Miriam Danced Through Labor


The Birth of Emanuel 6/12/07 4:53 born 8 lb 11 oz A beautiful day it was June 11, 2007 bright sunshine and blue sky. I spent the morning working with the plants and soil, cleaning and organizing the house and making phone calls (work related.) I was overcome with a feeling of frustration and fear of the unknown ahead of me. How would I support my baby? What work will I find? Who will take care of my son? What will happen with my partner?? I decided nature would cure my feelings of despair so I went and took a hike with my mother in Tilden which felt very healing and definitely got things moving inside me. I released my fears and prayed for guidance. My mom then nourished me with a good chicken meal and I left to go to Melita’s birthday party. The house was filled with beautiful people, women either pregnant, with baby or toddler. The energy was so supportive and everyone gave me their blessings for my easy labor and that it should be soon. Jessica Ezra worked on my shoulders and my acupressure points on my feet and ankles and hands. I felt a little wet in my underwear, but figured it was nothing. I went home and ate dinner and got ready for bed. Just after my shower as I was about to get into bed my waters broke and began to flow at 11:45 pm. My body shook with great excitement as I knew that was it. I was in labor – a process that would be long, beautiful, intense, painful and bring Emani into my arms. I emptied my bowel and lots more water into the toilet. I then laid down remembering that I should try and rest to conserve my energy for active labor. I laid down in my bed, surrounded myself with candles and beautiful music. I entered a place of deep peace and rested a couple of hours. Into the night my contractions began to come on, so sweet and mellow energy every 3-6 minutes. I could breath through them and focus into the music and I was fine. Amir laid beside me in and out of sleep, but I was mostly alone, through the night warmed by the sounds of the Native American flute, Hariprasad, Indian Raga, and soundtracks of rivers flowing. Between contractions I prayed from my prayer book (comprised of prayers for all of my friends and community) and prayed for myself and Emani to have a peaceful union in this world. Through the night, each time I went to pee my mucus plus released and I bled into the toilet and into my pads. As the morning approached the contractions became a little more intense and regular and I knew it was time to start waking people up. My first call was to Wendy and she showed up at around 6 am. She timed my contractions and helped me find comfortable positions to work with. She called Jeri Zukoski my midwife, and we gave her a heads up that I was in labor. Then we called Jen Miriam who came quickly and then my mom who already had lost a night’s sleep knowing that I was in labor. My mom brought a siddur to pray, lots of food for my friends, and a bunch of jasmine that smelled amazing. I drank coconut juice throughout my labor which really gave me strength since I could not eat anything. Ice water was also great. Already by 6 am my contractions were one minute apart which made me need to completely focus on my labor with no real rest time to do anything but deep relaxing cleansing breaths. Jen Miriam was so amazing. She got me through each contraction by totally tuning her energy into my body either by putting deep pressure on my sacrum and lower back, or squeezing my hips together, squeezing my foot and sometimes my leg. Since my rushes were so intense, having intense counterpressure really helped.

Since my rushes were so intense, having intense counterpressure really helped.

The other way I got through my rushes was to be either on all fours or leaning over on a piece of furniture and swaying my hips side to side, doing large flat hip circles and flat figure eights. I relaxed my face muscles, moaned and made deep sounds from my gut. It sounded very sexual and I felt totally primal, uninhibited and deeply in trance. The water sounds really helped me flow through my rushes and I visualized my cervix opening each time. Jen had this amazing way of melting her body into mine in whatever strange position I was in and totally working through it with me. When she tells me the story of my labor she tells me that I danced through my labor which is so moving for me.

When she tells me the story of my labor she tells me that I danced through my labor which is so moving for me.

Another movement was sometimes at the climax and end of a rush. I would shoot a hand out with fingers spread wide out as if grabbing for something. It was like I was releasing these electric pulses of energy out through my hands and fingers. At about 10 am I went into the shower which was great. I either leaned forward with my hands on the bathtub and continued my hip dance or I squatted on a low stool and wailed out. Jen came into the bathroom and she played my frame drum and sang a Sufi chant to me over and over… for over an hour. It was so high. I will never forget her gorgeous silhouette figure with the large drum through the shower curtain. My rushes were constant and I used my low moan in rhythm and harmony with Jen’s song. I pray to never forget this moment of my labor. When I got out of the shower I must have been in transition since my voice changed and got louder and I was less able to communicate. I was so happy and thankful to be laboring at home and was really weary of going to the hospital. I really wanted to wait until the last minute, and in the back of my mind I thought maybe the baby would be born at home (by accident.) I threw up pretty violently and again emptied my stomach. By 1 pm my contractions were so intense I said, “I don’t think you can transport me to the hospital. If we have to go we better go now.” So I got in the back of Wendy’s van so that I could remain on all fours and not have to sit down. I felt like a wild dog, ready to escape a cage, but thank God the ride was short to Alta Bates. My mom followed in her car and Nuria followed in hers. Arriving at the hospital was intense. I continued to have rushes walking into the building. We had to keep stopping so I could lean over and have Nuria do the hip squeeze. In labor and delivery they told me to go to triage but when they saw my state they said just go to your room, room 22. It was really nice and spacious for a hospital room and even had a jacuzzi (although I was told to avoid it to avoid infection since my waters broke.) The shower was great, it was sort of broken but somehow Nuria got the showerhead to work and she had it on my abdomen consistently and someone else (my mom or Jen) poured water over my back. The nurse came in to check my dilation and I was 8 cm dilated!! It was such an exciting moment for all of us, and staying at home had been such a blessing. So we arrived at Alta Bates at 2 pm and I had 2 hours of really intense labor. The midwife showed up while I was in the shower, Nuria spraying me and my mom and Jen were singing to me two beautiful songs.

My mom and Jen were singing to me two beautiful songs.

She stood there with the nurse, they must have been so moved. The nurse was so sad to leave but her shift was over. One amazing miracle that happened was that the computer died so the nurses were totally unable to do any tracking of fetal monitoring. They just checked the baby’s heart rate with a hand held monitor (like a doppler used in homebirth.) I went back and forth from shower to bed where I was on all fours and using intense vocalizations. Jeri the midwife checked me at around 4 pm and said I was completely dilated (10 cm) but the baby was posterior and could not come out in that position, that may take him a while to rotate or she could manually rotate him. So I told her to go ahead. It hurt but I knew it was worth it and she so skillfully stuck her fingers up into my cervix and rotated the baby into the perfect position. It was amazing. She then told anytime I wanted, to to start pushing. This was intense and I started to try different positions for pushing. I tried all fours, I tried standing squat, the squatting bar. In each position it felt like the baby was going to burst through me too quickly so I decided to sit up in squat and use the bar to hold the sides and press my feet into. At first I just breathed the baby down with each contraction and the midwife said she could see a tiny patch of black hair and that if I start really pushing he was on his way out. They brought a mirror so I could see the top of his head – it was so emotional so I told them to move it. Then I really started to push as Jen encouraged me. It was scary, I felt like I was going to explode and I kept saying that and Nuria reassured me. I can do it, she kept giving me strength through each moment. Wendy also gave me strength. I knew that if I pushed with all my strength he would come flying out of me and I would tear bad so I had to learn to push hard with strength, but also hold back a tiny bit. In between contractions I had those peaceful moments of rest longer than I had throughout my entire labor. I used these moments to let myself relax and totally go limp, and it was nice to have the back of the bed to rest on. One moment I almost slept for a few moments and everyone was super quiet.

In between contractions I had those peaceful moments of rest longer than I had throughout my entire labor.

The last stages of pushing and as I crowned was so intense. I prayed to God for help and really used my voice. As he crowned I must have yelled out so loud. I have never heard my voice get so loud. It burned like crazy, but thank God Wendy came to the rescue and poured tons of olive oil down my perineum which really cooled the burn. When his head came through Jeri told me not to push but to pant and hold back. I stretched beautifully as his head emerged and then his elbow came tip first which ripped me, but not too bad at all. Jeri saw that the cord was wrapped around the baby’s head once and she slipped it over his head and said, “Okay, you gotta push him out now,” in a scary voice and I knew she was concerned. So I gave it my all and pushed him out which felt so good! What a high moment. I felt like I was flying and God was carrying me on to another world. No drug has ever made me feel so high.

What a high moment. I felt like I was flying and God was carrying me on to another world.

Everyone cried and Jeri placed him on my belly as he screamed out and turned bright pink. What a healthy baby he was, so beautiful and perfect. He only cried a few minutes and then he opened his eyes and stared deeply into my eyes. I was in tears of joy at meeting my little Emani. He was wide awake and we spent the next two hours in blissful bonding and falling in love. I was so high and felt so empowered by my birth. I wasn’t even the last bit exhausted but felt such amazing spiritual energy. I have never at any moment felt so close to God and so in love While I was crowning and pushing Emani out my mother lead two songs. One was, “I am opening up in sweet surrender to the luminous love light of the one.” The other was a psalm. As I write this birth story my heart aches with longing to experience birth again. With all of the intensity and pain and beauty, and empowerment. I can’t wait for my next birth… please God let me be blessed. I also pray that all women can be so blessed to have such beautiful births.

I also pray that all women can be so blessed to have such beautiful births.

Jeri stitched me up really well, which hurt a little bit but since Emani was at my breast nothing really mattered. He even latched on and started to suck which helped the placenta come out. Jeri waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it which was really nice. The 2 hours following the birth were great. Noone bothered me and Emani just laid on my breast in total peace. Then the nurse came back, wiped him off with warm wash cloths, put drops in his eyes and weighed him. 8 pounds 11 ounces! Wow, that’s a lot! No wonder I felt like I was going to explode when he came out. When the women parted from my birth I cried in thanks and love as each one left the delivery room and they all hugged me as well. I never could have done it without them.

I never could have done it without them.

The nurse gave him the vitamin K shot while I nursed him. The nurse cleaned me up and put me into a wheelchair to got to my recovery room. I felt like I was on some crazy psychedelic going down the corridor of the hospital. The recovery room was fine and the nurses treated me so well. So I was happy to stay two nights. My mom slept the first night with me and Amir the second. Rachel, Wendy, Nuria, Jessica, Steve and Elan all visited me there in the hospital. The nurses really pampered me and helped me learn some breastfeeding and diaper changing skills. I was very grateful for their attention. Those first two nights of Emani’s life were so blissful, even though my stitches really hurt and so did my butt. I was so happy and high off of my love. Emani slept at my breast all day and night and when he was awake he was so quiet and peaceful and never seemed to cry. I called him my Buddah baby. My high of my love made my pain feel so insignificant.

My high of my love made my pain feel so insignificant.

Going home was intense. It was like entering reality. I was now a mother on my own. It was great to have so much support from my mom and all of my girlfriends (especially since Amir was so not up to the part.) Each day someone brought me a meal and some love. What a beautiful community and blessing. I never minded being woken every two hours with a poop or hungry belly. Emani is so precious, my little king. The first couple days at home he had a little jaundice which was upsetting and he didn’t nurse very often but by day four he was fine. He simply woke up!! I tell my birth story over and over which is almost satisfying but never really captures the magic for me since that magic is so beyond words of this world and I must just be grateful.


Miriam is an internationally acclaimed performing artist and instructor, with great inspiration to find ways the arts can help build bridges and create respect, love and unity among people of different backgrounds and spiritual traditions.

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