Calliope’s Birth Story

From surviving domestic violence to birthing an empowered single mother

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            A few years ago, in the summer of 2015, I met the daughter I would give birth to the spring of 2019. A crazy notion, I know, but that’s where this story begins… or at least where I chose to start it. I was traveling the country, led purely by intuition, knowing only that California was the destination. I saw visions of lighthouses so I visited all the lighthouses on the coast. During my travels I met up with a friend of mine, who is also a wonderful Reiki healer, and we did an impromptu session. Within that session, we both witnessed, in amazement, hearts open, eyes full of tears, the future of my birth of my daughter. Spirit showed me my womb full, me lying on my back, baring down, reaching for my baby then holding her on my chest. Her spirit told me many things, which my friend channeled, one of which was that she didn’t like the name I planned to name her and to pick a “normal girl name” (I had originally wanted to name her Aurora Lunaria). My daughter proceeded to tell me intimate details of how she wished to be held and nursed after birth and how she was proud of me already and glad I was her mom. I remember it feeling so real and as soon as the session came to an end, I wondered if it was a dream, but I knew the truth of it because it was alive in every cell of my body. A few months later, I ended up living in city with a lighthouse: Santa Cruz, CA.

            I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be, but not entirely sure why, but I began making Santa Cruz my new home. The following April, my mother passed away and joined my father. Although my spirit guides told me this would happen before I left Florida, I still grieved and processed it best I could. Grief can take decades and comes in many layers, and I remember feeling sadness that neither of my parents would be on Earth to witness my future marriage, children, or other experiences. By the end of the summer, I began feeling very isolated at my mountain home in the woods. I meditated and decided that I was ready for partnership and community. I got very clear on my intentions, and on the full moon of that September, I prayed and called in a love greater than I’ve ever experienced in the flesh and a community that I felt supported by and belonged to. Within 30 days I had won a contest and was granted a free Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) Immersion where I met many people I connected with and felt I could call “tribe”. Ironically enough, it was this same YTT that I met my next boyfriend, the future father of my daughter.

            Long story short, things were very odd from the start with him. I remember wanting to leave YTT because I was so tired, but my intuition said, “You’re going to meet someone important of romantic interest, stay”. So I did. I stayed and this particular guy began having a telepathic conversation during the yoga practice. I remember thinking, “Does he know I can hear his thoughts”. Of course after the practice I avoided him like the plague until we got paired up and he said he felt like we were having some telepathic conversation. There was such a strong, undeniable attraction with this person that I continued to try to avoid him but alas, there was a lot of karma and destiny to play out and I walked right into it. The full moon of that October, I was leaving a kirtan and this guy follows me and asks where I’m going, and I jokingly said, “to go howl at the moon”. He replied, “Can I join you?” and I paused (knowing that my life was about to change in a big way if I agreed) and said, “Ok”. We talked for hours and at one point he laid his heart on my womb, and his head on my chest and said, “I’m not psychic or anything, but I feel like we’ve done this before. I feel like we had a child together or we lost a child or something.” I had goosebumps all over my body. To some degree, this was true, our souls remembered, but our new bodies had yet to experience the story in this form.

            Like most intense soul connections with karmic history, we fell foolishly in love. We were rather inseparable, and thus decided to live together that spring. A few months in, I felt I had made a huge mistake by deciding to live with him. He was very difficult to live with and had a high conflict personality. There were so many red flags, but I guess because I was wearing rose tinted glasses, the flags just looked like flags. At times my skin would feel like I was crawling out of it and my anxiety was through the roof. I would have horrific dreams of him cheating on me or torturing me and I would wake up in tears. He would hold me and assure me that it was “only a dream”, but somehow I know it wasn’t. I don’t wish to relive those nightmares; I’ll just say for much of our 2-year relationship, things were very toxic and abusive.

            We went to a medicine ceremony together and I received a vision of my womb being opened and two spirit babies resting in my womb. I saw many beautiful visions, one of my partner and I hand fasting on our marriage ceremony and then me holding his hand on his last day of life. Then the grandmother spirit asked me if I would be willing to let go of this man in order to have the life that I deserved to have. She explained she could not show me all of what was to come, but that if I left this relationship, sacrificing it as a holy offering, I would see what my heart was destined for unfold before me in the most loving and beautiful of ways. This was confusing, as many visions like this can be, considering it followed the vision of a life with this man. I was very resistant but told the grandmother spirit that she had convinced my head but not my heart and that’s the best I could offer at this time. The weekend following this experience, I discovered that he had cheated on me. He didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t want to give up and so we decided to work on it, but my soul knew what grandmother spirit told me, I deserved so much better than this man.

            It’s not always easy to identify when you’re in the middle of it, especially when the abuse is covert and followed with “love bombing”. Abusers can often be charming, but just like the sun and the moon, the truth can’t stay hidden forever. On the average, it takes 6-7 attempts for a survivor to leave an abusive relationship. On my 6th attempt, I felt so free and sure that I had made the right choice. A week after this decision, I had a dream I was pregnant. I woke up and pulled a tarot card and it suggested I was pregnant. “No way” I thought, “could I really be pregnant?”. I took a test and BOOM, no wait time needed. Two bold blue lines confirmed it mid pee test. Then I heard a voice, that of my baby to be “Don’t worry mom, my real daddy will find you”. Meaning her biological dad and her father are two separate people. I had seen visions of this child many times throughout this relationship and she was finally here. It felt like one of those soul-checkpoint moments where you know that you’re exactly where you are supposed to be but are uncertain as to why. In my innocence, naiveté, and desire to “do the right thing”, I gave her biological father a chance to be in the picture. But the same old patterns of abusive behavior continued.

            It’s all very confusing when it’s happening. Things would look one way but my skin felt like it was crawling, my gut tied up in knots, and my intuition screaming on a daily basis. His threats of abandonment yo-yo’d with “please don’t leave me, I’m sorry, you’re the only person who understands me and I know I need help”. When I was early in the pregnancy, he would rub my belly in public and would present a persona of how happy he was to be having a baby with someone he “loved”. When we’d get home he’d start a high conflict situation and tell me I’d need to terminate the baby (this was at 13 weeks, mind you and from the moment I found out I was pregnant I told him I was willing to do it on my own). He would explain that “all of [his] friends thought I was selfish for keeping the baby” and that I was “ruining his life”. Even if I asked him to leave or calm down, he’d accuse me of pushing him away when he’s trying to “fix this”. He’d belittle me with verbal abuse such as “are you even ready to be a mom?! Be honest with yourself”, and “both your parents are dead. Who’s going to support you?!” And after two years, “I never thought I’d end up with someone like you. Your body type isn’t my preferred body type, I prefer a more athletic yoga body type. You’re beautiful still but I think I’m just triggered because you love yourself no matter what you look like, even when you are not the preferred body type, and I don’t like my body or love myself like that”. Confusing right?
            I’d try everything from being compassionate and trying not to personalize it, to seeing that it was coming from pain and mental illness contributed by substance abuse masked as “plant medicines”. I didn’t know much about cluster B personality disorders until I was able to escape the relationship. I’d take space, practice positive thinking/law of attraction work. I tried personal therapy, couples therapy, having boundaries, letting him do whatever he wanted or complete compliance (because he’d do it anyway or get violent and throw his head into a wall), bargaining, read books, tried to reason, prayed, had spiritual healings, would leave or break up, cut off communication. Honestly I was exhausted and terrified. The restraining order was my last resort, and 100% necessary.

            Every day I’m grateful for my baby because I believe she saved my life. She illuminated the truth and brought clarity. I knew a restraining order was necessary because I wanted to protect us and my previous boundaries where treated like an abuser’s deluded invitation to overstep boundaries further. He’d triangulate people especially women or family members to contact me. Cheat then come asking me to give him another chance because he needs help. I still loved this boy, sometimes more than I loved myself, and after these episodes he’d often swing the other way with “I’m sorry I’m this way, thank you for being patient with me. I love you, you’re the most compassionate person I know”. My own compassion and patience became a disability.
            I remember the last night I was with him, I became subject to continued verbal abuse while once again he attempted to convince me to terminate the baby.The stress caused my uterus to contract and I was fearful I was going to miscarry. When I asked him to leave or stop he’d tell me it’s important to talk about this and that the miscarriage would only happen due to my “negative thinking”. I shut myself in my room and prayed. I prayed a prayer from Christ consciousness, “forgive him, he knows not what he’s doing”. Prayed for my baby that she’d understand one day, and that I was going to do everything to keep her safe. He returned to the bedroom apologizing, I pretended to be asleep. I prayed for protection that if Spirit got him out of my house, I’d never let myself be alone with him again. It was a nightmare. The next morning I woke, barely sleeping, to him trying to “make love” with me. I tried to deflect and said I needed to get ready for work and that I was tired, but he insisted and said that it would help our connection and that we’ve been “distant” and that’s the cause of the fights. He expressed that he just wanted “to give to me, not take anymore”. I was scared of saying no and didn’t want any more fighting from last night. I laid there and cried. I felt ashamed. Who was this woman I’ve become? He saw my tears asked if something was wrong and continued anyway. (All of this is in the restraining order with 27 pages of evidence in which he admitted to). He would tell me “I’m not abusing you! You have no proof” to which I responded, you’ve grossly underestimated how much you’ve abused me”.
            I finally understood abuse. I understood women’s pain that have been here before, I understood my mother, and yet I felt alone. I began to get ready for work, crying as I put on my makeup. He came up behind me, rubs my pregnant belly and says “have a good day at work, sweets!” kissed my cheek and continued, “You’re the love of my life, don’t ever change”. He left, I stared in the mirror, shaking, and had a deep silent talk with myself. No more, never again. I have to change my life, for my baby and for me.
            My pregnancy was profoundly healing. I became so proud of the woman I’m becoming. I began doing everything in my power to heal my life, from going to trauma therapy, EMDR, practicing yoga and meditation everyday, praying, walking, going to domestic violence centers, reading books, and connected with other survivors and mothers who had walked through the fire before me. I felt so much strength in showing up everyday for the work my soul asked for. I felt incredibly vulnerable and simultaneously empowered. It really helped me to be transparent about my process and by sharing my life experience; it helped me get the resources I needed to best prepare to bring my daughter into the world. I guess it’s healing to be seen in this place knowing I’m healing and that it helps others not feel like they’re alone too. I celebrate this life even when my heart is broken and fear is so loud. I am so proud of the work I’ve done to protect my baby and myself. Even though my parents are deceased, I feel their support and the support of so many others; Support that was blocked by being in an abusive relationship. It’s not easy but it is 100% worth it. Every parent wants their child to have a better life than they had as a child and I showed up each day of my pregnancy with that intention. I desire to heal the wounds of my ancestors by stepping out of this pattern of abuse. I never want my daughter to experience what I experienced with her father, and what my mother experienced with my father.

Circle of supportive sisters
34 weeks pregnant (Photography by Keana Parker)

            The day leading up to labor was fulfilling in its normalcy. I began my day with a gentle yoga practice, and then my brother and I took a long walk along Capitola Beach. Long walks, the past few weeks, included intermittent contractions, but I knew my body was just practicing for the main event. Later that evening, we went to dinner downtown in Santa Cruz with my friend and her partner. It was the night before Saint Patrick’s Day and in the sensitivity of my pregnancy, I could feel the intensity of the downtown vibes busy with those excited to drink and party. I was happy to be bonding with friends but was grateful to leave the intensity of the environment and go home to my quiet sacred space. The scene was a bit overwhelming at 39 weeks pregnant. As I was driving home, I felt a wash of emotions. I felt sadness, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. I didn’t want to bum my brother out so I kept quiet and once I was home, I retreated to the shower where I knew I could privately honor my emotions without worrying anybody. I remember thinking, “I bet I’m about to go into labor. This is a lot of emotions out of (seemingly) nowhere. My body is pushing all of these feelings up to the surface to get them out of the way so baby can come through”. So I went to the shower and cried, unapologetically. I went through all the feelings of resentment in my journey of domestic violence survivor, how much anger and resentment I had for her father (and simultaneously deep compassion and desire for forgiveness) and making the choice to be a single mom and deeply feeling all the disappointment of that and allowed myself to feel it, then I began to feel good and almost laugh at it once I processed it all. Ah hormones…. But my heart was big enough to hold it all.

            Feeling a bit lighter, my brother asked me what we were going to do tomorrow (he’s visiting from out of town) and I joking said, “Oh, I’m going to have this baby. I have nothing else planned so it feels like a good time to do it.”  I gave myself a foot massage with acupressure and laid to sleep at about 10p. At exactly midnight, like some ironic clockwork, I woke to my waters breaking as I slept. I waddled my way to the bathroom, waters continuing to trickle and gush, and within 30 minutes, my contractions were 3 minutes apart but only 40 seconds long. I called the on-call midwife and she suggested I come in because my waters had broke but said she could tell I was laboring well on my own so that I could trust my best judgment. I began to feel excited that in just a short time I was going to meet my baby girl, each contraction bringing me closer to her. My plan was to labor at home as long as possible. I had a plan (haha!). I can be very stubborn and yet I knew it was important to be flexible in these situations. Ideally I wanted a homebirth but insurance gave me only the option for a hospital birth so I was waiting as long as I could before going in. At around 4:30a. I woke up my brother, in a comical fashion saying, “Hey wake up, I having this baby”. Still contracting 3 min apart, I arrived to the hospital and set up home in my birthing suite. I began orchestrating decorations (it may not be my homebirth but I was going to imitate it best I could). White Christmas lights were hung, pictures of my parents were placed near the bed with crystals and my soon to arrive baby’s first plush toy and outfit. I brought love letters from my Blessingway and had them on standby.

            The midwife did an ultrasound and revealed that my daughter was in the posterior position, sunny-side up or “star gazers” position. That’s when I realized I wasn’t having normal contractions; I was having back labor contractions. My doula, who is a god send, used a scarf to perform Roboso techniques to try to shift the baby into the ideal position. We tried this for a while, which I followed with pelvic tilts and then laboring in large tub. Laboring in the tub helped alleviate my back labor tremendously. I was in “labor land” as it’s commonly referred to. I was in a trance like state and began seeing psychedelic visions and radical shifts in perspective. At one point I had one of those heart opening “I’m so grateful for my life and this experience” moments where I cried in appreciation.

            Despite all of my efforts to shift her from her OP position in the tub, my daughter was cozy in her stargazer position and labor progressed. Just about the time I left the tub I began throwing up. The sun came up and so did my dinner from the night before. This continued every two hours until she was born. Thanks to all the yogic breath work and mindfulness practices, I was handling the intensity of the back labor and contractions well. The first few times I threw up I had a positive mind set as I do in medicine ceremonies where I felt like my body was cleaning itself and purging what it didn’t need to make room for something new. Then after the fifth time of not keeping anything down and simultaneous being very hungry that mindset dissolved a bit, I needed fuel to labor forth.

            I labored on the balcony, standing, the contractions bringing me to squats with shaking knees. With a baby in OP, the back labor makes standing through contractions very challenging. I leaned on my doula for much of this and hoped that the gravity would help me dilate further. My body was teasing me a bit with each contraction because I felt the urge to bear down and push each time, but I knew I wasn’t ready, it was just the position of the baby’s head on my sacrum. I found a sweet spot sitting on a bench and leaning over a birthing ball. Any woman who has labored knows that once you find that sweet spot you don’t want to move from it. But I knew, as much as I wanted to push, my cervix wasn’t ready and I needed to stand to let gravity help me. Meanwhile, I was hungry but couldn’t keep anything down, I tried anyway.

            I was lying in child’s pose on the hospital bed, forehead down, and I began hearing my spirit guides. Now, words don’t really translate this experience but I’ll do my best. The images and voices began explaining how this child came from pure love. That regardless of all the pain I’m experiencing and abuse I have endured, that this child exists because of my willingness to act in love and let more love in. They said, “Forgive yourself for any places you feel you’ve betrayed yourself. Your love is pure and you did not fail this relationship or this child or her father. This love exists and this healing is possible because your heart is pure enough and courageous enough to trust life and to love with all that you are. You have left this man better because of who you are and continue to be, even if you cannot see this now. You deserve so much more than he can give you. Embrace this and you will see. We are grateful you exist”. I wept with the contractions and my heart opened in a way that it hadn’t it many years. I saw flashes of images that sequenced together somewhat of a deeper understanding of how this child came to be.

(Samantha Noel Photography– Motherhood, Labor and Birth Photographer)

            The sun came up and the sun went down and at about 8pm my contractions were slowing down because of exhaustion and lack of fuel/energy. I went to the shower and as the warm water rushed over me and massaged my back and belly, my shower brain (aka: intuitive mind) kicked in. I connected in my heart and to that of my baby’s and I felt we were both ready to meet but something wasn’t letting me progress.

            My birth plan was for a natural birth, no interventions, just let me do my thing and trust my body. My heart suggested a compromise. I deeply felt like my daughter needed to be born soon. I heard my inner voice say, “it’s okay to ask for help now. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Hasn’t this journey been painful enough? (Referring to the domestic violence trauma, not my labor) Let yourself be helped.” It wasn’t an emotional choice; it’s a maternal intuition. My baby needed to be born soon. I discussed my process with my doula who knew how important it was for me to have a natural birth. She reminded me of my strength but also my inner wisdom. She reminded me that no laboring woman is c-word (coward). I then called the midwife in to discuss some options with her.

            She was grateful, and surprised I was mentioning intervention options, mostly because she was surprised I hadn’t asked 12 hours before. She said she was amazed to see me manage back labor as I had been and thought I would have wanted help shortly after I arrived. I had nothing to compare the pain to but apparently the contraction monitors suggested the contractions were high intensity for 20 hours. She had done a pelvic exam when I arrived to the hospital but I didn’t want to know how dilated I was because I didn’t want to play the number’s game and get hooked on the expectation of my process. She checked my cervix again and validated my intuition. She said, “You’re exactly the same dilation as when you arrived 18 hours ago: 6cm.”. I said I’m open to assistance but I don’t want anything that will drug the baby. After a brief discussion I decided to get fluids for my dehydration, Pitocin and an epidural.

            It took 5 attempts for the anesthesiologist to place the epidural catheter, meanwhile I’m having back labor contractions every 3-5 minutes, which I had to remain very still for, but by that time, I was in complete surrender. Labor land became bliss land and I knew my baby would be here very soon. Within an hour of the epidural and Pitocin I was completely dilated. I said, “I know I’ve been saying it all day, but I’m ready to push now. The midwife chuckled and said, “We’ll see, I need to make a call about a cesarean at another hospital, so I’ll do that and I’ll return and we can give it try”. I could tell she didn’t think I was ready, but at that point I couldn’t feel my legs so I was like, I’ll just wait here. She returned, and with the next contraction she gave me the green light to push. Not expecting it, the midwife exclaimed, “Oh this baby is coming right now”. One nurse held one leg, my doula held the other, and additional nurse held a mirror so I could see my baby and manage my pushing. In 14 minutes of pushing, at 1:44 a, after 25 hours of labor, Calliope was born. She was covered in meconium but still got to lay on my chest, skin to skin, as the nurses dried her off and kept her crying so she could clear the meconium from her lungs.

(Samantha Noel Photography– Motherhood, Labor and Birth Photographer)

Each time I grazed her cheek w my finger she would soothe and relax into my chest. She was beautiful. Her head was shaped like a cone from pushing her out in the posterior position in 14 minutes (no tears!), and she was covered in poop, but she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She was 7lbs, 8oz, and 21 inches long. Within 30 minutes after she was born, she rooted and began to breastfeed with minimal help. The perfect latch made in love.

(Samantha Noel Photography– Motherhood, Labor and Birth Photographer)

            Some of the other women in the room had tears in their eyes and for the first time in my life I was surprised I wasn’t crying too. My heart was in pure bliss, peace. For everyone that was my support team through my emotionally challenging pregnancy, I felt like this was healing for many of us. It was as though it was healing ancestral wounds and sisterhood and many things that transcended my ability to conceive classification. My birth was healing. It was empowering. It was not the birth I planned or expected but it was a birth I have peace about. I’m glad I trusted myself because by the time she was born, the umbilical cord wasn’t even pulsing; it barely had blood in it. Between that, the meconium, and it being over 24 hours since my waters broke, I was glad I asked for assistance so my baby could be born healthily and safely. What I realized was that my desire to have a set plan was not only to avoid triggering trauma, but it was because I wanted to feel respected in my choice, and ultimately I wanted it to be MY choice, whatever I decided that to be. That is what I pray for all women, is that they get a choice in their births. That’s how we as woman can feel safe and have an empowered, healing birth experience which creates a sacred environment to bring children into this world.

Santa Cruz Birth Photography by Paige Driscoll
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