When you and your Kings pull up on Bellevue Hospital and give natural, ecstatic birth, you know you is a Spiritual Gangsta for real.
Sometime around when I started channeling ancient fertility cults and chanting the Adhi Shakti mantra for primal power I met a very big man named UNIVERSE. NATURALLY. DELIVERS. Together we made Kali Xion Williams, our first born son co-creatively birthed in an incredible explosion of light for humanity’s conscious evolution 5:50pm Sunday August 28, 2016. All it took was an army of Warrior Women offering remote prayers of support, 20 years of yoga, a fierce Egyptian doula with dreads past her hips and a loving life partner that helped me get down like a primal spiral to the womb.
“But you’re so calm,” marveled the guard that checked us into ER as I announced that my water had broke and we were headed into Labor & Delivery. Since my water had broke the night before, I had already taught a yoga class, cried tears as my vision of a natural, orgasmic home birth crumbled in front of my very eyes, vowed to heal the pain of my ancestors and hopped public transportation leaving little else than a puddle of amniotic fluid as my fare before arriving at Bellevue hospital to deliver a baby who was now (medically-speaking) “high risk” and “premature.” It was 1 am. Wasn’t Bellevue a psychiatric ward? I thought as we made our way to L&D.
Labor & Delivery was less graphic horror than the Russian natural birth propaganda videos with dolphins made it out to be. Screams occasionally echoed through the halls and dispatches peppered with brand name narcotics floated eerily out of the bedside intercom system. Not even the imaginary birthing balls the nurses boasted about could convince me this place was up to starseed standards or even “baby friendly,” although they had earned the designation as outlined by the World Health Organization. My reading of Marcy Axness’s Parenting for Peace had sufficiently prepped me for the onslaught of “prenatal scare” – the way in which hospital care erodes a pregnant Mom’s confidence and trust in her own body. Despite the lack of evidence supporting the protocols and technologies of medicalized hospital birth, the routine over-management of labor in the U.S. leads to a staggering amount of violent surgical outcomes. Many labor-aiding technologies have not even been proven to be safe (or helpful) to women in the short or long term. Take for instance Ultrasound, originally developed during WWII to detect enemy submarines, which essentially operates like a jackhammer on a baby’s delicate nervous system in utero. In fact, new research demonstrates better labor outcomes without conventional prenatal care and its litany of negative possibilities.
Back at Belleveu, after being separated from my baby’s daddy, refused water for three hours only so that I could be stabbed in my left hand with a mandatory IV by a vindictive night nurse I finally found myself drifting off to sleep in my incline bed, holding hands with my partner. UNDAKOVA was lying adjacent on a chair toning with me through mildly escalating contractions. Around 3am commenced the parade of anxious, combative, verbose med students. “I don’t want to scare you but… BLAH BLAH BLAH…terminal illness…infection…virus…brain damage…your baby… BLAH BLAH BLAH…death…I don’t want your baby to be sick…BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
“This culture is sick,” I told one defensive, anxiety-ridden resident doctor after the next. Each came like clockwork as the shifts turned over and the sun peaked through the blinds, barging in, rifling off statistics. The clock was ticking… all paths led to intervention…to drugs. All answers boiled down to a non-answer involving a variation of the words “Procedure” and “Protocol.” The 1980’s science-fiction worthy realities of our for-profit and hyper market-driven obstetrical industry that had made “Let’s Pit her” (for the common labor-inducing drug Pitocin) the standard battle cry of maternity wards across the nation materialized as a stark reality before my very eyes.
But they didn’t call me Ratchet Amma for nothing, and I was knocking them white coats down like dominoes with the help of my prenatal hormonal cocktail of time eternal. Not to mention my electro-magnificent aura of steal. “The World Health Organization reports 95% of births in the U.S. are traumatic for babies. Pitocin dripped into a woman’s bloodstream is known to bring on contractions so seizing, an epidural always virtually follows, strongly decreasing the likelihood of natural birth. There is developing research linking Pitocin induction and epidural to the epidemic of autism,” I said, looking them doctors dead in the eyes. Pregnancy had granted me a new assertiveness. My partner flattered me by jokingly saying that he had never seen me, “Act so Black.” We were in the hospital where his mother had delivered him, a black male now over six feet tall, 38 years ago. She had also been born there herself in the fifties. “White women can’t give natural birth,” said Kali Xion’s New York Grandmother when she heard her son was expecting a baby.
Societally speaking, Grandma was kind of right. Steeped with the medicalization of birth were an assortment of dangerous race and class prejudices. White doctors didn’t want white women squatting like natives and dancing out babies like savages. They wanted birthing women immobilized by a squadron of machines they could lavish their attentions on while the women, helpless in a supine position, swam in a mess of pain-free pain as docs triumphantly dragged out babies heads with scary looking metal contraptions called forceps. They wanted nature’s miracle tamed into a predictable, quiet, orderly and efficient routine procedure that allowed them to keep a 5 day work week, undisturbed sleep/vacation schedule, and spotless legal record. Ratchet AMMA say what? I give natural birth ‘cuz I ride or die with the muthafuckin earth!
I had no ordinary vagina. Yoni. Cunt. Pussy. “Choche” was the new term I learned from UNDAKOVA, which we used in the months leading up to the birth. Months during which I squealed all night long, itching my inflamed crotch and anus in the crippling summer heat. And then during the weeks after the birth, when I walked the house for weeks dripping blood, sweat and breast milk that attracted flies from exotic lands to my wreaking pussy powers. I had bitches on bitches on bitches holding space in eleven time zones for my ecstatic natural birth. And when those coats under the spell of big pharma came for my life, they were coming for a yung Lord in the midst of religious ritual.
It all began with the Go! Push Pops Yoni Puja, a High Priestess for each element of Hindu cosmology pouring black earth, honey, water, oil and milk over my yoni as we chanted the Kali mantra and declared it an “Incantation to the Cosmic Cervix.” We understood that creating life, holding the yoniverse in your yoni, required honoring the interlocking forces of the 5 elements – earth, air, fire, water, spirit.
It was the year of purification, and pregnancy was becoming popular again. My primal pregnancy photos and lengthy sermons about the Birthing Mother As Shaman Originoo went viral. I was featured in the hottest art and culture magazines as Ratchet AMMA, squatting in Fire Angle Birthing Mother pose as beside me UNIVERSE. NATURALLY. DELIVERS. ALL. KNOWLEDGE. OF. VITALITY. AUTOMATICALLY. served a Hip Hop sermon about natural birth and coaxed a bunch of upper-west-siders to chant “RATCHET AMMA” while Ambrosial Twat ritually imbibed a juicy papaya.
My Doula Akhet (Bailey Rollins), whose name means “Mountain of Light,” 1 had organized Baby Kali’s Blessing Way. Presided over by the Goddess Rejuvenation Circle, during the Blessing Way my baby bump was rubbed and worshipped and blessed by a rainbow Unicorn and a queer reverend with a sparkling sermon for every occasion, with God’s eyes and rosewater blessings and Ayurvedic Mama’s prana food to please the deities. I had danced barefoot at a dozen outdoor drumming circles soaking up the earth’s elemental energies and started a salon for Spiritual Midwifery. I had received the blessing of every grandmother and every thug on every street corner across the grids of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Truth be told, cat-calling doesn’t stop once you get pregnant, it takes on a new form. In the birthing mother is the promise of life, the fullest expression of the divine feminine in her cycle of birth, life and death. In the radical arts community I came from, having a baby felt brave. Being a pregnant queer feminist felt like growing a strange fruit in the garden of societal taboos around sex and death. What I found in motherhood, in conscious conception and parenting and partnership as the highest form of yoga, was a path towards life. And when I walked the streets with a belly full of Baby Kali I heard in the choruses of real folks a thousand hymns of rejoice. The feminist in me was determined to turn the hymns to hers.
Of all the coats stomping through L&D, there was one doctor that gave me hope. She had an asymmetrical hair cut and communicated with a sliver of positivity. A single light flickered on in the medical model’s cave of perverted, worst-case scenario damage control. She was willing to give our natural birth wish a chance, curious about our crew and its commitment to an ecstatic, drug free delivery. Despite that, the hours were counting down until they would no longer let my body proceed with the labor naturally. Like a real fighter, I chided them confidently with each check “My body, My choice, My baby. Conscious, natural birthing creates a sacred foundation in which a child can be born with their high-level soul vibration intact.”
Akhet arrived right around the time my defenses were wearing thin. An aromatherapy diffuser, a statue of Isis with child (Patron Goddess of Childbirth and Motherhood), crystals for the root chakra, honey sticks, and a load of herbs all tumbled out of her bag. By western medical standards she was toting a black market herbal apothecary in a handbag. We placed Isis next to our neon orange figure of Ganesha Lord of Good Fortune (Remover of Obstacles). Akhet had already texted me and KOVA to get busy. Nipple and cliteral stimulation was key. She set up her traveling birth temple and blocked the door while KOVA and I danced like maniacs to Young Thug and various other trap music he hated as much as I loved. Then we switched to sacred Kundalini mantra music, and as I reached 4 cm dilated, I closed my eyes and chanted God and Me, Me and God Are One and Wahe Guru! (The Ecstasy of Consciousness is Great) as I entered the birth spiral.
Pleasure is the most holistic birthing tool there is. Dancing and the sensual pleasures, the body’s best preparation for a healthy natural birth, has long been tainted with racial stereotypes in the United States. Belly dance, as an ancient rite, was performed by women to invoke the body’s natural, magical ability to let go and give way to the birth process. In the Middle East as late as the 1960s the “birth dance” was performed by clanswomen circling around the woman in labor. The sexual body and birthing body are both located in the womb, a woman’s inner temple, seat of pleasure, power and delight! To be fully present to the energies present at birth, to dance the sacred dance of life on the breast of eternity, is spiritually equivalent to seven years of meditation. When we trust the birthing process, when we receive and integrate the loving touch of our partners, midwives, and doulas in the process, breath deep and ride the inner wave, birth offers a transcendental threshold for Mom and baby.
By now I was riding each mega surge like Jesus walking on a thundering Tsunami. I went into the pain rather than trying to overcome or avoid it. With each deep breath I was merging deeper with source. We unhooked the fetal heart monitors and dragged the IV along as I began to squat, howl, bend and snap as KOVA and Akhet took turns massaging my ass, working the magic of acupressure, feeding me honey sticks and spritzing my face with flower essences. I channeled in to Kali Xion in utero and kept going, leaning into KOVA. I received the love of a man fearlessly in support of the birth process like womankind hadn’t seen since before the Kali Yuga.
I had been exploring spiritual midwifery and shamanic midwifery for over a year. Above all else, I was struck by the reality that the typical “modern” birthing Mother experiences her highest thresholds of power from a place of powerlessness – numbed by toxic drugs, weakened by medical interventions and other invasive procedures knocking out her body’s own innate ability to gracefully serve as a gateway for new life. By now our medical system had graduated a generation’s worth of medical students groomed not to “be with” laboring women (as the term midwife suggests), but as Axness writes, “to survey the strip, tighten the strap and adjust the drip.” Juxtaposed with 8 months of working with a dedicated homebirth midwife, during which I established my pregnancy as a normal, healthy process that would unfold rhythmically according to my body and my baby, Bellevue felt like the psych ward I initially mistook it for.
As yet another checkpoint along the mass genocide of women healers trajectory, Western medicine had removed the supportive circle of women, medicalized the process, and dulled the birthing mother’s explosive energies, further disempowering modern women who had long been socialized to value fear above faith.
Motherhood is a spiritual awakening. Women who give birth instinctively, in the birth trance of their body’s natural hormonal crescendos, experience ecstasy and spiritual awakening. Birth is our most embodied experience, and biochemical cascades triggered during unrestricted mammalian labor, birth and postpartum establish a baby’s self-regulating and social functions.
Last Spring while visiting a Buddhist temple in Nagano, Japan, I pulled a fortune that said I was going to have a baby. At the time I had been reading about ancient matriarchal societies and fertility cults, convinced the birthing mother was the original shaman. Though I new very little about babies or giving birth, and had spent many years of my life rejecting the patriarchal paradigm of motherhood and considered “wife” a four-letter-word, I felt and followed the strong intuition that the next step on my path as an artist, paradigm shifter and spiritual leader was having a child. Was giving birth the real feminism? The oldest religion of all time? Giving birth was as easy as surrendering to the Great Mystery, igniting the technology of your inner temple, and letting the birth spiral through you as an explosion of love and light. Babies, like all other elements on earth, result from the cosmic death of a star. Our healthy, holy, bountiful female bodies are intact with all of the innate wisdom to give birth with ecstasy and ease if we can retreat from our analytical mind, let go and dance with the primal spiral of source.
All mammals, including humans, share a natural hormonal crescendo at birth. Taking drugs to “ease” the pains of labor might be the norm these days, but not only does it cut off the natural flow of pleasurable hormones, it means your baby enters the world on opiates (cocaine-derived painkillers). Studies show this increases the risk of drug abuse, suicide and anti-social behavior later in life. Bertil Johnson’s research in Scandinavian on teen suicide reveals a strong association between the type of distressing birth event a person experienced and the method he or she later used in suicide or suicide attempts.
Healing my female ancestors began with my refusal to capitulate to the widespread fear, profit-mentality, surveillance and control of women’s bodies characterizing the current medical model. Falling prey to the obstetrical industry’s essential disconnection of self from self during the glorious height of labor would hardly be my fate. Amidst a growing epidemic of c-sections, I refused to be cut open at my power center, my navel of intuition, my solar flare, my inner sun, and center of gravity. Some women birth babies and some women birth culture and some birth both.
One of my earliest downloads during the first weeks of pregnancy was that I wouldn’t, couldn’t do this alone. Traditional midwives learn their craft from elder women in the community, blending knowledge of herbs with personal and cultural cosmological beliefs. The coming together of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends, sisters and neighbors to weave a network of women’s wisdom creates community around the miracle of birth. By the time UNDAKOVA and I entered the L&D, my leaking coche, my galactic starseed baby and I had our team of warrior women lighting their candles across the continental U.S.A. We had my Mom in Northern California working her white magic from the light loft and we had Egyptian Lovher in L.A. rolling her eyes into the back of her head sending a call to the center of the universe to savor the first breath of Baby Kali. We had High Priestesses across Brooklyn and Manhattan and into Harlem and upstate where Moon Womb camp was in full swing singing prayers for the safe passage of Baby Kali Xion…who would be birthed with pleasure, power and love.
Around 5:45pm, the coats heard my guttural war cries and stormed in. In less than an hour, I had gone from 4 to 10 cm dilated. I was in so much intense pain it had begun to feel like pleasure. “We see the head, this baby is coming now!” the lead coat spoke with equal amounts shock and delight. Three pushes later Kali Xion Williams latched on to his father’s healing hands and took his first breathe.
My Mother called me bawling. The hospital confiscated our baby’s sacred placenta (which we hoped to burry along the river next to our house) for their research purposes and said they couldn’t “legally” release it to us. For two days I stayed in my hospital bed watched over by a Jamaican nurse who, as a practicing midwife in her home country, could have easily delivered a breech baby with her eyes closed. Ironically here in the U.S. she had little more than the authority to feed me the constipating iron supplements and beef stew. I asked her, “Why are you here?” She smiled knowingly and said “I’m going back.” Eventually, our family made our way home too.