My mother gave birth to me on The Farm, the commune in Tennessee from which come Ina May’s teachings. My mother never lived there, but ever since she’d read Ina May’s book she’d known she didn’t want to give birth in a hospital. She bought Spiritual Midwifery from a bookstore in Hardwick, Vermont on July 13, 1978. The place and date are written in black pen on the inside of the worn paperback cover. She was on a road trip with her boyfriend, Paul. Paul is not my father though the ending of their relationship is what set in motion the events that led to my conception on October 8, 1980, on another commune, this one in Pennsylvania.
When she was in her second trimester, she and her mother drove from New York to Tennessee to check out The Farm. They drove the Blue Ridge but it was too foggy for views. In St. Louis (why were they in St. Louis?) they saw an eagle swoop down and grab a squirrel from the path right in front of them and eat it in the tree above them.
When she was eight months pregnant she again made the trip from New York, this time in a greyhound to Nashville. She packed vodka in case she needed to slow down any early contractions. In Nashville, a man tried to pick her up as she was walking to the church mission where she’d spend the night. The next day a woman in a pickup came for her and drove her to The Farm. My father arrived a few days later. He had been in Mexico getting his affairs in order which I believe included selling film equipment in order to buy us a big yellow van. However we got the van, he built a bed in the back of it so that in the coming months we’d be able to sleep in it as we traveled from The Farm up to Connecticut where my mother’s mother was waiting, and then back through Texas and into Mexico where we would live for the next few years.
I was two weeks late. The contractions began, kind of, the night before. They made love. Went to bed. By 9 the next morning the labor had truly begun. She remembers not knowing what to do when it came time to push. She couldn’t understand where/what she was supposed to push into. The midwife manually broke her waters which she wishes she hadn’t done since who knows, maybe I could have been born in the caul, an intact amniotic sac, a significant omen. Dali Lamas must be born in the caul. Near the end of her labor she went to stand and push by the window. She heard a hammering and spotted a huge red, white and black woodpecker in the trees. That is your bird, she tells me. Around 5 pm (a 9-5 labor she says) she pushed me out and my father danced in celebration.
She says the first time she looked at me she felt like she was looking at her own self.
I was born on July 13; three years to the day after she first bought her copy of Spiritual Midwifery. When I was younger I only looked occasionally at the photos of the women in labor. The dark heads emerging from vaginas suddenly huge with effort both drew and repelled. Later, I’ve noticed that many of them look as if they are cumming; mouths open as if in the peak of an orgasm.