Last week, the baby hadn’t turned yet, and this led me and my husband into a strange trust exercise that involved burning dried mugwart next to my pinky toes, a traditional Chinese medicine therapy called moxibustion. During my last appointment, the doctor had told me that if the baby did not turn by my next appointment, she recommended an external cephalic version, which she described as a “fun” attempt for the doctors to flip the breech baby by angling my body and “rubbing jelly all over the tummy like finger painting.” I thought this was a somewhat disturbing choice of words, and that it did not sound like much fun for me and baby. So, going off some good advice from one of my cousins, I went to the acupuncturist, who told me about the moxibustion. When the acupuncturist first described the process, I laughed out loud, which was inappropriate, but it just popped out while I was imagining myself trying to carefully burn the cigar-like stick next to my pinky toes—a task that sounded impossible given I could barely get my own socks on at this point, due to the size of my belly. That’s when I remembered the other half of this equation—oh yeah, my husband, D, the baby’s daddy.
So, later that night, D and I lay on the couch with my feet in his lap. He held up a lighter to the moxibustion stick until it lit up red with heat. Slowly, he proceeded to bring the burning tip closer and closer to the outside of my pinky toe, while at the same time keeping one eye on the Warriors game. I wanted to leap off the sofa, but instead, I took deep breaths, and silently reminded myself, “Trust him…trust him….” I felt my toe becoming toasty warm. After fifteen minutes, he moved on to the other side, as instructed. When it was all done and there had been no accidental burns to my extremities, I felt a rush of love towards D and a sense of being held. It was a good feeling and I leaned over and gave him one of those rare kisses that feel like lightening.
During my acupuncture appointment, I had a similar moving experience as I found myself lying in a recliner chair with needles in my forehead, ears, knees, and pinky toes. I was literally pinned down and made to stop—to stop moving and fussing and planning and organizing and doing. Within minutes, tears began rolling down my cheeks. My mind was traveling deep inwards, and here, I found incredible fear: fear about giving birth again, fear of physical and emotional pain, fear of change and the unknown, fear that was primal and intense, fear that sat heavy and frozen like bricks of ice. I took in this fear and held it in my hands for a long time, lovingly, until it slowly began to melt. Then came a sense of relief—a warm, nurturing blanket in which I snuggled underneath, like a child, for a long while, slowly, gradually, rediscovering my strength, remembering who I was now and how far I had come.
And finally, in this place of stillness and warmth, I talked to my baby. I told him many things—like right now, in this moment, he had my undivided love and attention. I assured him that he could trust me, that I was now ready for his birth, ready to face the fear and feel it all. This would be our first journey together, I told him, so we had better get started. Then I imagined reaching my capable mama arms, like two rays of sunlight inside the womb, gently turning him into ready position. “This way, baby,” I said to him, “I got you.”
The next day, my ultrasound showed that he had turned 180 degrees and was now head-down, “dropped,” and therefore ready to go. Who knows what did it. But here we were, perhaps both in a new place, ready to trust ourselves and the ones we love…and do this birth!