Birth Story: Bodhi

I’ve waited 8 months to write this story, but I think I’m ready now. 

Bodhi Gavan Smith born December 19th, 2010

Bodhi became my ‘chi baby’ sometime during my pregnancy—I think it was when I began a daily qigong practice to help me sleep.  In one move, you connect the chi directly to your navel (dantien). When I touched my belly, he would roll up to my fingertips and I could feel a calming warmth and a strong energetic pull. Amazing.
Getting pregnant for the second time stirred up some unresolved emotions for me. My mom died of cancer while I was in the early stages of my first pregnancy (2 1/2 years prior). I had horrible anxiety.  Once school let out for the summer I spent most of my time with Finn, but also focused on working through the anxiety, going to therapy, going to yoga, going to acupuncture, writing….wow. It was intense.  Fortunately, I was in great shape physically-- I was healthy, eating well, and like I mentioned—doing lots of yoga.
Finn's birth took place in a free standing birth center (Best Start in San Diego) with a midwife and I wanted to give birth there again but my insurance changed and I would have to pay completely out of pocket. Instead, I opted for a hospital birth center (still with midwives—but there were 9 of them, and who actually attended my birth would depend who was ‘on’ that night).  I decided to hire a doula—Leigh Fenly, and I’m so glad that I did.
Being of “advanced maternal age” (at the age of 37), I had to do ‘non-stress’ tests weekly from 36 weeks. That meant going into the hospital to hook up to a machine that reads the baby’s heart rate. I wonder if I would have had to do this with a home birth, because these ‘non-stress’ tests totally stressed me out.  Sometimes Bodhi wasn’t moving around enough for them to get a good reading and they’d send me over to Labor and Delivery (L & D) to wait for hours. It was ridiculous. I knew that he was fine. One time they found that he had an arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and started making me come back twice a week. I would have to leave school and rush over there during my 'prep' period.
Even though the arrhythmia would probably go away right after the birth (and it did), they insisted that I could no longer give birth in the birth center. Instead, I would have to give birth in Labor and Delivery (which was just one floor below the birth center). I was devastated. I could still have a midwife, but the rooms were regular hospital rooms and there would be no tub for labor. We would only have been one floor up!  I had to let it go and accept it. I knew that they were just trying to do the best for the baby—but everything was beginning to feel so medical. I was really regretting not having gone for the home birth.
On my due date I was sent over to Labor and Delivery during the non-stress test and I was super annoyed. I wanted to be at home resting, not in the damn hospital waiting when I knew everything was fine.  My intuition told me that the baby was healthy and strong, but all of this nonsense was beginning to make me question that. I was 4 or so cm dilated already and 75% effaced. I let the midwife, Rebecca, “swipe my membranes” which she said would help move things along.
And move things along it did, but I think it was a day or two early. It was Friday and  I went into labor at about 1 or 2 am Saturday morning. I figured Bodhi would be born by 9 am. Everyone kept telling me that “the second one happens fast!”

Not so fast.

The contractions began at about 10 minutes apart and stayed that way for the next 24 hours--which meant no sleep. These were the real thing too: the intense, can’t talk, bitch, motherfucker contractions.

My plan was to stay home as long as possible so that I wouldn’t have to labor for very long in L & D. We called Leigh who said to call her back when the contractions got closer together.  We talked to her a couple of times on Saturday, but they still weren’t getting closer and I started to get worried. I had done hypnobirthing classes the first time around and was so focused during Finn's birth. I was using the practice again, but started to get really discouraged. Was I doing something wrong? Why wasn’t labor moving along? I was having intense back pain and I wondered if he was facing the wrong direction like Finn was. I started getting in the flipping baby positions. I wished that Leigh was there, so I looked through the affirmations she’d given me on one of her visits and said them over and over again—

My body knows exactly what it is doing....I feel the strong waves of labor and know that everything is normal and progressing....My body will give birth in its own time....keep my mind on acceptance and surrender.

I listened to music. [I teach 12th graders and had them make me playlists I could use for the birth. It was during the final stages of our project, so I didn't get many, but I did get introduced to the XX which I lovel I listened to my hypnobirth tracks. Jason rubbed my back. Time passed. 

Sometime around midnight Saturday night the contractions started to get a bit closer together and Leigh arrived (hooray!)  At one point on the phone she gave me the idea to ride the pain like a wave and I would picture myself as a little cartoon surfer as a contraction hit. There I was—outside the pain, it would pass….right?

She suggested that I try to rest for a while so Jason and I went to bed, but the contractions got more intense. Lying down was the worst and suddenly during one crazy-ass contraction my water burst (this never happened with Finn—it’s such a strange,unique feeling—a warm explosion of liquid, kind of like a water balloon).  It was about 2 am or maybe 3?

To the shower. Things were really moving now.  I could hear Jason and Leigh talking and I started the groaning, the full blown birth moan.  Things were really moving. As I let the water wash over me I wondered, do they know how close I am?  I’m going to have this baby right now in this bathtub. Can’t I just stay here? Please can I just stay here? There’s no way I’m getting in the car.  Have you called Desi? (She was coming over to stay with Finn who was asleep). She’s on her way. 4:30 am.

Leigh let me hold onto her shoulders and lean in. This was good.  You can do this, she said. I can do this. It’s going to happen. I can do this. Somehow we made it to the car. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t belt up. It was the longest mile and a half drive ever. Slightly raining. No one on the streets. Please no bumps! 

The hospital was dismal, empty and quiet.  We had to make it down an insanely long hallway to the elevator. They were looking for a wheelchair. There’s no way I’m going to be able to sit in it, I thought. They brought it anyway, I tried to ride backwards on my knees but they were nervous, so I went on sideways, sort of leaning on one hip.
To Labor & Delivery. Check in. She’s feeling pushy, Leigh said to the nurses. They didn’t seem to care. I’m going to puke. The nurse gave me a little something to puke in and headed down the hall to set up. Not a nice nurse. Damn. We got in the room and they started hooking me up, but I didn’t want to be hooked up. They had to do the fetal monitor for the arrhythmia, but it was mobile, so I was too. They put an IV port on the back of my hand, but no IV and then proceeded to ask me 5 thousand questions which they already knew the answers to because they were right there on the computer screen in front of them and I’d answered them every time I was sent there during those damn stress tests and I’m ready to push fucking damnit. JASON will you please answer these questions I can’t do it!? 
Leigh got right in front of my eyes. I know it’s hectic in here, but you can stay calm, just breathe. You can do this. I can? I can. I can do this.  Here we go.

Midwife enters. Finally! She’s here. I like this one--Jasmine. I feel like she was only there for 30 minutes, but she was kind and smiling (finally, a smile from someone at the hospital) and she tells me that I don’t need to rush with the pushing—I can take it slow. Take it slow?! I think it took about 30 minutes.

Well it was good advice…because that 9 pound baby came out of me without a single tear! Amazing. 

I was on all fours and his head came out with a push, but I just couldn’t push his shoulders out at that angle. The women were sounding nervous—and I was like, Just tell me what to do! I’ll do it. Flip over! They flipped me on to my back and pushed against my feet for resistance and out he plopped! They put his slippery beautiful body onto my chest and I looked into his eyes. …he went right for the nipple. 5:50 a.m.

That lasted under a minute because the pediatric team was waiting to check his arrhythmia. They whisked him over to the table and I had to wait. I started getting the post partum shivers  and needed that baby back. I tried to be patient, but I was in an altered state. I want my baby!  The woman holding him seemed to get offended like I shouldn’t be so impatient and I remember thinking that I was being demanding, but come on! I just gave birth. Cut me some slack. 
I had him back and he latched right on. He’s big, Jason and Leigh said and sure enough when they weighed him he was 9.1 pounds. Wow. Unbelievable.

The hospital was strange. It was grey outside.
But the little bodhisattva was in my arms. My big chi baby. We did it. 


  1. What a beautiful, honest telling of the birth of your little "bodhisattva"! I was truly touched by it Colleen! I love the name you chose for him, and love your writing. Didn't know you had a blog but will keep an eye out for more posts for sure! Hope you are well!

  2. Thanks for reading, Louise! I thought of you when I was back in Newport last month. I was at the farmer's market and thought I might bump into you. You always make me smile (and laugh) with your comments on FB.

  3. Dear niece ... for all the chatting we've done, serious and light-hearted, I never actually heard this birthing story about beautiful, energetic, full-of-life Bodhi! So happy to find it. I'll never look at him the same!! I love you ... Aunt Nana

  4. Dear Colleen, This is exactly as I remember it, too! I loved reading it and of course being with you and Jason. I miss you! I hope all is well in your new environment and am so glad you have this wonderful time to be with your boys.


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