Updated: Feb 20
Written by: Jesse Cirillo
When I was getting high there was very little hope in my life. Most of my experience was coated in misery and self-loathing. I felt so trapped and helpless, as if there was no way out. When I finally got clean, I was not prepared for how radically different my life would be. I was not prepared for the many ups and downs I would experience. My life was constantly changing. New adventures and challenges. New jobs, new friends, marriage, and having children. The story of the birth of my lovely daughter Cora is (for now) a highlighted example of these changes. Two days after Cora was born, I wrote about the journey. Following is this memoire and I want to share this part of my life with you all who are seeking purpose, because for me, it was a miracle lived right in front of me. It was the magic of recovery.
So, with that said, let's talk about the birth of my second child.
This experience was like nothing I have ever encountered. Looking back over the last 48 hours has been like looking into a vortex. In this vortex I see reality, littered with remnants of memories. I see God, inundated in every scenario. I see my wife, facing down the most painful experience of her life. I see my child, from the womb to birth. There is so much to witness in such a harmonious birth. A process I am both lucky and privileged to be a part of.
Let me begin with speaking to the way in which my bride and I chose to bring our daughter Cora into the world. It seems there were three options. Option one, is the hospital. The standard American version of birth. You go to the hospital, they get the ball rolling, and poof you have a child. The process is in and out and very impersonal. Effective nonetheless. The Second of the three is Midwifery. This option seemed radical to me. Midwives either come to your house or you go to a birthing center. They are not doctors, they just basically are trained in baby delivery. This radical option was low on my list. After all, why go through the chance of having something go wrong, and not having someone who can fix it. The doctor is the safer way to have a baby, duh. Midwives are only for hippie chicks who don’t pay their taxes and hate men. I want nothing to do with that. The third option, is that the baby is born in such a fast manner we have no option for anything and have a baby on the side of the road. An unlikely but possible option.
Of the three options, my vote was for the hospital. On the other hand, my wife was voting for Midwifery. My lovely bride, who is considerate of my needs and emotions, acknowledged and validated my objections. I felt that the midwife path was unsafe and unnecessary. There is no good reason for us to go to a birth center if we can have all the protection a hospital can afford. My wife (who very well can be considered a hippie chick) really was pressing for the birth center path. She felt that the doctors misled and misinformed her through the process of our first daughter Amira. She stated that they didn’t tell her what was going on through her labor, they didn't tell her what options she had. They never told her that she could refuse a test, or have a baby the way she wanted. They didn't tell her about the liability the doctors have to induce labor early. On top of all this, my wife also wanted to experience the most primal thing about being a woman possible, an unmedicated birth of a child.
We exchanged thoughts, feelings, and concerns. I remained obstinate, refuting the fact that I felt her desire for a spiritual process did not preclude her and our child's safety. My wife was confident, and I trust my wife. Though I strongly detested this idea, I submitted. I felt it was my wife's journey, and my job is to support her in it. With that said, a midwife it was.
After visiting a few birth centers, my wife found one she liked. When I met the Midwife, it was not what I expected. She was an older woman that spoke like a valley girl. She would say, “Oh no” but drag it out like, “ohhhhh nooooooooo”. Which was super fun for me. Regardless, she has a real calm, and sweet demeanour. But what won me over was that she was a nurse practitioner. For me that was the closest to the doctor I was going to get. Also, I did not get the “I hate men” vibe from her, which I did get from the other birth center we visited. Ultimately it seemed as though my wife liked her, and so did I. The decision was made. The only complication was that her birth center was way out in the boonies of Longview. That is a 45 minute drive from Vancouver, assuming that we were both home. We later discovered that the week of her due date was supposedly during a “snowpocalypse”. A solid ten day stretch of snow according to the news forecasts, which is unlikely for our area. With that said, the stage is set for February, 10th 2019.
Around 9:00 pm on February 9th Rachel (my wife) began to experience minor cramps. We had spent the day lounging around the house. Resting. By the night time we were well relaxed and about to climb into bed. We had just finished watching True Detective. As I crawled into bed my wife jumps in the bath, a typical thing that she does when she does not feel well. I asked, “are you going into labor?” She replied, “maybe, I just don’t know.” In anticipation I did what anybody else would do, I turned on Planet Earth. The bath took about an hour. When my beautiful wife unveiled herself from the bathroom door I exclaimed; “Are we having a baby?”. She responded, “I think we are.” Rachel then went down stairs to try and relax. We had this idea in our head that we had the whole night for her labor to happen based on our experience from Amira. I laid down to try to get some sleep, considering I had been up since 6 in the morning.
As I laid down I began to experience the jitters. My legs were restless, my heart was pounding, and my mind was racing a mile a minute. I laid in bed for about half an hour, then I heard the faint cries of my wife. I decided not to sleep and be with my wife through the early stages of her labor. When I descended the stairs, my wife was pacing our living room. The entire room was only lit by the thin flame of our gas fire. Rachel was pacing with her headphones on, groaning. I asked how she was doing and she said the contractions have begun and begun fairly intensely. I insisted she call the midwife. Rachel wanted me to go back to bed. I told her I would not until she called the midwife. Her contractions were roughly three minutes apart, and they sounded intense. But what do I know?
When she called the midwife, the midwife said to keep counting the contractions and call back within an hour. We said OK. As time went on, the contractions got more intense and shorter. My bride was almost debilitated at every contraction, they were coming every minute to two minutes. Forty-five minutes into it my wife asked if we should call the midwife. I said something to the effect of, “if you're asking me then the answer is yes.” I called the midwife because my wife was having a gnarly contraction. The midwife instructed us to head out.
That night it happened to snow. There was a thin veil of snow covering the ground. I loaded the wife up into the Subie and hit the road. As we got onto I-5 and my wife started to shout more and more due to the contractions. My paternal “oh crap” senses were kicking in. As her moans got louder my foot gently pushed the gas further. As we proceeded 90 MPH I considered calling the sheriff to let him know that I was speeding because my wife was in labor and to please not pull me over. We made it to Longview in about 30 minutes. As I pulled off the exit, the surface of the ground was sprinkled like frosting from the snow. The birth center was about 2-3 miles from the freeway. We went inland and the roads became tarnished with white. The mixture of ice and snow made an alluring sight. As we pushed through, over hill and slope, through forest and mountain we came to a fork in the road. I missed my turn. I pressed on the brakes, and turned around. As I turned around my headlights hit the road just right. The untouched snow, only interrupted by my tracks, was glistening. It looked as though diamonds were scattered along the ground. The intensity of the situation, mixed with the beauty of creation, made a cocktail of emotion. I was enamoured. I quickly snapped out of the moment of tranquility and returned to “oh crap” sense and continued to sail down the road. We arrived at the birth center and before the midwife arrived.
We pulled up to the house by a carport on the ground level with an entrance to the house. There was a pink or purple sign that read, “Birth center entrance”. We entered through that door and stepped into a basement. The basement was hardwood with a lone couch sitting in the room. I could see through a window an OB/GYN table and some other medical looking table and instruments. In another room there was a queen bed. I thought that the room was cold and rather dank. We waited there for about five minutes until a young lady came and grabbed us. We followed her up three flights of stairs till we hit the top floor. As my foot hit the top stair I made a quick assessment of the room. It was warmer, there were couches, chairs, a bed, carpet, and an inflatable tub sitting in the middle of the room. The tub has tubes that were plumbed down the stairs into the main floor sink, then to somewhere else unknown. I liked this room a lot better. A sense of calmness rushed over me. We were here. It was time. We were safe. That was not what I was expecting to feel from going to a midwife.
Kathleen (the midwife) arrived shortly after our ascent to the top floor. She seemed even keel but rather sporadic. Trying to get her bearings. I think she thought that she had more time, or maybe it was because she just left the hospital from inducing another client. We exchanged quick formalities then Kathleen checked Rachel. Ray was already 9 cm dilated! It was high time. As we are talking through all this my wife is having impressive contractions. I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful she is. Watching her in this primal and natural state made her glow. Her true self shining. Though it was difficult to watch her in pain, it was like watching a hero in a movie suffer to achieve the goal of their quest. She was my hero. OG feminist. True womanly power. I could not help but think how God’s design is so perfect. Her body is equipped with the tools to handle such an amazing feat of nature. Reflecting back to me the glory of God.
Over the next few hours was the meat of the journey. It was the high and low of childbirth. There were many times in which my wife said, “I can’t do this” or “get this baby out of me” or “I’m done”. Every doubt that appeared in her mind was met with determination and strength. My wife fought herself in a way like I have never seen anyone before. She came face to face with her humanity. There were moments where she left her body, she went to a place so far removed from where we were that it was as if she was a shell. Her body running on programmed action. She would come to suddenly and tell me she needed me with her. She would grab me, she would claw me, and shout. She would move abruptly trying to find a way to numb the physical pain. While all this is happening her spirit is shining. Through that pain and the suffering God was becoming so clear in her. She was dancing with the harmony of the natural world. Engaged in the fluency of God the creator.
The final symphony. We were in the inflatable pool. The water was blissfully warm. The touch of it made me tired. The pushing had begun. My wife was bent over in the pool. She was holding me. The baby’s head was out. Kathleen gave some instructions on what would happen on this final stretch. My wife started pushing more intensely. She bellowed out. Cries echoing through the still night. Each scream burned with fire. Tenacity and perseverance shimmering like the warmth reflecting from the water. The baby comes out, accompanied by a discolouring of the pool. The pool turns a muddy red. The midwife hands the baby under my wife’s legs. The baby floats to the top of the water only to be caught by Rachel's loving embrace. She grabs the baby so tightly. She lays back in the pool. Her steadfast grip of our child is partnered with a final cry of Joy. Our baby has Arrived.
Cora sits on her mother’s chest. I am kneeling behind her mother. The baby is holding her mother for the first time. The essence of God laying right before us. I think, how great is God. I had nothing to do with this spirit coming to life. Her eyes open looking at her new reality, it was like looking into something completely untainted by the fouls of the world. The perfect beauty was something that I have had the privilege to experience twice in my life.
I thank my wife for carrying for our children. I will thank her every day for the amazing gift she has given me. The strength she possessed to carry out this mighty act. Her perseverance is something I look up to. She is my rock, she is my partner, she is my flesh. We are one, one is me. I love her so much.
I thank God for the gift of life. For the perfect design he has. For the way that he created us so uniquely capable to operate with such amazing feats of tenacity and resilience. How women’s bodies can do something like childbirth is remarkable to me, and shows the glory of God, and the strength of women. He constantly shows me new truths, and new ways of viewing the world.
I lastly want to thank my daughter Amira. Through the last two years of my life she has been a constant ray of light. She lifts me up when I am not capable of doing it myself. She is a bright light in the darkness of the world. I am a reflection of God in her spirit. I am so lucky.
Co-host Podcaster: The Other Side of it