As in the unfolding of any sacred mystery,
there is no telling what may happen next
but there is faith that whatever it is
it will unfold with authenticity and integrity,
and whatever happens will deepen the journey…
– Bill Plotkin
Breakfast on my own today. Eyes scratchy and head woolly from too little sleep last night – and no promise of rest in sight with a packed Saturday in front of me.
But for now, it is just me.
The man who owns the cafe has just brought me a paper to read while I wait for my breakfast, in which I will read all kinds of things, most of which I’ll wish I hadn’t.
There is a smell of smoke in the air and a tangible longing for rain from plants and animals alike. No matter though. What is, is, and what will be, will be. Right now, there is just me, my paper and pen and the thought of my breakfast to come.
My friend Heather gave birth last night. Another friend and I raced up the highway to attend her – but this wasn’t a baby to wait around. Twenty minutes after Heather arrived at the hospital, baby Isabelle Kay was born. We arrived, as I predicted, just in time to hold the baby while her mother had a shower which of course was delightful :).
We sat in the birthing room, us three women, with seven births between us, the newest of life in our arms and the smell of birthing blood still in the air – and there was no other possible conversation but birthing and babies. We laughed, because at 6:30 pm Heather’s contractions were 30 minutes apart, and she was worried about us coming up in case the labour petered out. At 8:37 pm Isabelle was born. Michelle had us guessing the weight, head circumference and length.
I laughed too, because my son took 18 hours to come and my daughter took 8 hours, which seemed like a vast improvement – but there was never any danger of the people attending me missing out on the action. Heather said it was her best birth by far, and I joked and said that for her fourth she should try for an orgasmic birth. Birthing room humour :).
You can tell a lot about a woman with how they give birth. The Bear shakes his head and looks at me with admiration and a little fear when we talk about the birth of our babies. Determined, tenacious and stoic – just like I normally am but more :). I am no more likely to engage in histrionics in the birthing room than I am out of it, even if I am 10 centimetres dilated and an unholy pain is filling all of my senses. The doctor was impressed at my calmness and said that most women are climbing the walls at that stage of labour. I don’t know where they find the energy for all of that – I needed all of my rapidly dwindling stores of energy to cope with the contractions, not to swear and shout and curse my husband. I can do that at home 😉
Heather lives on Norfolk Island, a little island off the east coast of Australia. There is a hospital there but no obstetrician, so any woman who wants to give birth has to come to the mainland for 6 weeks. It’s a big deal, and very inconvenient – and in Heather’s case, lonely, because she has had to come without her husband and children, and while she had places to stay, she had nobody to attend her birth.
For me, my support network of friends and family are so important – all of the time of course, but especially around birthing and during the first few months (ok first year) of the baby’s life. My mother and the Bear attended both of my births, although the Bear still doesn’t really understand why I needed my mother there. It seemed so obvious to me, so natural that I would want an older woman who was experienced in birthing to guide me, that I didn’t feel any need to justify or explain. She was coming, and that is that. It just so happens that my mother is a Naturopath and has guided many women through pregnancy and birth – not all mothers are capable or useful in the birthing room, I understand that.
I didn’t have a baby shower with either of my babies – they don’t seem to be done around here, and they aren’t really my thing anyway. My friends did do something really special for me when I was pregnant with my daughter though. Shana organised a Blessing Way for me, a ritual that is intended to literally bless the mother’s way through birth.
They gathered at my house on a warm autumn day, bringing plates of poetry and gifts to help me with the birth – and food of course.
And most special of all, a blanket. Each of them had knitted a square with their favourite wool, and Anissa crocheted it together to form a patchwork blanket. The love that is in that blanket…it is one of my most prized possessions.
And then for that hazy, surreal first week home with the baby, they all took it in turns to bring me dinner.
The warmth of my friends and family brought me through that time, and so I couldn’t bear to have Heather birthing alone. Even though I didn’t make it for the birth itself, it hardly mattered because it was so quick! And this time, we were needed in that hazy space after birth. A quick birth can be shocking for both the mother and the baby, and sometimes all there is to do is talk and talk about it until it seems real. So we did. It’s a strange space, after labour. The baby is born, which is lovely, but there is a disconnect between brain and body. And everything feels so…weird. There is blood, lots of it, which feels uncomfortable. Your belly is stretched and flaccid, and your insides feel like they may never feel normal again. It’s nice to have a cuppa and a chat, just to be anchored in reality.
I love a birth story – almost as much as a story about when you met your beloved :). What about you?