bone broth to try to build up my strength for the big event, and when we got to the hospital parking lot I scarfed down an apple, some carrot juice, and half an avocado before going inside.

We entered the labor and delivery unit around 6:15am, and the nurse on duty whisked us into our room and told us she would only be caring for me for the next hour until her shift was over. It was clear that she was ready for her shift to be over and was skeptical of us showing up with an entourage. She checked my cervix and said I was 3-4 centimeters dilated – but then things got off to a rocky start and my contractions began to slow down.

The nurse informed me that my doctor wasn’t on call and I would likely be seen by a male doctor who I had never met before. I remembered reading that back in the days before medicine became professionalized, when childbirth was almost exclusively attended by women, it was common knowledge that the presence of an unfamiliar man would slow or halt labor. I was upset because my doctor had never mentioned this might happen. I tried to prepare myself for the possibility that a man I wasn’t comfortable with might deliver the baby, but we insisted the nurse call our regular doctor. The situation continued to deteriorate when the nurse tried to start my IV line and failed, then tried the other hand and failed again (did I mention my fear of needles? And this was a big one!).

I was beginning to get pretty shaken up when the nurse returned to tell me my doctor would in fact deliver the baby, even though it was a Sunday and she wasn’t on call. What a relief! Then the shift change happened, and our new nurse was incredibly warm, kind, and respectful. We were all delighted – it felt like our birthing Dream Team was coming together!

The new nurse tried to insert my IV line, and also failed twice, so she called in a specialist from the lab department who finally succeeded on her second try. By this point I was already emotionally exhausted from all the stress and needle poking. I was shaking and broke down and started to sob while contracting. I felt like I was losing it, but Jeremiah got close to my face, comforting me and breathing with me, which calmed me down enough to stop crying. Both Brittany and our wonderful nurse later told me they were pretty worried about me at that point, but I managed to pull myself together.

a_papa_belly_loveFrom reading Ina May’s books, I knew I needed to keep my butt, thighs, and legs relaxed in order to help my cervix dilate, and I was aware that my hips were clenched and shaking from the stress. Jeremiah began massaging my hips, and someone reminded me that after I finished receiving my IV antibiotics I could get in the hot tub. Hallelujah! When Sarah finally turned on the water to start filling the tub, it was music to my ears. We had already been at the hospital for three hours. Finally, it was beginning to feel more like the birth experience I had imagined.

Jeremiah texted our friends and family to let them know I was in labor. One of our friends, a mama, responded that I should “tone low and deep” to get through the contractions, and that’s exactly what I did. My contractions were coming on strong, and while I tried to relax in the tub Jeremiah massaged my shoulders and head, Sarah kept me hydrated, and Brittany knitted a baby blanket and secretly fed me some frozen fruit. At some point my doctor showed up and let me know she would be there if I needed her but planned to let me continue laboring in the tub until I felt like pushing. The sky outside our room was gray, the hospital was quiet and mostly empty, and our room felt peaceful, almost serene.

After a while I felt like standing up, so I got into the shower with Jeremiah rubbing my back. And after doing that for a while I was starting to get pretty exhausted and felt like I needed a break. The nurse was ready to check my cervix, so I laid on my side in the hospital bed. I could barely talk or lift my head. I was definitely not interested in an epidural after all the needle poking I had already endured, but was considering asking for some IV painkillers depending on how well my labor was progressing and how much longer I would need to keep at it!

When the nurse announced I was 8 centimeters dilated, we were all thrilled and the mood in the room felt celebratory. Things were happening! Soon I would be going through transition and then pushing! Since I had already made it this far, I decided not to take any painkillers. The nurse suggested I drink some juice to build up both my strength and the baby’s. I remember asking for a straw to drink my carrot juice with since I was so tired I could barely lift my head. After drinking the juice, the baby’s heart rate picked up and the nurse said I could go back in the tub if I wanted to. Brittany and Sarah persuaded Jeremiah to drink the rest of the juice because he had been at my side the entire day without eating or drinking and was starting to get a little faint too.

I got back in the tub and the contractions continued to come on strong. I remember being deep in a contraction, eyes closed and moaning deeply, then slowly opening my eyes as the contraction subsided to see a room full of people staring at me: Jeremiah, Brittany, Sarah, our nurse and our doctor. I felt like I was on stage in my most vulnerable condition – totally naked and navigating the depths of intense bodily sensation. The doctor told me to let her know when I felt like I needed to push.

Eventually I got back in the shower again, and Jeremiah got a text from Natalie saying she had arrived at the hospital. Jeremiah was such a strong support to me throughout the whole labor process that I didn’t want him to leave my side even for a minute to go collect Natalie from the parking lot, but he promised to be quick. I was between contractions, wet and naked, bracing myself against the shower wall when Natalie walked into the room and gave me a hug. “Great timing,” I managed to say and smile. We were both amazed that the day she came to visit happened to be the day our baby was born!

Finally, around 2pm, I started to feel a bit different, like I might be ready to push, so I got back into bed. We were all very excited, and Jeremiah started to tear up knowing he was going to meet our son soon. Multiple people were massaging me and helping me relax. I was so focused on my body that everything around me seemed hazy, but I remember smelling the energy nuggets I had brought along as snacks for the Dream Team to eat during the labor. No one had wanted to eat in front of me, but by this point everyone was starting to lose energy and needed a little boost before the grand finale, so Brittany had quietly distributed the energy nuggets and my Dream Team was standing around my bed chewing on them, trying to hide the treats in their mouths.

Our doctor checked me and told me I wasn’t yet completely dilated, and the baby was still pretty high up, but if I felt like pushing I should go ahead and give it a try. After all this time my water still hadn’t broken, and the doctor asked if I wanted her to break it to speed things up. Brittany had told me the contractions would be more intense once my water broke, and I really couldn’t imagine dealing with more intense pain, even if it meant the labor would be over sooner. Plus, the day before I had seen a picture of a baby born “in the cul,” or with the amniotic sac still intact, and it was pretty incredible. Brittany told me it was quite rare and a sign of good luck in some cultures. With all that in mind, I asked the doctor to hold off on breaking the sac.

When I started pushing, I was kneeling facing the head of the bed, with my upper body leaning over the head of the bed which had been elevated to support me. The nurse who led our childbirth class had modeled this position in class, and I had read that being upright can be more effective for getting the baby out than lying on your back (gravity!). I felt a little self-conscious with my butt facing everyone and asked to be covered up, which surprised some people in the room who know how much I like being naked. I thought it would just take a few strong pushes for the baby to come out, but when I asked if we should get a camera ready, the doctor said it was going to take a while. The rushes were coming on so strong that it was rather demoralizing to hear that!

After some time I grew tired of kneeling and shifted onto my back. The doctor told me that with each push I should pull my torso forward and my legs back (kind of like doing a sit-up while in Happy Baby). I tried a few times and murmured that I didn’t have the core strength to pull myself up, and suddenly was surrounded with helpers. On each push, Sarah pushed up my torso from behind and someone (or maybe multiple people) pulled back each of my legs. The nurse who had taught our birthing class had joined us and was helping too. There were 8 people in the room at this point, all focused on getting that baby out!

My main job was to push as hard as I could, four or five times during each rush. In order to get through each push, I let out a deep, guttural, Earth-Shaking scream, louder than I’ve ever screamed before, and louder than I thought I possibly could scream! I felt like an animal, maybe a cow or a mama bear giving birth (growing up in rural Wisconsin, I’ve heard a lot of cows in labor!). I was hoping no one outside our room could hear me, and was grateful it was a Sunday and the hospital and birthing unit were virtually empty. I assumed I was alarming some of the people in the room with me, but didn’t feel like I had the strength to get through the pushes without the screaming, so I just kept getting louder as my son’s head got closer and closer to making an appearance. Between pushes, Jeremiah massaged me, reminded me to relax certain parts of my body, and helped me stay calm. At one point he whispered the magic word “Savasana,” the Sanskrit word for the “Corpse Pose” in yoga, which my body has been trained to respond to with complete relaxation…and it worked!

For the final stretch I decided to try kneeling again, which proved to be very fortunate. As the baby’s head started to crown, our nurse stood next to my head and said “stretch and burn, stretch and burn” with each push, reminding me that I was stretching out my cervix and perineum to allow the baby’s head to come through. It was a helpful reminder, because at that point I felt there was no way I was going to get his head out without tearing my body apart, but there was no way out of the situation except to surrender and push even harder. So I did.

Finally, the baby’s head came out!

I was so relieved to know the labor was almost over and expected the rest of his body to come out easily.

But it didn’t.

I couldn’t see what was happening since I was on my knees facing the head of the bed, but the doctor and nurses were frantically telling me to push harder, forcefully shaking my hips and pulling on the baby. His head had emerged, dark purple, almost black, still in the sac, with the cord wrapped around his neck twice and his shoulder stuck behind my pelvis (called “shoulder dystocia”). It took almost two minutes for the doctor to break the sac, remove the cord from his neck, and get his shoulder free and the rest of his body out. His time of birth was 3:46pm.

Certain members of the Dream Team were terrified when they saw his purple head, but my kneeling position made me oblivious as to what was happening. The kneeling position is also the best one for resolving shoulder dystocia, so it was either incredible luck or intuition that I had switched back to kneeling before the baby came out.

a_in_my_arms_7(1)Finally, the baby was out and the doctor quickly passed him to me between my legs, while I was still kneeling on the bed. I was in a daze, amazed that the labor was finally over and my son had been safely delivered. He was heavy, much bigger than I expected (9lbs 2oz), and still a shade of purple. I held him and welcomed him to the world.

I was so weak that I could barely hold myself up, so I laid back down in the hospital bed and pulled the baby to my chest. Jeremiah was crying tears of joy, and loving on us both. Jeremiah and I admired our Sweet Little Angel. The baby laid on my bare chest for an hour, the “skin-on-skin” protocol that is so important to bonding, nursing, building up the baby’s immune system, and more. Then I got cleaned up and practiced nursing. The whole time I felt high, ecstatic, other-worldly. I had reached the summit, and the view was incredible!

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After the Dream Team all got a chance to celebrate and calm down a bit from the climax of the baby’s arrival, they gave Jeremiah and I some time alone with him and ventured out to bring us dinner. This was very exciting for me, since I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and had just Climbed a Mountain!

The mediocre Himalayan food that Brittany, Sarah and Natalie brought back from a neighboring town was one of the most satisfying meals of my life. After we shared the meal, the ladies went back to our house in Paonia, and Jeremiah pulled up a cot next to my hospital bed. We were exhausted and getting ready to snuggle in for the night with our new babe. This whole time people were asking what the baby’s name was, but I didn’t feel like I had any spare brain power to spend trying to figure out the Perfect Name for this Perfect Human. That could wait until the next day. I just wanted to savor the moment, integrate this life-changing event, connect with the babe and Jeremiah, and celebrate my wonderful, empowering, beautiful birth experience.

I tried nursing some more, and the baby had his first big meal. He nursed for so long that Jeremiah fell asleep, and I passed out with the baby in my arms. The nurse came in around 11pm and tucked the baby into a bassinet beside me. I had been awake for more than 36 hours and was absolutely exhausted. I gazed in amazement at the immaculate little being that had come into my life, and quickly dozed off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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Four hours later, I awoke with a start to the shocking sound of a Wailing Baby! Jeremiah and I both jumped up and went to the bassinet. The baby was fine, but the reality of being Parents began to sink in. We took turns snuggling the baby and dozing until mid-morning, when the Dream Team came back to visit, bearing delicious breakfast treats. Then the hard work of deciding on the baby’s name began in earnest.

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This was not a task I took lightly. Over the past nine months, we had considered more than 100 names. We narrowed it down to 25 finalists, and I researched the meaning, history, and cultural heritage of each.  By the time we got to the hospital, we had a handful of top contenders. The morning after Gabriel was born, our friend Natalie sat down with us and, with her no-nonsense way of doing things, guided us through the tough decision-making process of naming our child. Upon a bit more research, we learned that Gabriel is the archangel of Sunday, and since our son was born on Sunday, it seemed like the sign we needed to make a final decision. We threw in three middle names – “Bodhi” and “Adelajah,” each with their own special meaning, as well as my last name, “Mommaerts,” and ended up with one of the longest legal names you’ve ever seen, so long it doesn’t even fit on his Social Security Card. But Gabriel Bodhi Adelajah Mommaerts Garcia is a name rich in spiritual and cultural significance, fitting for a Global Citizen.

love_in_the_time_of_choleraThe short version, Gabriel Garcia, has a nice ring to it, an Alliterative Allusion to my love for Magical Realism.

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Brittany told me later that Jeremiah had told her he wanted the birth experience to be transformational for everyone involved, and she felt as though indeed it had been, and even shifted her thinking about how to serve her own clients during birth: she recognized what an important role my months of preparation and my wonderful Dream Team support system had played in my birth.

Jeremiah likes to tease me for my intense screaming, or rather, ROARING, during birth, but I know he was awed to witness me in my power, as were the others present. And I was impressed with my own strength! I’m grateful to have had the ability to tap into the Forces of Nature, prophesied months earlier in a vision I had while camping alongside the Mississippi River, while still coming to terms with my pregnancy and the massive changes about to take place in my life. I was communicating with the baby inside of me and told him “I hope you know what you’re signing up for by choosing us as parents. We’re not your typical family – we are radical activist homesteaders.”

gabriel_helloworld.jpgIn response I received a Vision of a Bear, a Lion, and a Black Panther, one after the other.  I’m not a very psychically attuned person and rarely receive visions, so this was pleasantly surprising and comforting. I took it as a sign that our child would be strong and brave.

Months later, when I was eight months pregnant, I described this Vision to a friend of mine who is a Diviner. His interpretation of the vision is that I was represented by the Bear, Jeremiah (a fiery redhead) was represented by the Lion, and our child was represented by the Black Panther. I accepted the role of Mama Bear, agreed with Jeremiah’s fire showing up as the Lion, and imagined the possibilities of what the Black Panther—a fierce, cunning, and elusive, almost mythical creature that has been adopted as a symbol for Black  Liberation and Revolutionary Spirit—could signify for our child.

Armed with this mystical gift of Vision, along with all the birth stories I’d heard and read, and all the practical research I’d done, and supported by the Dream Team, I was prepared to tap into the Forces of Nature, channel my inner Mama Bear, and Climb that Mountain, where the Sweetest Little Angel Gabriel awaited us.

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