Ajira: You’re listening to Doula Stories, a podcast where we use storytelling to encourage, inform, and love on doulas.
Keelia: Each episode we’ll hear a story about what happens in the birth room from the doula’s perspective. I’m Keelia, she/they…
Ajira: And I’m Ajira, she/they…
Keelia: And we’re so glad you could join us for today’s story.
Ajira: You're in for a treat today.We're each other's guests, I guess?
Keelia: Thank you! I've never been welcomed to the show!
Ajira: Welcome to the show!
Keelia: Do you want to ask me the millions of questions that we ask each person? Can you tell me the ways that you've grown spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically in the last 10 years?
Keelia: Top 10 ways in each category?
Ajira: Go ahead, go ahead.
Keelia: Just to get to know you a little bit.
Ajira: Just a little bit. I'm excited to hear these snippets that we're going to be talking about today.
Keelia: Thanks! I think you should be. So just as a reminder to folks, this episode we are sharing several shorter stories, some of which were submitted by all of you, thank you so much! And some of which are from my own and Ajira’s experiences.
Ajira: And if you have a snippet of a funny moment that happened in a birth you attended or a birth you starred in, I guess…
Keelia: Starring role.
Ajira: Either by being the person coming out or the person allowing someone else to come out of them I think we would welcome you sharing those, yeah.
Keelia: Oh yeah. We would for sure love to hear those, however you want to share. You can either send us a DM and we'll find a way to bring it up in a future podcast. Or let me know if you want to, like, actually be a guest! We are always looking for new guests.
Ajira: Eyyy, yeah we are.
Keelia: Especially if you are BIPOC.
Ajira: That’s right.
Keelia: Alright, bodily fluids. I mean, I just think if you're going to get into this line of work you gotta… you gotta accept that this is going to happen to you. Like, don't wear clothing that you care about, you know, like, probably have shoes that can get in and out of the shower, or, you know, be sprayed with different… things alright without further ado, Here we have somebody who wrote my client was starting to push and their partner wanted to see if baby was crowning (so you can probably see where this is going) so I mentioned that their water hadn’t broken and warned that he could get splashed. Two contractions later, my client asked me to check if baby was emerging. Their water broke and I got splashed in the face by amniotic fluid. I looked up and saw the midwife completely soaked from head to toe. Good thing she had PPE on, but it sure was a sight to behold.
So I'm imagining, like, the person who sent this to us didn't include this, but I feel like if you were checking to see if the baby was emerging, that's like… that's like front row seats, that's like… SeaWorld.
Ajira: Has that ever happened to you?
Keelia: I've gotten splashed pretty much everywhere except my actual face that might be because I'm tall?
Keelia: I think much more often I'm getting wet with pee and, like, drips of amniotic fluid, you know? It’s just kind of like a steady drip, which is great, like all of that is, those are great signs. Anytime that happens I get really excited. Vomit, I’d say I get more like vomit on my sleeves or on my hands trying to help folks get the puke bag to their mouth.
Wow, we really... we really just jumped right in, didn’t we?
Ajira: We really did. I think it's okay, though. I mean, I have not, I haven't, I think I've caught every vomit so far.
Ajira: Or it's been so far from me that it hasn't, you know, had a chance to splash me. I've definitely been splashed with amniotic fluid. I was splashed with blood one time and I wasn't expecting it. And so I was like, “Oh, I really,” I was like, “Oh, look at that!” It almost felt like an unexpected badge, you know? Like, “Oh, I forgot this was a category!”
Ajira: And then definitely got peed on but usually by the baby, not the birthing person.
Keelia: Oh yeah, that’s a good point. Have you got any meconium? That’s the baby poo, the “black, tar-like substance,” as they call it.
Ajira: Not a toxic compound, just a sticky one. And yes, I've definitely at my own birth, the birth of my first child, which wound up being a surgical birth, then they put the baby on me and I wouldn't let them take the baby away. Because they're always… I’ll try not to be too generalist, but in my experience they're frequently asking or offering reasons to take the baby from the birthing person for whatever reason. And sometimes I wonder if it's just because they, you know, as an institution feel safest when the baby is in the little plastic box and you’re in your little, you know, box. And they kind of know where everybody is and what everybody’s doing, and there’s room to approach. You know, it’d be much harder to say no to something If you're not holding the baby yourself honestly, so that's how it always seemed to me.
Ajira: But anyway. They were like, “Oh then you can rest,” and I was like, “No, I'm fine, I can rest holding the baby.” And they were like, “Oh but don't you want to eat?” and I’m like, “I can eat while I hold the baby.”
Keelia: Oh god.
Ajira: Yeah, I mean, I don't know like to me that seemed like a really jarring thing, and I think maybe it's because the way that I grew up babies are usually being held.
Ajira: I feel most okay when I'm holding my baby, cuz I know where they are, I know what they need.
Ajira: But anyway, I'm holding this, you know, newborn, barely not a fetus anymore since they just got out, and they're lying on me, and then suddenly I just feel this warmth.
Keelia: You’re like, “This is the love I have for my child, spreading!”
Ajira: No, I thought it was pee at first! So I started laughing and I was like, “oh my goodness,” I was thinking about the nurses because, they're relying on me skin-to-skin, which meant that my, you know, the bandage around my incision was right underneath that. So I was like, “Oh it's definitely going to get wet and they’re definitely gonna be upset about it.” And then, you know, I touched it with my hand and looked at my hand and it was like just dark and I was like, “Oh damn, they’re definitely not gonna be happy about this.”
Ajira: And then they were like, “Okay, let’s take the baby so we can clean them,” and I was like, “No, you can clean underneath them, it's fine,” and then they were like, “Oh let me take the baby so I can bathe them,” and I was like, “No you can just wipe them or hand me something to wipe them.” Psh but it was…
Ajira: I was that pain in the butt person.
Keelia: Oh that is not pain in the butt! That is how it should be! And I love your tone. You know if you had cussed them out I would have loved that too, you know, like there's no need to be polite here. You just gave birth to a human.
Ajira: It was very sweet.
Keelia: AND had surgery, I just… yeah. Like you being like, “Yeah! Turns out I can wash my baby and hold them at the same time.”
Ajira: Yeah, I mean I think that’s also a thing, right? It’s just getting to realizing that they don't have the power to decide what happens. You decide. And that can be hard to remember at, you know, lots of different points of your experience.
Ajira: But my oldest is very proud of the fact that shortly, you know, within maybe 30 to 60 minutes of being out they had peed on one parent and meconiumed on the other. So they joke that they were…
Ajira & Keelia at the same time: ...marking their territory.
Ajira: That’s right.
Keelia: Yes! Amazing!
Ajira: They were like, “I marked you both.”
Keelia: Awww. “This is my parent! Everyone else back off.”
Ajira: It’s very sweet.
Keelia: I mean I’d believe it if all the other babies around were like, “Ugh I want those parents.” And your kid’s like, “Nope. Sorry. Taken.”
Keelia: I have a couple more bodily-fluids-related stories, if you’re ready.
Ajira: I’m ready.
Keelia: One is basically what we've already talked about which is:
“As a birth doula, I was supporting a parent in active labor. As they got up from laying down on the bed, they peed all over the floor, my leg, and my feet. I wasn't wearing shoes—it had been a long day—so my socks and feet were soaked. But we just normalized it, no biggie over here! Smiley face.”
I love that spirit. You gotta just roll with it.
Ajira: You really do.
Keelia: You’re covered in pee, it’s like what, like what's the alternative there? You could just…
Ajira: You could say, “Ugh!” and flounce out the room.
Keelia: “Birth is gross.”
Ajira: I really, I gotta say, though, that might one of my pet peeves is wet socks. Ugh, I have to take them off immediately.
Keelia: Oh, that’s very, yeah.
Ajira: This is also why I have a pair of dry socks in my bag.
Keelia: Yes dry socks I also bring a pair of just like $1 flip flops that I can take into the shower.
Ajira: Oh, that’s a good idea.
Keelia: And yeah, I’d say that's the answer To the question you asked me earlier, like, “When have I gotten wet?” It's usually, you know, a birthing person is clutching me and I'm supporting a lot of their weight, and they're like, “Shower,” and I'm like, “I guess we're getting in the shower,” and like I haven't had time to change anything so then I'm you know, pant, like everything is just wet.
Ajira: So I’m hearing that doulas should pack swimsuits.
Keelia: I do pack a swimsuit!
Ajira: Oh you don’t. Seriously?
Keelia: I’ve never changed into it, because when do you have time to… You know me! You know I plan to the nth degree!
Ajira: I just started imagining you like, “Uh, just give me a second I need to just put my swimsuit on.”
Keelia: Okay here's the one time it came in handy: it was because (it's another fluid story) I was at a postpartum visit, and I have the same bag of like birth and postpartum stuff that I carry with me, and I was at a postpartum visit and the baby—I have the baby in a baby wrap for a couple hours. Snoozin’ away, and then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and they had pooped so much—and it was like brand new, like, newborn liquid poop—and it soaked through their little outfit, two layers of the baby wrap, and it had obviously soaked through my shirt and my bra. So then, how glad was I to have an extra swimsuit? That was like a, served as like a bra-shirt combo, whatever they call those.
Ajira: For sure. Yes. I have a big yes to that. And can I just say that I think that is one of the unnamed wonders of the world, is how are human infants able to spread their poop so far and so wide? I just…
Keelia: So far, in like so little time!
Ajira: I just don't understand. Like what, I would like to a physicist, or some kind of, I don't know, genius to explain the force trajectory.
Ajira: But just the volume and the way that it spreads everywhere.
Ajira: It’s just like where?! Where is this coming from? How did it get here? And how did you get it up into your neck? Like in your hair?
Keelia: Yeah, ugh.
Ajira: I think that’s the farthest I’ve seen, is that when… this was a baby that was in a car seat…
Ajira: ...wearing clothes, and, you know, a diaper. And the volume of poop was, and the speed or force or whatever, was so powerful that when I pulled them out of the car seat there was poop in their hair.
Keelia: Incredible. It’s incredible. Okay. So I thought we could go from bodily fluids to bodily gases. And this story is my own. And I'm really hoping you can be here and say, “I totally hear you. I've done the same.” If you’ve ever…
Ajira: No pressure.
Keelia: Well sometimes we're just in that small enclosed space with the person for a really long time, and if you, hypothetically, happen to eat a burrito that day, like it's difficult, like how many times can you actually step out and go to the bathroom to relieve yourself without disturbing them? I mean a birthing person is so sensitive to smell!
Ajira: They are.
Keelia: So… okay. I'm not proud of this. But one time I was a little Toots McGee. And I... I don't actually know if that's a normal thing to say. That's something my friend says and it has joined my vocabulary.
Ajira: Toots McGee?
Keelia: It’s one of those things where I’m like, “Is this something that…”
Ajira: This is the first I’ve heard of it.
Ajira: It his hilarious. I can barely contain myself.
Keelia: Well, that's that's what we're…
Ajira: Toots McGee, ladies and gentlemen. Put your hands together. Love it. Love it.
Keelia: Anyway. One time I was a real Toots McGee and I would like rush to the bathroom and wash my hands, or dry my hands, or fake something so that I could fart and then come back and not have missed a contraction if the person really needed me. And in this case, she really did need me. And it was the kind of birth where you can’t really leave the room because any second that you're not there, you can just tell the energy could change a lot.
Keelia: So I was trying so hard like I'd say maybe half probably less of my attention and just brain power was devoted to supporting this person in front of me but the majority was just trying to hold it in and I like one minute I might have been when I had to like squat down to like squeeze her hips or something.
Ajira: Oh no!
Keelia: It wasn’t even that much! It was just like a little toot, and I obviously heard. It's where you’re like hoping, “God let it be silent,” like you can tell it’s coming. It was not, the birthing person was in the middle of the contraction so didn't notice or didn't care. But the nurse happened to be in the room and looked over, and this is the part that I'm not proud of. It was clear in our like silent eye communication, the nurse and I looked at each other and were like, “Oh. She just farted!” And I just let it be! I I just let the nurse think that the birthing person had a contraction and let it out.
Keelia: And I could’ve said something. I could’ve like interrupted the contraction and been like, “Oh that was actually me, ‘scuse me, sorry about that!” But I didn’t, and then by the time I was like, “I shouldn’t be putting that on…” I was like, “The moment has passed, like now if I say something, it'll make a big deal out of it. The nurse is already gone.” Also the nurse didn't care, like, birthing person didn’t care, it was only the three of us in a room. But to that birthing person if you actually did notice it and you somehow magically remember it and you listening to this episode: I'm sorry. Not cool of me. I farted during your birth and I’m so sorry.
Ajira: “I let you take the rap for it.” Ahh this is amazing.
Keelia: I mean, I also like… I talk about it with most clients and they’re like, “Hey, sorry, like my whole pregnancy, you know, when, whenever I become a little Toots McGee I have no control over whether it comes out or not.” And what I tell them is like, “That's totally normal and fine, it doesn't bother me at all, and if it makes you feel better I can fart too.” And they feel…
Ajira: Can you fart on command?
Keelia: No, of course not! That would be amazing!
Ajira: I mean, I was like wait, what? That’s… “I don’t want you to feel bad, so I’ll just let one loose too. *fart*”
Keelia: No, the point being just… Like I think I’ve said the same thing when they’re like, you know like, “Oh, you know, sorry if, you know, exposing my chest makes you uncomfortable,” and I’m like, “No,” like, “if it makes you uncomfortable I can like pull my shirt up too, it doesn't bother me.” You know? The whole point is, this is something that I’m around a lot and it's normal and there's nothing to be ashamed of. Like you’re fartin’? I can fart too. I don’t actually do that intentionally.
Ajira: I think everything you just said for the last 3 minutes was a cover-up for the fact that you actually can fart on command. And you just don’t want us all to know your secret.
Keelia: Okay, if I could fart on command, I would be bragging about that to everyone. That is amazing! What bowel control!
Ajira: Such a great deflection, misdirection. You are listening to a master here, y’all. Spread it far and wide.
Keelia: Yup. There’s a very elite group of humans and we recognize each other when we see each other. It’s just like a wink and a nod. And we just know that’s another Fart on Commander.
Ajira: You just know immediately. A Fart on Commander.
Keelia: Oh my God, it’s awful, I can’t believe this.
Ajira: I love that title so much! A Fart on Commander!
Keelia: You would think a fart on Commander would have more control over holding it in, though, and I clearly didn't.
Ajira: You’re right. Maybe that’s when you were in training.
Keelia: I think we’re born, not made. I think if this were true, you're jealous. I'm afraid to say it's not possible.
Ajira: I am, I am so jealous.
Keelia: Mm. Yeah.
Ajira: Well I haven't farted So anyone noticed in a birthing room.
Keelia: Okay I knew it! I knew it! Cuz that was the only time I farted in front of a birthing person. It really was. So you’ve done it and been able to just like, coolly pass it off? This is what my sister does, she’ll cough at the same time, she’ll drop something at the same time.
Ajira: That’s amazing.
Keelia: So I just come from a really, you know…
Ajira: A fartilicious family.
Keelia: Yes. Mmhmm.
Ajira: That’s amazing.
Keelia: Oh if my mom listens to this she’s gonna be so proud. We talk about bodily functions at every single dinnertime reliably.
Ajira: Yeah I think that was common in our family as well. I don't know why, but yeah.
I think there’ve been two births where I farted in the room. All very similar scenarios to what you described. There was a lot going on…
Keelia: Oh you also passed it off on the birthing person?
Ajira: No, no, I didn’t. But there were enough people in the room, and the room was big enough, that from where I was it was pretty much undetectable. So that was cool. I do prefer to leave the room if I can, but it's not always possible. And also, like, it’s just farts. Everybody farts.
Ajira: Birthing person farts a lot, usually.
Keelia: Yeah. Okay, someone wrote in: “I called my client’s partner by the dog's name until three-quarters of the way into a prenatal visit. The pregnant person was like actually this is so-and-so, and the name you've been using is our dog’s. From then on I always wrote people's names down to help it stick.”
That is great. And I like to imagine that the dog's name that this doula was calling the partner was like a really obviously dog's name. Like, “Ugh, I got it confused again, like I keep calling this guy Snowflake.”
Keelia: “I keep calling him Fido. He just looks like a Fido, what can I say?”
Ajira: Oh I love that so much.
Keelia: I really do write down everyone’s name I really do write down everyone's names even if they seemed really easy to remember the time it's like my deep fear because it's one of the easiest ways to make people feel like you know them, you know?
Keelia: Like you’re there with them. They’re not client, they are Fido.
Ajira: I think also if they have, you know, family members or loved ones join them at the birth, you know, you might meet like a whole bunch of people at once and it can be helpful to just, at the very least, play some mnemonic games in your head so you can remember their names.
Keelia: Yeah. Or like, what you said reminded me that I'll ask the birthing person ahead of time like, “Okay if the grandma to be is going to join us,” especially if they're like, “Okay I need you kind of guard the door. I don't want Grandma to come in,” then I'll ask for the grandma’s name ahead of time. And then when I actually meet her I’m like, “Oh, you're Marsha, I've heard so much about you, and, you know how do you feel being a new grandma? This is so exciting!” You know, that it's just like an instant, “I am here to try to keep you out but I'm going to do it in a really nice way, and make sure you feel seen and that your journey in all of this is appreciated.” You know what I mean?
Ajira: Yeah, and important, and…
Keelia: Just like a quick… it’s like a head start in a relationship almost.
Ajira: Yeah. It definitely helps. Ugh, classic.
Keelia: Okay I have another story. This is really short, it was… a client of mine was just deliriously tired and it had been, maybe… I think this was day three Of an induction so long difficult and we took a brief break during pushing and she turned to me and looked into my eyes and said I don't understand how pornstars do it my vagina is so tired and it was like such a, like a like, “Oh, you know, I hear you!”
Ajira: That’s so heartfelt!
Keelia: I know! It was so heartfelt! That was why I was like, “Ugh, yes! Like this is hard to do! This is, your vagina is tired! Like it is doing amazing, you're doing amazing.” I spoke to this parent afterwards we're still friends and that birth also was just like one of the most special. Ugh, like sticks with you forever.
Keelia: And I reminded her, I was like, “You said this thing and it was so sweet and so funny and she was... she couldn't remember it, and she was absolutely mortified.
Ajira: Oh my God!
Keelia: She was like, “I can’t believe I said that.” I was like, “There is nothing to be ashamed of! Like you raised a good point.”
Ajira: A really good point. A really good point, it's really true.
Keelia: Yes. I loved that. Yeah.
Ajira: But I think it's magical, and I think it's kind of hilarious that vaginas get such a bad rap when they're so amazing like…
Keelia: They’re amazing!
Ajira: I also, I always think it's funny that we have, you know, nobody questions or has any doubts that a penis will like switch from, you know, flaccid two, what is the word? Turgid?
Keelia: “Hey babe, I’m turgid for you.”
Ajira: “I’m turgid, would you like to make use of this?” But nobody doubts that it's going to do it again, you know? It's not like anyone panics and is like, “Oh my God, it softened up! That’s it, I guess it’s over!”
Keelia: No, the things vaginas can do are incredible.
Ajira: Why do we doubt them? Like, dang!
Keelia: Ugh. Yeah.
Ajira: Wait, I wanted to tell you the story from a birth that I was at. It's one of my favorite moments that's ever happened in a birth, and it was hard so hard not to laugh in the moment, and I was so delighted. And this client was just amazing and had, you know, spent a lot of time and energy like really envisioning what the birth was going to look like and what the experience was going to look like, and was so clear on like, you know, they wanted to give birth at home. And then they'd been laboring for a while, you know, they'd been in the bathtub they'd been walking around they’d been trying to go to sleep they’d, you know, done all the things.
And then they were in the tub and before the birth we’d, you know, had the talk about affirmations. They’d identified some words of affirmation, we’d, you know, chosen some phrases and words together and so their partner and I were just repeating the words of affirmation, you know, that they had chosen, that they told us they wanted us to say. And then I think the midwife had just walked in and I said something, and they, like, their head snapped around to me. And they said, “Your words mean nothing, Ajira!”
Keelia What?! What?!
Ajira: It was so good!
Keelia: Oh my god!
Ajira: It was so good.
Keelia: Shots fired.
Ajira: They were like, they were just like, “This is… basically this is bulllshit.” It was glorious. It was like somebody just so fully in their power, and so fully like not down for these tiny mortals throwing these ridiculous offerings at this you know, vision of God. So it was glorious. And it was just so delightful because they had also been struggling, you know? And had kind of been... you know how sometimes when you're struggling and you’re like in this place of like, it's too big, it's too much, and then suddenly you get to a point where you're like, “No. Fuck it. You're not too big or too much for me, I am too big and too much for you.”
Ajira: And then you just, you know, you grab the crocodile by the tail kind of thing. So it kind of felt like that moment. And the power in it was so glorious. And I remember the partner and I, like our eyes met and we were both like, “Oop.” And then we were both quiet for the rest of the birth.
Keelia: Oh my god.
Ajira: And it was amazing.
Ajira: I love to see birthing people claiming their power, and I love to see all the many ways that we go through that experience.
Ajira: Oh that was glorious. “Your words mean nothing, Ajira!” And I was like, “Damn skippy you right!”
Keelia: Speaking of saying things that that are well-meaning and you’re just trying to hold back laugh, I tell partners, I tell whoever the support person, if there’s gonna be a support person what I tell them is: somebody giving birth probably doesn't want to hear a regular reminder of like, “Babe, just breathe. Breathe! Okay, here it comes! Breathe. Breathe! One, two…” you know. Like sometimes that is what's most helpful, but usually it is more helpful to just have a kind of a queue, so…
Ajira: [inhales and exhales deeply]
Keelia: Exactly! If you are rubbing the birthing person’s back and you just go [inhales and exhales deeply] and they can hear you, and you're not doing it right in their ear, you're not, you know…
Ajira: [inhales and exhales loudly]
Keelia: Exactly! Well I thought I wouldn't have to say that cuz you're literally making that noise to show how ridiculous that would be! I show up to this birth, she is in full-blown transition. For those who don't know what transition is, those are the last couple of centimeters of dilation. They are really intense, it usually is the time when folks say things like, “I can't do this,” you know…
Ajira: “Your words mean nothing, Ajira.”
Keelia: “Your words mean nothing,” anything like that. So she was in that stage, you know, she's focusing so intensely on what's going on. And I see this guy come in, and I had gotten the sense, you know, I had just gotten there but I had already gotten the sense that like she was not into her partner being there. His presence in the room was stressing her out. And as soon as the next contraction hit, I totally got it cuz he went up right behind her and went, [breathes quickly and exaggeratingly loudly].
Like not even normal breathing, but [breathes out sharply & repeatedly]. And I, again, like tried not to burst out laughing, but also like wanted to make it stop as soon as possible cuz her transition contractions are lasting like a minute and a half! And he just wouldn't. I was like, “Hey, can I talk to you out in the hall,” and I had to, you know, help this man feel affirmed as a partner, affirmed as a parent, and also try to tell him to just shut up. And it was like a, “I see that you remembered what I told you about trying to queue her with your breath, but actually she's doing really well right now. I think the most we can do is just be quiet in the background,” instead of just like, “What possesses you to think that what you just did was in any way helpful?!”
Yeah. The baby was born soon after but, like, ugh.
Ajira: Oh, goodness. Bless all the birthing people who put up with everybody’s shenanigans.
Ajira: Oh wait wait wait, oh! This one time I got to a birth and I was the photographer at the birth not the doula, so I had not, you know, I mean I don't think I had been outrageous. But I wasn't as circumspect as I usually am. Like I don't usually eat out, not as a conscious thing necessarily but just more so because I like eating, you know, more, like, nourishing type, you know, foods. So it's like soups and stews and chill stuff. And I'm I'm sleeping a lot and I'm resting so I'm ready for the birth and whatever and because I was the photographer I think I had gone to lunch that day, or maybe the day before, something like that. And I'd had like a poke bowl, which is one of my favorite things to eat. But it has like fried garlic in it and you know but I mean I had showered and brushed my teeth and all of that before I went there.
But, you know, when I went up to say hello to the birthing person, you know, there’s a certain point at which, if somebody is at that point in their labor when I arrive, then I'm not going to bother greeting them, you know? But I'm going to go by there queues, right? So this person was like, “Hello, how are you,” whatever, so I went up to say hello. And I give them a hug I think, and they were like, “Oh my god, garlic! Get away from me!”
I was like, I don't know how you can smell that, but yeah. The rest of the birth I was so happy that I was the photographer because I was shooting them from at least halfway across the room and I was like, “Ugh, thank goodness for technology,” because I could, you know, get as close as I needed to without having to subject them to my garlic breath.
Keelia: Yeah, you didn’t have to be giving them those breathing queues, yes! Actually, okay, Brooke Patmor, the amazing, the wonderful Brooke Patmor was my birth boula. And I was somebody who is very vomity all throughout my, like just pukey throughout my whole labor and it was really hard for me to keep anything down. I remember blessed Brooke Patmor cooking this incredible dish for me—it was dal! They had made me dal. And I clearly remember being in the zone, I'm like swaying in between contractions, And Brooke came over and said do you want to try a spoonful of doll and I remember, you know, opening my eyes from this trance that I've been in, looking them in the face, and going, “Do you want to try a spoonful of steaming hot garbage?”
And both Brooke and Chris just looked at each other like, “I don’t think she wants it.” And I am not normally like that, I swear I am not like that.
Ajira: I hope the people listening to this get how funny that is because if you have any kind of like sense of what Keelia is like as a person, that is very different.
Keelia: Oh my god, I cannot believe that I did that.
Ajira: “Do you want a steaming hot pile of garbage?”
Keelia: “Do you want a spoonful of steaming hot garbage?” I remember I wrote that down right after the birth cuz I was like, “I'm not going to believe it, like if I let another couple hours go by I'm going to be like, ‘That never happened.’” I took like meticulous notes cuz I wanted to remember and apologize to Brooke afterwards.
Ajira: That was hilarious.
Keelia: And like they made me dal! Like who…? I’d be like, “Want a cracker?” You know? “Want an almond? Want a honey stick?” And they like made this gorgeous thing.
Oh wait! Okay I got one more! Sorry, these are like, “Here are stories we collected from people, just kidding, they’re all about me!” But I think this one really is funny.
I remember there was a point during the birth where I smelled garlic breath. Or maybe it wasn't garlic breath but I smelled something…
Ajira: I was gonna say, that was not, I was not talkin’ about a birth where Keelia was, okay? That was completely unrelated, this is a different story.
Keelia: There was something that smelled so bad, and I was positive it was food, and I was like, “Chris, someone is eating in this house. Get it out of the house.” And, you know, it's just like I have a few seconds between contractions, I have to make my wishes known, so I did not mince words, and I was like, “Someone is eating something, get that smell out of my house.” And I hear the word kind of ripple backward through the house, I was giving birth at home, so I hear the word pass from like Chris, to Brooke, to midwife to midwife’s assistant. And Chris comes back to me and says, “Sweetie, no one's eating anything.” I was like, “Okay, well, somebody microwaved something. They're not eating it yet, but somebody…” and he was like, “We cleared all the smells.”
And I was like, “Oh, sorry, just kidding, it’s my own mucus. It’s me, I’m like leaking stuff into the toilet that I’m sitting on backwards and like throwing up into. That’s what it is. Sorry, everyone! Sorry!” And they were like, “It’s fine, just keep birthing your baby.”
Ajira: Oh that’s hilarious.
Keelia: Oh my god. Oh, bless these people. I'm glad I did not have a video going because it would have made me very self-conscious. But I also am so curious, like what kind of person did I become, you know? Anyway.
Ajira: Just as awesome as always, just more into your awesome.
Ajira: I just really love the way that so many birthing people step into their power in a different way in that period of time. Like I love how much people stop mincing their words and stop, like, making things nice. And just being really direct and clear about what they want. And I live for it, like it's my favorite part, I think, often.
This is an aspect of birth that’s not often talked about, either. It's just, like, it's such a all-encompassing human experience and there's, like, you know, moments of rage and hurt and surprise and shock but there's also moments of like joy and reverence and hilarity and just ridiculousness and silliness and it's awesome.
Oh this reminds me of one of my favorite clients, they're all my favorite clients…
Keelia: Of course.
Ajira: ...who had been really adamant that they weren't going to have an epidural or whatever, right? But they were definitely also like, you know, “And also I acknowledge I've never done this before and if I need to I will and there’s no judgment about it.” And I was like, “Okay.” But also, like, all the way before they were like, “I'm not I'm not I'm not,” so it was like, “I'm not, but if I need to, I will,” and we were like, “Okay great.” And I really enjoy that kind of clarity, but I'm also, I also enjoy that kind of, like, willingness to acknowledge that, “This is a new experience, and there’s no way for me to know what I'm going to need or want in it,” right? Because I think that's important to know. But so often people's disappointment with their birthing experience is very much about, you know, the systemic nonsense that happens. And nonsense just because it's unreasonable, not nonsense because it's meaningless, cuz it's absolutely meaningful and it’s fucked up that it happens, but… or “and” rather.
In this particular instance... so this person had just been like, “Not going to need it, but if I do, I will,” and we’re like, “Okay, great.” Sometimes when people add that “but if I do, I will” sometimes I'm like, “Okay maybe there's something to look into there.” But this person, I think it really seemed like they were just wanting to name it, you know? So I was like, “Okay, that feels good.”
Keelia: Yeah, yeah, no I totally get you.
Ajira: Then the birth was happening and they labored, progressed at the pace they were comfortable with, and they did all of the things that we practiced and talked about it. And they, you know, they walked, and they rested, and they ate, and they, you know, they rebozo’ed and they did all the things. And then they were ready to go to the hospital and they went And then they kept laboring there and then they decided that they were ready for an epidural then they got their epidural. And then they were so happy, and so unapologetically happy.
Ajira: And it was so, they were just so adorable because they were like, you know, nuzzled up in their blanket and they were like, “I feel great.”
Keelia: Awww! I know what you mean!
Ajira: I was like that’s such a funny unexpected moment. And I think so often when people do have, you know, get to the point where they choose to have an epidural they’re so browbeaten about what it means, you know? That they're like, you know, “I failed,” or, “I'm not as strong as whoever,” or they're apologizing, like, “I know I said I wasn't going to get one, but I really needed it,” or they're like ashamed, and trying to cover it, or whatever.
Ajira: It's just like, they don't feel good about it. And I think that's sad, you know? And I wish, I wish there was more space around like, “Hey, you know, you do you. And whatever makes sense to you is what you’re going to be supported in doing.” And it was... it was just really funny to just see her probably like 9 centimeters already and just like, “This is great. Let's do it like this,” so unapologetically delighted by the lack of discomfort and pain. And it was a great birth.
Keelia: Yes! Oh, that makes me so happy. And then you just get to like tuck them in, you know?
Keelia: I love tucking people in. I don't know why I also like packing little, cute, packed lunches. Maybe those two are related? Like I just like packing things really tightly, happily. Like wrapping presents like all these things I'm only now drawing the connection between all these things.
Ajira: Oh my goodness.
Keelia: But getting to tuck in a client even if it's like they can't really feel their legs, and I'm like, “Here, we’ll do this with the blankets so your feet are nice and warm and toasty,” and then they just slip off into the epidural nap hopefully.
Ajira: I love to give people, I like to massage their feet and their legs.
Keelia: Me too! And they’re like, “Aww, but I can’t really feel it,” and I’m like, “Your body feels it, even if you don’t,” you know?
Ajira: I do what I call my grandma massages.
Keelia: What’s that?
Ajira: It's just, you know, I don't know, the way that my grandmother rubbed me the way, that I imagine most grandmother's rub their grandchildren down. Just like this it's not like super soft and gentle, it's just like really working your muscles. It's not a Swedish massage or, you know, and there's no like... I don't know, there's no like…
Keelia: The intention with it is different.
Ajira: It is, and also it's like way more, it’s just kind of like instinctive, you know? It's not like deliberate the way that a professional masseuse’s is, you know? Where they're like, “and now I'm going to do the fascia,” or the, I don't know, “the transverse layer,” or whatever.
Keelia: Were you just making up words right now?
Ajira: Making up words.
Keelia: “Now I’m doing the intercostal…”
Keelia: “...named after…”
Ajira: “Now I’m doing the flux capacitor.”
Keelia: “Now I’m doing the rear gasket.”
Ajira: Oh god, back of the rear gasket.
Keelia: “I’m doing the SMOG check, wait…”
Ajira: Oh my god, we brought it full circle, y'all. We’ve come back to where we started, so…
Keelia: We’re back at farts. Okay I actually have, I have one more very sweet story that I really want to share.
Keelia: This is just like really heartwarming, sweet, and gets to what you were saying earlier about how birth can just encompass so many things, and the joy and the silliness at the same. “The only birth I've ever quote-unquote ‘attended’ was my little sister’s when I was in middle school. My mom chose to have a home birth and my room was across the hall. The main thing I remember is feeling the need to help my mom by bringing ice cream, but I should probably just pretend that I'm sleeping. I remember I didn't fall asleep for the longest time. One of my friends who was my age had recently helped her mom give birth at home so with my little sister being born, I thought, “Well maybe I should stay up to help get ice cream.’
So like her thought process was like, “My friend had to help her mom give birth, so I might have to help my mom give birth by giving her ice cream,” like that was…
Ajira: Makes sense to me.
Keelia: Yeah! Does not sound like steaming hot garbage, I have to say.
Keelia: You know that feeling of knowing Santa had come, but you don't get up till morning? That was me with my little sister's birth. I didn't get to meet her right away, but eventually I fell asleep.”
So she, while waiting up wondering if it would be more helpful to fall asleep or get her mom ice cream, she fell asleep, and got to meet her baby sister in the morning. And now that baby sister is the age that she was when the baby sister was born.
Keelia: I know! It’s really sweet.
Ajira: That is really sweet.
Keelia: I love birth.
Ajira: Me too. I've been really sitting with how I think I love being in the birthing room, and I love holding space for people as they have their experiences. I also really love being like, a little more removed, and documenting the experience. And I also really love getting to work with other birth workers, you know, to really invite them to center their own care and their practice, and to also see the opportunity for their own, like, healing in this work. Not in the sense of like, “I'm going to go to these births to heal myself,” because that's gross, but more so in the sense of like, “I can show up more the way that I want to when I'm, you know, doing my ego and my fear work and not letting my own shit come into that space with me,” right?
Ajira: And not letting like my own fears and projections and assumptions walk into that space that's so sacred and reverent. And how much more of a connection that allows for between people. And how I can see the ripples back and forth, you know? And the way that when—I don't know who says this—that when you heal yourself, you help heal the wounds of your ancestors and also the wounds of your descendants.
And I love thinking about how much of an impact that has, right? Like if I can help my children not carry on my wounds? If I could not pass on my wounds to them? Then maybe they will have like a little less to heal from. And how that continues, and how that allows for like less time spent distrusting each other or yourself, and more time spent claiming what you want, and what you create. And all of that, I think, just allows more connection. And it's really beautiful.
Ajira: I’m grateful to be a part of it.
Ajira: And also. Farts.
Keelia: And also farts.
Ajira: Also farts.
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Keelia: Special thanks to everyone who submitted a short story for this episode, and to my co-host, who's swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, and all the strength of a raging fire, and who’s mysterious as the dark side of the moon: Ajira Darch.