Supporting the work of Daughters Cambodia
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Friday, September 26, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
"I was in labor for 43 hours. Pushed for five hours. It was brutal and scary and prolonged, and if I was in a hospital, they would have definitely cut the baby out of me. I thank the goddesses that I was at home with patient midwives who knew how to go the distance. The memory of pain always recedes. The memory of triumph does not....
I would definitely choose a homebirth again despite the fear mongering of this patriarchal society, which convinces women that they are incapable of having babies without the intervention of men and their machines. I look at societies where women are marginalized and oppressed their whole lives (even covered head to toe in tarps!) but are still in control of birthing practice, in a whole new way now. I mean, who is really more advanced?
To take birthing out of women’s hands and deny us the continuum of eons of wisdom and experience is to eject us from the very seat of our power. I believe that women in hospitals are prevented from being able to have normal, healthy birthing experiences because of the intimidation of being on the clock, being pressured to take drugs to make it quicker, being inhibited in their movement and activities, and alienated by a sterile, fluorescent lit, feet-in-the-air type environment.
You know the classic “performance anxiety” of not being able to pee or poo because somebody’s watching you? Multiply that by a million! A cervix is a sphincter after all!
Then to add tragic insult to injury women are numbed through their great moment of revelation. I believe the act of giving birth to be the single most miraculous thing a human being can do and it is surely the moment when a lot of women finally understand the depth of their power and connection to all of nature. You think it can’t possibly be done, you think you can’t possibly take the pain, and then you do — and afterward you look at yourself in a whole new way. If you can do that, you can do anything.
Quote from Celebrity Baby Blog (emphasis added by Ilithyia Inspired).
Thursday, September 18, 2008
http://ibreastfed.com/ Check it out!
"There are thousands of women who desperately want to breastfeed their babies but don’t find the support they need when the odds are stacked against them. I created ibreastfed.com as a celebration for those of us who have battled through seemingly insurmountable breastfeeding problems and made it out the other side, and as a source of inspiration for those of us who are doing it tough right now.
ibreastfed.com aims to provide a safe but accessible place for women to share their breastfeeding success stories. As the collection grows, the stories on this website will include mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding babies who are small, sick, weak, sleepy, and who are unable to suck properly, digest effectively, and appear to be allergic to their mothers’ milk. I expect to include the experiences of mothers who have physical disabilities or conditions which have made correct positioning and attachment a challenge, who have had emotional/psychological/psychiatric hurdles to overcome, and who have breastfed through their own chronic or serious illnesses. I will have stories from mothers who have breastfed multiples, breastfed after breast surgery, breastfed despite never having quite enough milk, weaned then successfully relactated, breastfed adopted babies, and overcome many other challenging situations."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
"Oh my God! You've got a penis!" April gasped when she first laid eyes on her newborn. All throughout pregnancy she and I had felt that she was carrying a girl. So much so that we used the girls' name she had picked out for her daughter when talking about her pregnant belly. But having a penis was not Sunny's only trick. This is one tricksy dude. He has enjoyed keeping us guessing.
At 38 weeks gestation April started experiencing contractions in the middle of the night. Living so far away from her, that night I sadly accepted the reality that I would probably not make it in time to support her through her final labour (and her first homebirth) and I apologised in advanced to her for this. I went to bed that night fully expecting a call from April or Jamie telling me to jump on the earliest train to Warrnambool I could find. Instead I got a text message telling me labour had stopped.
April was having a blessingway at 39 weeks, so for a week we waited, wondering if she would get to have a blessingway or if her baby would beat us to it. She continued to have contractions on and off throughout the week, but no baby. My family spent the weekend with April's family for her blessingway. We had a great time, making woolen birth bracelets, a belly cast, and enjoying one another's families. I thought that surely April's baby would conveniently time her birth for sometime then, when I was in Warrnambool already. We joked about her "dropping babe" mid-blessingway. But it was not to be and Monday morning I was back on the train home.
Forty weeks came and went with April feeling nauseas and contracting here and there, but no birth. Round came forty-one weeks, same story. Forty-one weeks plus one day gestation April called in the morning to tell me she felt like labour was starting. She said the contractions were more intense than any she had had so far and that she wasn't coping with them very well. I packed my bag, popped my baby girl into my wrap-around carrier, and called a taxi to the station.
On the train I was seated with another family, I made an instant friend in the mother. They were going to her grandmother's funeral. They asked me what I was headed to "Warny" for, and when I told them she said "Beautiful, one goes and another comes".
Later at April's house the two of us joked about the freaky possibility that the woman's grandmother might get lost on her way to the next world and take up residence in April's baby's body.
A few stops away from Warrnambool April sent me a text message to say that the labour had stopped again, but on my train went, and I was optimistic that by the time I got to their doorstep things might have picked up again. It was not to be...again.
It was a Wednesday when I arrived, and we decided that I would stay in Warrnambool until Monday afternoon, so that I would be close if labour started again. Wednesday and Thursday night I slept at April and Jamie's house and on Friday night my partner came to Warrnambool and my family stayed at a motel to give the expecting family some space.
Sunday night my partner returned to our home and I returned to April and Jamie's. We had a great five days together. It was wonderful to spend that short time living with their family, developing a special appreciation for how they work together and what their days and nights look like. We shared some really fun and heartwarming moments as we watched our children play together.
It was also good to be there when April needed a listening ear. She was approaching forty-two weeks gestation, and those weeks had not been easy on her physically. She was sick of being pregnant, but more challenging was the unknowing nature of birth. Contractions would start and stop and had been doing so for weeks. It was a mind-fuck April would be happy to say good-bye to.
On Friday night April let go of some tears in the kitchen. I stood with her, with a hand gently on her back and listened. When the tears had passed she said "I feel like I'm going to be pregnant forever". I told her how wonderfully she was doing, and that the baby will be born and she will do that wonderfully too. The following day I gave her a bottle of Australian bush flower essences to help if she wanted.
In the time that I stayed with their family labour did not start again. Monday afternoon came and my baby and I boarded the train home. Jamie drove us to the station and as we said good-bye we jokingly said "see you in a couple of days...or hours" and laughed.
My daughter and I got home late Monday night and had a rather sad day on Tuesday, both missing our friends and all the noise and excitement of living with a family with older children. I chatted to April throughout the day via MSN, she was also missing us. We both jumped off our computers around 1am. I climbed into bed with my baby, but I couldn't sleep. I laid awake until after 3am.
At quater to eight I woke to the sound of my phone receiving a message. I opened one eye and reached for it to find a message from April saying "catch the midday train. I'm having a baby today". I couldn't go back to sleep after that! I snuck out of the bed, leaving my baby to get the sleep she needed, and I re-packed our bags, booked a taxi to the station, and when my daughter woke I got her ready to go.
During the taxi ride my baby slept in the carseat, which I sat next to, and the taxi driver and I chatted about raising children, politics, feminism, empowerment, and homebirth. Rather amusingly my driver did not get feminism ("how are women not empowered today?" he asked at one point), but he was more than onboard when it came to freebirth. He was so excited by my academic background and newfound calling to be a doula that he suggested I make a record of my experiences and publish it. "You could have a blog!" he informed me, to which I chuckled internally.
Jamie and April kept me in the labour loop throughout my train trip back to Warrnambool with text messages. My baby slept and I read a book, wondering if I would make it to their house before their baby did. At 1:20pm April rang to tell me that her waters had broken. There was no big bang, no Hollywood style drama, she got up after having a nap and gush. She told me that there was a light brown stain on her underwear from the waters breaking, which we guessed was meconium. She was feeling fine and we had a chat about how most of the time mec in the waters doesn't mean anything is wrong, and given that her baby had been in the womb for 42 weeks and 1 day it was likely that she would have had her first poo already.
From the station at Warrnambool my baby and I taxied to April's. As the taxi pulled into their driveway Jamie emerged from the house with a big smile. I thought for a moment he had a birth announcement to make, he looked so happy.
"Has she had a baby?" I asked excitedly.
"Not yet" Jamie replied as he helped carry my things into the house "Welcome to the real one!"
Inside I found April sitting on the birth ball at her desk, arms folded on the desk, and head resting on her arms. Jamie was right, this was indeed the "real" labour. Between labour rushes April told me she had been in labour since 2am, and we chatted. When a rush would start she would reach for Jamie or call his name and he would come to her. They would hug and she would breathe and chant "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow" until the rush passed.
April, Jamie, their two boys Jet and Indy, my baby and I, all hung out in the kitchen and the lounge room area of the house together. April and Jamie hugged their way through April's labour rushes and after a little while April retreated to their bedroom. She perched herself on the edge of the bed and leaned forward onto a chair she put in front of herself. She would rock the chair back and forth throughout her rushes. She wrapped herself up in an old blanket that used to belong to her Nana. Jamie joined her in the bedroom and I played with the children in the lounge room.
From the lounge room I heard April's birth song. It wafted down the hallway. Occasionally it would entice the boys to the bedroom where they would want to play with their mother's blanket, her birth necklace, or her chair. If ever they became a nuisance Jamie or I would encourage them to play elsewhere. At one point the boys were jumping on the mattresses in one room, squealing with delight, while their parents held one another in the other room, their mother labouring away.
April returned to the kitchen after a while and the two of us stood by the bench together and had a chat. She said she had just been telling Jamie how she "sucks at labour", and how that's how it might feel, but it's far from the truth! Jamie put Jet and Indy to bed as we talked.
Still wrapped in her Nana blanket, April moved into the lounge room and we followed. I sat on the floor with my baby, and April sat on the couch. When a labour rush began Jamie would kneel before her. He accidentally knelt on her foot and as she rushed April yelled "Jamie! Get off my fucking foot!" and half laughed her way through the rush.
When the next rush hit her, April was back on her feet in the kitchen. "Jamie!" she called to him as it began and he held her again. She accidentally grabbed his hair as she rushed and together they sang "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!" through the rush.
I made sure April had plenty of juice and water nearby. She asked Jamie to make her pasta, but she couldn't eat it, so I did. She munched on Jamie's sandwich for a while, but eventually spat that out too.
There were long breaks between April's rushes. Between them we talked a lot and made one another laugh, just like any other day we were together. April was still her funny self, even during most of her rushes. At one stage she whined "fucking babies, why do they have to grow so big?". She also mused that labour was "alright until I have a contraction", which made us laugh!
After 9pm April's rushes became more intense. Her birth song became louder and the rushes seemed to last longer than before. No one was actually timing her, but I remember thinking they seemed longer from this point onwards.
Jamie had set up a couple of foam mattress on the lounge room floor in front of the heater. April laid down on them and he sat beside her on the floor. It wasn't long before she could be heard snoring, and I hoped it meant she was getting some decent, well-deserved rest.
The house felt very still. Jamie was beginning to drift off to sleep as well, leaving my baby and I the only one's awake. I took my baby into their bedroom to entertain her quietly away from everyone else. She had spent her evening the way she spent every evening we were with April and Jamie. She nursed when she was hungry, sat and played with toys on the floor, watched the other kids play, bounced around in her carrier as I roamed the house wearing her, and slept in her carrier. Now she munched and sucked on some toys I brought to her in the bedroom.
I heard April experiencing another rush, it sounded more intense. I left my baby briefly to see how April was going. She looked like she was in a daze. I returned to the bedroom and continued playing with my baby, hoping she would tire soon and I could feed her to sleep for the rest of the night.
Jamie and April remained together on the floor. Their heads resting together, holding hands. April softly moaned her way through the rushes. An intimate moment between mother, father and bellyfruit.
My baby tired. I laid on the bed with her and fed her to sleep. When she was sleeping deeply I gently slunk away, hearing April move from the lounge room to the toilet. April went to the toilet with Jamie and I as her audience, the humour of the scene not lost on her. She updated us, telling us she felt crap and cold, tired and over it.
I returned with April and Jamie to the lounge room and kitchen area of their house. April got back on her purple birth ball and rolled backwards and forwards during rushes. As she rolled back and forth with her bum sinking into the ball and her knees up she cursed "I feel like a fucking frog" and we giggled.
This period was one of my favourite memories from the whole experience. For about forty-five minutes Jamie, April and I were alone in the lounge room. During rushes Jamie and I silently listened to April sing her birth song. And between the rushes the three of us talked and made one another laugh. April said she felt like "it's doing something down there" and I replied "that's good. Nice to know you're not hallucinating labour!". I thought about Ina May Gaskin and what she says about the use of humour during birth and how laughing your way through dilation is the best way to do it.
As she emerged from another rush April mused "labour sucks. It's very laborious...that's not how you say it..." (she said it so it sounded like layb-er-us)
"Sounds like Cerberus" I replied.
"The dog that guards the gates of hell"
"Yep, that's just....YEP!"
Apparently Cerberus felt very relevant to her at that point in time!
April was still really lucid, no longer in the daze of earlier. She was sitting on the couch and I was standing by.
"Don't you know you're not in labour yet?" I teased her, tongue firmly in cheek.
"How come? My waters have broken. Oh coz my contractions aren't regular yet."
"Well that means you're in pre-labour, but because your waters have broken but you're not in labour you'll need constant foetal monitoring," I advised with my imaginary obstetrician cap on.
"And antibiotics, coz of those pesky infections and the waters," April added, briefly donning her own ob cap.
"Oh yeah, there's all kinds of infections tryin' to crawl up yer cunt and eat yer baby!"
April's whole body shook as she laughed at my final comment.
At one point she was rushing on the couch and I recalled how comforting I found it to hear my doulas breathing with me during my daughter's birth. I began trying to mimic April's breathing, but it seemed she did not feel the same as I once had, and called out "Shut up!" at me, which I promptly did.
Indy woke up at quarter past midnight, usual for him. But instead of being taken to bed with his parents, tonight he joined them in the lounge room where his mother laboured. It was now Thursday, September 4 2008.
I pulled out my notebook I take to my doula classes and opened up to the page that had a list of things women like to hear while giving birth, a list we students compiled together based on our own experiences. April wanted to know what I was up to, I told her. She wanted to see what was on the list, so we sat together and went through it. April poo-pooed every list item, as I suspected she would. And we laughed at what April might do to Jamie or I if we tried any of these sickly sweet approaches with her. She cringed in particular at "use her name regularly" and "she will like to hear "I love you"". Knowing April's sense of humour well during the next rush she had I said: "April, I love you, April", causing her to smile throughout.
Sitting on the couch April said that the pressure had begun to feel different in her backside. She wandered into the kitchen and while standing she felt another rush rise up. She called to Jamie and he held her. As she rushed Indy ran to the birth ball and rolled it to her side because he had seen his mother use it earlier in the evening when she was like this. It was a very touching moment, and cool to realise how much little people really do understand just from observing.
Eventually Indy fell asleep again, this time in the lounge room. April laboured on, and Jamie continued to hold her quietly when she rushed. Everyone was asleep but the three adults. Jamie and April were sitting in the kitchen facing one another, ever ready to embrace when the next labour rush hit. That peaceful stillness had returned to the space and I sensed I should disappear for a while and allow April and Jamie to have this intimate moment in solitude. I mentioned to April that I would go lie down with my baby and they could call me back whenever they wanted. That was at 2am.
I slept by my baby for a little less than two hours. Around 4am I woke to hear April singing her birth song. It was louder and stronger than ever before. I went to the kitchen to see how she was holding up. She was saying "this sucks butt" and chanting "stop! stop! stop! stop!" throughout her rushes. I went back to the bedroom to gently scoop up my baby and transfer her from the now cold bedroom to the warm lounge room. I laid her down next to Indy, who was sleeping peacefully on the foam mattress by the heater, and there she continued to sleep.
I noticed that Jamie looked tired. I stood beside April and said "you're doing really well. You're doing it. It's going perfectly." April didn't seem to believe me, which I could appreciate, remembering what it was like to be inside the labouring body. I added "I know it's hard to do, but it is amazing to witness. Everything is as it should be".
April's birth continued like this for a while and then she told us she felt very uncomfortable. She felt tired and "everything hurts". She wanted "to try something" but wasn't sure what. I suggested a walk: "either outside with Jamie, or just around the house". I remembered seeing a video of Rhea Dempsey with her arm around a birthing woman who was wrapped in a blanket (just as April was now) guiding her around the house. April didn't like the idea of a walk, I suggested the birth pool. She was hesitant, concerned that it might be too soon to use warm water.
I asked her how she was feeling to try to work out how far along she might be, but felt that she was far enough along that water wouldn't hinder her progress. I hoped that by the time the pool was full she would have progressed further enough that she knew it was the right time for water. So Jamie went to the bathroom to get the already inflated birth pool and roll it down the hallway into the kitchen.
When he slid the pool into the kitchen I looked at it and saw it wasn't nearly inflated enough. April obviously read my face and asked "What?" in a way that suggested to me that she knew exactly what was up. I put one of my legs in the empty pool and stood on the bottom of it, immediately my foot sank down and hit the floor as if there were little to no air in the base of the pool.
"I think the pool could use a bit more air in it" I said carefully, hoping April would not kill us for this oversight.
They had a horrible electric pump that made a noise I imagine will accompany the apocalypse, and a noise that scared the children (two of whom were asleep nearby). Jamie rolled the pool back to the other end of the house to inflate it more. I told him it should be pretty full, and he'll know when it's ready when it feels nice and coushy on the base, supportive enough for tired labouring knees!
Jamie returned with a perfectly inflated pool, and April was really starting to want that water now! She was standing by the kitchen bench, leaning over it, sipping juice, and swaying her hips from side to side as she rushed. Her patience for imperfect birth attendants was starting to wane.
Jamie began looking for the part which connected the hose to the kitchen faucet. He couldn't find it and asked April where she thought it might be.
"You put it somewhere where you said you wouldn't forget where it was!" April snapped, understandably!
Jamie continued the hunt for the connection unsuccessfully until April followed him down the hall and spied it within two seconds of glancing into the laundry.
With the connection found, Jamie began filling the pool with water from the kitchen tap. It was almost 5:30 in the morning and April couldn't bear it any longer. She climbed into the pool and sat down. It seemed to help. Perhaps it was just getting off her feet that made her relax, but I felt my own muscles release a little bit at the sight of her lying back with her eyes closed in the water.
April began shaking and I wasn't sure at first if it was because the water was too cool or if it was the effect of labour hormones late in dilation. We had run out of hot water from the tap so Jamie and I began filling the kettle with water and putting pots of water on the stove. In true male fantasy fashion whenever Jamie poured another pot of steaming water into the pool he'd announce to April "Incoming!". It was as if he'd been waiting his whole life for a moment to say that. And it was revealed that April's shaking was due to the water temperature.
April lifted her arm in the direction of her bucket and I passed it from the bench to her in the pool. She had a mighty hurl into it and I felt my own body become lighter and feel a shared sense of physical relief with her as she let it all go.
Indy woke to the sound of change. He trundled into the kitchen to see what I imagine to him would have looked like a fun park! A big shiny blue inflated tub filling with water! What fun! He ran around the outside of the pool, as if he were looking for a way in. He stood up on tippytoes and tried to dive head first into the water, Jamie gently pushed him backward to prevent him from getting into the water. He roamed around to the side of the pool April was resting against. She looked deep in that labour haze now. Indy reached into the pool where he spied his mother's necklace floating on the surface. That necklace had been a source of interest all labour. I imagine it looked like lollies to the children. April didn't mind Indy playing with her necklace, until he tried pulling it too far away from her body and began to choke her. At that point she called for Jamie to intervene.
Half an hour later Jet woke up and wandered bleary eyed into the kitchen. I saw him walking down the hallway rubbing his eyes, hair a crazy mess from being slept on. I greeted him as "Jet Bon Jovi", remembering how April and Jamie had referred to that style as his "Bon Jovi hair". He walked into the kitchen where the rest of his family were, it took him a few minutes to wake up and realise how great it was that there was a swimming pool in his kitchen! When he did realise he took to thumping his hands around the sides, which Indy quickly joined in on. They ran around the pool thumping the sides, and trying to climb in.
I was worried about how the thumping might be annoying April and wanted to encourage the boys to leave the pool be. Jamie gave them weatbix (or "weas bits" as Jet calls them) for breakfast and put a DVD of their favourite show on in the lounge room.
At 6:30 April said "I was going fine, now I'm not. I can't get comfortable" and it immediately reminded me of my own labour experience. I remember feeling exactly the same way just before transition. I wondered if perhaps April's transition was about to be upon us? She was definitely in that late dilation hormonal haze period.
The boys playing in the lounge room woke my baby who had been sleeping by the heater for a couple of hours. I offered her a feed but she wasn't interested in the breast since her friends were playing on the mattress and the television was on. She was happy to sit on the floor watching the boys play, with a few toys in her reach to grab at and suck on. I left her there and returned to April's side.
Jamie sat on the floor by the pool. I noticed that both he and April were sleeping between her labour rushes. It was another fairly still moment. I focused my attention on the children in the lounge room and keept them occupied with games and television. My baby was sick of sitting by this point, especially since she could see the older children coming and going as they pleased. I put my wrap around carrier on and wore her on my front, and she was content from then on.
At one point the boys ran back into the kitchen and again tried to jump into the pool, I really wanted April and Jamie to be left in peace at this point, so I said to the boys
"Hey guys! Wanna play on the mattress?!" And I ran into the lounge room beckoning them to chase me, which they did.
I ran across the mattress on the floor and they followed.
"What else can we do on the mattress?" I asked "How about jumping across it?!"
So we did that too.
Then Jet suggested we "scoop" across it, which I could not for the life of me figure out what he meant, until Jamie called from the kitchen "Skip, Jet!". So we skipped across the mattress too. I also suggested hopping, and it was very cute watching the tots trying to figure out how to hop long enough to get themselves from one end of the mattress to the other without falling over. It was rather hard to skip and hop while wearing a baby on my front!
With all this fun they had forgotten about the pool and I was free to slip out of the lounge room and leave them be with the mattress.
April was on all fours in the birth pool now. She had been in labour for thirty hours and she was sick of it! She still felt like she "sucked" at labour, and told us that she couldn't do it. There were some tears, and some pleading, and some whimpering. But Jamie and I never wavered in our total faith in her strength. Whenever April would cry "I can't do it" I would say "you are doing it".
"No I'm not!" she would retort.
"You are, honey. I know it doesn't feel that way at the moment, but you really are doing it, and you're doing it beautifully!".
I knew she didn't believe me in the moment, but I hoped telling her the truth would help in some small way.
One time as she cried that she couldn't do it anymore I said to her "April, it's your baby's birthday today!" so full of excitement for her. She shook her head in response, she reminded me of Indy, shaking his head and saying "noooo" when someone suggest he do something he'd prefer not to :)
At her request Jamie was applying pressure to April's lower back with the palm of his hand. She asked me when the baby would be born. I jokingly replied "In time for Macca's breaky". For a brief moment the mood felt lighter in the kitchen.
My baby wasn't interested in going to sleep in the wrap on me, and she seemed to be getting restless with me because I was spending my time in the kitchen rather than walking non-stop, which is what she prefers. So I took her out and placed her back in the lounge room with toys and the boys.
Jamie was looking really tired, so I passed him a glass of water and suggested he eat something (April had made the same suggestion earlier too). So Jamie made himself a sandwich and wandered between the kitchen and the lounge room, keeping an eye on children and wife. I took his place over the other side of the birth pool and applied pressure to April's lower back with my hands.
As Jamie and I made our way to swap sides of the pool April had another rush. Both standing at her head I lunged forward and reached my hands down to her lower back to apply pressure. Jamie and I were stuck in the corner, me sandwhiched between the pool and the oven, doubled over, Jamie squished between the pool, the pantry and me. For a moment he considered squeezing past me, but realised there was no way he could do it without sexually harassing me, so stood still by the pantry. He said "Um, I think I'd better not", and I used all my strength to stay focused on April and not laugh at him and my bum being in his face.
I felt really privileged to be able to give April some hands on support. For a couple of her rushes I bent over from behind and pressed my hands against her lower back, and eased off when I noticed the rush had passed. As she yelled through the rushes I would whisper "that's the way" and "yell it out", "beautiful". At the end of one of her rushes she seemed more emotional than before, she was teary. I bent down and softly told her how awesomely she was doing and asked if she would like Jamie to return? She nodded.
I went into the lounge room where Jamie was with the children, finishing his breakfast and told him that "April could do with some Jamie loving" hoping that he might say a few encouraging words because they would mean more coming from him than me. As I left them alone I noticed them softly talking to each other and heard Jamie tell her she was doing really well. The conspiracy theorist part of me was wondering if perhaps they were formulating a plan together to ditch their doula and high-tail it outta there for the hospital, but I laughed it off knowing it was a ridiculous thought, the vibe in the birth space remained calm, peaceful and normal.
She began to get fabulously vocal. During the more intense labour rushes she would yell "OUUUUUUUUUT" and "FUUUUUUUUUUUCK". Fifteen minutes after she started to yell through her rushes I noticed that her yelling became even louder and the rushes seemed suddenly even more intense! As one rush ended her shoulders began to shake up and down as she cried and told us "I can't do it anymore". No sooner had she said it than another rush took over her body and she screamed "GET ME OUT!"
April was starting to sound like if she were offered an escape route she would take it. I figured it was transition time, but I didn't want to commit to that thought in case it was wrong, or in case it made me expect the birth to be finished soon. I wanted to suspend all expectations, because that's how I could remain present to the moment.
I was tempted during this period to tell April that she was in transition and soon the worst would be behind her and she would have her baby in her arms in no time, but I caught myself thinking that and reminded myself that I didn't know that! Even if I was right and it was transition I could not be sure that April would find second stage easier. And even if those two things ended up being true, I couldn't know for sure how long April's second stage would be. "Soon" could still be a long way off. Thankfully I stopped myself from saying any of these stupid thoughts to April. Although, looking back I realise that those thoughts became true and now I wonder if I had some psychic birth serving gift at the time or whether it was pure coincidence?
The closest I came to telling April that it was transition and it would be over soon was saying "just this moment" to her once. As soon as I said it I imagined April yelling back at me "this moment's the problem!", like DUH, Sarah! So I didn't say it again.
She whimpered fairly often about not being able to do it and not wanting to do it, and she said she no longer cared about having a homebirth or having a baby at all (at one point I said "the harder it is, the closer you are to meeting your baby" and she yelled "I don't care!").
April was starting to say things that I suspected she hoped would convince Jamie and I to save her or give her an easy way out. Jamie was really quiet during this period, and I was worried for him. I know what a challenge it can be for a man to watch his loved one endure so much pain and not be able to "do" anything to make it stop. I decided to kneel by the pool and tell April how wonderfully she was doing, as much for Jamie to hear as for April, just in case he needed to hear it (I would discover later that he didn't need to hear it, he knew she was doing great, but didn't know what to say to make it any better so opted to say nothing and be present instead. Arguably Jamie was a better doula than me!).
April, of course, protested to being told everything was going perfectly and she was doing an awesome job. At one point she cried "you're not listening to me!". That really hit me, knowing that the birthing woman I am supposed to be serving felt like I was ignoring her concerns. It really stopped me in my tracks.
I knelt with her and said "I know if fucking hurts, honey, but you are doing it! It's hard fucking work and it hurts, but you are doing it. And no matter how much it hurts you are stronger! You just don't feel it right now, but you really, truly are stronger than the pain". She still protested, saying "No I'm not. I'm not strong. I can't do it. I'm not doing it". I stuck to saying "I know, honey", because it's true, I knew that's how she felt, and there wasn't a bloody thing anyone could do to change how she felt, and nor should they. She felt like SHIT! It fucking hurt and it pissed her off and she wanted out. And that's okay because that's how she felt. All I could offer was my heartfelt "I know", and hope that the depths of my sympathy made her feel she was being listened to and validated.
I encouraged her to "yell it out", which she did roarsomely! Part of me sensed she might be thinking "you want me to yell, I'll fucking show you!", which I loved. I loved being able to witness such a powerful and untame moment. It was so real! So raw! So birth! "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH" she would SCREAM! I remember feeling like the earth was trembling beneathe us on account of her awesome ROAR, like her voice was vibrating through the whole planet and changing it forever. I was so in awe of her power! So grateful to feel that roar vibrate through me, and be right there at the source of such an unhindered sound, a most pure birth moment.
By this stage my baby was back in the wrap around carrier on my front. My baby was happy enough for me to focus on April and leave her to hang about in the wrap. Occasionally she would look up at me, a little taken aback by April's screaming. I would simply smile down at my baby and say "it's alright lil one, April's having a bubba, she's okay, just needs to yell bubba out". I think that because all the adults were acting like it was the most normal thing in the world for a woman to be screaming in the kitchen, the kids were fine with it.
April insisted that she couldn't do it, and I didn't want to dismiss her and assume all was well, because I thought that was contrary to the doula's role. Being present is not about making assumptions. Instead, I formulated a plan for if this challenging time went on and developed into a problem. I listened carefully to how she said it to work out whether it was a matter of confidence/exhaustion/
April began to poo in the pool. The first poo happened when she was on all fours, her head at my side of the pool and her bum at Jamie's, so Jamie had the first honours. I chuckled to myself internally at this, remembering how happy Jamie had been when it was agreed in April's birth plan that I would be poo scooper. We used a little green net to scoop up poop, the kind you get from pet stores to scoop up fish. Then she changed position. She got up onto her knees and turned to face Jamie, placing me in prime poop-scooping position, as planned :) She braced her arms against the side of the pool and burried her face into Jamie.
I heard April begin to grunt and thought "awesome sound, probably means that was transition and we're all about the pushing now!". She looked to be bearing down as she grunted. I looked at the clock, it was ten to nine in the morning. I smiled at Jamie, who was looking a little forlorn, to let him know that she was on the home stretch now. He mouthed "what's happening?" to me and I mouthed back "pushing".
April was the first woman I ever saw bear-down and I remember what an awesome sight it was to behold. As I watched her I thought "bearing down is such an apt term for what women do in second stage!" It felt so right and so primal.
April pooed and she pooed and she pooed. And I scopped and I scooped and I scooped. At one point I accidentally jabbed her in the bum. I could've kicked myself! The poo had sunk to the bottom of the pool, so I went deep sea scooping with my net to fetch the little blighter, and slipped. I would scoop up the poo and then put it in a bucket on the kitchen bench. There wasn't much point cleaning the bucket yet because more poo was coming. So I decided to keep a shitty vigil by her bum with my trusty net and go clean the bucket when the poo had started to let up a bit.
I was aware of myself growing very excited about the fact that April was in second stage and I thought that it wouldn't be long. I caught the thought and reminded myself that just because my second stage was speedy doesn't mean April's would be. I took some deep breaths and reminded myself that it could be a couple of hours yet and that April could find pushing very challenging. Though from the looks of it I didn't believe April would find pushing a struggle, she looked to be getting on with it and like she just needed everyone to let her be.
In my new-found acceptance that second stage can take as long as it wants I decided to take the poo bucket away and clean it up. I would have plenty of time to come back, scoop up any more poo and clean the bucket again before I would be needed to take photos of the baby crowning. I took the bucket to the bathroom, I was still wearing my baby on my front and she was sleeping peacefully now. I tipped the poo down the sink and washed the sink and the bucket. It was cooler in the bathroom than in the kitchen, and something about the cold air made the stench of the poo really get to my nose. I gagged a couple of times as I scraped the last little bits from the bottom of the bucket and also chuckled at myself for this being my dream job and imagining myself describing what a days "work" involves to friends and family :)
When I returned to the kitchen I looked into the birth pool expecting to find more poo to scoop. I didn't register at first what I was seeing. It looked as if April had grown a third bum cheek. A smaller one, in the middle. It slowly dawned on me that it could only be a baby's head! It had barely been ten minutes since second stage had begun and here was the little person's head! A smile flooded my face. I took some photos.
"Hello!" I said to the little forehead, and Jamie's eyes lit up.
He asked if I could see the baby's head. I told him the very top of his baby's head was visible. So Jamie moved from April's front to the back and readied himself to catch their third-born.
Jamie was trying to ask me something without using words, and I was very confused. He was gesturing with one hand, then with both, gesturing towards the pool. I thought maybe it was to do with the baby's head? Suddenly I wondered if touching her baby's head as she was born was something April wanted to do? I hadn't seen her do it, so I suggested it at this point. April wasn't interested (I later found out she had already done so just before the baby's head became visible to me). It turned out Jamie was asking me how I thought he should go about catching his baby, which I never figured out or helped him with. In the end he simply did what came naturally to him.
I looked at the clock to discover that it was 9:04am when the forehead had been born. Then the baby's head emerged fully, it felt like it happened so slowly. Then the head moved out of our view, behind one of April's legs. After the head an arm was born and for a split second I had forgotten the head was already earthside and wondered if we had a transverse situation, as soon as I thought it I remembered I'd just seen a head so of course it wasn't transverse! Duh! And then the little head swung back into view along with two shoulders, two arms and a torso!
A little face was staring up at us from underneath the water, eyes open. I took a photo, I was awestruck by the sight! There was a little person being born before my very eyes. Half in the world, half not. Already alert and taking it all in - watching us. The baby looked at me and I took a step back, wanting her to focus on her father's face and make eye contact with him, not me. I remembered being pregnant myself and talking to my doula, Jo, about the importance of the first look, of how they bond to you by staring up at you, studying your face carefully, and what a big deal it was for babies and parents to miss that first gaze.
The baby was starting to float up toward the surface while her legs were still inside her mother. I was worried she would take her first breath before she could be pulled up out of the water completely. Once their little faces are out and they breathe they can't go back in!
"Make sure she stays underwater" I said to Jamie, who I later found out was already thinking the same thing as me and doing everything in his power to keep his baby safe.
It felt like such a long period of time between when I first saw April's "third butt cheek" and when the baby was fully born into Jamie's hands. In reality it was about one minute! That really blew me away. Birth really does stop time!
The baby emerging from April's vagina seemed to happen in slow motion, until the very end, when she fell out into Jamie's hands. At that moment it was as if time got back into itself and because it had all gone so slowly before now normal time seemed too fast. The baby was suddenly out of her mother's body and in the world, suddenly out of the water and into the atmosphere, resting in the palms of Jamie's hands.
I took another photo and looked at the clock. Time of birth 9:06am Thursday, September 4 2008. My eyes were filled with happy tears, and I can't remember exactly what was said at this point, but I think I was talking about the fact that April had just given birth and there was a baby.
The baby was wearing her cord like a scarf, draped around her neck. She still had some yellow vernix in the nooks and crannies of her wrinkly skin. Born at 42+2 and still with vernix, beautiful! She looked so normal and little. Still with her arms and legs folded into her body as if she hadn't yet realised she could open up and stretch herself out in our world. And still with that light blue coloured skin I'm used to seeing waterborn babies with, like my own daughter.
Because of the position of the baby's cord it was tricky for Jamie to pass their newborn to April. April was standing in the pool, still with her backside to Jamie and I, and Jamie was hunched over behind her, with a slippery little babe in his hands, and a thick juicy cord around the baby still reaching up into Mama's vagina. April was looking behind her to see her baby and all of a sudden she said "Oh my God! You've got a penis!". That was when Jamie and I looked. I couldn't believe it! I've never been wrong about the sex of a yet-to-be-born baby, this little dude ruined my good run! Days later April and I would talk about that surprise, and decided Jet was psychic because the week before Sunny was born he said to me "Baby out 'gina KABOOM" then gestured to his penis and announced "Penis!" And Jet was right! The baby did come out April's vagina, second stage was KABOOM seventeen minutes, and the baby had a Penis!
Eventually they worked out their awkward dance and Jamie got baby to April's arms safely. April sat back down into the pool and rested against one side, holding her baby to her bare chest. While Jamie was passing Sunny to April, Sunny to his first wee. It was one minute since his time of birth.
April began crying and saying "Oh!" as she gazed down at her little baby. She was crying and smiling, and so were Jamie and I. Jamie wiped away some of his tears and we caught one another's eye and I felt guilty, I hoped that he wasn't trying to hide his emotional display from me, or cover it up because I was present.
I wanted to get a photo of April smiling down tearfully at her newest creation but just as I snapped the camera button April looked up at me and let out a great cry, and in the photo it looked as if she was desperately disappointed with her baby. Needless to say April ordered me not to show anyone that photo! :D
"Hewow Baby" April was saying as she took the moment in.
Jet and Indy heard the excitement taking place in the kitchen and ran in to see. They stopped at the pool and peered in to see the newest member of their family. "Baby" Jet said and pointed with a big smile. "Yep, baby brother" Jamie told the boys. "Baby Buh-tha" Jet repeated. Indy took this opportunity to splash the water in the pool again with his hand before Jamie took his hand out and washed it. Nothing quite like birth pool water with all it's blood, mucus and poo for little toddler hands!
Sunny was resting happily against his mother, occasionally letting out a loud rough sounding little cry as he adjusted to this new world. April's necklace kept falling in Sunny's face so I offered to take it and put it on the bench.
My baby woke up briefly shortly after Sunny was born, she took a look around and noticed the new smaller baby and I told her what had happened while she was asleep :) It all seemed normal to her, and as quick as she had woken she was back to sleep on me.
I noticed Sunny was starting to look really pink and like a newborn as opposed to a justwaterborn baby. I looked at the clock, he'd been in the world for five minutes. I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion at this point and without thinking said "oh look! He's pinking up!". As if it was even remotely relevant to this sacred moment!
Jamie stood up, he had been kneeling by the pool watching April and Sunny gaze at each other. He looked at the clock and said "Hey, Sarah was right, in time for Macca's breaky!" April could not believe it! She looked up at the clock, totally dumbstruck! She'd lived a thousand years since I'd made that joke only three hours earlier. Of course we didn't actually have Macca's breaky because we were patiently waiting for April and Sunny's placenta to be born and even if it had been born no one would have wanted to leave the house to go get it! This new birthy moment was far better than take away breakfast!!!
While April and Sunny had skin to skin time in the pool I fetched towels from the linen closet to drape across Sunny's naked body, the part that wasn't touching April. I regularly checked with April if she was warm enough in the pool, and if ever she wasn't Jamie would add more hot water. Whenever one of Sunny's towels became too wet and cold we would change it over with a fresh one.
As Jamie added some more water to the pool and gazed down at his newest son and his amazing wife who had just freebirthed the little dude, he said "WHY would you do that anywhere else???" I remember feeling thrilled that the experience had been all that Jamie had hoped it would. April, however, was still feeling very raw and sore after thirty one hours of intense physical labour! She retorted "Why would you do it at all????!"
It didn't take long for April and Sunny's placenta to be born. We could see it sitting between April's legs at the bottom of the birth pool. But April said it didn't feel fully born yet, like it was still half inside her vagina. So we continued to wait patiently for that last little bit to be born. After a while (about an hour) April grew really uncomfortable with the sensation of having half a placenta sitting in the mouth of her vagina. She wanted to try something to help it budge out. I suggested she try a different position, maybe get on her knees and see if opening herself up more would help the last of it fall out. But when she began moving position she became even more uncomfortable, so we continued to wait patiently as we had been.
April began to say that she wondered if maybe it wasn't the placenta still inside her at all. She reached down to to use her hands to explore and find out what was going on, but she wasn't really sure what she was doing. She said that it felt like part of the placenta was broken and that part was still inside her, but the rest was born.
She asked if Jamie or I would give a second opinion. I suggested Jamie do it because of April's previous experience of birth rape. I thought the best thing would be if we could avoid anyone but April and Jamie exploring that area of her body. I said "I think Jamie should do it because it's an intimate area and you love Jamie". Jamie put his hands in the water and gently felt around, he felt even more lost than April.
I offered to have a feel and give my opinion if April wanted, which she did. I went to put my hands in the water and hesitated, April assured me she was okay with me doing it, so I put my hands into the water and carefully felt around the placenta. The placenta was whole and born there were some blood clots that had got caught up in April's pubic hair and still inside her vagina that were also attached to the placenta.
April waited for the last clots to be born. I went into the lounge room to see how their children were going and put the DVD back on that had run it's course. While in the lounge room I heard Jamie call out to me "Placenta's born!" I returned to the kitchen and checked the clock, it was 10:50am.
Jamie put the placenta into a colander and placed that into a big bowl. He took Sunny in his arms, wrapped in a towel and held the placenta bowl with one hand underneath baby. April and Jamie asked me to take a look at the placenta to see if it looked whole and healthy. I told Sunny I was going to take a look at his placenta. At first when I went to touch it he cried, so I withdrew my hands and apologised to him. I asked if I could take a look, and this time he didn't cry. As I lifted the placenta up to look at the other side of it I wished I had some gloves to give me a bit of grip, I was worried about it slipping out of my hands or worse yet grabbing hard or digging my nails into it in an attempt not to drop it!
I remember feeling amazed that I was touching placenta. I didn't even touch my daughter's when we had a lotus birth, I left that to her father instead. There is something other worldly about placentas. So slippery and bumpy and red and full. They're the sort of thing that I feel like I shouldn't be allowed to touch. Forbidden fruit. The one time I had seen an ultrasound I felt similarly, spellbound by the image on the screen, and a little sickened that I could suddenly be part of a world far more sacred than our own. That might also be why I wanted gloves and why I hesitated when April asked me feel if the placenta had been fully born in the pool earlier, to protect this sacred piece of another world from being marred by human hands. But then again is rubber or latex any more worthy than flesh?
Sunny's placenta looked great. We all agreed it was an odd kind of a shape. A bit like a very thick brick. It was whole and healthy looking and most of the excess blood had washed off in the pool. There were no clots, they had also washed off in the pool water.
As Jamie stood holding Sunny and placenta bowl I helped April out of the pool. April squatted over a towel on the kitchen floor to help release the last of the clots and blood from her body. As she was squatting I asked her if she would like to press the placenta to her lips knowing how wonderful consuming placenta can be for aiding mothers postpartum healing. April wanted to, so I helped Jamie and Sunny carefully move toward April. I held the placenta bowl to April's face and she asked what to do. I suggested sucking on it, knowing that even kissing the organ can be medically beneficial to the mother. April did this and stopped when she said it felt like she might suck it off. Sunny was totally fine with his mother doing this, which makes sense since it belonged to both of their bodies throughout pregnancy. After seeing April suck on the placenta Indy asked if he could give it a kiss. It was adorable, and again Indy reminded me of how switched on little people are to what's going on around them.
I helped her to the bathroom where she had a warm salt bath and some time to herself. While she soaked in the bath Sunny slept in Jamie's arms in the kitchen, and began having his first poos over the kitchen bench, floor, and father. It was the return of the pooper-scooper doula for me :) I followed Sunny and Jamie around the house scrubbing meconium off linoleum, carpet, tiles, and bench tops.
As a servant of birth, Sunny and April have taught me a lot. They've taught me that due dates, even vague due months, are meaningless. Baby will come when baby is good and ready, and just because a baby is born at 42 weeks does not mean he will be lacking in vernix or oversized. They taught me that while home provides a superior birthing environment to hospital or birth centres, it does not mean birth will be easy breazy. It's called labour for a reason!
Before attending Sunny's birth I had never been present at a birth that I wasn't giving birth or being born at, and I used to think that "once I've been at a birth as a support person I'll know everything about birth for the next time". HA! April and Sunny helped me realise that I will never know everything about birth and that is one of the brilliant things about birth, her sacred feminine mysteries. I realised that I will never stop being a "student doula". Any birth attendant worth her salt understands that she is an eternal student of birth.
I also wondered before attending a birth if I would be able to "be present to the moment". There are always so many thoughts a jumble in my head - and in everyday life I sometimes feel as if I am living with four or five hands instead of just two. But there is something about a birth space that makes it possible - easy - to quiet that monkey mind. The birth space feels beyond the everyday realm of time and space, peace happen with ease, and they enter your own body enabling you to be more patient and loving and calm than I thought possible.
Sunny and April also taught me that serving families at birth is indeed my calling xoxo
*Posted with April's permission.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Mum had been in labour for thirty hours, and her body was now making the transition from dilation to pushing. Throughout the past twenty-nine hours all the children had gone about their regular business: playing with their toys, watching some television, colouring in and drawing in books, playing with each other, sleeping, eating and drinking. They watched as their mother would stop what she was doing and reach for their father. They watched as their father and their six month old friends' mum would become silent, their parents hugging and their adult friend sitting by, and their mother would chant "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!" and breathe her way through labour rushes.
Sometimes the younger tot, Indy, would notice his mother was chanting and breathing in that focused way, and he would find the big bouncy ball and roll it to her side, having seen her roll around on it earlier when making those sounds and breathing that way.
Mum laboured in the lounge room, the kitchen, and the bedroom. The tots would come in and out of the rooms, see where everyone was and what they were doing, roll the bouncy ball to her side, get bored and go back to playing in another room.
Daddy put the tots to bed while Mum chatted to her friend who breastfed her baby. The tots slept for hours in their bedrooms, while labour continued in the kitchen and lounge room area of the house. Their Mum and Dad laid together on a mattress on the floor, drifting in and out of sleep, and when the labouring Mum started to snore, her friend went to their bedroom with her baby and breastfed until her baby fell asleep.
All the children slept for a couple of hours, and all the adults sat together in the lounge room and kitchen area, talking and laughing together between labour rushes, and silently listening and supporting the mother through the rushes.
Shortly after midnight Indy woke up and joined his parents. He sat on the couch cuddling Daddy while Mum rolled back and forth on the ball, breathing and chanting, her friend sitting by. When she stopped chanting the adults would resume their chatter.
Indy went back to sleep on the mattress on the floor and at 4am his six month old friend was gently moved from the cooling bedroom to the mattress by the heater with him. An hour later Indy woke to find his Dad filling a big plastic pool with water in the kitchen! So very exciting! He tried to climb up into the pool, but couldn't. Mum got into the pool, and Indy walked around the outside of the pool, trying to figure out if there was a way to get in. Daddy passed him some crackers to munch on and suggested he take them to another part of the room to eat.
Mummy was sitting in the pool, leaning back and relaxing, she was wearing a very interesting necklace. It looked like a necklace made of lollies. Indy played with the necklace, until he started pulling too tight and Daddy encouraged him to let go and take a break from hanging out by the pool. Around 6am time his older brother Jet woke up and joined everyone in the kitchen. Jet also tried to get into the pool, and Daddy had a chat to him about how it wasn't a good idea. Daddy gave them breakfast at the kitchen table.
With their attempts to jump into the pool thwarted, Jet and Indy took to splashing their hands in the water when they could. Mummy was sitting on the other side of the pool, deep in a labour haze. Again Daddy and their friend's mum encouraged them to leave the water be.
A DVD was put on the TV of one of their favourite shows. They sat with their six month old friend watching the screen. Occasionally the tots would wander into the kitchen to see Mum labouring away. Most of the time they played in the lounge room. They had great fun rearranging and jumping on the mattress in the lounge room while their mother roared her way through transition.
When they returned to try and splash about in the pool their friend's mum suggested a game, she ran into the lounge room and across the mattress and they followed. First they ran across the mattress, the adult followed by two tots. Then they jumped across it. Then they hopped across it. Then Jet suggested "scooping" across the mattress, which turned out to mean "skipping". So they did that too.
After their mother would yell Jet or Indy might wander in to see what was happening, but aside from the novelty of having a pool inside the house, they were only minimally interested in what the adults were doing in the kitchen. They never got upset or disturbed by what they heard or saw. And the adults behaved as if everything was normal, so why shouldn't they?
The six month old baby grew weary of being with the other children in the lounge room and called for her mother. Her mother put on a wrap around carrier and placed her baby on her front, which satisfied the bub.
When the baby was born six minutes past nine that morning, his Mother was on her knees bearing down in a birth pool, his Father had his hands in the water, ready to catch his little body. His two older brothers were playing on the couch in the lounge room together, and a friend was standing back taking photos wearing her sleeping six month old daughter.
After a few minutes of hearing some kind of excitement taking place in the kitchen, and the word "baby" the toddlers ran in to see what had happened. There they saw their Mother holding a brand new baby boy, and their Dad kneeling by the pool tearful and smiling.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
4 September 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
1 September 2008
She hired midwives and her family prepared to homebirth. But at 35 weeks gestation it became clear that the midwives had different ideas to her about what course of action should be taken if a pregnant woman makes it to 42 weeks. So she decided to go ahead with her homebirth plans, but without the midwives. This was when she and her husband asked me if I would join them for the birth, for which I feel very honoured.
For over a month now April has been having cramps and nausea on and off. More than once her bellyfruit has tricked us into thinking s/he'd be here in a matter of hours. At times the crampinging, nausea, uncertaintity of when it will all kick off, and general discomfort of being heavily pregnant have been challenging for April. But she has no desire to evict her baby from her belly.
Even "natural" induction methods seem unnatural to her, as they are still based on the premise of making something happen before it otherwise would. Despite thinking earlier that she would consider some "natural" induction methods once she hit 42 weeks, now that she's there she realises it's no big deal to still be pregnant.
Tomorrow April will reach the magic 42 week mark. That means she has been pregnant since December last year. But she is feeling calm and patient and happy to keep on being pregnant for as long as her baby wants. The real frustration for her is the impatience of others!
You can read what April has to say about reaching 42 weeks gestation in her own words here.
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