The lovely Asha Khorshed Billimoria Kaufman and Marcelo Moon Kaufman-Powers (21 months)
Asha always knew she wanted to have a family, but when her husband suggested having kids, she felt hesitant. "I identify as a woman that is adventurous, exploring and taking risks as much as possible, flying by the seat of my pants is my best self. I was scared". Asha's husband's mother passed away 4 years prior and had all 4 of her kids at home in the Bronx in the 70's and 80's. "She was a fierce advocate of natural birth and of families - both her own, and others in the Bronx. My husband was eager to have children".
Asha says that in part, she acquiesced. It had been a 3 year negotiation and she knew he was eager to start a family. They got pregnant immediately and it took her almost 20 weeks into pregnancy to stop being in denial. "I remember at one point my husband finally said "you're half way there! you need to enjoy this time!" It was hard for me at first. I hated the way my clothes fit me. I hated that my body was changing, and felt that I just started looking fat. Finally when I looked really pregnant, I started enjoying it more. Finally, I felt good. I liked my body, I liked my new boobs, and I enjoyed the attention that everyone gave a pregnant woman. I would go dancing in the morning at these day-time raves and loved just getting into the middle of the dance floor with my big ol belly".
The more she read about birth the more she wanted to have a natural birth. They interviewed what felt like 100 home-birth midwives but she could not feel 100% comfortable with having a baby at home - "what happened if we lost the baby because we didn't have the right hospital grade support, at the right time? I wasn't able to live with that result". They settled with a midwife that delivered at a birthing center at a hospital, just in case. They took a 8 week long birthing class that was pretty painful, but, felt like part of the process. "I read books. I did my cat cows. I worked my ass off my entire pregnancy. I was busting ass at a new job that I had been at for less than a year".
Asha started to feel stronger Braxton Hicks contractions her last day of work, which was her due date. That night she started having contractions throughout the night. It wasn't until the following night that they started coming on, stronger and more frequently. In order to have a natural birth at a hospital you had to stay at home as long as possible. At around 4am their doula came over and gave her some calm, and sleep. She was so determined to do whatever it took to have a natural birth. "I was willing to stay at home longer, I felt fearless. There was no part of my birth that I felt I couldn't do it. That I couldn't do whatever it took".
Finally, they went to the hospital in the worst cab ride of her life. She arrived, at 6.5 centimeters dilated, healthy blood pressure. All was going as planned. And, then, it all began to unravel. First, they wanted to see her progress further. She asked for more time and she and her husband worked together to stimulat contractions and take terribly painful positions. She didn't dilate further. Her water didn't break. They finally broke her water and there was meconium present. They were sent to Labor and Delivery but 5 hours later, after some of the most difficult, and enrapturing labor she still had not dilated further. The midwife kept saying that the babies head was not rotating, it was not moving. He was sunny side up and his head was sideways and had not switched position in hours. She suggested Asha have an epidural. She said that it was a necessary next step so that she could loosen her pelvis, and maybe the baby would start to descend. "This felt like a real disappointment. I had worked so hard to avoid this. I didn't want the epidural. But if I was going to get it I wanted it now. I was in so much pain. I was able to get the epidural fast, and I remember I seized this moment of zen when they put in the needle. I was going to stand up to every challenge".
Over the next 5 hours her natural birth became a cesarean section. The babies heart rate wasn't doing well with each contraction, and it was not moving down the canal. "I was deeply disappointed. I felt like I would and could do whatever it takes to have this baby vaginally. I tried to push but the baby wasn't moving". At 1:00am she went into the operating room. "I got into the room and I said out loud "excuse me everyone, this was not the birth that I wanted to I hope everyone can keep focused and maintain a sanctity in the room." Everyone looked so young and I felt like I was going to die".
Asha says that this felt like one of the most trying and spiritual experiences of her life. She recited mantras as she went into the room and held her midwife's hand. The baby was born. It was a boy. He was taken away and then put near her cheek for skin to skin contact. She was so tired she started falling asleep. "I didn't feel any way about the baby at first. They brought me into a post-operating room and the baby boy latched immediately. They they took him away, and my husband asked if he should go with me or the baby. I told him to go with the baby and I passed out".
It took a while for Asha to get over the experience of the birth. Her husband felt that it might not have gone that way if they weren't in a hospital. She felt as if she had to believe that she did everything possible to have the birth she wanted. She didn't feel connected to Marcelo at first and remember it was around 2.5 months and that she began getting worried. Then, he started babbling. "It was the most beautiful sound. I cried. I felt like I was starting to get to know him".
Having a child has been the most transformative, challenging, trying, magical experience of her life. It has been hard but, she feels so grateful to have this relationship. It is the most complicated relationship she can imagine - it is physical, emotional, psychological, intimate. "Marcelo Moon's love is so sweet. I am grateful every day for his love. I yearn for it deeply. My husband is urging me to consider another baby. I again am dragging my feet. But I know that I have the capacity for a new relationship".
"My relationship with motherhood is complicated. It integrates body issues, my identity, how I see myself, how I think others see me, my past self, my future self, my ideal self, and my lack of control. I feel proud, weak, able and with vast shortcomings, constantly. I wanted to participate because I think the images that you make can have the power to capture all of that, and I want to participate in telling this story. It is important for all women to know that this is not easy, and is full of sadness and sorrow, challenge and disarmament, dullness and void, as it is love and intimacy. Birth is one of the most beautiful, strong, and powerful experiences of my life, as it was revealing of how little I know or have control of".