I’ve been remembering the Coyote Women lately. Raven Joy, Susan Lamela, Robyn Martin, Penny St. Claire and other womyn from the Ridge created the ad-hoc troupe of performers in the 1990s. I was honored to be included, and the lessons of autonomy and honesty I learned through them have served me well in the many years since.
Here is a piece I wrote shortly after the birth of my third son. He’ll be a teenager next week, so I wanted to remember this time and mark my last Birth Day. “Have three children, make four journeys upstream.” Carole Oles
I was fortunate to have a Coyote-Woman-Friend at each of my births. Stephanie at the first, which was in hospital, and Melanie at the second two, which were at home. I needed them so much, and their presence helped me immeasurably.
This piece was originally published in Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Gazette in 2000.
February 26, 1999
8:00 P.M. Enjoy early contractions while watching television. Hold Husband’s hand.
8:45 P.M. Go to bed to get some rest. Toss and turn with contractions.
9:30 P.M. Warn Husband: “This might be it.”
9:32 P.M. Listen to Husband say, “This might not be it.”
9:33 P.M. Agree with Husband. With great effort, roll over. Doze off immediately.
10:00 P.M. Wake up Husband. Ask him to call Midwife.
10:05 P.M. Listen to Husband talk to Midwife. Hear pause in conversation. He asks you, “How long are they, honey, thirty seconds?” You answer, “Maybe twenty.”
10:06 P.M. Husband puts the phone to your ear. “Let me hear one,” Midwife says.
10:08 P.M. “That was a 70 second contraction,” she says. “I’ll be right over.”
10:11 P.M. Together with Husband, get candles out of cupboard. Have contractions while Husband lights candles. Have more contractions. Begin to chant. Watch Husband move one-and-a-half year old from the bed to the bed extender. Stare at them both in amazement.
10:45 P.M. Midwife and Coyote-Woman-Friend arrive at the same time. The former begins to set up. The latter infuses the room with lavender. The former informs the latter that she can’t reach her apprentice. The former promotes the latter to Official Midwife’s Assistant.
11:00 P.M. Midwife tells Husband that the room is too cold for the baby, who will come soon.
11:01 P.M. Husband goes to build a fire. You go to the bathroom with Coyote-Woman-Friend. She grabs the kiddy chair and sits across from you. She meets your chant as you begin the next contraction. As your voices fuse in the candlelight, the pain focuses to a pinpoint, dissipates into sensations of beauty and power.
11:10 P.M. Husband comes into the bathroom, simply stands with you and Coyote-Woman-Friend. Somehow he knows the perfect spot on your neck to touch.
11:15 P.M. Midwife suggests you return to bed. You know it will get harder now.
11:17 P.M. Midwife says, “Between 8 and complete. Do you want to push?”
11:20 P.M. You say, “Pushing’s too hard.” You roll on your side and start chanting. Your older son wanders out of bed, settles in the room. Somehow you manage to say hi to him. He nods and smiles.
11:30 P.M. In the bathroom again, your top teeth on the skin of Husband’s shoulder. You fight instinct, relax your jaw, remember that you love him.
11:35 P.M. As you return to bed, you notice your one year old is now awake, stock-still, and watching. Your eyes lock with his and he, all-knowing, infuses you with calm.
11:50 P.M. They make you get ready to push.
Midnight: Midwife reminds you of the earlier plan to take the pushing slow, avoid tearing.
12:01 A.M. You suggest that you and Midwife revise the plan.
12:02 A.M. Midwife reminds you that you like sex, which you get to have sooner if you don’t tear.
12:09 A.M. Midwife says, “I”m ready now.” Coyote-Woman-Friend nods her head at you. Midwife says, “Push now through that ring of fire.”
12:10 A.M. Slippery, wriggly, and ruddy, your third son explodes from your body and is instantly on your chest. One-year-old screams “BABY!!!!” Husband wipes tears. Your eyes leave him, lock on Coyote-Woman-Friend.
12:30 A.M. Husband remembers to ask Coyote-Woman-Friend to take pictures.
1:30 A.M. Midwife leaves. Candles burn down. One-year-old is still hollering “BABY!!!” up and down the hall. Husband watches him and oldest son, who is not yet ready to sleep.
2:00 A.M. You are hungry. Coyote-Woman-Friend brings you warmed-up pizza and a glass of chardonnay. You eat cross-legged on the bed while she holds your new son. “I’ll sleep,” you tell her, “in an hour or two.” “The moon is almost full,” she says. In the quiet and the waning candlelight, you both watch him breathe.