A Bong & A Birth Ball

June 25, 2018

 

The reasons why I consume cannabis didn't suddenly go away during pregnancy. My physical and  mental wellness has included eating, smoking and vaping it for several years before I ever thought of expanding the family. With hundreds of years of cultural history and anecdotal evidence behind me, I knew myself and my children were good.

 

My consumption and dosing did change though. During my first pregnancy and birth, I was still a somewhat closeted cannabis user. People knew that I smoked for at least 4 years prior but I was secretive of my use during pregnancy. I smoked less with my son and less with my daughter. Vaping was of constant interest and edibles relaxed my body when no amount of pillows could prop my swollen limbs. I also began trying topicals and had my first experience with CBD sublingual strips.

 

 

At the time, Arizona medical marijuana legislation was still in its infancy. There were no open dispensaries, state was still knocking on the doors of sick patients and law enforcement had little training in how to deal with it either. That delivery is a story for another time but heavily influenced my beliefs in the power of cannabis for Pregnancy, labor and postpartum. For 6 days after my son arrived, I wished for a full body release that I can only find in cannabis. For days I drifted in and out of oxycodone induced naps, unable to hold my baby without pillows because the pills did little to target the specific pain I was experiencing...It just made me numb.

 

When I returned home, I knew three things:

  • I still wanted another child

  • I had to be more prepared for next time

  • Cannabis was going to be there

 

What I find problematic is the notion that pregnancy absolves the importance of balance within the self. So often we see the pregnant person stripped of autonomy regarding abortion rights and birthrights. Autonomy in pregnancy is an important part of informed decision making and self advocacy. Ideally, a pregnant patient experience includes Being informed of dangers and safety concerns of medications they are interested in taking. The information is provided by unbiased and credible sources. Then the patient decides what medication they will take and care providers create care plans designed to improve the quality of life for their patient.

 

The schedule 1 classification of cannabis requires policies designed to dismantle personal use through legal persecution. To achieve this, public officials and those in positions of authority (Doctors, Hospital staff) participate in the suppression of patient autonomy by reporting non life threatening cases of cannabis use.

 

Pregnant people in many states aren't afforded those rights because of cannabis use and stigma. Using canna infused products, vaping, smoking or being for its use in pregnancy carries its own set of stigmas. Perhaps one of the worst is the assumption that fetal safety is not a priority. I'd argue that the old adage “happy mama, happy baby” applies well to any rebuttal. When the pregnant person is safely dosing, keeping active, and engaging in awareness, great feats can be accomplished.

 

By the birth of my second child, a lot had changed. I had moved from Arizona to Oregon. I was able to purchase cannabis legally through their already established medical marijuana program and I trained and began working as a birth doula, a job I held until the end of my second trimester.

 

Training as a doula required me to throw out what I had learned about birth and adopt what many people find to be a radical stance: that within reason and with proper safety measures, a pregnant person needs to labor free of their own fear and self consciousness.

 

Void of doubt and liberated from the confines of existing as a pawn in other's birth performance ritual, my second labor was a private experience in which no one, not even my mother or son, was welcome during. I created a quiet, dimly lit sanctuary equipped with birth inducing cannabis salves, music, a bong and a birth ball.

 

As I mentioned, my mom joined us in Portland the day of my 41st week. We knew my body is slow starting after going 42+1 weeks with my son. The weekend was filled with final touches : go pick out a Christmas tree, prep for my son's 3rd Birthday which was that Tuesday etc. For all of this, I knew that soon I would be laboring so while I reserved energy, I also knew this was my last hurrah. I enjoyed my final days, medicating at night while deep squatting to engage baby as low as possible. I relaxed on my birth ball, swaying from side to side rubbing cannabis infused oils on my feet and belly.

 

By Monday, I knew instinctively that labor was advancing. My eyes were more sensitive to light and my contraction surges steadily found their rhythm. During the early hours, I strategically placed tiny cotton balls soaked with of rose oil around the room, I put two small bunches of dried marijuana and lavender flowers by my pillows to allow terpenes to do their magic. Occasionally I'd come out to go to the bathroom check on my son (who was brilliantly cared for by his Mimi) or grab a snack or drink, but I always returned to my special labor space.

 

For nearly 7 hours I did the active labor tango, listening to Beyonce's “4”,  smoking small bowls of cannabis and dilating from 3cm to 7cm by the evening. When S returned from work he began his plan of being a clean and well fed birth partner, something he underestimated the first time around. I, being very much ready to start squatting, told him to hurry the fuck up!

 

We left in the chilly, blustery evening  around 6:45pm and I arrived wind blown but still managing so well people believed me to be early in my journey. We brought out my customized birth plan chart and I let my doulas know I was checked in. We had already discussed my private home labor plans so they arrived quickly and ready to support the home stretch. My water broke on it's own around 11pm, if my memory serves me well. I had about an hour of intense pushing and a failed (yet comical) attempt to use vacuum extraction. 

 

At 11:51pm, a mere 9 minutes before her big brother's birthday, Isadora came to this world. Her warm body against my naked body is one of the fondest memories I will probably ever have. She cried for some time and then tried to nurse. Her nose was clogged even after vacuum tubing was done. Due to particularly thick vernix that plugged her nose and ears for days, she was monitored remotely to make sure her breathing didn't become a problem. My doulas assured me she was fine (she was), hugged and cuddled with me, fed me chocolates and prepared my recovery room.

 

My postpartum experience post VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was starkly different. Pain medication wasn't vital, I could walk with help straight away. 3 days after birthing, I was in my kitchen with my son, prepping my placenta to encapsulate! I could have a bowl in my shower and have time for just me.

 

I didn't touch the bong I'd used for months after my daughter's birth. I felt like so much energy went into the piece as I held it. Marijuana didn't give me magical power and the cannabis I consumed certainly wasn't some grand analgesic. My labor sensations were intense! Cannabis, as always, granted me the ability to focus. Focus on myself and my needs.

 

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