Celebrating The Arrival of Kiva & Wolf’s Beloved Wildling – Ælfyn
A Diary of Thoughts & Feelings by Jesse Wolf Hardin
It is with overflowing hearts that we present to the world our new baby Ælfyn Wolfson Thorn Hardin, born just over 24 hours prior to this posting. This family of oddkins are generally more comfortable secreted away, exploring magic and intimacies in the chiaroscuro shadows at the far edge of the forest… but over the course of a decade we have been increasingly blessed with a caring tribe of fellow misfit allies, health bringers, and culture shifters. Neither our social discomforts. nor the remoteness of our wilderness home, block sight of how many of you are now a part of our lives, integral to the mission of having a radically helpful effect of the world. We have come to know you in your specialness, and you have come to know us better than even some of our blood relatives. Exhaustion and seclusion might have meant postponing the news, if not for the fact that hundreds of you have been writing and messaging to ask about Kiva and the wee wilder.
One thing that stands out for me, is how hard it is to write anything, or even to think clearly, while crying… and tears have been noticeably forthcoming since the onset of labor and still today. This can scientifically be explained by the levels of oxytocin at this special time, in not only a mother’s bloodstream but also that of family members close enough to be susceptible. Just as hormonal releases play a part in falling in love, in the release of milk, and the softening of connective tissues that make birth possible and survivable, so too does oxytocin affect feelings, bodily functions, and behavior. It can result in a lessening of perceived pain, help a mother forget and thus get over the trauma of a painful delivery. And perhaps most importantly, it tends to greatly boost feelings of love, happiness, and contentment, making normal daily work tasks difficult to fulfill at the usual pace, but helping to increase parent/child bonding. If you think about the natural world, it only makes sense that creatures be motivated to protect their young at their most vulnerable stage. Instead of possibly rejecting our loud, messy, and needy offspring, we are so high on our bodies’ purposed chemicals that we may find their every noise endearing, and their every need a great honor to fulfill.
Describing this process as a chemical one, however, in some ways robs it of its miraculousness and glamour, evolution replayed in the tiny fetus’ transformation from a fish-like shape into a creature with legs and tail, and then on to the features we know of as distinctly human. Enchantment, destiny, and choice. The excitement that comes with a planned or at least well received conception. The long months of waiting, at the Gaian altar of a fruitfully swelling belly. The seeming impossibility of a seven pound or more critter exiting through a the limited opening of its sacred cave home. The glistening, blood flecked beauty that is a critter freshly exited. And the unstoppable gushing of affection for our children, the relentless and not always timely tears we spill. like water sprinkled ceremoniously on our babies‘ heads. Excuse me for any failures to communicate well, as I forgive myself for putting the wrong birth date on our boy’s announcement poster twice before finally getting it right. Born January the fifteenth (pauses for tears), of the both amazing and ignominious year of 2018 (sniff, deep breath, nose wipe…).
A woman certainly need not need to bear children to be beautiful powerful beings, any more than to have a purpose or reason to exist. And it is understandable that not everyone is of the nature or in a situation that has them feeling warm and fuzzy over paeans to motherhood or endless posted baby pics. And there is a traumatized or prudish segment of greater society that finds things like the pregnant body or the nursing mama an obscene intrustion. But how crazy that seems, not to at least find something aesthetically sublime about the interflowing forms of bear with cub, elk and fawn, the embracing mother and child, un madre y hijo.
Our journey into labor and on to the delivery of this child, is actually a long one. In one sense, it arose to prominence only this morning at 1 A.M., with the switch from early mild contractions to the more severe form that marks the first active stage. In another sense, it started when we consciously and deliberately made the exciting if not entirely reasonable decision to conceive, almost exactly a year before this dramatic moment when a unique wildling child of us misfit otherkins makes his way into the light. And in the broader sense, ours is but an ancient and endless coming into being, one segment of a long chain of conceptions and becomings, from the first splitting of cells and the proliferating of microorganisms, the first live births by our tiny, fur-coated ancestors, and then our hominid predecessors delivering their emergent offspring onto leafen beds before quickly resuming the gathering of foods and other daily survival tasks.
Dec 10, 2016, 11 P.M.: Against all practical reason and common sense, my wife and partner Kiva and I accepted the fact that we were feeling strongly and mutually drawn to creating a child together, and that this was the moment to go for it. It had been seventeen years since she had birthed our dear daughter Inga (formerly known as Rhiannon), and thirty-seven years of age felt like as late a point in life that Kiva would want to go for health and other reasons. We picked the best possible due dates, at the end of Autumn after we have confirmed and scheduled teachers for our annual Good Medicine Confluence gathering, but before the massive amount of event and publishing tasks that demand our time from January through October. In early December, we reasoned, we would only have an issue of Plant Healer Magazine, two issues of the free Herbaria Monthly ezine, a Guide to Herb Suppliers, blog posts, the creation of teacher and class descriptions for the website, and our own hoped-to-find-time-for creative writing projects to keep up with… unlike a truly busy time of the year. We are so set on the kid idea, that we commit to building a baby nursery and bedroom to to our primitive one room cabin, scraping up the money for materials as we are able, and furnishing it with antique dressers and four poster bed that I trade my own treasured collection of valuables for.
Mar 21, 2017, 12 P.M.: Amazed that Kiva was still not pregnant after so many nights without protection, we switch to non-chemical, ph neutral lubricant. Conception is apparently immediate, though we would remain less than a hundred percent certain for several weeks more. We decide on a home birth, due to Kiva’s Asperger sensitivity, the security and ambiance of our special home on the river, and our concern over hospitals which we discovered result in a higher rate of distress and death than even unassisted births. We had balance the fact that we would be seven river crossings and a hundred twisty road miles from the nearest E.R., if a rare but dangerous problem were to manifest during the last stages of labor, with the knowledge that women have been mostly successful delivering without modern M.D. involvement since our kind first climbed down from the trees of Africa… and the instinct and apparent sense, though not certain, that we will have made the best choice.
April, 2017: Kiva begins feeling the effects of the pregnancy on her body, the most problematic being exhaustion and brain fog. It will be long after the size of her belly begins to advertise her pregnancy, that we determine she was getting anemic, quickly and very successfully treated with a bioavailable iron supplement.
June, 2017: We get firm confirmation that we will have a resident midwife here to monitor and help with the delivery if anything were to go awry, it seemed like such a long shot so we are greatly relieved. We nonetheless make a special trip to a city to download home birth and midwife instruction videos, and order online the diapers, pads, heart rate meter, and myriad other supplies we imagine needed, just in case. Our previously horrendous experiences with “modern medicine” has us ordering excellent pregnancy herbs from our Confluence teacher Ginger Webb at Texas Medicinals, and the sonogram we get at the rural Mormon anti-abortion clinic this month will prove to be the only prenatal care we avail ourselves of throughout the entire pregnancy. The screen shows us a tiny unfettered mammal, a “wee beastie”… except, as the sono tech said with mouth agape, they are not supposed to be already doing rapid frontal kicks at only age ten weeks!
November, 2017: It sinks in to our midwife just how difficult it could be staying in a wilderness cabin here, with a new child of her own that she says did not anticipate would require so much of her time. She cancels, and we begin frantically looking for a replacement. With such an active child inside her, Kiva wants to prepared for a possible early arrival by the end of November. With so little advance notice, no other midwife we contact has a free enough schedule to assist us, and our commitment to a natural home birth feels just that much more serious and potentially consequential. We have to weigh in the worries of all the people who care about us and are sensibly concerned about us doing this alone so far from civilization. Even more so, the warnings of midwives we contacted who stressed how chancy a home birth is without a professional midwife there to oversee, or the one who pointed out we would “hate ourselves forever” if something bad happened to Kiva or the baby. Kiva blew me away with how she dealt with it all, including the scary stories and pictures in the many midwife and emergency birth reference books we read for hours every day now, and most concerning of all, the sobering tale of another friend who had planned on a home birth but then had to rush to a hospital when there were dangerous complications. Kiva has had a lifetime of over focusing on possible negative outcomes, often being influenced or ruled by her fears… and measured against this, her informed determination and demonstrated courage was nothing less than phenomenal. She did what can be so hard for most of us to do: heeding her own personal needs regarding this baby and the circumstances of his birth, identifying and listening to her feelings to the degree she is able – making a decision that was not fearless, but all the braver in the face of what were this time some very well founded fears.
Dec. 14, 2017, 12:30 A.M.: We are one day past the so-called due-date, an educated guess based on the time of conception as determined by sonogram measurements, and the most recent predictions of his birth date on social media are for an arrival now, on the occasion of St. Lucia’s Day. Kiva has indeed had minor, fairly regular uterine pain since the night before, more regular than what are often called Braxton-Hicks contractions, but no with the force and length attributed to full labor. I say bizarre things, such as saying you might need a salted caramel chocolate truffle to instigate full on labor.
While amazingly cheerful through all the months and discomforts of carrying, she is ready to set him loose now and look for the first time in his face. Everything we know says we should not be in a rush for his appearance, and case research shows that much damage is done in hospitals through anxious c-sections, forcing things with shots of Pitocin to induce labor, and stripping membranes to break the water when it is not yet and may not at any point be necessary. But patience, to the degree we ever really had any, is getting even scarcer. I call his name several times a day, in a low register I hope really carry through the womb to his awakening ears. Come to Papa. We love you, come, come…
Dec. 15, 2017, 1:00 P.M.: Kiva enters what is the hard active phase of labor, as her pain increases to another, expected level, each contraction more extreme than the last. I wake up just often enough to keep the woodstove stoked with rounds. As strange and nontypical as the parents are, this pregnancy has been bizarrely textbook, every step of the way, including sequence and timing, all being hopeful and reassuring signs. She will keep hurting progressively worse for the next sixteen hours, though we could not have predicted that yet. And least expected, was the amount of sharp pain in the small of her back, in spite of Aelfyn positioned in the ideal way.
Dec. 15, 2017, 7:00 A.M.: I wake up to Kiva on her knees on the floor, a cloth spread beneath her, trying to not interrupt my sleep. In the early morning light before the sun rays penetrate our river canyon, Kiva seems to be the light that slowly fills the room. Between the worsening contractions, she is relatively painless, entertainingly lucid and funny, and she insists on still making breakfast for us. Daughter Inga awakens, and joins me in putting an end to such talk, immediately launching into a long hard day of tending us parents while we tended the unfolding birthing. I build the fire up hotter than usual, spread a plastic sheet, and then try to make a few notes on our solar powered iMac for this accounting I knew I would write.
We have two friends and fellow Confluence teachers ready to message or chat for advice or other help as needed, the incredible plant healer N.D. Kenneth Proefrock, and the grounded, inspiring, and reassuring Four-Corners midwife Juanita Nelson.
Dec. 15, 2017, 12:00 P.M.: I cease reading about how to loosen the cord in case one is wrapped around the baby’s neck, and begin the many hours process of pushing my thumbs as hard as possible into pressure points in Kiva’s lower back to fend off some the awful pain showing up there. She alternates between bending over the bed on her knees, and laying across a large inflatable “medicine ball,” our kitten Frigga sitting as close as she can to Kiva like a midwife in her own right. It is no longer possible for Kiva to restrain from making noise at this point, that’s for sure. Nor should she, as each primal roar helps cause her body to tighten and thus provide the loving force to propel the passage of our child.
While we can admire the strength and resilience of the mothers of other species, it seems that the hollering and moaning of women in labor are not due to weakness or fragility, but rather, are in part evidence of a more challenging level of physical pain. This acute pain in the lower pelvis in particular, is believed to be caused by the larger heads, packed with the larger brains that make the defining characteristics of humankind such as greater self awareness, increased capacity for language, and some ability to anticipate and plan for the future. It is also likely why human babies are born when still too undeveloped to stand, run, and thus escape predators and other dangers. To be born as developed as most other mammals, a hominid baby would have to be carried in the womb for at least twenty months, and when born would have a head the size of a toddler’s. To the degree that we are any smarter or better equipped than our fellow lifeforms, it is at the cost of having infants needing constant protection and care for the first many months of their lives… and purchased by the volunteered sufferings of the human mother. As screwed up as it is to guilt trip our children about our sacrifices for them, and our need for them to be grateful, here is something for which we each might truly come around on our own to giving the most profound thanks for. The mothers of dishonest bankers as well as the mothers of society changers and caring healers, all gave hugely, that giving was many times difficult or painful throughout the years of raising their kids, and seldom is that pain any greater than what they go through to affect the continuation of life.
Dec. 15, 2017, 2:00 P.M.: Should we have gone to the hospital after all, is there something going on besides the primal stabbing that females have endured forever? I am getting no intuitive hits as to a problem, but I find Kiva’s increasing pain nearly unendurable. The way Ulysses strapped himself to a mast to withstand the siren calls within a great ocean storm, I bind myself to Kiva by pressing ever harder the spots on either side of her spine and just above her pelvis, harder and harder as her stormy wailing shakes the walls of our just completed nursery. Inga wipes me down with a cooling wet cloth, as I keep up the sacral pressure for one hour, then two hours, and then four.
I am so proud of this woman I know of as my “Wifeling,” cracking jokes about my thumbs providing a “digital epidural” between screaming “I can’t take it anymore! I can’t do it!” as she pushes down with all her might. “Yes you can!,” Inga would tell her, as wisely as any grandmotherly birth worker, as lovingly forceful as the situation required. Of course she can do it. She has to, and that boy is not going to just stay in there. We made a decision that was in every way a commitment from which there was no going back. The baby must come, naturally, now, because there is no longer any other option but to go forward, to make this work, to fulfill this birth. More screams, a plea to the fates, and then…
Dec. 15, 2017, 4:30 P.M.: It is at the height of one seemingly unbearable contraction that her excruciating pushing pays off, propelling Aelfyn out in a rush. He even looks like an elf! He is blue, but curls up like a muscular fist, yells a single time, and than quiets and coos almost immediately when I take him up into my arms and await the placenta that can’t remain. A warm hand on his head and back, and we can see his skin transition to a warm healthy tan-pink starting at the head and quickly extending the color all the way down to his feet. The placenta exits in less than fifteen minutes, with a final push, is checked for wholeness. Once the umbilical cord has drained all its blood into our wildling with the wriggling fingers, I tie a alcohol dipped piece of yarn about two and half inches from his belly button and then make the untethering cut. He is fine, we can tell ourselves with confidence now. The gifts you all picked out from Kiva’s Baby Registry get immediate use, from antique cradle to the baby slings and buntings, and faerytale quilt.
Rather than having to worry about supporting his head, his neck muscles are strong enough at birth to hold his head upright by himself, and his entire being seems filled with both strength and will.
His is the vital force. And hopefully, a healing force, that can and will be a defender and proponent of diversity, of spectrums of all kinds, of healing and health, satisfaction and savoring, liberty and justice. A nontypical celebrant of spirited existence. A keep and realizer of visions. A lover and tender of the earth in all its natural forms, in the face of all the seeks to abuse or destroy it. A lover of ideas, shapes, possibilities. A lover of loving people and what will be the friends and maybe the offspring that he impacts and inspires. And at the root, a product of his parents love for all these things, and for him. Aelfyn Wolfson Thorn. Protector of the elves, as his first name means in its Norse and Anglo-Saxon versions.
Son minn, as our nature worshipping Nordic ancestors might say. Our hopefully reality bending son. Clearly the ruddy haired child of his faðir, child of his móðir., set to fashion for himself the story that will mark who he is and fill his coming life.
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