This story is hard to tell, I told it 32 years ago in the way below. I tell it with permission from my son, who it is about.
It requires some introduction. 35 years ago, in 1984, I became pregnant with my daughter. Against great odds and pressure to abort, I chose to keep her and parent her alone. After becoming a single mother I found myself once again in love. The man I fell in love with was a magical, dreamy, mysterious guy who I was with for over a year but who left me within days of learning I was pregnant and had no intention of having an abortion. This was the second time in three years where I found myself loving men who could not truly love me or be with me. After this second pregnancy, I made a one year vow of celibacy and decided to move in with a community who offered me help.
Being pregnant again and alone with a two year old was extremely hard and yet I loved my daughter, I loved being pregnant, and I have always loved children. Being a mother has been and is my greatest joy and pleasure. I chose to move in with a family that I had met while working at a Quaker camp. This family called themselves Celebrations and was involved in adopting, fostering and caring for abused children. They offered me shelter, a cabin on the land they lived on, in exchange for helping them with their family of five adopted children and four others they were in the process of adopting. They also had several older teenagers that they took in. By the time I moved away from this situation (when I married my husband Kevin 30 years ago), there were 20 or more young folks living with these people.
The parents turned out to be liars, dangerous and extremely hurtful to myself, my daughter and several of their children. They rescued these children from great harm, but also did harm in turn. Some of these older children probably hurt my daughter. The environment of this place was chaotic and insane, but I was not alone in trusting these folks. Social Workers, doctors, and many others were fooled. This story, in its fullness, is a book, I may or may not write. Suffice it to say, that I only learned about the betrayal of my trust and the real danger I had put my children in, in 1998.
I moved in with this community when I was just 22 years old in 1986, with my daughter, who was two. I was pregnant, naive, a free young spirit who loved Ha-Shem and I was very vulnerable, idealistic and blind to what was going on. This does not excuse me from the wrong of not protecting my daughter. I live with the shame and bear the guilt for the harm done to her, of which I was unaware at the time. It is a heavy, hard thing to carry, but it is mine to carry.
22 years ago I took a vow to leave this territory mostly out of my life until my youngest son turned 18. He was just a one year old when I learned of the duplicity of these people.
I needed to have a complete boundary around this chapter, this very painful chapter, of my life. My daughter asked me to have a total boundary, to never speak of these people, to never write to them, to never engage with them. I respected her wishes and it was the right thing to do.
I have been diligently working with tremendously good therapists, Rabbis and my husband during the last 22 years on this territory. This work has not been shared with my children, but I have had to deal with this messy hard stuff in order to parent my youngest well. My youngest is now 22 about to be 23, My daughter is now 35 and it is time for me to turn again towards this place to cleanse, to tell the stories that I can tell, to take responsibility and to move towards Tikkun (healing) for my family.
The story below is about the birth of my oldest son, 33 years ago. I wrote it shortly after giving birth to him and have made a few changes here.
Welcome to my world, a very complex and wondrous place, with its share of pain and power and more love than you can possibly imagine. It is also important to note that this son has a very different picture/story to tell about his time as a young boy living and visiting with these people. For him, it was fun and full of woods and wild adventures and mud and forts and all the stuff he loved. There is never only one narrative. The text in italics and blue is the content I’ve added in recently to add context and explanation where I felt more clarity was required.
I am writing to announce the birth of my son Issac Ray on January 13, 1987 and to share with you the experience of his birth and how it has affected me. As most of you know I am now living in “rain green Oregon”. I live in my own beautiful cabin, where I am surrounded by windows on all sides and with a stream in my own backyard. I live in a community called Celebrations whose main focus is the healing of emotionally, physically and sexually abused children. This community turned out to be more of a cult and its leaders were lying, abusive and dangerous, something I did not understand or recognize at this time in my life, when I saw them as “saviors” and heroes. I may someday write the story of my time with these people and the damage it did to me and my family, but at the time of my son Issac’s birth, these folks were my refuge and I saw them that way. Their tribe of children were my charges in exchange for free room and board, which I needed as a single mother on welfare in rural Oregon with two small children. I am proud of my time and work with the children I cared for while I lived with this group. I am deeply regretful of having been blind to how dangerous and deceitful these people were.
There are currently six fully adopted children, five more in the process of adoption and anywhere from 2-10 other children living here at all times. Working with these kids has been and is a vital part of my life and process here. This pregnancy has been different in all ways, shapes and forms from my daughter’s. Her birth was a six-hour beautiful home birth in Boulder, Colorado. It was intense, but blissful and so easy compared to what I had to do to give birth to Issac. I was not expecting the difficulty and hardship that are described here.
This pregnancy has been a level or two harder and deeper for me. I have had to really look at myself and the choices I have made. I have had to examine on a very deep level if I really believe all the things I say and preach and then to see if I can live them. I have had the opportunity here to celebrate the hardest and most painful moments of my life along with the joyous ones. From the beginning, being pregnant with Issac has been a process wrought with much more ambivalence on my part and perhaps on his as well. The questions I have been dealing with had to do with examining if I really made the right choice in keeping him, which on a deeper level had to do with my own feelings about myself and was I worth honoring. Looking at if I had made the right decision in choosing to honor my needs and process over the needs of other people. I believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion, and have supported and helped my friends through them. I myself never felt I could have one. Mark, my boyfriend left me when I got pregnant and my family and my friends all thought I was doubly insane to have this second child. The only folks who I felt really supported me in my choice were Celebrations. This was not strictly true, but it was how I felt. I also was supported by my son Issac’s birth Aunt Cal, the sister of Mark, and by my other sister, by love, Terret.
In labor, I was forced to deal with this internal ambivalence and to see if I could really bring together the airy, psychic, spiritual parts of myself with my physical grounded parts. In other words to give birth to Issac. Sound easy? Well it’s not and it wasn’t. All tolled I was in labor for 42 hours. Twelve is considered long and for those of you who have never been in labor there is no way to really describe what it was like for me or for my friends who were with me through the whole thing. I had to go far beyond all of my own, known limits and very close to death to bring Issac through.
Labor started slowly and followed a start-stop pattern all the way through. I had planned to do labor in a cabin here called the Quiet House after my waters broke. I went to the Quiet House and was joined by my midwives and Donna and Joe, the parents of the children I was caring for, the crazy cult leaders who I thought were holy teachers. My three-year-old daughter never left my side and my best friend/sister Terret had traveled from Colorado to be with me. My god-daughter Sarah, and a whole slew of children and other people came and went throughout the thirty or so hours that I was laboring there.
So far writing this letter has been easy and pleasant and as soon as I started typing about the actual labor things got hard. I think it is going to be a long time before I am able to talk or write about my labor without feeling a little shaky. To date I have never had to do anything as hard as giving birth to him. Anyways back to labor (aaaaaaggggghhhh!!!). To get labor “going” I started dancing wildly, naked, big and in pain, I was a jumping fat woman. We went from this more gentle fun way to much less fun ones. I drank bitter teas, and had a coffee enema, and drank castor oil twice which made me throw up and defecate a lot. All of these things normally would have made contractions really strong and would have made Issac come out. But no go! I was still in the same station (midwives term for stage of labor) after 30 hours. Several times during labor I asked people to leave and let me be alone. During these times I prayed and cried and went through all the blocks I was aware of and on a much deeper level than ever before I came to terms with my Creator and with my life. Around noon on the second day of labor I was totally surrendered and exhausted and ready to go the next level with Issac which meant going to the hospital. By this time I was grateful that one existed and was ready to go there.
NOTE: At this time in my life, I was a true “nature-child.” I believe in home-birth and support women giving birth at home when it is safe and they can. It is not always possible to have a home-birth. My son knew on some level that he would not survive if he was born in a cabin in the woods. He needed more support and suctioning than my midwife had available to her. My body also knew this and would not go forward with his birthing until it was safe to do so, which is why it took so bloody long, because it took me a long time to get it that I needed to go to a hospital. I think in retrospect, part of why there was a problem had to do with a fall I took three weeks before Issac was born. This fall may have separated my placenta a little bit from my womb. Once Issac was born, we learned that he had been ingesting blood and his lungs were full of this blood, which is why he would not have survived without a special Delee suction kit. Something my very inexperienced midwife did not have in her bag.
I had to leave my little girl behind, something I did not want to do. For her, my labor had also been horrendous. She had seen her mommy cry, scream, agonize, fight, dance and be in incredible pain. She increased her crankiness in direct relationship to how close I came to “Checking Out” which means dying. Children get angrier and harder to deal with in relation to how far away their parents move from connecting to them emotionally, psychically and physically. Perhaps they do this in order to pull their parents back into connecting. My daughter, in her three-year-old self, knew I was close to death and for all either of us knew it might have been the last time we saw each other. I am not saying this to be overly dramatic; I went to the gates of death to get Issac and she knew this. I cried and cried over leaving her. It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do, even harder than the labor pains. I also could not take care of her and give birth to my son. Leaving her with Terret was the best choice I had. I knew that Terret would love her up and read her stories and comfort her. I didn’t want to leave Terret either, but I needed Shira to be somewhere calm and safe and not in a fraught and uncertain hospital scene.
In the car, on the way to the hospital I made a shift and went into what I call “priestess mode” which means knowing I am a good person, loving myself, and taking care of my needs by being assertive and clear. Now was not the time to be scared or unsure. It was time for me to survive and to be my most powerful, so Amen and Hallelujah that’s what I did. I also had felt the presence of an angel enter me right before I made the choice to go to the hospital. This angel helped and protected me during my labor and birth experience and I called on that angel and felt its presence with me throughout my ordeal. I felt this angel enter my body from behind. At the time of this experience I did not know that Raphael, who is the archangel of healing, comes into us from behind, and we enter his presence by falling into him. See Angel piece. As I’ve increased my awareness about Jewish teachings over these last 33 years since Issac’s birth, it has been with a sense of “aha moments.” Finding out things like Raphael is the angel of healing and that he came into my body from behind me is just one example.
The first thing the doctor said upon walking into my room was:
“Well, this is a disaster and I had other plans for my afternoon.”
I took a deep breath, prayed and sent him all the love I could. I told him that I really didn’t want to be here in this hospital either but that since we were stuck with each other we might as well try and take the best care of each other that we could. (Remember, I’d been in labor for over thirty hours at this point. The only way I could have had the presence to be calm and not lose it completely and scream at this doctor was because of the angelic presence inside of me and because I was in “priestess-mode”)
The doctor and I managed to take the best care of each other we could. I am getting tired so I am not going to go into great detail about my hospital experience, if you have questions write to me and I will elaborate. Dr. Gentry and I did a sort of dance where I agreed to one medical procedure and then he would agree to do something I wanted. By the time Issac was born Surja, the midwife, was able to catch him. Issac needed a lot of suctioning, due to the fact that my placenta had prematurely separated in one place before he was out, which meant that he had ingested a whole lot of blood and mucus and there was meconium in his lungs. He weighed ten pounds and his head was fourteen centimeters (not the usual ten centimeters) wide! He was and is a great big beautiful being.
He was immediately placed on my stomach and suctioned from there; I sang to him and cried and from the very first moment of seeing each other we have been deeply in love. I am incredibly glad and grateful for his beautiful presence in my life and I look forward to knowing him better with great joy and anticipation. I felt such relief when he was finally out (no kidding!) and I think this goes beyond my physical relief into relief at the completion of a very long hard cycle. Now giving way to a more mirthful one…
His name is Issac Ray, which means gift of laughter and ray of light; I love him deeply and pray that you may all know him, for he is very much worth knowing and he is also a part of the healing of the planet and of us all, as is every new life. Yes, I chose to spell his name with double ss, instead of double a. I thought at the time that the double s sound was closer to the Hebrew pronunciation of Yitzak. It’s made for some laughter and been a mark of distinction for Issac, my doubly super and stupendous (double the fun of the letter s) kind of a guy.
In retrospect I must say that things could not have happened any differently, for on a very deep soul level I have chosen and will continue to choose the path which brings me closest to the Divine. Sometimes, coming so close that the distinction between life and death seems obsolete. I love my life and I want it just the way it is with all its struggles and its joys. My life is a rainbow of colors and feelings ranging from hard to easy and sad to ecstatic.
Every day I continue to grow and change and to reach higher and deeper into myself and Ha-Shem for the answers which bring understanding and direction to my life.
Thank you all for sharing your lives and wisdom with me. May you all be blessed with the coming of Issac-Laughter.
May your life be a celebration of your true self.