The Story of Birth Inside My Drum
I have always felt deeply drawn to the drum for as long as I can remember. It's earthiness, the vibration, the rhythm – it feels primordial and makes me want to sing and dance.
A few months back I decided to become a member of the red drum carrier tribe – a group of women who dye their drum hides red to specifically channel the energy of the divine feminine. Red like the hindu goddess Kali and Mary Magdalene's robes. Red is the color of blood, sexual energy and fertility. It's wild and powerful. The drum is the heartbeat of the great mother, the pulse of creation. The drum brings communities together and women have used them for thousands of years to call on their ancient lineages for strength, protection and to align herself with sacred rhythms. The frame represents the full moon. As a birth doula I wanted to use the drum in the days leading up to the birth as I await the mothers call.
I received all the materials to make the drum months ago (elk hide, cedar frame, herbs, rope, etc) but for some reason I kept putting it off making it. Finally one Saturday night when my fiance was out of town I decided, this is the night! I bought 4 huge beets, juiced them and placed the hide in my bath tub to soak for 24 hours. I was on call for a birth but thought she wouldn't go into labor for at least another few days. I wore red, adorned my third-eye with kum kum said many prayers, and the moment I had finished the elk hide ceremony in my bathroom, I got the call.
Getting that call is extremely thrilling! My heart always beats really fast and I experience this wild combination of uncontrollable excitement and deep deep calm. I jumped up, threw on a pair of jeans, boots and a warm sweater, grabbed my doula bag (full of goodies) which has been sitting by my front door for a week now, raided my kitchen of healthy, protein high snacks and a big bottle of water. In 10 minutes I'm out the door crossing the golden gate bridge and calling my mother, something I always do when I'm on my way to a birth. It makes me feel connected and wise somehow. My mother gave birth to me at home naturally, I've always loved that about her.
We (myself, mama and her husband, mom and best friend) labored for 6 hours at her home with the lights out and soothing music playing. Things became pretty intense for the last hour or 2 then her water broke. It was 3am and it was looking like the baby was ready to come so we headed to the hospital as planned. The moment we got there things slowed down quite a bit and they checked her to see how far along she was and she was only 2 centimeters dilated. Just to give some perspective, a woman must be at 10 centimeters to deliver. A few hours later after not much movement they sent her home to rest. I went home as well, I checked the drum in my claw foot tub and it wasn't ready yet, it was still light in color. I thought to myself, of course, the birth isn't over yet.
Around 4pm I got the call that they were heading back to the hospital and so I went to meet them. We labored through the night and she finally delivered early the next morning to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. In a few SF hospitals they have nurse midwives who deliver babies instead of doctors to low risk mothers, which is such a beautiful thing because they are so much more open to allowing women to birth naturally, without pushing drugs or encouraging intervention. The mama gave birth on her side without an epidural. We he finally came out, we shed tears of joy. To see a woman go to the depths of her being to birth love, is one of the most extraordinary things we humans do.
After the baby and mama was happily breastfeeding and everyone was fed and settled, I slipped out the door and made my way back over the golden gate bridge, towards the mountain, back into the redwoods. The moment I walked in the door I ran upstairs to check on the hide and it was ready. It had become a beautiful deep red. Even though I was absolutely exhausted from being up 2 nights in a row, I sat down on my engagement rug that sits at the base of our bed and finished making the drum.
I held it to my heart and beat it for the first time to the sound of my heartbeat as I awoke the drum. The sounds vibrated throughout my whole body and I started to sing. It was love.