It was May 28, 3:30am, when I woke up to a phone call from Daniel – “hi Linda, I wanted to call and tell you that the contractions are 4 minutes apart”. I thanked him, told him that I’d wait until sunrise to come, and to call me if things seemed to be moving faster. By 6:30, I was walking along one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, to the place that we had visited just the day before. “I’d like to have the baby here if I can” the mother, Diara had told me.
I had met her several months earlier as I was sitting with friends one night on a moonlit beach in our town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. She was from El Salvador, pregnant with her first baby, and had met her partner in Switzerland while traveling. She makes beautiful jewelry, he’s a musician and in their travels, they somehow ended up here.
In speaking to her it was clear that she had a very clear vision of the birth that she wanted and going to the hospital was not part of that – she felt strongly about having her baby on the beach.
The early morning sun was just coming up, still low over Punta Uva. The seagrape and almond trees that bordered the jungle forest just beyond the beach cast mystical shadows in the tidal pools that lined the edge of the surf.
Prehistoric looking birds flew above me, welcoming me to this magical space. As I arrived, I waved hello to the mother and father as they held each other closely in the water.
I came up to and hugged Arakai, a beautiful young aspiring birthKeeper, who was already there, barefoot in the sand, eating a mango.
I put my bag down, and began to build a fire. It had poured rain just hours before, so it was challenging. I sat in the sand and blew on the flames, over and over again and with each breath, blessed the couple in the water in front of me – offering thanks while creating a field of protection around the space.
Once the fire was burning strong, I sat back, preparing for a beautiful day at the beach. I sang, I laid in the sand – I just chilled out…it felt very normal and at the same time, very sacred.
Diara was quiet. Centered. Strong. I watched her in awe – sometimes wondering if she was really in labor at all. I would see the contractions come by watching her breathing change. This was the only indicator of her labor. I admired her as she looked off into the ocean horizon in front of her – focused and determined.
At one point, Daniel and Arakai both left the beach to go for more food, leaving Diara alone in the water. I felt that it would be a good time to go in and see how she was. I quietly slid into the water next to her, putting my hand on her belly and looked out to where she was looking – off into the far, far distance, in a soft, quiet watery timelessness. At one point, I turned and looked at her face. She did not return the look – just stayed focused into the horizon. One hand was up, holding the tree above her, the other, low on her belly. She was squatting, the water just covering her stomach. Her long black hair draped over her beautiful, naked body. Her big brown open eyes held their gaze. I couldn’t help staring at her eyes. “Where was she?”
As I sat next to her, connected through my hand on her hard, round stomach, I saw her as the ultimate Revolutionary. Arm up in the air in strength and solidarity, squatting on the new “front lines” of this global revolution we are all experiencing. I imagined a statue of her sometime in the future, in a “town square” of the new earth.
For a long time, we sat there in silence, just “being”. At one point, she broke the silence. “How much longer do you think it will be?” she asked. “I don’t know” I said, “reach down – inside – and see what you feel”. She looked a bit unsure at first – “it’s ok” I told her “just reach down with your hand and your fingers and see what you find”. As she reached down, adjusting her weightless body in the water, she continued to look off into the horizon and then – a quick look at me, with big eyes – “I feel his head!” followed by a bigger smile. “Wow….” she drew the word out so it was more like “woooow” – as she caressed her baby for the first time from the outside. Then a contraction came and she went back to the place she was before. I looked over and Daniel was slowly wading out to us with this crazy looking instrument – the african harp, and once reaching us, began playing what I can honestly say was the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. This moment, I thought. This…
I soon came out of the water – the space so sacred, I knew I needed to allow the new family to feel it alone. I went back to the fire, organized some things and spoke quietly with Arakai every now and then. Sometimes I would see the mom and dad look up at the beach to see where we were – and each time, would smile when they saw us. They didn’t need anything – just seeing that we were still there.
“Trust your instincts” I had told Arakai. And she did. Sometimes, she would go into the water with Diara, sit behind her and massage her back. Or wade out to her with some fruit. I would later learn that each time she did, it was timely and welcomed.
We had discussed the birth in the months prior. Working out the “role” that everyone would play. I was clear with them that they were taking the complete responsibility of the birth upon themselves. “I will be there as support” I had told them – “but this is YOUR birth”.
We had come to an agreement on this long before the labor began. I also met with them and shared from my experience and lessons I’ve learned along the way – and had worked with them to prepare their “Nest” – a physical space where the first 40 days following the birth would be spent. We talked about the importance of this time, in the same way that the conception period is so important and is the foundation to human development, so is the pregnancy, birth and postpartum time. A human being is more “plastic” (scientifically speaking) during these times than any other time in its life. It is during this time that the neural wiring is making its initial (and some final) connections. The connections that will be there for life.
The day went on, and Diara would come out of the water every now and then, experiment with different positions, lay down in the sun to warm up, get a drink of water, or eat a slice of papaya, pineapple or banana. Mostly silent the whole time – she just moved through her birth space as she felt it. I could tell when she looked at me if she needed something. This happened maybe twice and I was right there. I stayed close enough to be there quickly, but not so close that I was in her space.
As midday came and went, the tide began to come in and the calm, warm tidal pools became more rough and a bit cold. At one point during one of the “looks”, I had come into the pool with the parents, and held Diaras leg up for her, leaning my body against the large rock that she was pushing her feet against. I had to stay low to keep the position, so each time the waves came in, I’d hold my breath while they washed over my head. “Birth surfing” I thought…it was cool – but it became clear that she needed a calmer, warmer spot. We all helped her out of the pool and out of the water and from there, she instinctively headed to a sunny spot about 10 meters away. I walked far behind her, and watched as she found her spot.
Naked, she knelt down in the sand and brushed away the beach debris of almonds, shells and driftwood with her arms. In sideways motions, alternating arms. A mother turtle preparing her nest. Which happens on these same beaches. I almost came closer to help her clear the spot but was stopped just as I came near. “No” I heard myself – “let her do it”. So, I stood nearby and watched this beautiful naked woman instinctively prepare the birthplace of her baby. I wondered what was happening inside her as she connected with this ancient and primal act. Whatever was happening in her would be happening in the baby too. What kind of information was being transferred, shared between mother, baby, earth, ocean, sun, jungle, turtle territory?
Once settled in her new space, Daniel began to play his harp beside her. Another amazing moment that made me realize I needed to let them feel the power of it alone – so I walked down the beach and began to swim around in the surf. Arakai had moved our things closer and was sunbathing, laying in the sand. I positioned myself so that I could easily see the couple. I played, and floated and sang on top of and under the water.
Looking up at one point, Daniel had a big smile on his face, and was motioning us over. I saw as I came out of the water, Diara’s naked body squatting, with a little head hanging out. As Arakai and I came close, we took positions to the side and behind the mom. Daniel was still playing the harp, Diara, still silent – squatting with this little head just hanging there. And as she gazed powerfully out at the ocean, squatting in her little turtle nest space, she quietly pushed her baby out in one effortless motion – with a gush of fluid, blood and vernix.
I instinctively reached my arm out just as this happened, Arakai’s hand was there too, and so was the Diaras. As we all jointly supported this slippery baby with firm grips, I leaned her back. “Be a chair” I whispered to Arakai. And as Diara leaned back into Arakai, with cries of delight, relief and pure happiness, she raised her newborn baby to her chest.
“I love you so much” Daniel said to her, with tears in his eyes and on his face as he gently kissed her and their new baby. We all sat mesmerized by this infinite space of love and beauty. And as the waves crashed loudly – the mist, the sun and the ocean breeze baptized the lot of us.
A few minutes went by, and Diara looked at me – “the placenta”. “Good”, I told her, “try to push it out all at once if you can”. Watching it slide out, I almost reached out to catch it but held my hand back instead and let it drop into the sand. And thought to myself “there’s just nothing like a naked, strong, healthy, blood filled placenta laying in the sand in front of a blissed out mother and baby”. It was beautiful. Primal. Raw.
Daniel came around and traded places with Arakai, holding Diara and the new baby in front of him, and it was clear that the new family needed to bask in their life changing birth space alone.
Upon our return, Arakai asked if she could play her flute to the new family and as she played, I set about the all important task of taking this selfie with my phone.
Once back at the family’s house, a 5 minute walk from the beach (we fashioned a sort of sedan type chair to make the journey home) and after a warm shower for everyone, mama and baby laid down on a bed in the main room downstairs. In a simple act, like we’d done it a million times, we all put the elements together to separate the cord from the placenta.
A thick wooden ceremonial bowl with indentations similar to a cigar ashtray, was placed with a burning candle inside it, under the cord that was draped across it. Daniel took another white candle and added his flame to the same place on the cord. The baby loved it. It was beautiful to watch mom watch her baby and laugh as he kept moving his head over to get a better look at what was going on.
It took between 5 and 10 minutes. Another natural, normal, yet ceremonial act. We were all quiet – just watching the flames and the baby’s ongoing interest in the event. Once the cord and placenta were in a separate bowl, everyone moved upstairs to the nest that had been prepared for just this moment.
A white mosquito net was draped over the bed in the corner, hammock on the porch outside, pillows, low tables, music and candles – all with a panoramic jungle garden view. Diara climbed into the hammock and began nursing her baby breathing a huge sigh of Happiness. Love. Accomplishment. Comfort. It was done.
Diara was clear in her vision of doing everything in her power to give her baby the best birth possible, one that was treated with sacredness and honor. She understood clearly that it was important to give this not only to her baby but to herself. She also told me that she was never afraid of birth, that she herself had been born at home.
“It’s a powerful act that you’ve done”, I told her, “you gave you and your baby a wonderful gift”. She nodded, wisely – “I know”, she said.
Leaving, I stopped and turned towards the sun and as the light pierced through my chest – with a wide open heart – I gave thanks for the truth of the bliss that exists in this life. That perfection is here. Accessible. Right now. All that I am – all that we are – comes from here. From this pure form of life force that is so palpable during a birth. Sometimes I forget, like I think a lot of us do, of the intense beauty of life.
Daniel and Diara were eager to have their story told, to include all that will read this to share in the wonder and joy of the birth of baby Ocean.