Tomorrow is Claire's first birthday. This means that a year ago today, I had already been in labor for twelve hours. In the days before, I had experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions and thought, "piece of cake!" When the first real rush hit, though, I was stunned. I had heard about back labor and read enough descriptions that I knew that's what I was experiencing. A deep, sustained pain, centered in my lower back came on like a wave with each rush. It took my breath away at first, and then I started moving.
Belly dance is round. It massages and soothes. It brings the dancer in a spiraling motion ever deeper into herself. It eases the mind from sharp edges to sea glass softness. It offers a point of surprising stillness to focus on - the heart center? the cervix? something deep and internal - until the need is past and the body relaxes into its normal posture, a strange surfacing.
One of the glories of Maha al Musa's "Dance of the Womb: A Gentle Guide to Belly Dance for Pregnancy & Birth" is that the movements are so deeply intuitive. I am not a dancer. The only time I took a dance class, I was about three feet tall and wearing a borrowed tutu, and yet as soon as I started following Maha's instruction, I felt that this dance was inside me simply because I was alive. Does this give you confidence? It should. The first image conjured by hearing "belly dance" is not that of a woman with a preposterously pregnant belly, but it ought to be. Nothing feels more natural when those hidden muscles around the pelvis reserved solely for birthing a baby begin their intelligent tensioning than to move and twist with them, to sway around the globe of belly that for the laboring hours is the axis of your universe.
Not everything went quite how I anticipated it in Claire's birth. The birthing tub we had set up in our bedroom and filled with warm and fragrant water didn't feel at all right when I climbed into it. I couldn't sleep. I did eat and drink. I had a magical day with my husband, dancing and listening to music and walking. When he fell asleep sometime after midnight the second night, I couldn't understand how he could be so bone tired while I felt ready to do circles and figure-8s with my hips through whatever rush came at me. When the midwife checked my cervix the final time before saying we had to move to the hospital because I just wasn't dilating those last crucial centimeters and my contractions were slowing down, I was stunned. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen, was it? "Supposed to" drops away, though, when what IS is what happens. I was home for the first thirty hours of labor, and in the hospital for the last six. The doctors and nurses supported me in my desire to be unmedicated, and never uttered the phrase "C-section," though I'm sure they thought it. And I can say (though it would have been anathema before) that I'm grateful to Pitocin for bringing my contractions closer together and for the seasoned nurse who laid me on my side and asked me to breathe softly and close my eyes for a while.
I am still stunned at the amount of energy my body was able to generate and that when it finally came time to push, I didn't recognize a "normal" contraction because Claire had turned and was no longer pressing into my back. I almost laughed at the sensation, and would have if I didn't need all my breath to bear down and help move her out of my body. And when Claire was placed on my belly, wet, warm, and wriggling, I felt every cell in my body open up and fill with the most incredibly glowing energy that I knew to be living love.
When I look back at the tools that steered me unwaveringly through this most intense experience of my life, I am deeply grateful for the fluid motions of belly dance and to Maha for offering the teaching of "Dance of the Womb" to the world. I am so honored to be bringing this program to pregnant women and birth professionals in North America. Birthing my business on the anniversary of my entry into the world of motherhood feels absolutely perfect. Just as with Claire's birth, not everything has gone as I anticipated it - I was sure BirthAdventure would have been on its feet months ago, for one thing - but the most important elements always arrive just on time, and just on time is exactly whenever they arrive.
I look forward to hearing many, many stories like mine from those of you who find this program and use it. Wishing you all happiness, strength, and peace in your own birthing experience!