sanna saastamoinen-barrois

River Flows, book edited and published by OFR Paris, 2019

Vapaasti Joki Virtaa / Freely River Flows

Winter, snow and silence. Whiteness from our window facing the frozen Baltic sea. 
My baby swims in me and I dance the dance of the wombs. 
 Circles, small and big, fast and slow with my belly.
Light rises every morning earlier, and when the ice starts to break from the sea,I go and see doula. She takes my fear away and fills me with joyful trust. 
I don't talk any more about contractions, but waves. And now that the sea is open, I am able to hear them. Waves, that morning light paints rose, keep softly coming to the shore. 
My baby is diving lower and I keep bringing fresh flowers home. They hold the art of the opening. 
Closer my baby’s arrival is, more inward I turn. 
I hold hand on lower belly, ask my baby to keep her head down there, not to turn any more. 
World is so beautiful, spring and birds have arrived and I don’t really sleep any more. 

Pressure between my legs is getting so big, my body and baby have started to prepare for the journey to here. 
And so, I also dip the toes of my soul on the underwater, to start my travel to meet her on the river between the worlds. 
I don’t tell anyone yet. Half day I listen those preparations. I am ready now. 
And so is she, hours of having only gentle waves, the big waves start to arrive. 
I had been told, that when the waves make you kneel down, you know the gates have opened.I smile, my gates have opened, and the river of life is flowing freely. I ask all those women around the world and time to be here with us, to protect my baby. Another wave and I kneel down, breathe and follow how the wave takes whole lower back and then pulls out again.
I wake up my partner, who kisses me and starts to light candles and puts on the meditations music. I’m doing slow belly dance movements and breathe through every wave. 
When I start to feel the desire to be in the water, I call the maternity clinic. Old midwife listens my breathing on the phone and tells me to come now. They will start to prepare the pool for me. 
I dive into the most beautiful travel, I have ever experienced. 
I dive into inner silence. Inner stillness, where my body talks to me her own language. Into the world of underworld, waves and dark soft, kind light. 
I become mute pregnant whale down deep in the sea. 
Old midwife is so beautiful, wise and kind, she walks softly around the pool, listens my breathing, watches my expressions. For every wave, I choose the position, fix a point with my eyes, keep breathing and let my body open the gates, wave by wave for my baby to swim on my arms. For 5 hours i don’t talk, just breathe through each wave. My partner carries me in water, keeps his belly against my back, massages me , kisses my neck, keeps pushing the replay on the meditation music, gives me water, when I make a sign for that.

 I am a whale giving birth in a world beyond the time. 
There are only waves and pauses between, until there are no more pauses, only pressure on whale. It is growing so intense, that I turn in every direction in those underwaters looking for relief, but pressure just gets higher and higher. 
I raise my eyes filled with fear to my midwife. She, with all her knowledge, has a look at my face and says, ”your water is about to break, now push!” 
The whale on me dives from the bottom of the sea toward surface. Throws herself out of the water, out of those waves and lets all out. 
 I dive out on that second, raise my hands and hold those hand supports hanging from the roof.
 And I push. I push so all that water, all that pressure out. 
I am whale without clothes hanging above water in dark soft world with meditation music still going on.
 I turn to my midwife and smile, and dive back to water, back to this world between the worlds, to get my daughter. 
Between my legs I touch a top of a little wet head, just barely there.
 Midwife tells me ”yes, she is almost here”. I look at my partner who holds me on his arms.Water is soft and warm. 
I close eyes, and in silence I imagine the flame of the candle, front my mouth and blow so softly and deeply, that the flame doesn’t move, only the muscles of my belly are helping the baby to advance on her tight tunnel.
 Softly I pull my baby out in water, whisper and cry ”my baby my baby”.
In water I pose her on my belly and she crawls to my breasts with her eyes still closed. My partner laughs and cries ”she is here, she is here” and kisses us, and I cry and laugh and keep saying thank you in my heart. 
Her wet hair is curly and she makes her little cry before taking my breast on her tiny mouth. 
There we are, naked mother, father and their newborn baby holding each other in water. Her little tree of life still grounded inside me, in my earth. 
Midwife leaves us there, in water for little while with dimmed lights, before we step into bright spring world. 
And only then, I let go of the placenta, give birth for this little tree, that gave life for our newborn daughter. 

Spring and summer goes by in joy. I breastfeed, watch my daughters grow and nature blossom. During the white June nights I walk in the garden and wonder where does all this life come from, how do women’s body make bones, human beings, and then milk? Where does all this material come from?

In fall I eat all the blueberries forest gives, and feel nostalgic when colorful leaves fall down.

End of October comes, earth, trees and air are bare and dark, without leaves, flowers, snow and sunshine.
I receive a phone call, I had been afraid of. My grandmother has been taken to hospital.I go to bathroom and cry. She is leaving. 
I hadn’t traveled yet to north to introduce my baby for her. I had been too busy, I had been postponing it. 
I call my father and ask him to drive those 600km to hospital, we need to get there before she leaves. 
During that drive to north in dark rain, I breastfeed my baby and google how to spend last moments with someone.
 I learn, that when dying everything dries up. Lips needs to be moistened, little bit of water needs to be put on the tongue often. 
One needs to tell the person, who is leaving, that she is much loved. She will not be forgotten.
 All is forgiven. All is well. We will survive. That I love you, I love you. And when the moment is here, she is allowed to let go. We will manage, she doesn’t need to worry. She can let go. 
I read all that aloud to my father, who doesn't really answer anything back. It is his mother, he keeps his eyes on the black highway and speeds even more. 

Next days are so dark, I rarely have seen so dark days, November in north, sun comes up around 10am and goes down at 4pm. Except now it doesn’t come up. It just keeps hiding behind those heavy dark clouds that keep raining on that bare earth. 
And my beautiful grandmother.
 Leaves like a queen, like a great matriarch that she is. 
She makes us all watch, how spirit takes her time, when leaving the body. 
I massage her feet, that are so hard, as if the spirit had left them already. 
I kiss her, her thin gray hair, introduce my baby daughter to her, keep baby’s cheek against her cheek, hold her hand that is getting, thinner, harder and colder hour by hour. I promise her, that I will learn to cook and to take care of my home well. She has always been worried of my house holding and cooking skills.
I know that she hears. I breastfeed my baby for 72 hours almost nonstop, this is only way how I can keep her quiet and stay with my grandmother at the same time. We call through all the cousins around the world, everybody gets to tell her goodbye. 
Keep massaging her body that is becoming a body of an old beautiful bird. So thin and graceful. Water keeps pouring down and more family comes in. I am sent to sleep with my baby. ”This isn’t a place for 5 months old baby”, but at the same time baby brings tender smiles to everybody’s faces in that room. 

 When I step outside, I realize that it has started to snow and cry. She will leave with the snow.
While baby sleeps, these huge snowflakes keep falling down, starting to cover the darkness with whiteness.
 I leave baby to my uncle’s care for a little while, and drive back to hospital, where even more family is now around grandmother.
 Our queen bird, getting ready to open her wings and fly. 
 Her body has already started grounding, the liquids come through the arms.
The spirit really has moved to upper body, as if it now is only around the heart and head. 
I lay my head next to her and tell her about those snowflakes, how the winter has suddenly arrived, and that one can hear the snow making those funny sounds when walking on it.
 I tell her that I love her so much and many other things, kiss her, her hands and everybody else in the room. I have to return to my baby.
 Next night hours i keep photographing the garden under the snow that just keep coming down. 
 The day rises with bright blue sky.
Real winter has truly arrived in couple of hours. Everything is frozen, white and bight. Feels so good to finally see that light. 
And when the sun rises our grandmother leaves. 
I have a photo of that light, beautiful sun that comes out. They call and tell me. She had left, with the sun that had risen, with everybody around her. I wake up my baby and drive back to hospital. 
 My grandmother, beautiful matriarch who had raised 7 children as a young widow is not here anymore. It is just her body, but it is clear she isn’t there anymore.
 Nature, that she so loved,had come to get her in the most beautiful way. 

 Later on, we all are together, listen her favorite songs, cry, laugh, watch the snow, the light and four swans in the lake. They stay front of the house until the sun starts to set down.I photography them swimming peacefully toward those glorious colors and when I turn the head, I see the full moon rising. I had forgotten that it is a full moon! 

In that night I breastfeed my baby, snow shines under the full moon light.
 So many questions, where do we come from, where do we go, where is my grandmother now?
 At the same time, looking at my baby falling asleep, with my breast still dripping milk, and this beautiful winter night, I somehow feel safe, that I am part of all this nature. Carried within.