By Professor Daylover
I’ve been thinking more about climate change. Among those who accept its grim forecast, I’ve noticed a pattern: we know it looms over our very future but somehow avoid thinking about it. A new report comes out, you’re reminded that humanity’s likely screwed, but then what happens? You return to the day’s business.
How to break this cycle? After some reflection, I came up with two answers: stop pretending that the day’s business matters more, and to read more, educate myself--retrain my instincts to look instead of ignore.
Recently, President Trump announced (to the UN) that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris agreement next year. ‘Not that we were anywhere close to meeting carbon emission reduction goals, though. While we shouldn’t be surprised, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be outraged enough to take action. At the UN’s Climate Change Summit this past September, 16 year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg scorched legislators for their inaction, putting it plain: her right to life matters less than making money. And there we have the inherently moral issue of climate change.
While the supportive actions of legislators are crucial, this is everyone’s issue. No one has the luxury of doing nothing. We all know that big government regulation combined with individual lifestyle changes are our only hope. But if we wait around for the big to act, we’re literally sunk.
Little actions do matter: driving less, eating organic and more vegetarian, bringing glass containers for restaurant take-out, using less water, avoiding single use plastics, buying food in bulk bins. These choices are also inconvenient, and here’s the rub. Each of us must ask, how often do I choose convenience over sustainability...and how often do I rationalize it?
While I sometimes choose convenience, I’m starting to see the spiritual value of inconvenience.
Think about it. Does God/spirit bring you messages at convenient times? Usually it’s the opposite. It sucks, but when we get burned, we’re more open to another way of seeing and doing. Regarding climate change, I’m learning to stop deluding myself and take responsibility. Of course I’ll continue to fail, but a stubborn will to honor all life, to not ignore my part in our shared morality, gives me hope.
This isn’t about being holier than thou. This isn’t about avoiding guilt. This isn’t about the earth, even. It’s about our collective right to exist.
Reverend Divine is a minister, writer, and social justice advocate.
Once upon a time, in the land of Ancient Greece, after the Titan War, the newly crowned Zeus - king of the Gods - took a wife named Themis, who was the Goddess of Justice. Although Themis was the first Goddess of Justice in the Greek tradition, she certainly wasn’t the first or only in other traditions. Before her, lived Justitia in the Roman pantheon, and before her was Ma’at in Egyptian religion. Ma’at is most notably known for weighing the hearts of the recently deceased to see if they were heavier than one of her feathers. Should a mortal’s heart be equal or lighter than one of her feathers, they would proceed to the afterlife in bliss. Should a mortal’s heart be heavier than her feather, a gigantic monster would eat them and they would live out eternity in Duat.
Now, Zeus and Themis had many children, one of whom was named Dike. While Themis was the personification of the idea of Divine Justice, Dike was the living embodiment of Earthly Justice. Dike lived among the humans during the Golden and Silver Ages of Greek culture, where society saw unparalleled peace and prosperity. However, soon greed began to consume the hearts and minds of mortals, and Dike, enraged by what she saw, fled to the sky, sending the Greeks into the Bronze Age, a time of war, famine, and disease. This next part is debatable, but it is believed that the modern-day statue of Justice is modeled after Dike, depicted with her blindfold, sword, and scales. Her blindfold signifies her impartiality - that the law applies to everyone, her sword to denote that Justice is often swift and final, and then her scales which reflect which argument bears more weight.
I wanted to begin with this story because words, phrases, and symbols matter; their meaning matters, and often we are misusing them in our everyday world. Has that ever happened to you? For real, it happens to me all of the time. I throw out a bunch of descriptors, usually in threes (because I like the rule of threes) and someone goes, “I don’t think that word means what you think it does”. Then the doubt sinks in. No, I’m certain, I mean, I’m pretty sure, well it’s close enough, I mean … who asked you. "Justice" is one of those words. So, to help us all out, I would like to invite to the stage, Siri. Siri, what is the definition of Justice?
Siri: "Justice Is defined as just behavior or treatment. Would you like to hear more?"
No, thanks, Siri, I’m good. Thanks for nothing. I bet Alexa would have been more helpful. So, 'just behavior or treatment'. It also says, "the quality of being fair or reasonable".
When I saw this definition, I was immediately reminded of my first and second graders that I teach theatre to. First and second graders have a deep, intrinsic knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Since they are the centers of their own universes, everything that they say/do is right and everything that contradicts that is wrong. God bless their hearts. I teach theatre in the school district, and I play a number of different exercises and games with them. When I am picking volunteers for a game, and I don’t end up choosing them, I am met with a chorus … nay, a cacophony of whiny voices, all clamoring “Aww, that’s not fair!!” Without hesitation, almost like a pavlovian response, I turn to them and almost shout, “Life’s not fair”. Oh my lanta, I have become my parents. I catch myself before uttering the cornerstone phrase that defined much of my childhood. I heard this phrase so much that it became the punchline to a joke that I never told. Life isn’t fair, I carried this lesson with me through the formative years of my life, where I learned that lesson over and over again. You don’t always win, you don’t always get what you want, and bad things happen to good people.
Justice is a Dirty Word. Not dirty in the sense of raunchy, although she be wearing that blindfold carrying around some props, so you know she is into that freaky stuff, but dirty in the sense that it’s muddled, confusing, an obscure concept that renders it at times problematic. Justice, at times, is a hypocritical paradox that feels corrupt and soiled. Justice is a dirty word, because when we are clamoring for Justice, we are actually seeking one of Justice’s closely related cousins of retribution, retaliation, reciprocity, or vengeance. That’s why Justice is a dirty word. Justice is a dirty word because at times it feels unfair. Justice wears a blindfold to relate to us her impartiality and carries scale to reflect her desire for balance. What if Justice’s blindfold prevents her from seeing the whole picture; what falls through the cracks, right underneath her nose? What if Justice’s desire for balance is a fool’s errand because balance is not an achievable end; what if instead what we are really seeking is a return to wholeness? Justice relies on a convoluted system of laws and practices that is difficult to navigate. Good things happen to bad people, folks get away with murder, and the system is stacked against you. Justice, at times, is too narrowly focused on individualism, and ignores that we ourselves are minds, bodies, hearts, spirits, communities, and Nature herself. Healing should certainly start with the individual, but it certainly shouldn’t end there. Justice is a dirty word because it often looks at the present moment, what is happening right now, and yet we know that History is not over; it shifts and impacts the individual body and the collective culture and then is passed from one generation to the next. This means that systems like the colonization of these lands, the institution of slavery, and various economic and gender practices that cause disconnection and suffering are not over, even if the laws regulating them have changed.
Growing up, Justice seemed like a power that was outside of my control - like from some fantastical creatures that would dole out rewards for the blessed, and righteous punishment to the wicked. Like Santa Claus. Justice was something I earned or deserved because of good behavior, and punishment was also something I deserved because of bad behavior. Then my knowing of Justice shifted, and a toxicity entered my understanding. Justice became about balance and the power was in my hands. You hurt me, I hurt you. You punish me, I punish you. As I got older, Justice became something that would happen to other people, that promised to make me feel better. I would throw out phrases like, “Karma is a beotch, and she is going to get you”. Justice, was still a power that was outside of my reach, but from a place of moral superiority, and righteous indignation, I felt that Justice would be served, and I didn’t have to do anything, but wait. Spirituality complicated my understanding of Justice. Suddenly I was in a world that said there was no right and wrong, only mistakes and lessons, that what we were seeking was neutrality.
As I moved into the professional world, my jobs all centered on the theme of justice: social justice, reproductive justice, economic justice, etc. Even then, I didn’t really have a firm understanding of what Justice was. I believed Justice was about change, equity, inclusion. But what is just, when the Bill that you worked so hard for in one election cycle, could be easily overturned in the next? What is just when the opposition uses lies, scare-tactic propaganda, and debased moral authority to achieve their ends? What is just when your own movement acts in an unjust manner by oppressing others, even within your own community? As I left the social justice movement and moved into my spiritual work, I noticed, like our story of Themis and Dike, that the two often seemed separate and at odds with one another. There was an absence of spirituality in the justice work - as it became clear that the leaders and high-ranking officers of these movements have neglected their own deeper healing work. Wounded warriors created fractured policies, systems, and movements that were broken and undermined the work and created violence (to themselves and to others). There was also a lack of justice work in the spiritual movements as leaders broke or ignored the laws believing that they were above, or somehow they were removed, from the everyday turmoil of existence. Spiritual movements ignored trauma, history, and the current systemic institutions of oppression, and instead offered antiquated rules that didn't reflect our modern life; or they offered trite phrases like “thoughts and prayers”, or “focus on the light”, which seemed, at times, condescending and potentially harmful. Now, I am not advocating for a reunion of the church and the state, but I believe that for true Justice to occur, that parts of each, must come together, learn from one another, and provide a new path forward that promotes wholeness, and an integrated healing model that not only cares for the individual but the community as a whole.
Justice is broken in our country. There have been 289 mass shootings in the United States since the first of the year. That is more than we have had days in 2019. 313 deaths and over 1200 injured. 19 Transgender individuals have been killed, with the majority being black transgender women. During the 2018 fiscal year, nearly 400,000 people were booked into ICE custody, staying in detention centers where they often experience abuse, are denied basic safe and sanitary conditions, and medical care, and legal counsel. The true injustices are the crimes that seek to separate ourselves and separate us from one another, with the goal of denying our humanity, and denying the humanity in others. This goal of held trauma and systems of dominance depends on this feeling of disconnection because this feeling of disconnection gets in the way of us joining together to heal, to resist, and to make change.
So, what do we do? What is the way forward? This conversation is polarizing as the conversation often devolves into who is the blame and what is the appropriate form of punishment. The first step is nothing new; we know about it, and have learned about it this evening in Reverend Levity's talk called "Maskless". That is, first we must do our own internal work, our own healing, and we must take responsibility for that healing, and create practices that encourage that healing and well-being in our personal and professional lives. But it cannot stop there, it mustn’t stop there. Yes, your personal healing will reverberate out and certainly have a positive impact upon your immediate circle, your community, and the world. But you are not in a vacuum.
While researching, I came across a practice called restorative justice, a model that seeks to bring offenders, victims, and the community together in a proactive and healing space to promote resolution, respect, inclusion, empowerment, and active responsibility. There are four key values to restorative justice:
Is restorative justice a perfect practice? No. Is it an answer to everything broken or corrupt within the justice system? No. Is restorative justice the answer to all crimes and all incidences? No. Before we can even begin to address the many fractured and disjointed elements of a Justice system, we have to become very clear about our definition of justice. We have to become very clear about our values as human beings and we have to become very comfortable articulating those values and acknowledge the ways in which systems, current and past, have violated and betrayed those values. We have to become exceptionally clear about what the way forward, through what Justice looks like, or we truly will be the blind leading the blind.
This is a 15 minute guided meditation to assist those on the spiritual weight-loss journey. It guides listeners through the process of becoming what Reverend Levity calls "outrageously present", then continues on a path of total acceptance for the body as it is right now, offering permission to exist, offering love, and gratitude, and then giving permission for all old energy (including fat) to release. It also includes visualization of fat burning and being baptized and washed away with water, and is topped off with a Hoʻoponopono prayer of forgiveness for your own treatment and judgement of the body. Finally, the meditation offers a journey into the void, where all magic is created, and opens the space to insert powerful affirmations to reprogram the subconscious and conscious mind. This void work is most powerful during periods of fasting, but can be used at anytime.
For more information about our spiritual weight-loss program, visit: www.alchemistmovement.org/weightlosswingmen
PURCHASE THE FULL MEDITATION NOW
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It can sometimes take up to an hour, depending on how quickly we are notified.
Because our society does not currently present education or cultural examples of how to practice this lifestyle in a healthy and loving way, there is a reprogramming process that can be intense, painful, and scary. Oftentimes, without positive role models to guide you, people are left feeling alone, and constantly worried that “this is wrong”.
Having the support of at least one loving person, not to mention a couple who has been through this journey and seen the other side, can literally change the result of your experience.
In this workshop, Reverend Levity and Professor Daylover of Alchemist Movement will be sharing the 10 Keys to their success as a polyamorous couple. (Truth be told, these "keys" would greatly benefit ANY couple, no matter which model they follow).
This workshop will focus on: 1) Discovering if non-monogamy is right for you; 2) Preparation for the emotional journey ahead; and 3) How to mold a container that works for you, in a world where you get to create the rules (since no one way works for everyone).
There will be a lecture, followed by an interactive workshop, and finally a Q+A where you can ask absolutely any question you want.
The practice of non-monogamy is a create-your-own adventure journey, and we give you the tools you need to navigate. Also, we're here to remind you that you are not alone, and that this lifestyle is possible if it's what truly resonates with your heart.
People seeking more one-on-one coaching can sign up for our Wingman Program following the workshop.
Space is limited. Please register early to guarantee your space.
Disclaimer 2: All birth is birth, and all people who birth babies are badasses. I chose a home-birth experience because it most reflected the journey that *I* wanted to have, based on my personal value system. Please don’t let my passion for home-birth make you feel that any other path is not as powerful.
Disclaimer 3: Don’t let my story shape your narrative of birth. Every birth is different, and pleasurable births are possible. In fact, here’s an interview I did about Orgasmic Birth just days before I went into labor. I believe that some mothers manifest the birth experience they need for whatever lesson they are walking at that time. I believe God is reflecting back to her in those moments the things her heart most needs to look at. For those that could use healing in regard to their birth stories, I highly recommend a Birth-Processing session with my midwife, Tiffany Hoffman, through Alchemist Movement's healing sanctuary.
Disclaimer 4: I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy, and privileged with access to healthcare and a steady income, and this is what made me successful in my home-birth dream. Even though home-births cost about $10,000 less than hospital births (and that's without a C-section), they are rarely covered by insurance. I hope my story helps spread the gospel of birthing at home.
36 Weeks: You feel like an expert in pregnancy but a complete novice in labor/birth (for first time moms, at least). At this point in my journey, because the impending labor just didn’t seem real, the whole thing felt like an exam I was studying for but that there was a chance I might get out of. Like, you’re nervous for the test, but also the Professor has shared he might just cancel the finals and base your final grade on your most recent paper, or something.
39 weeks: The reality of your birth, which absolutely no one knows how it will unfold, is definitely just around the corner. Because I was planning a natural birth and natural induction, the whole thing just felt like a surprise party that I accidentally found out about; I knew a party was happening happening, but I didn’t know when or where. So every corner I turned (every strange feeling), every time I walked in the door (every new pain), I’m like, “Is this it? Is it happening now?” And then it’s not, and the mind fuck just continues. You know you’re at the end, but also you’re still going...
40 weeks: “The Surprise Party” is now all the time. Basically everyday I was sending group texts like, “IT’S HAPPENING.”... ”No wait sorry no it’s not, my bad everyone.”... “OK NOW FOR REAL!”... “oh shoot sorry no it went away sorry.”
On Monday of my 40th week, I kept thinking my water broke because I was constantly leaking fluid due to incontinence (#LoveRealLife). There are these swabs that test for amniotic fluid, and my midwife gave me a handful of them to take home because it just kept happening. (Did you know that only 8-10% of women’s waters actually break in early labor? Most don’t break until right before the baby comes out. The idea that water breaks early is just an overused Hollywood trope!) The reason it was important for me to know whether or not my water was still in tact was because I had tested positive for GBS (1 in 4 women do), and, in the case of my water breaking, I had 18 hours (or something like that) to get the baby out in order to keep his risk of infection low.
I went through several false swabs throughout the week, then...Friday morning, February 9th, at 8:30am I went to pee and felt a little rush of fluid. At this point I had every expectation of another false result, when suddenly, the tip of the swab turned a vivid blue/black. My heart did flip-flops. I texted a picture of the swab to my midwife, and within seconds she wrote back, “Yep. That’s a positive swab. Your water has broken.”
A strange mixture of both calmness and adrenaline washed over me. It’s really happening, I thought.
I walked out and told my husband that my water broke. We both felt grateful that our baby decided to begin his journey on a Friday, giving us a 3-day weekend to capture the experience (it seriously could NOT have been better timed).
Typically, labor starts naturally within 12-24 hours after your water ruptures. My birth team and I decided that if my labor hadn’t started by 6pm that night, I was going to drink a “castor oil smoothie” (a natural way to induce labor at home). I texted all my friends and we decided to have a “castor oil smoothie party”. I was nervous because I really wanted to let my body progress naturally without the smoothie, but I was also ready to get the show on the fucking road.
I went about my day as normal. I even got a text from a producer I work with a lot, and she needed me to record a voiceover for the film we had been working on. I wrote back, “No problem. My water just broke, so send me the script within the next couple hours and I can knock it out.” She replied, “Can I please screenshot this text and send it to our client? You’re fucking insane.” To which I replied, “No, I’m dedicated.” But also, early labor can be mentally brutal, so having normal things to do was always a part of my plan, anyway.'
I did the voiceover. I went for a walk with my husband. We kept having these mini existential crises like, “Babe. This is our LAST walk as a family of two. Next walk we take there will be a BABY.”
The new plan was that they were going to rush off to the mom currently in labor, and then text me at midnight; if my labor hadn’t progressed by then, I was to drink the smoothie at midnight, giving them enough time to take care of that mama, and then get back to me.
I felt bad, like I had ruined my friends’ plans (this is a theme that would come up majorly throughout the next 22 hours). BACKSTORY: My midwife had been emotionally preparing me for 6 months, “You labor as you live,” she would tell me. What does that mean? It means that whatever emotional battles you fight in your life, THEY WILL ARISE TO THE SURFACE DURING A NATURAL LABOR! This is why having a natural labor was so important to me -- because it presents one of the most powerful opportunities to heal yourself of old patterns and wounds. It sets the space for absolute, total self-awareness and alchemy to occur. For me, that meant people-pleasing and trying to control everything, and then feeling really bad when I couldn’t. More on that later, though.
My friends, being the amazing humans they are, obviously didn’t care. We hung out and ate junk food, and my doula taught us some belly dancing moves. So, there we were, a bunch of girls, gays, and a pregnant chick, belly dancing in early labor on a Friday night. Around 10ish, it was clear that a baby wasn’t coming any time soon (contractions hadn’t even started yet), and so my friends went home, and I watched the clock, waiting for midnight and preparing my smoothie.
IF IT FEELS RIGHT -- those words seemed to stick out in bold on my text screen. Why did she text “if it feels right??” I wondered.
So I asked, “Why did you say, ‘If it feels right’?”
“Because you don’t have to drink it if it doesn’t. Does it?” She asked.
NO. It didn’t. It didn’t feel right. And I’ve never in my life, even as a professionally trained psychic (whatever that means, right?), *heard* something as clear as the “no” I got when I read her text. And this is why I am and will always be so in love with Tiffany Hoffman, my midwife, because she also listens to the Universe, and she knew to text me that.
I wrote back, “It doesn’t feel right.”
She said, “Great. Don’t drink it. Try to get some sleep. See you soon.”
The house was quiet. My friends were all gone. My husband was sleeping. I felt depressed because I JUST wanted to GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD. But I couldn’t deny that “no” I felt/heard. It was just so...loud and clear. I went and laid in bed. There was no way I was going to fall asleep. What’s going on in there, I wondered to my baby.
At 12:30am my bff, whom I lovingly call “Wifey”, texted, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing, really,” I answered. “All the sudden I just got these really bad period-like cramps. I’m just laying in bed in the fetal position.”
“Be there in 10,” she shot back. She showed up a few minutes later with a heating pad. We went to my living room and I laid on the floor as the period cramps got worse. I was in the fetal position and she was cuddling me. Just typing this part of the story is making me super emotional. I’ll never forget that hour, just her and I on my floor. I texted my doula who showed up around 1:30am. My bff went to lay down in my bed to sleep, and my doula took over cuddling me on the floor, rubbing my head, talking to me about what was happening. The pain was gnarly, so my doula texted the midwives and said things seems to be progressing rapidly.
I had been watching live births on a Facebook group called “BirthTube” for weeks, and felt really attached to the idea of letting all my favorite people be a part of this experience in such a modern way. But no, my insides were telling me not to. So, in the middle of a contraction, I created a new group with only a few people in it (parents, my husband’s family, and a couple of important friends that I really just wanted there). I also insisted on no one even knowing I was in labor, and flipped out when I found out my husband had posted in a small, private theatre group that my water had broken. For whatever reason, I could suddenly *feel* the energy of people thinking about us, and I then understood why mammals seek privacy when giving birth. I went from wanting all of my loved ones to know things had started, to not wanting anyone to know until it was over.
My mom, who was 3 hours ahead of us in Ohio, called me and said Azlan had come to her in a dream. That it was super real and that she had even seen his face. She said in the dream she was showing him off to our family, including my great-grandmother Orpha, who I’ve had an extreme psychic connection to since I was a baby (including talking to her in my dreams as a very little kid, and knowing things I couldn’t have otherwise known). My mom said in the dream I was walking around looking for donuts to eat, which was hilarious and validating because I was absolutely walking around eating the donuts my Wifey had brought over the night before.
5am: I got into the birth tub in my living room for the first time. You’re supposed to wait until the last minute to get into the tub, when you can’t handle any more pain, because it provides so much relief. If you get in too early, it can make it less effective later. I was so convinced that I was so close to the end at this point and wanted to be in the tub. (More backstory: in 2009, when I met the man who would become my husband, I had a vision of a waterbirth in a living room, with him sitting behind me. This was before we were even together. This psychic vision was so intense that it actually made me go, “Hmmm...well, he IS kind of cute. I could see him being my babydaddy.” That vision then created the crush that then made me pursue him.) So, needless to say, I was convinced this is how my baby would be born, and I wanted in that tub.
7am: I was antsy and annoyed that “nothing was happening”. I felt like I was disappointing people, that I was “taking too long”, that I wasn’t performing, that my friends were bored, that my birth team was annoyed. I was more worried about being a good host and was absolutely incapable of tapping into my own needs and focusing on myself. (Are you seeing now how all of my personal issues were arising in my birth, full frontal, completely raw. It was impossible to not be aware of them). My midwife 10000% warned me this would happen, and so I knew in my heart what was going on inside me.
My birth team suggested that I get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a while. By this point some back labor had started and I was miserable. It fucking hurt to sit on the toilet, but also I could see how SO many women give birth on toilets because of the muscle memory that comes as soon as you sit down. Like, I had so much trouble relaxing my pelvic floor and “letting go”, even in the tub, but the second I would be on the toilet, I felt comfortable relaxing “down there”. But also it fucking hurt to sit on a hard seat.
At this point, I hadn’t been measured yet, and didn’t know how far along I was. Part of going the midwife/homebirth route is that they are very hands off. It’s all about trusting your body, trusting the mother, and trusting the baby. The medical reasons for not checking for dilation are because it GREATLY increases chances of infection (especially in cases where the water has already ruptured). It’s actually kind of crazy that this practice has become normal in hospitals because the research is all there of how much more risk it creates. The psychological reasons for not checking is because it can really put the mother in her head if she’s not “as far along” as she thinks she “should” be.
But by this point I was going a little crazy and needed to be checked...for my own sanity. Again, the midwife journey is about honoring WHAT THE MOTHER WANTS, and guiding her to have autonomy in her choices. So, though many midwives discourage checking the cervix, when I was clear about wanting it, I got it. I decided that if I was anything less than 8cm dilated, I was going to send my friends home. So, my midwife checked me, and the result was 6cm. I started crying and finally admitted that I needed my friends to leave because I just couldn’t surrender. I am a people-pleaser, and a control freak, and there was zero chance I was going to be able to tap into my primal nature with anyone watching. I asked my doula to go tell all of my friends (except the one who feels like my big sister) to leave while I cried in that bathroom, grieving the loss of the birth I had so carefully “planned” in my head.
9:30am: They suggested I try getting into bed. Again, I had a ton of emotions around this not being a part of my “plan”. My beautiful, wonderful midwife took it upon herself to move all the “affirmations” I had taped up in my living room to my bedroom. I hated those affirmations at that moment. “Fuck the affirmations,” I kept thinking. The only thing good about this part are how beautiful and raw the pictures are from my husband and my doula in bed with me.
11am: I tried to overcompensate for the guilt I was feeling about how long this was taking by showcasing a suddenly fresh and invigorated attitude. It became clear that the baby’s position was not great. He was head down, but the awful back labor and slow-ish progress also indicated that he may be mal-positioned. Luckily for me, my doula happened to be familiar with something called Spinning Babies, which is ALL about creating better births by creating better positioned babies. My doula had told me I should be doing these exercises throughout my whole pregnancy, ESPECIALLY third trimester. Here I was, with probably the only doula in town with this knowledge, and I didn’t do it. I assumed that because he was head down that I was totally good to go. I regret that so much, and if I ever had another baby, I would spend my entire pregnancy focusing on this aspect. But it was too late now, so all I could do was try to do some moves in the moment, including deep lunges up my basement stairs, and a weird upside thing that hurt so bad I only achieved one.
12pm: The back labor was so bad at this point, I was so miserable. The ONLY thing that provided relief was sitting slouched on my couch. But here was the kicker: every time I sat like that, I undid all of the progress from the lunges. I literally had to CHOOSE to stop doing the one thing that was bringing me any relief. And here’s why midwives are the heroes of our planet: they never told me that I had to stop slouching. They only suggested it. I remember Tiffany actually saying, “You can keep doing it, we’re not going anywhere, but it is slowing your labor down. We support you no matter what.” Can you fucking believe that?? A doctor in a hospital would probably be like, “I’ve got a golf game at 4, so you need to hurry up.” But here was my birth team, letting me have my journey. I just don’t have words to capture how incredible, humbling, and boundary-pushing that was.
1pm: My contractions stopped. WHY. GOD. WHY. Emotionally, I knew God was challenging me again and bringing up my people-pleasingness. It was KILLING me knowing that my midwives had come from an overnight birth. I knew they hadn’t slept yet. I knew that I had called them too early. I felt like I failed them, that I should have known I wasn’t as far along as I thought, and that they could have gone home to sleep after the birth from late Friday night. I kept begging them to go take naps in our guest room. And I kept apologizing that I was “taking too long”. I seriously was so triggered by this aspect. It was almost as unbearable as the physical pain. And no amount of loving affirmation from them that everything was fine would help.
Anyway, midwives can’t administer pitocin to stimulate contractions, so they used herbal tinctures and nipple stimulation via a breast pump, which are known natural stimulants.
It wasn’t working.
4pm: No urge to push yet and really pissed off about it. I was crying and begging Tiffany to “tell me when it would be over.” I felt like I could handle the rest of the journey if someone could just FUCKING TELL ME how much longer it would be! Even if someone was like, “You’ve still got 8 more hours of this shit,” I would have been like, “Awesome. Someone start the clock.” But not knowing how much longer I had was existential torture like no other. Was it 2 more hours? 5 more hours? 2 more days?!?! The physical pain mixed with the emotional distress of not knowing made me want to die. It was sometime around here that I asked for a gun so I could shoot myself. (Dramatic, I know. But I was NOT planning on this back labor, and I was NOT planning on it taking this long.)
At this point my lovely brother stopped by to take our senior dog for a walk. I remember that he walked in, and so casually and genuinely said, "You're still in labor?"
I. almost. murdered him. He will never live that down.
5pm: More lunges, more stairs, more resisting the urge to recline on the couch, more crying, more begging, more praying and pleading and bargaining with God. One thing that I swear worked is that I kept bargaining with my baby and making deals with him that if he wanted to be born at home, things needed to progress.
6pm: My husband took his third nap. I remember telling myself that I would be very supportive of him napping because he would need his rest and should seize it when he could, but oh my god I was SO FUCKING ANNOYED by this time and resented him for even being able to sleep at all. I’m only noting this because it’s funny and true.
Also, at the time, we decided to discontinue my IV. This was another moment of intuition where I could simply FEEL that I didn’t need it, and that my baby and I would be okay without it. Also, there was something about that contraption being lodged in my hand that was seriously holding me back. I can’t quite describe it but I felt so free when they finally took it out.
7pm: I asked to go to the hospital. All the passion I had for having my baby at home was gone, and I just wanted it out of me. Despite there being absolutely no medical concern for me to transfer (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), I had so much fear that I just wasn’t going to be able to do it. My contractions had stopped. In my head I felt like I wasn’t progressing. And though the pain was insane, it was more that no one could tell me when it would be over, and I just wanted to give up.
Of course my midwives supported whatever I wanted to do, but they also knew I was fine, so they encouraged me to understand what transferring would mean, and I realized that it wouldn’t really solve any of my problems (as it was probably too late for an epidural, plus I would have to deal with checking in, etc). The idea of leaving the energy of my home and dealing with the energy of a hospital seemed absolutely impossible. My midwife actually bargained with me, which was a BRILLIANT move on her part. She said, “Let’s check you again, and see if you’ve progressed in dilation. If you have, we should stay.”
I loved that idea and started bargaining again with my baby. I prayed to God and to my baby, “If you want to be born at home, mommy needs you to have progressed past 8cm.”
I laid down to let her check me. I was almost 9cm. We were staying home.
9pm: My contractions felt really inconsistent but I wanted to keep pushing. Pushing for that long and feeling like no progress is being made is absolute hell. At one point my midwife gave me a "focal point" of "where" to push by pressing down on my perineum. Not only did it actually feel really good, but also it helped IMMENSELY with the pushing. Highly recommend. I remember begging her, "DO THE FINGER THING AGAIN!!"
9:30pm: My husband and my friend are standing at the side of my bed, watching me push. I would push with all of my might, and nothing would happen, and it was so depressing. Then, one time I pushed, and while I personally didn’t notice anything different, my husband and my friend both GASPED at the exact same moment. They had just seen the head emerge at the very back of the canal. Watching them react was exactly what I needed. The only tragic thing was that I thought it meant I was so close to being done! Little did I know I still had an hour left of pushing.
Anyway, I somehow stopped caring, finally. Like, seriously stopped caring. I would grab the edge of my heavy oak-framed bed and PULL it toward me while simultaneously squatting and yelling, and fluids just starting flowing. There was blood and poop coming out, and my birth team would switch out those pads quick as lighting, and I never saw anything. But damn did it feel good! All the poop and blood meant we were close and it was the most motivating thing ever. It turns out the thing I was most scared of was actually the thing I most needed. Birth is so, so strange and beautiful.
Again, my contractions had stopped, and my team was constantly doing everything they could to get them going. My midwife said, “Your contractions stopping are a sign that you are tired,” (which made sense because I had been up for two days at that point without sleep). That scared the shit out of me. There was absolutely NO FUCKING WAY I WAS TAKING A BREAK. So, I lied, and said that they had started again. And every minute or so I said I could feel one coming out, and I’d bear down, squat, pull on the frame of my bed, and push, stand up, and repeat. It seemed like the baby wasn’t really making it any further down the canal.
Suddenly, I felt this burning. It’s called “The Ring of Fire”, and it’s the burning sensation felt as the mother's tissues stretch around the baby's head. (It’s very similar to sticking your fingers in your mouth to stretch your lips and pulling as wide as you can.) I yelled, “I FEEL THE BURNING THING!” To be honest, it felt really good in a really weird way, and for a SPLIT second I had a glimpse of what orgasmic birth must feel like.
Tiffany said, “KEEP GOING!!” She was in her infamous squatting position, twisted, looking up inside of me from below. My husband was also laying on the floor on the other side, looking up, best seat in the house. (He was so cute, not afraid of absolutely anything the entire journey. The midwives even commented on how grounded and calm he was the whole time.)
The poetic thing about birth is that you have to die. Like, you get to this moment where you are SO over the pain, that you legitimately no longer care if you die pushing the baby out. You just want the pain to stop, so you push until you die. You split open, you let go of everything (literally) and you pray for death. And then BAM. In a single MOMENT the excruciating pain just...stops. It’s not gradual; it’s sudden. The pain is just over...and there...is your baby. The death becomes life.
The moment that my death turned into birth was accompanied by a *splat* that I’ll never forget. Mr. Azlan Rey Taglieber did not come out gradually, as I had seen in so many birth videos, where the baby crowns slowly, and gently just fallllllls out. Nope. Not Azzy Rey. He came out in what can only be described as a quantum moment. And just as my doula had been promising, with that splat came instantaneous relief. I remember my midwife catching him like the true professional she is and handing him up to me, bent over at the side of my bed. The next thing I remember is her yelling, “SHORT CORD, DON’T STAND UP!” So there I hunched, holding this THING in my arms, and mumbling, “It’s over. It’s fucking over. I did it. I can’t believe I fucking did it. I did it. I did it. I did it myself.”
When the cord situation was handled, they laid me on my bed and covered Azlan and I in blankets. He never cried. Not once. I remember he was lying belly down on my chest and at one point he lifted his head up and scanned the entire room, looking everyone in the eye like the freakin’ Terminator or something. It was psychedelic and wild.
Everything from there was a blur. The oxytocin rushed in, and while the midwives did their thing (which was beyond fascinating to see) I remember staring at my bff Heather at the foot of my bed, and she was crying (and snapping these amazing photos), and I kept whispering to her, “Mama, I did it. I did it. He’s here. It’s finally over. I did it.”
Everything was so calm, and we know we were blessed to not have required any further medical procedures. The home-birth experience, when as healthy and smooth as mine, is very hands-off. There was no rush. There was no unnecessary separation. They allowed his cord to stay connected until it turned white. My midwife stitched my one, small tear in the comfort of my bedroom. We were laughing, joking, crying.
My doula fed me an ice cold cherry coke she found in the fridge (sorry, Amanda), and it was THE MOST GLORIOUS THING I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE. I freakin’ chugged that thing. I’ll never forget that cherry coke.
The midwives told me that they couldn’t leave until I peed at least once, and that sometimes it can take a really long time and multiple tries. I remember thinking, I’m gonna rock this for you ladies. I’m going to pee quicker than anyone has ever peed as a small token for having had a 22.5 hour labor.
AND I DID. I peed right away, and shouted, “I PEED!” And they cheered from the other room.
And that was it. I was a mother.
I listened to the stillness of my mostly-empty house for what felt like a really long time. Writing this now, almost a year later, I don’t actually remember if I ever slept. But I do know I didn’t leave my bed, my favorite place on Earth, and now the holy site where I gave birth, for almost 2 weeks. It was more glorious than anything I could have designed myself.
Looking back and examining the motifs that showed up in my journey, I realize that this birth for me was about letting go of what other people thought of me, and, recognizing that I can do things myself. Where many people struggle with asking for help, I think I struggle to believe I can do things on my own. I have a tendency toward codependency, often believing that I need other people to accomplish my goals (more so professionally than personally). The light side of this trait is that I have a talent for bringing teams together, and my matriarchal role is often the glue holding things together, as well as the air stoking the fire in the passions of other people’s heart. The shadow side of this trait is that I forget I’m enough on my own-- that I, too, am worthy of being produced, not just being the one who is producing. Like all codependents, I avoid looking at myself by focusing on others. Now I know that when I focus on myself, I’m capable of producing life.
However, what if you doubt the answer you find? How do you know you're tapping into the collective wisdom of Spirit, as opposed to the egoic trappings of the mind? When is self referencing, self sabotaging? (Can you hear the voice of Carrie Bradshaw asking these questions?)
The greatest indicator is our old friend Friend. I say Friend because energies are neither good nor bad, they simply are, and it's only the lens through which we view attributes which give them the label of good or bad. Fear is a powerful teacher (great, just what we need, another teachable moment) designed to lead us toward the places we still need to grow, process, or work through.
However, when we are IN fear, our capacity to think about others diminishes to zero. Fear makes us irrational, greedy, and selfish (not in the good way). When Fear is present, the True you is gone, making it impossible to make divine decisions.
We then will often make judgments and decisions from the moral high ground of self referencing, only to then learn - after sometimes a slue of unpredictable consequences - that in fact we did not pass go and did not collect that $200. Congratulations, God is infinitely more forgiving to us than we are to each other, and the opportunity to make a different choice, will eventually emerge.
So, what do you need to do?
Recognize, cultivate, and enjoy the All-Mighty Pause.
- Is there hesitancy in your decision-making? PAUSE ... you in Fear!
- Was there a shift in temperature, voice, body stance, and attitude.? PAUSE ... you in fear, child!
- Do you simply not want to do it and are mustering all the strength and courage to say "sure I'll hang out tonight" when all you want to do is crawl into bed and enjoy Netflix, guilt-free? PAUSE ... You are not alone ... and you're in Fear!
The fact that you are in Fear doesn't make you a bad person, doesn't mean you're behind the curve spiritually, nor is Fear something you must conquer.
Sit with it.
Breathe slowly into it.
See what's there, if you want to.
And remember to lighten up, it's only eternity.
Space is limited, please pre-pay to reserve your space. Check our blog for monthly updates.
This month's ceremony is extra special as we have been called to hold it at a semi-secret labyrinth found off Keystone Ave.
Time: 6:30pm PARKING & WALKING
Bring: Blanket or chair (that you can carry a short distance); and a journal + pen for writing
Location: Parking across the street from 2530 Severn Dr. (This is just an address marker)
Notes: Getting to the labyrinth requires 1/4 mile easy-but-off-road walking. Pictures of the terrain are below.
RESERVE YOUR SPOT ---->
Explore these themes and more with The Alchemists on 8/29 through visual art, talks, live music, and more.
Alchemist Theatre was born out of a desire to create new ways to celebrate spirituality. As a group of professional and talented artists who are passionate about creating art, we wanted to go deeper, and find different ways to connect to Spirit. We want to inspire people to create art, build community, and become better versions of themselves. As modern day Alchemists, we are here to transform fear into love, and are seeking peers who are ready to do the same.
Live shows every last Wednesday of the month in Reno, NV.
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What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement
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