This journal is about the life of Katalin Koda, founder of the rubybleu foundation. It includes new information regarding the foundation and the work she is doing in South India.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Surrender: The Birth Journey of Yoko Mojave Lotus 

The following story is in three parts, as I felt compelled to write the long version of Yoko’s birth in context of having lost a baby two years before her birth, a ten week miscarriage just months before I found out was pregnant with Yoko and my current life abroad, in southern India. This is a extensive story so if you are only interested in the birth story, skip down to Emergence.

Blue Flame

March, 2004 I was back in the States, visiting family and friends, sorting out the rubybleu foundation details and fervently rewriting my latest version of SLADE. But that day, sitting at my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn was unworkable as my head throbbed from martinis the night before. I suddenly decided to call Kaiser (my health insurance) to find out the results of a pregnancy test that I had done in California. I was certain it was negative, having done two home tests in Varkala, India that read negative, but was concerned because I had missed a period.

I called. The results were positive! Joy bolted through my cells like lightning which was immediately followed by a wave of fear that clamped down around my uterus. The dark beauty of Rubybleu and her sweet, red face loomed in my mind’s eye, the baby daughter who had died only 38 hours after birth. A year and a half had passed since her coming and going. Although the sadness had certainly faded, I was anxious and afraid having lost Ruby as well as having had a miscarriage only a few months prior. Yet I fiercely wanted another child and the excitement again coursed through me as I put my hands on my womb, trying to relax the tightening muscles that ached to hold the baby deep inside. I felt the new spirit was certainly a boy as I watched a clear blue flame emanating from my womb. I breathed deeply trying to ease the anxiousness, allowing myself to wonder about this new soul that would come in the fall.

During the miscarriage the past October 2003, I had a mystical vision while under anesthetics which profoundly warmed my soul. I was visited by our son who took me on a journey to where he came from. We entered a magical place that reminded me of the realm of the demigods as described in Tibetan Buddhism’s wheel of samsara. The sun was setting glorious golden saffron, the light spilling warm across red sandstone pillars and deep aqua pools of light. The Being, our son, showed us the pools where at the bottom were white lotuses with baby heads coming out of them. He said, “This is where special babies come before they are born on Earth,” then smiled and took my hand, continuing, “don’t worry, you’ll be pregnant again soon.” Then he pointed out and away from the pools and remarked, “Those are your children.” I looked into the distance, my line of vision following his finger, and could barely make out two shadowy figures swirling in the mist. I could not see their faces.

As Leon and I stood together in awe of such a glorious place, I was overcome with the sense that everything was okay, that ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE, which was to become my mantra over the months ahead. A woman, or female Being approached us then and held out a silver platter, motioning for me to accept it. I lifted the cover and found a small, caramel in the center. “Go on,” she said, “eat it.” As soon as I took the soft sweet into my mouth, I began to awake, out of the dream, back into this reality. The fan in the Indian health clinic slowly whirred above me as I tried to distinguish where I was and where I had gone. Did I truly have some special vision or was it just a dream? Oddly, Leon passed out into a deep sleep in the clinic, as I was under the anesthetics. Did he truly accompany me on my travel to this realm? Regardless of whether it was a real place or not, I did awake from the D&C with the most amazing sense of peace, joy and calm within. I knew that the Little Prince, as we nicknamed that soul who left us early on, was fine, and again, all is as it should be. I healed almost instantly. Leon and my friends were mystified by the peaceful glow that emanated from me for the next several days. It was such a deep feeling that I felt almost no sorrow at losing the Little Prince and allowed myself to surrender to whatever magicks were at work.

A few months went by and sure enough, there I was, pregnant again! Excited by the new knowledge, I made my way back to Maryland, then California and finally, home to dear Leon and our house in the soft, warm tropical South India. And so the journey of being pregnant, giving birth in India began.

India Born

Upon my arrival back to southern India, I began to think about what birth in India meant. Knowing that seventy percent of Indians still live in villages, I assumed that most of the women today still have home birth, as they have for thousands of years. In fact, oftentimes, home birth assistants in America base their ideas on some of the wise practices done in India regarding birth. I too wanted another homebirth, after Rubybleu’s birth went well and I was so happy to stay home for labor. Yet, at the same time, I was unattached to this next birth, wanting even more a baby that lived. Originally Leon and I had hoped that Lucero would attend the birth, the midwife who delivered Rubybleu. Lucero would love to come to India but Life intervened, literally, and she found herself pregnant while I was still visiting in the States. She was just a few weeks behind me so that made it impossible for her to journey here for my birth.

Back in Varkala I had a vague notion of having a homebirth but couldn’t seem to find out too much about it in Kerala. I wanted to get checked out every month and began seeing an OB/Gyn at one of the best hospitals in the state called KIMS (Kerala Institute of Medical Science). The hospital is 45 minutes away from us and has all the latest technology, is very clean and appeared to be the best idea for the coming birth. The doctor seemed gentle and had a great command of English which is important considering I would be birthing in a place where the nurses speak little to no English and the culture is vastly different from my own.

At the time, the single most important part of the birth for me was having other people there for just after our baby was born. Although I sincerely believe that Rubybleu had her own life and death which was perfect and aligned in universal harmony, a part of me still continued to wonder if Leon and I had had more help with her, maybe she wouldn’t have flown away so quickly. Alone two days after birth was so hard for us with a newborn who could not stop crying. Certainly, looking back, something was awry. There’s no way to know for sure what happened that moment with Ruby, but I did know for certain that I wanted loving people around me for my next birth. While I was still in America, I invited my mother to come for a visit. My sister, who lives in Malaysia, also agreed to come as it is fairly easy for her to hop over to India on a five hour flight.

As Leon and I continued to visit KIMS I had to accept certain factors that would determine the outcome of my birth. I would have to labor in a large room with other women, which was directly connected to the delivery room. The rooms were sterile and fluorescent, clean but harsh. I would be required to deliver in stirrups and could only have one person in the room with me. But this was a huge advantage, I was to learn later, as most hospitals allow no one in the birth room besides the doctor and nurses. We got our second ultrasound scan at KIMS of our precious little one and were overjoyed by the distinct picture of a minute, perfect little hand reaching up within the dark embryonic void of the womb.

Still, little, nagging thoughts began to pervade my thoughts which I tried to push out of my mind. I remembered Lucero mentioning that I should be able to have the birth that I want. What was the birth that I wanted? I wanted a gentle birth, a clear birth. Yet, surely wasn’t this baby’s health the most important thing as opposed to my birth and what I wanted? Still, wasn’t this the baby’s birth as well as my own? What of this myth that babies are safer in the hospital? Western medicine hadn’t rescued Ruby and we were at one of the best children’s hospitals in California. These penetrating questions and ideas began to surface more frequently as I continued to work with the deep fear of losing another child that refused to abate even as my pregnancy continued perfectly. In my confusion, Leon was wonderful, supporting all of my thoughts and assuaging my fears with his trust in the deep love that exists between us.

I have researched the benefits of homebirth extensively. I have given birth at home and witnessed my first daughter coming out of my body while I squatted, her head face up, eyes peering into mine as she emerged. I was determined, suddenly, to listen to those niggling voices inside and began to intend the birth that I wanted, not the one that I ‘should have’ or ‘what’s best for the baby.’ I truly believe that what is best for the baby is a clear, focused mother who is listening to her deepest, most powerful feelings that will affect the birth and thus the baby which can possibly have a profound impact on the life of the incoming child.

I began to do daily meditations during my yoga practice asking myself what kind of birth I wanted. I intended a home birth that would be quick and easy and gentle, somehow, although birth is never gentle. I intended the perfect birth assistant(s) and Leon supporting me as he had done with Ruby. I also intended a friend, a woman friend who I could at least speak with passionately about birth and pregnancy. I had been without a close friend around for a few months and was feeling lost and vulnerable as the baby continued to grow. Without any sense of community or support I wondered how on earth I would possibly be able to have the birth I wanted.

Days passed. I researched midwives in Kerala. Where are the midwives? I cried to Leon, realizing that literally no women give birth at home in Kerala anymore, due to the Communist government which has made cheap hospital care a priority. This is a blessing for Indian women. Today, Keralan women see home birth as uncivilized where the hospital is clean and safer. Indian homebirth has often resulted in the birthing mother and infant death due to lack of sanitation and access to any medical supplies. Homebirth in the west is just not the same as it is in traditional villages. It is much safer because it has taken ancient traditions and updated them with highly skilled midwives using modern conveniences. Still, I couldn’t believe that no Keralan women had homebirth! The only women I met who had homebirth are the grandmother’s generation and women from other states in India. Turns out that homebirth is pretty much extinct these days. I felt hopeless at finding a midwife, or anyone who could reasonably help us deliver our child at home.

Then we met Sassa. I had seen a woman walking past our house occasionally with brilliant red henna hair, a sweet but intense look on her face as she walked to and from the cliffside. Leon and I sat having lunch in town one day and she happened to be sitting across from us. Suddenly, Leon turned to her and asked, “Are you a midwife?” Sassa put down her chai, smiled and said, “Funny you should ask. Why, are you guys pregnant?” I nodded and said, “Six months,” Sassa’s face lit up the conversation continued. She was from Canada and, as is turned out, had assisted several home and hospital births as a doula as well as birthing seven of own children, five of them were unassisted homebirths, with no other help than her husband! I was amazed and inspired by this knowledge. Unassisted home births are births that are not attended by any doctor or midwife, but may certainly be assisted with friends and birth assistants, like Sassa. I had been reading unassisted birth stories online but it seemed like a long shot, something that only the bravest women who had already had several babies were capable of.

Sassa went with us to KIMS. Leon and I tried to explain to the doctor how we wanted our birth to be. We told her we wanted it as natural as possible with no episiotomy, no painkillers, no vacuum and certainly no Cesarean. She seemed vague in response to our requests. As the conversation continued, it became clear that she induces almost all of her patients. This shocked me. Not even in the west does this happen. I later learned that Indian women are given a due date (which is arbitrary at best—based on the first day of your last menses—I couldn’t even remember my dates) and once the due date passes, if the woman hasn’t already been induced, then she will be within the next few days. No one in this area, or probably all of Kerala, waits the allowed two weeks that is common practice in the States. We walked out of KIMS that day with the overpowering realization that this doctor would probably try to interfere as much as possible with the birth process. She seemed to have no sense of natural birth and what that is. I began to wonder if she had seen very many natural births if up to eighty percent of her patients are induced.

I decided to make a much closer hospital as our backup and talked extensively with Sassa about her assisting the birth. She was confident she could do it. We arranged to make an exchange where I gave her Reiki I and II degrees and she would assist our birth. My dear friend Melissa, whom I met four years before in Ladakh, arrived around this time and the next weeks were spent in joyous female companionship, collecting the things we needed for a homebirth and my continued visualizations and intentions. In October, I taught both Sassa and Melissa Reiki II together and the three of us spent three powerful days working with the deeper elements of spirit and body. Through this I continued to practice the art of surrender and overcame much of my fear of losing this baby, listening to the spirit of my new child who undulated watery wisdoms from within. One of the meditations that we did together was to send Reiki energy to the birth. The three of sat, holding space and sending our intention for an easy, clear birth in the golden purply Reiki light across time. That moment is forever etched in my mind, as the energy of those few minutes certainly leapt the days and months to the time of birth when the three of us and Leon would come together to welcome Mojave into the world in that same room, with that same wondrous, pure-hearted blessing.

I continued my prenatal checks at the nearby Mangala hospital. The doctor seemed alright up until the nearing of the due date. When Leon and I questioned the need for a scan two weeks before I was due, the doctor and her assistant became extremely agitated, as if we had threatened their authority. I was not against the scan, but merely wondered why it was needed. They said there could be many problems, that my baby’s life could be in danger, using Ruby’s death as a reason to induce early. At one point, the doctor stood up, shook her finger at me and said “Maybe you need a Cesarean!” The fact that she was considering a Cesarean at that point alarmed me. Couldn’t she see how healthy I was? Didn’t she hear me when I told her over and over again that Ruby’s birth was fine? But fear resounded that afternoon and I began to see how we, as women, are taught to fear our bodies, to fear birth, to fear the very act which unites us all as human beings. How odd that in the land of the Goddess and the ancient tradition of Yoga, Indian women have even less access to body consciousness than the west. I could cry or scream or stamp my foot, but this is a cultural reality that stems back thousands of years. Instead, I had to turn that anger into passion and forge against the cultural tide of unnatural, accepted hospital birth.

We got the scan and, true to my feeling, everything was fine and normal. I left that day feeling sick to my stomach remembering the doctor’s words, the veiled threats regarding the health of my baby. I fervently hoped I would not have to go to the hospital, that all would come through with Sassa. I now knew that episiotomies are routine here and Cesareans are extremely common. In fact, every single local woman I spoke with has had almost all of her children born by Cesarean. It seems to be the most common operation happening in Kerala! I was again shocked by this knowledge until I realized that the doctors make twice as much money from these operations and Indian women do not necessarily regard Cesarean as a bad thing. They are often told there is something wrong with them or the baby and they must have one because of several things: pelvis is too small, labor is too long, cord is around baby’s neck, gestational diabetes, baby is too big and so on. I won’t expand on the ludicrousness and/or the reality of some of these issues, but leave that up to the reader to research for him/herself.

My mother and sister arrived a week and a half before my due date. We finally had a name: Mojave, after the desert and I was sure I would call the baby this, as I was still sure it was a boy. I was also sure the baby would be born within the next three weeks, having my family there as well as dear friends from California. We all had a joyous time watching brilliant sunsets, cooking and eating good foods, laughing in the garden, giving and receiving healings and readings, but it was edged with certain anxiousness over the imminent birth. I worked through all the fears and doubts and affirmations that surrounded the birth, especially with my Mom and my sister Beth, so that their energy would be positively integrated with Mojave’s arrival. I also switched to another hospital for our backup, to a doctor that spoke better English and was at least willing to consider my notion of a natural birth. Still, she performs mostly Cesareans and induces everyone and was alarmed at the idea of waiting any amount of time past my date.

Yet, the due date passed, one week, then two. By this time I was doing everything I could to try and ‘naturally’ induce labor: walked and walked, took Black Cohosh, did more yoga, had a ‘talk’ with Mojave, walked some more, took homeopathic remedies, got acupuncture treatments, took more Cohosh, walked and walked. Nothing worked! That baby would come when he was good and ready. Before we knew it, the time of departure for everyone was upon us. With another bout of tears and emotional conversations, I had to surrender to the fact that everyone would most likely not be here for the birth as I had planned. I was frustrated by Mojave’s delayed entrance and becoming more anxious with the reality that I would very likely have to be induced if he didn’t pop out soon. I couldn’t bear to wait too long, as I knew that there are some possible risks to late babies. I took the time to recommit myself to an empowered birth, one that I hoped desperately would be guided by the parts of me, the spirit inside of me and my body, that felt with absolute truth that ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE. But it was hard. Leon continued to support each and every feeling that coursed through me, to give me his advice, yet allow me to make the final decisions regarding my body, my health and the baby within. Still, those days felt like some of the hardest work in my life as my emotional and mental state continued to swing violently up and down, as I continued to surrender each and every hour, trusting over and over again in the timing of the universe, remembering wryly, to never plan a birth.


Saturday afternoon and the Rubybleu house was quiet again. My friends left a few days before, on to visit the infamous guru Sai Baba and other Indian adventures. My mom and sister had just left the house, on their way to the airport with Leon, after many tears and a wistful goodbye. Everyone left, me still pregnant, hope still hovering faint as dragonfly wings. Melissa and I hung out in a café, sipping tea, watching the gray skies. I had decided with a certain amount of dread to induce that Monday, as I was now more than two weeks overdue. I prayed that the induction would work and the baby would come fast to avoid the likely Cesarean. Even after all my intentions, all my passion, I had reached a point where my desire to have my baby had finally become stronger than my fear of the hospital. I was willing to take the chance. It was time. Time for little Mojave to enter the world. In the meantime, I had a night and a day left and somehow, the anxiety had evaporated. I felt calm and still inside as Melissa and I spoke with irony at how everyone came for the birth and left with a different kind of experience altogether. How typically Indian!

Four hours after my mom and sister boarded a plane to Singapore, at one in the morning, I went into labor. I awoke feeling contractions but remained unconvinced as I had been having Braxton Hicks (can someone please rename those?) off and on for weeks. But these felt different—stronger and more urgent. I watched the time and found them coming every twelve minutes or so. Could it be? The hour went on and I found Leon was lying awake, unable to sleep. “I think I’m in labor,” I whispered delightedly to him. “It’s been regular contractions for a couple hours now.” Suddenly we were both wide awake, lights on. Even Goba, our dog who usually sleeps soundly all night, was pacing around the house with us. We rechecked the birth supplies and I took a shower. There was a scorpion on the desk which seemed a fitting symbol, the symbol of rebirth and light emerging from dark. The dark before the dawn had passed and Mojave’s journey into the world had finally begun.

I drifted back to sleep, only vaguely aware of the contractions that moved deeply within my body. I reminded myself that it would only get stronger, to get sleep, relax because it could be a long day. The next morning was brilliantly clear and sunny, a gorgeous breeze blowing green and gold through the palms. By eight o’clock, I was having contractions fifteen minutes apart. They had slowed down a bit because of the sleep. Leon had woken Melissa who came downstairs and excitedly made her coffee then went off for fresh spring water down at the beach. By the time she came back my contractions had jumped to seven minutes apart and Melissa went to fetch Sassa.

In the meantime, I rolled around on the bed and concentrated deeply on each contraction that rolled in, visualizing the vastness of space and stars and beauty. Sassa came in, checked the time of the contractions, which were five minutes apart by then and only a minute or so long. She made me eggs and I continued to roll about on the bed, trying to eat in between contractions. By eleven o’clock the pain was getting intense and I moved into the back room, the birth room which I had decorated carefully with paintings I had done during pregnancy, a Chenzerieg Tibetan thangka painting and a special birth altar for Mojave. I barely noticed these things now as the contractions began to come faster and harder, causing me to moan in pain. Thoughts like ‘why the hell am I doing this again’ flashed through my mind as I fought to ride each contraction like a wave at sea.

By now Sassa was giving me homeopathic remedies as needed and having me sip water with electrolytes from a straw. She began to coach my breathing which became the essential action that helped me through transition and birthing the baby. During Ruby’s birth I had gone deep into the contractions and used my moans and cries to give voice to each contraction. This time, using a deep cleansing breath at the beginning of each contraction, then panting through ‘o’ shaped lips and riding the contraction out with another cleansing breath made for an easier time. I was able to stay ‘above’ the contractions and concentrated fiercely on the breathing instead.

As I panted with each massive, painful wave, gripping Melissa and Leon on either side of me, Mojave began to journey down the birth canal. I felt like I was on some unbelievable trek, thinking to myself, Climbing the mountain, Climbing the mountain as I forced myself to stay with the breathing. The past months of daily yoga and meditation were certainly paying off as I was able to keep myself together. I was lying on the bed, unable to assume any other position because I needed the support under my back which had begun to ache fiercely. I felt extraordinarily clear between each contraction and could even comment on the pain, the wildness of the birth energy as Mojave spiraled down further.

Then the urge to push began to overwhelm me but Sassa warned me to hold back and keep breathing as much as possible. This way I would be less likely to tear. I did as she instructed but it was incredibly hard and finally let loose a wild moan, as Mojave moved down, opening me up so wide I thought I could explode. It felt as if the entire universe was moving through me—stars and planets and massive nebulae threatened to pour from my womb just as the water broke, exploding all over Sassa. I’ll never forget that moment when the yellowish liquid sprayed over her, just as Ruby’s had done on Leon, only minutes before birth.

Two more huge contractions and Mojave pushed ‘his’ way down into the mound of my vagina. I held back until it became absolutely unbearable, and then with a huge moan and cry of intense opening, I pushed ‘his’ head out. Sassa urged me to keep pushing and I took the last bit of strength I could muster, screamed the primordial birth energy from top to bottom and pushed the baby out. ‘He’ came out crying—but just a moment! All of my absolute certainty that this child was a boy melted away in amazement as Sassa placed my slippery, wet newborn YOKO, a beautiful little girl into my arms. I looked at Leon with all the love in my heart pouring forth, his eyes meeting mine in joy. He had been right the entire time! Leon would mock me throughout the pregnancy, determined that Mojave was girl and I would mock him back. So much for feminine intuition.

ALL IS AS IT SHOULD BE. Yoko cried with the woeful melancholic beauty that accompanies the new human’s emergence into the world. She was perfect from head to toe and seemingly quite clear as she rooted for my nipple. Sassa used the herbs that were sent by friends helped stem the bleeding and to encourage the placenta to come out. She cut the cord so that it would be easier to manage with Yoko, even though we had wanted to wait for the placenta. Funny, as I watched her clamp the goldish colored cord and cut, peering through her glasses, I realized the vision I had held for the birth for months. Yoko had come quickly, easily and as gently as I could imagine birth to be. I was so blessed to have been able to deliver my baby in my own home, with dear Leon and friends to greet Yoko’s entry, the softness of home filling the space. I recalled the Reiki meditation that Sassa, Melissa and I had shared just months before and felt the perfection that manifested in Yoko’s birth. There seemed to be a surreal kind of bluish glow inside me and all around as Yoko took in her first few breaths that sunny, Sunday afternoon. The placenta followed a half hour later and I was intrigued by the enormity of it, having missed out on delivering mine with Rubybleu. We buried it under a Paradise palm a few days later, sitting with Yoko Mojave Lotus Koda and her first visit to the garden. Leon and I were at peace, baby in my arms, a true balm to the wound of losing Rubybleu two years before.

And the Days Go By…

Yoko is two weeks old now as we all settle into one another’s existence. I am breastfeeding her and that seems to be her all time favorite activity for the moment. When she is quiet and alert I read her my favorite children’s book BIP and Leon is introducing her to his complex musical taste. It was a bit harrowing the first week, adjusting to each other, trying to heal and sleep from birth and waiting for my milk which took a full six days to come in. My body healed much more quickly this time, as I’ve been able to rest and lay around while Leon does all the diapers, takes Yoko when she’s crying too much, and runs the guesthouse. I honestly wonder what I would do without him! We are so lucky to be in such a lovely place where we don’t have to go to jobs and can spend all the time Yoko needs with her as her two adoring parents.

I continue to look forward, as always, and am anxious to get back into yoga, art, teaching Reiki and working with the rubybleu foundation but now with little Yoko alongside. After having two homebirths, I am even more impassioned with the idea that all women should have the opportunity to have an informed pregnancy and birth. Women should be encouraged to make choices based on knowledge about the birth process as well as their feelings regarding whom they want to assist their birth and how they would ideally like their environment. Days after Yoko’s birth, several local women approached Sassa, interested in the fact that she had assisted a birth at home. All of the women I have met here have little to no awareness about how birth works and why they would need the various interventions at the hospital. They simply accept the doctor’s word without question, paying the large fees without knowing how pregnancy, birth or their own body works.

In response to this issue, Leon and I are considering the idea to build a birth center, using the funds raised through the rubybleu foundation. Education concerning pregnancy and birth is dire in south India. Women are giving over their power as well as their money to the hospitals here each and every time they bring a new baby into the world. By providing a place that is dedicated solely to women that promotes pregnancy and birth awareness, women can begin to reclaim their inherent right to give birth naturally, comfortably in a way that is emotionally supported. The birth center would likely begin as an informational center which could eventually grow into a place to have naturally assisted births. An ideal birth center would be equipped with emergency western technology as well as natural options that would enhance the birth experience. The center would have to be run by Indian women doctors and midwives who would be willing to provide women the education necessary to have healthy pregnancies and, therefore, easier births. I am looking for doctors who are open to this idea and appealing to those who believe in the power of birth to continue supporting the rubybleu foundation. I am hoping that one day we may be able to use such a place to inspire women to begin the reclaiming process of their body, to relearn how to trust the wisdoms that reside within and thus affect change in women and children’s lives in a profound way.

Motherhood is intense—so much more so than I could have ever imagined. I am continuing to practice the art of surrender, realizing that pregnancy was only the preparation. I am approaching each day, each trying and blissful moment as a spiritual practice, evoking the powers of patience, strength and love. Deep gratitude resonates through me for what my mother did for me. I am amazed that little Yoko came from me, from us as she seems to emanate her own individuality as well. She is a blessing, a teacher, a little being with her own journey ahead of her. She is life anew and it is fascinating watch her grow and change, even just in her first few days. In many ways, I feel that life for me has now come full circle and I am able to give back what my mother so selflessly gave to me—the love and nourishment needed to become the person that I am today. I am proud to say that I can now add one more claim to my daily work, my daily practice besides artist, writer, and healer: MOTHER

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