Yesterday I shared my thoughts on last week’s Scorpio Full Moon (peak intensity for the birth-death-rebirth cycle), the abortion bans in the US, and how Uranus meeting Venus in her home of Taurus for the first time in nearly 80 years served to awaken lots of women and men about the rights to personal freedom and bodily autonomy that we assumed were givens. Part 2 of this 3-part series follows, starting with my giving-birth story, with prayers for patience from those of you who think you know it, ending with a potent dream which serves as the foundation of the work I’ve been doing for the past 9 years as well as addressing why sensitive souls should not worry about abortions making embryonic victims out of the beings wanting to incarnate.
I suspect there might be a detail here which will land for you, so please don’t change channels just yet. If you want to skip ahead before circling back, jump to The Dream.
*** I am not telling this story to impress people or to inspire anger or fear or respect or anything else. I am telling this story and including all of the details because I think those on both sides of the abortion “debate” could use a dose of truth about what pregnancy and birth can sometimes look like. There is WAY more at stake than any person who has not had a bellyful of human waiting to join the outside world will ever know. Creating new life is a vast and deep mystery. You have to be willing to look death square in the face, because that just might be asked of you. If you have a birth story, I encourage you to tell yours, too. As often as possible. The more Truth is out there circulating, the more compassionate we’ll all be. ***
Let me say at the outset that Anne-Charlotte is now 13. She speaks, writes and reads both French and English fluently, gave 2 performances last weekend at the Rialto Theatre here in Atlanta (Ballet and Jazz), and according to her most recent standardized test results is reading at a 12th-grade level (5 years ahead of where she currently is). She’s just been invited to join Accelerated Math and Advanced English. Yes, I’m a proud mama for sure, but also, in the story I’m about to tell, things get very sketchy for both of us. I don’t want you to worry as you read this.
In the summer of 2005, I surprised my husband Thomas for our first wedding anniversary with a positive pregnancy test. Due date: 7 or 8 April. We were delighted, and I loved my body for the first time in my life because of the miraculous work it was performing.
I brought my (then) Type-A personality to the job of being pregnant: I walked 2-3 miles per day, recorded my weight, blood pressure, and how many servings of protein, calcium, and orange, yellow, and green veggies I consumed daily. I was 37 and had a high-powered job (chair of my department) but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
At 4 months (November), I opted for amniocentesis. Thomas and I went up to the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists where we had the first real sonogram done. We found out it was a girl and saw via 3D imaging that she was fully formed, but super skinny! Spoiler alert: she was still that skinny when she was born 2 months later.
That same week, I went to see the midwife, and she noted that despite not having gained much weight, my belly was big, and the baby might come earlier than expected. “Oh, no,” I said. “I’m planning on working until spring break and then going on maternity leave 2 weeks before the due date.” She laughed, and I do too now!
I can hardly imagine my level of naiveté about just how very little control anyone has over what happens during a pregnancy. No logic can be applied, and this is one reason among many why it is SO VERY messed up that old white men think that they can legislate women’s bodies! We are not machines.
In December, several things happened. Firstly, it got cold and icy. I stopped wanting to walk 2-3 miles a day on slippery sidewalks given that my balance wasn’t what it had been. My walking partner and I agreed that if it was icy, or if it was below 13 degrees F, we wouldn’t go. We almost never went.
Plus, it was crunch time: the end of the semester. My duties as professor and as chair heated up as the winter break approached. I needed to make sure that my grades, and all of my colleagues’ grades, were in, and that everyone had collected evaluations, etc. Oh, and I decided to host my annual holiday party with 100 guests and all homemade food, because it might be the last time for a few years.
At the same time, my blood pressure cuff was out of batteries, and I was so busy that I forgot to buy new ones. [Cue menacing music]
After grades were turned in, it was time to spend the first part of the holidays with my parents. My sister and her husband also came out to visit and gave us an infant car seat, with apologies at how “premature” it felt. Little did we know that her birth was quite so imminent. But there were batteries for my blood pressure cuff, and I didn’t like what it was telling me. I thought the readings must be off because they were SO different from my rock-solid 90/60 the whole pregnancy thus far.
The day after Christmas, I flew to Washington DC for my professional organization’s massive annual convention with 10 thousand attendees. I was interviewing candidates for our new tenure-track position as well as attending research presentations and meeting up with old friends from grad school. I thought my puffy ankles were because of the plane ride. I was tired, sure, but who wouldn’t be with that non-stop schedule?
Two days before leaving DC, Thomas flew in. We were going to have our last couples’ New Year’s Eve, even if I couldn’t drink the bubbly. But he arrived sick, and he NEVER gets sick! (Two years later while I was abroad on sabbatical, he kept complaining of a headache. When he finally went to the hospital, they determined that he had had the often-fatal bacterial form of meningitis but had recovered all on his own! This is the kind of immune system he has, and he was still miserable. Needless to say, I, as a pregnant woman, did NOT have that level of immunity.)
By the next morning, I was miserable, too. We dragged ourselves around to various Smithsonians, but by dinner time, we were kaput. We crashed with the lights and tv on. In the morning we changed our tickets and flew home; I was 25 weeks along.
The following Wednesday I had to pry myself out of bed to attend a meeting of all the campus head honchos. Since I was upright, I decided to see my doctor on the remote chance that there was ANY kind of relief available from that obliterating flu. The campus meeting had run way over, so I huffed and puffed my way into the medical office.
The nurse noted that my blood pressure was higher than usual “but you just ran in, so I’ll take it after you see the doctor to give it time to come down.” Well, 20 minutes later it hadn’t moved. It was up to 150/100. These days I know that’s a massive and dangerous shift from 90/60, but I didn’t then. She kindly suggested that I go across the hall to see my OB-GYN.
My OB saw me right away but made fun of the nurse across the hall and didn’t pull my chart or have me pee in a cup. She told me that everything was fine, and that instead of coming in on the 11th, I should just wait until the 18th. (My daughter was actually born before both of these dates. Things were NOT fine.)
Each one of these footprints was about the size of a quarter.
Not 24 hours later I was in the hospital dying. After a remarkably cinematic session of projectile vomiting, my blood pressure spiked, causing my brain to expand massively. The pain was excruciating, because my skull was waaaaaay too small in a matter of seconds. The moment it started I knew that if I panicked, I would be dead in minutes, so I used every ounce of energy I had to pull everything in and down, breathe through the pain, and trust.
The next thing I remember is Thomas driving me to the hospital and telling me that he had just gotten notified that my life insurance policy had been approved. (You cannot make this up!!) “That’s good, because I think I may die,” I replied through gritted teeth. He called me a drama queen and dropped me off at the emergency room door.
Later a nurse who was present said she had no idea how I had walked in there, when any normal person would have been catatonic or passed out.
I was watching myself from the ceiling, calmly observing the swarm of activity around my body. They brought in team after team of phlebotomists, but my veins just kept collapsing. No one could get a line in.
Suddenly, I heard a voice. This voice told me that if it was just too much to bear, it would be an easy and small “step off to the left.” I was shown an image of my feet on a small platform, chugging along like a train on a track, two inches at a time. He told me that Anne-Charlotte was going to be fine no matter what, so to base my decision on how difficult it was to stay in that level of pain. I was curious to see her face, though, so I said, “I think I’ll stay.”
In that very moment they got the line in. I had been moving steadily towards death, but when I made the decision to stay, I moved back in the direction of survival. You can’t make this up! (I don’t know how high it got, but after 6 hours of morphine I was declared stable enough to the transferred when it had been reduced to 260/200.)
The next day, in the new hospital with the best Neonatal ICU in the state, the doctor told me that I had HELLP syndrome: Hemolysis, Elevated Liver, Low Platelets. My blood cells were splitting apart, my liver and kidneys shutting down, and I had zero clotting ability. I was told that because mothers are the best incubators they would keep her in me “as long as possible.”
Translation: until we were both on the brink of death. Then they would swoop in, grab her, and hope we both survived. Babies of mothers with HELLP were either extremely fragile and died right away or were massive fighters. We all hoped she would fall into the latter category. (She did!)
Day one: I had gained 20 pounds in fluid overnight because my liver and kidneys weren’t working. All those bags of fluids they had put in me had nowhere to go. I couldn’t watch tv or read email or look at my phone because I was a seizure risk: no screens. I couldn’t read or do crosswords either, because the magnesium to prevent seizures made it so that my eyes couldn’t focus. There were 13 ceiling tiles. I counted them like others count mala beads. Over. And over. And over.
Day 2 creeped by, and still I had this massive flu on top of pre-eclampsia. No one to talk to for 23 hours per day, and then everyone coming or calling in the same 30 minutes. Day 3 was the same, but by now the steroids I had received on Thursday night had helped her lungs to develop fully. We were surviving! So far, so good. I was a beached whale bored to tears and miserable, but still alive.
On day 4—the final day of my second trimester—doctors were pretty sure that the moment to swoop was imminent. I wasn’t allowed to have any food, water, ice chips, or even lip balm for my chapped and bleeding lips (that blasted flu!). I was just breathing in and out, repeating to Anne-Charlotte that we were still alive with each breath. At 9 that night, they scheduled the emergency C-section for the next morning—the 10th—at 8:30.
At the morning shift change, the new nurse couldn’t find the baby on the monitor. Either her pulse had dropped by half, or it wasn’t there at all. The moment to swoop in had arrived! She cranked up my bed, barked “We’re on our way!” into the phone, and ran me down the hall. I remember the bump-bump of the bed onto the elevator and then nothing else for 8 hours; we were both, as predicted, hanging on by mere threads.
Little Anne-Charlotte weighed one pound, 10 ounces at birth. That’s what a can of pumpkin weighs. The C-section itself took 45 minutes, with no anesthesia (I was too far down already). My blood was so thin that the sponges stuck together; they couldn’t very well close me up with my husband standing right there counting 5 sponges going in and only 4 coming out!
When I finally came to in late afternoon, nobody really thought either one of us would live. With the DeathStar version of the flu, I wasn’t allowed anywhere near my baby or anyone else in the NICU.
And so I waited. Empty, alone, and with a hip-to-hip scar.
That night I had 3 vivid dreams. They were all about death.
The middle dream set my life on a new trajectory, though I didn’t realize it at the time. It also answers the abortion “debate,” which is why I bring it up with such a long preamble.
As the dream opened, I found myself in a small, nondescript beige room. I was sitting on a kind of exam table one might see in a very drab doctor’s office, and the only other feature was a small empty closet with only a few lonely hangers.
Then I heard the same disembodied voice that had told me 6 nights before that Anne-Charlotte would be just fine either way, and that I could make my own decision about enduring excruciating pain or “taking one small step off to the left.”
This time the voice told me that I was dead.
“Oh, no,” I answered. “No, no, no, no, no, no. I can’t be dead. I chose to stay because I was curious to see her face, and I still haven’t seen it.”
There was a sigh from the voice, and he went on to explain many mysteries about life and death and even the nature of time in order to help me come to terms with being dead.
The first thing he said was “The omphalos is the center of the Universe.” I knew from my literary studies that “omphalos” meant belly button in Greek and given the fact that the umbilical cord connecting me to my daughter had been severed just a few hours before, I understood that to mean that motherhood and the creation of new life was central. No argument there!
He went on to explain about time. “You know how sometimes when you think that you’ve slept for hours, you wake up to find it’s only been a few minutes?” “Yes,” I replied. “And conversely that sometimes you think you’ve been asleep for a few minutes but it’s actually been hours?” “Of course.”
“Well, that is the true nature of time: it expands or contracts to fit, and it’s always perfect. It’s like an accordion. Every single human on this planet of yours is in a body the exact, perfect amount of time for him or her. That’s just how it works.
“You humans perceive death as the saddest possible thing, but nothing could be further from the truth: each death is a homecoming; a celebration. It’s only you humans–who cannot see the celebration–who think it’s a tragedy. Particularly if the person returning home is a child. That’s about the saddest thing any of you can imagine: an innocent ‘cut down’ before he or she has the time to mature and experience much of life.
[I was speechless. The voice went on.]
“You see, you live in a world where space and time make sense; they feel stable and reliable to you, except when sleep is involved and you travel beyond the limited realm of space-time.
Because you don’t know any different, you believe that it’s probably the same for everyone else in the Universe. But it’s not. Where the rest of us are, all that you call time is contained in a single moment, where past-present-future are simultaneous, where all decisions have already been made; where all actions have already happened.
[Incidentally, this is the case with the Akashic Records, of which I will discover the existence some two years down the road.]
“All the souls looking to incarnate or re-incarnate on Earth know that they will forget and become subject to human time, but they choose, in the moment of deciding whether or not to incarnate into Earth’s space-time, how long they want to stay. And it’s always in perfect alignment for each being. This is free will in action, though you do not remember choosing.
“When children die young, that was their chosen amount of time. Perhaps it’s because they were only interested in exploring childhood this time around. Another time they might choose to live past 100 if they want to experience old age.
“Even embryos and fetuses which are aborted: they know going in [my emphasis] what the mother’s choice will be, because for them it has already happened. And they choose it anyway! It’s a great way for them to dip a toe into having a material body without being obliged to stay in it for years. Those wanting to get a glimpse of incarnation with no strings attached choose this option. It’s a win-win.”
At this point in my dream, I was convinced. I was in resistance to the idea of being dead, but I trusted the disembodied voice.
When I said so, the scene shifted immediately. Suddenly I was standing in total darkness, with a door outlined in flame in the distance. The disembodied voice was gone; it didn’t answer when I called. The next step seemed pretty obvious: go up to the door and knock. So I did.
Knock, knock, knock.
Nothing. No answer at all. Now, I was pretty pissed at this turn of events, because it sure as hell was not my idea or preference to be dead (as far as I knew). I decided to try again.
Knock, knock, knock.
Still nothing. By now I was furious, because I wanted to touch my newborn baby at least once and see her face. Then I would be ready to go. But, there didn’t seem to be any way out of the darkness except through that door, so I tried again.
Knock, knock, knock.
This time, the door started to open. Light came flooding through the widening crack and suddenly I was back in my hospital bed, and the nurse was entering to take my vitals again.
I was so moved by what I had just experienced that I told the nurse all about it. She promised to tell the doctor because he always wanted to monitor the women having “meaning of life” dreams extra closely.
You may be thinking that this was just a dream. Thomas dismissed it by reminding me that I was on massive doses of morphine.
Any mystic will tell you that certain substances or experiences (ecstasy, pain) open portals to mystical adventures, and this was certainly one for me.
This dream “worked on” me for 4 years, until I quit my academic career. A further 4 years down the road, after I was quite established in my field but wanting to pivot away from the “spiritual business coach” label, I was looking at the word oracle as a place to land.
I bought a book about the Delphic oracles. As I was reading through the first chapter, called “Center of the Universe,” I ran into this: “It was during these early days that the Greeks began honoring Delphi as the center of the world, marking the site with a large, conical stone: the omphalos meaning ‘navel’ or ‘center.’ […] Moreover, holding title as the terrestrial hub meant being at the center of the wider universe as well.” (Broad, 28.)
You cannot make this shit up!!! Published the same year that she was born and everything…
So there you have it. My giving-birth story and the foundational dream that came at the end.
Everything worked out (eventually) and I have a gorgeous daughter of whom I am infinitely proud and for whom I am so very grateful. She is the treasure and joy of my existence.
But this was very much a desired pregnancy.
No woman should be made to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and debt, and pain, and permanently compromised physical systems, and job insecurity, and emotional distress–and that’s just while she’s pregnant; this doesn’t even address everything that can befall her once the baby arrives) without her consent. No. Woman.
If you believe this to be true, I trust that you’re going out there to do something. Gather your allies. The next 18 months won’t be easy ones. but we came to do this.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
I’ll be back in a day or two for part 3 of this series, on the best way to weather the coming storm. (Hint: it has to do with owning your Feminine Power and Personal Magick.)
Much Love + Respect for you, as always.
Broad, William J. The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi, New York: Penguin Press, 2006.