Loz was dreaming of her second baby and planned to homebirth. We spent hours talking about birth, watching our blond headed toddlers play and sewing. Shortly after we met I began dreaming of my own second baby.
Australia's homebirth community organised a national day of action at Parliament House in the Spring. Loz's home quickly became the heart of our parenting circle as we prepared for the homebirth rally. We gathered at her kitchen table to brainstorm slogans, plan our banners and rage in unison against the Government's ill-advised legislation. We took over what would one day become her birth space, with our large sheets of calico, paints and brushes. The weekend was spent laughing, creating, and dreaming about those second babies that simply would not be concieved to our schedule!
Pregnancy was hard work for my friend. Once my nausea went away at 16 weeks I was home free, meanwhile poor Loz was battling back and pelvic pain and seeing a physio as much as she could (I think she would've liked him to move in with her). Her nausea lasted half her pregnancy. It wasn't fair that after such a long wait, the universe was handing Loz such a challenging pregnancy. I know she wanted to be able to enjoy those 40 weeks, but growing a human being is no small feat!
She hired a pair of independent midwives and also attended our local hospital for antenatal care. She found out she was having her second son, it was new to me to know the sex of the babe making his way to us. For Loz it helped her prepare. She challenged herself to let go of the idea that another son meant the same son. She poured her talent into crafting some gorgeous items for her unborn boy, including a gorgeous quilt, a mobile of birds and bird themed wall art.
We talked about her hopes and her plans for the birth of her boy. As a writer I love to have a written birth plan, words I can refer to, words that lay out for me exactly what the woman at the centre wants for herself and her baby. As an artist, Loz's approach was of a different style:
But together we found the birth plan in her heart. She spoke about the upcoming birth, I took notes and later typed them up. When she gave the okay this became the birth plan and I brought copies to her 36 week meet with the rest of the birth team.
We gathered in her warm lounge room. Six women smiling, seated round a coffee table. Like billions of birth circles before ours, we women were lost to the world around us for a few hours. We were swept up by Loz's aura, a woman no longer quite of this world: chrysalis.
|Image used on invitations|
to Loz's blessingway,
art by Jen Otey
I went home late, high on Loz's incredible aura and filled with excited joy for all of us lucky enough to be sharing the journey with her. I said to my partner: "if the birth meeting is anything to go by, this is going to be one amazing birth experience!"
At 38 weeks we gathered for Loz's blessingway. As I walked in the door I was stunned by just how much her belly had grown in the short time that had passed since I'd last gazed upon her beautiful form.
We spent the day crafting for her birth space. We each brought a square to contribute to a birth quilt. I made her some yoni and breast beads for a birth necklace. Our seasoned homebirthing friend decorated Loz's ripe belly with henna. We coloured mandalas for her and scrawled messages of support across a large canvas. She set us to work, alright!
She was ready to have her boy earthside now. There was talk of his due date, and how her first son had been born on his. Her discomfort was growing along with her full-term baby.
My thoughts were with her always. My partner and I delivered fruit and veggies to their family, as well as a few lasagnes and tuna casseroles. We must have made quite a few, because it came to be that whenever our two year old saw a casserole dish she assumed it was for Loz and her family. One night we had to convince her she was allowed to eat her tuna pasta because this one was not for her friends!
Loz's due date came and went. So much for her fear that having a second son meant having the same. The social egg timer had gone off and the world wanted to know where Loz's baby was at?! I could feel her feeling watched. I remembered how frustrating it was to try to outsmart labour, guess when it would all be over, I remembered thinking to myself "a watched pot never boils" during my daughter's birth. Loz was now the watched pot. When will that baby start to boil?!
I shared the Have you had the baby yet? website on Facebook, tagging Loz. A must read web page for all excited and expectant friends and relatives of a soon-to-be-born babe. And took to sharing links of 'overdue' birth stories and online articles about the flawed notion of a 'due date'. I hoped Loz was able to float away from all the expectation and social pressure. I hoped she was enjoying those last days of pregnancy, but I knew how uncomfortable she was.
Her cupboards, fridge and freezer were stocked. I was told to hold off any more cooking for her until after they'd eaten their way through the stock pile. She showed me all the beautiful things, ready and waiting for this little boy. So many cloth nappies, little items of clothing, hand made soft toys, all waiting, just like his Mumma.
My daughter was fascinated by a well-loved tub of body butter on Loz's bedside table. Loz let her massage some into her own hands, and rub the excess onto her stretched belly. She was anxious and tired and stretched. She had decided to go to hospital in the afternoon with her Mother. She was shaken by the wait, she needed reassurance. We talked about some of the risks of the hospital visit and her plan for how she and her Mother would manage it.
As we said good-bye I reminded her how happy I was to help in anyway I could. I knew she had not made the decision to go to hospital lightly, I wanted to acknowledge that. I wanted her to know she was a homebirther, as she wanted to be, no matter what this baby needed. I hoped I had validated all the emotions she was feeling in a situation I could not understand for myself.
On the walk home I wondered if I should have said more or if I should have said less. Did I leave her feeling judged for her decision to go to hospital? Had I added to her anxiety? Had I been honest about the risks without fear-mongering? Had I given her space to feel and be all that she needed in the moment or had I become overbearing in my support? I spent the rest of the day wondering how she was faring.
In the privacy of my own home I over stepped my doula boundaries: fearing for my friend in hospital. I worried about the treatment she was receiving, the results of monitoring, the possibility of fear-mongering staff and what manipulitive things they might say to Loz and her Mother. Most of all I worried that a complication would be discovered and that my artistic goddess friend would not make it home that night.
At dinner time I decided to message her: "Thinking of you still, hoping it was a stress free hospy trip." Within a few minutes all my worries were laid to rest when she replied saying everything was good and she had won the hospital staff lottery on her visit. They had been supportive and she was home.
I went to a friend's house for a night of talking throughout our favourite TV show. While I was there my friend said she thought Loz was going to have a baby that night because of a suggestive status update Loz had shared on Facebook. I went home and made sure my phone was plugged in and my doula bag was ready to go by the front door.
I was so full of excited energy that I couldn't go to sleep at a reasonable hour. After midnight when the rest of my family slept, I stayed up, channelling my energy into something, anything, I simply could not sleep. Eventually I made myself lie in bed with the rest of my family, but sleep alluded me. My phone didn't make a peep and I cursed myself for being so foolish. If Loz was going to call in the next couple of hours the best thing I could do was go to sleep already! It wasn't until after 3am that I was able to relax and finally let slumber find me.
Buzzing. Buzzing. Buzzing. What is that?! Ugh! I rolled over and moved my hand around, in search of the buzzing. I didn't find what it was in time. When the buzzing stopped I realised it was most likely Loz calling to tell me to join her! I opened my eyes, grabbed the phone and saw I had a missed call from her. I was out of bed and down the hall, returning the call, changing out of my PJs as I did.
"Hi" she said dreamily when she answered the phone.
"So a baby just fell outta my vagina" she said casually.
"Oh my God! Seriously?! Congratulations!"
"Do you mind coming over?"
"Of course not!"
"Grant needs to sleep and I'm too wired" she explained "I want someone here, so I'll send him to come get you."
I finished getting dressed and Grant arrived to drive me to their place. It was black outside and very cold. It was that eery time of the day when everything is still. We were the only traffic. Of all things to talk about to pass the time, we settled on the size of newborn boys testicles and the birth hormones that make them so.
The dark, cold lonliness of the suburb streets before dawn was such a contrast to what I found when crossing the threshold into the newly minted birth space. It was quiet, yes, but there was warmth and energy. It felt as if the home had an amber glow. The midwives were quietly cleaning up and gathering their things to leave, Loz's partner took to entertaining the tired, but not ready to go back to sleep three-year-old. And there was my dear friend, sitting comfortably on the couch, nursing her brand new bundle of boy. River Griffin.
She did not look like what most of us imagine a woman who just pushed 8Lb 12oz of flesh and bone out her vagina looks like. She looked comfortable, uber-calm and satisfied.
The midwives and I made sure she had everything she needed within reach. The first words they said to me were apologies for not calling me to the birth. I was stunned they'd think they needed to apologise, of course I understood! They told me how they too nearly missed River's birth. Our seasoned homebirth friend had returned to her children and her warm bed before I arrived. Loz told me that had she not lived next door she would not have made it in time either. As it was she was called just in time for the final 15 minutes!
We farewelled the midwives, Loz's husband went to sleep, her three-year old amused himself with his brand new toy 'from Baby River' and I sat with Loz. She shared her heroic story with me. She showed me the birth photos on the camera. Loz, River and I were the only three people in the world as the sun rose the day of his birth.
I learned that at the exact time that I could not sleep, Loz was bearing down. And the time that I finally felt able to relax and drift off to sleep, River had found his Mumma's arms.
Loz drank lots of water and craved only fresh fruit. I cleaned her toilet, tidied the kitchen and checked in on the busy three-year old. River released a great deal of meconium all over his blanket and himself and his mother. So his first bath came a little before expected.
I took photos for her and the family as she washed her babe for the first time, in their bathroom sink.
Then followed his first nappy and outfit change. He was here at last for all the carefully folded nappies and clothes and slings that had been ready for him since her blessingway four weeks earlier.
At Loz's request I posted a birth announcement on the online forum we frequent. She sent text messages to close friends over breakfast. Once enough time had passed so that we found ourselves in the morning's respectable hours Loz organised for her parents to come meet the baby.
I answered the door when her Mum arrived. Loz's three year old heard his Grandma and ran to greet her.
"What happened last night? Do you have something to show Grandma?" she asked excitedly.
He promptly took his Grandmother to see his new toy, rather than the new baby brother and we laughed.
With Loz set up with all she needed and her Mum on hand to help with parenting, I took my cue to leave. Now Loz could share her triumph with her Mum in privacy and I'd be back with food and helpful hands in the days that followed.
I walked home with a big smile, the sun keeping me warm between cool breezes. Inside me my 27 week old baby was sending me very clear messages that I needed to take care of my own breakfast now. When I entered my home I found my partner and two year old waiting for me. I could still feel the energy from Loz and her birth space moving within my body. I sat down and dreamily told my partner about the beautiful baby I'd met and how birth becomes our friend Loz. He made me breakfast while my daughter and I had a reunion breastfeed.
I spent the rest of the day at a birth anniversary celebration I'd organsed for another friend who could not be with her child that day. We were overjoyed for Loz, who now shared a birth anniversary with our friend. Our friend shared her birth story throughout the day and I thought about the birthday party we'd all be at in one year's time, hearing the story that only I had been blessed to hear so far.
In the weeks that followed I would discover that it wasn't just pregnancy and birth that became our dear Loz. She also made the stress of the newborn stage and learning to balance the needs of two children look glam.
|10 days post birth at a 3 year old birthday party|
Months later Loz would be the one to draw on my belly at my own blessingway.
|our babies at the time of writing|
|our big kids at the time of writing|