(Warning before you read ahead: there are photos of me in labour. I’ve covered up all the exciting parts with flowers (no, literally) but if you would rather not see a flower adorned birthing goddess, please skip the post. Mmmkay? We good? Big love you!)
Dearest Baby Mermaid
The morning dawned. We drove slowly to the hospital, calm and quiet. Over the past few months we had been driving all the different routes to the hospital, trying to work out which would be quickest when I was in labour. I had imagined staying at home until final stages of labour, then driving to the Birth Centre on all fours on the back seat. I had hoped the twenty minute drive would not be too painful in labour. I had thought it would be an intense time – driven only by the timing of my body and birth. But here we were, driving to the hospital, as quiet as a lake’s surface, your birth by appointment.
Ellanita, my spiritual mentor and Rachel, our doula, met us there.
I wore my favourite green Peace*Love*Happiness t-shirt, a stretchy black skirt. Around my neck I carried my buffalo necklace – a piece of metal art my dear friend Deb had bought from me, a crystal heart your Daddy gave to me, and a simple crystal necklace that Pixie had commissioned Lauren to make to support your birth.
I decided that although your birth might have not been in my plans, I was going to make it my own. I was going to own it and make it as magical, loving and joyful as possible. Oh yes.
We met our Birth Centre midwife at the delivery suite. She was not the midwife we had seen through your pregnancy. She was not the midwife we were hoping for. But there she was. I could only trust she was the one who had to be there. Great Spirit guides everything.
We were blessed to be able to use a Birth Centre midwife at the delivery ward, instead of the rotating shift of midwives who we didn’t know and weren’t solely dedicated to our birth.
I also felt that you and me were protected by our holy trifecta of your daddy, our doula and my spirit mentor. I felt safe between them, and that is all that was needed.
And I knew there were thousands of other souls who were there supporting, witnessing, holding the space filled with light for your birth. Our ancestors, our angels and guides, your angels and guides, the tribe of goddesses surrounding my website, our families and friends, your Daddy’s family caretakers. That horseshoe of glowing light and luminous love guiding you down out of the stars riding my darling horse Rebble.
We were taken to Delivery Suite 7, my favourite number. And something as small and insignificant as that let me know we were in the right place.
We were right in our intuition about you needing extra help to arrive. Even if we had planned a homebirth, you would still have been born in Delivery Suite 7, Canberra Hospital.
The morning was still bright and fresh and new. I was excited that this would be the day I held you in my arms instead of the cusp of my belly.
We brought bags of things we might need. Crystals, herbs, statues, shawls, crystal essences, lavendar scented heat packs, books, CDs of drums, meditations, song. All the tools I thought I might need.
I smiled as the midwife hooked me up to the induction drip, the long metal stand that would become my companion for the rest of the day. One of the midwives remarked jokingly:
I hope you’ll still be this smiley when you give birth.
I bet I can,
I thought to myself. I like a challenge. As you know, my dearest daughter, I like doing things my way. I like making things funtastic and glitterliscious and heartsoaked.
That day, your birthing day, I renamed everything. That day, I called the hospital The Happy Place of Healing. Induction became Magical Love In~Juicement (as the induction medication is syntocinin – a synthetic version of oxytocin, the love hormone).
After being hooked up to the Magical Love In~Juicement Machine, the midwife sent us on a walk. Ellanita, your Daddy and I went to eat some breakfast. I grinned widely at everyone we passed – I must have looked like such a gorgeous sight – fully pregnacious goddess, walking with her Love Machine, off to have two hash browns and an orange juice in the morning sunlight. Everything is still that quiet stillness. Ellanita gives us a beautiful birthing day present – a heart shaped clear crystal from her homelands in Austria. The crystal throws rainbows around the room. Perfect. A rainbow for you, my rainbow light.
We walk back, and the midwife turns up the Love on the Love Machine. She sends us for another walk, telling me she wants to see me in labour when I am back.
We walk outside, and this time feels different. I start feeling waves of hot energy washing over me. With each one, streams of water start flowing between my legs. I think about walking over to the field nearby, but instead position myself with my back against a tree. With each rush, I push deeper against the tree, letting it hold me up and earth the pain. I look up at the leaves and sky, breathing deeply, marvelling at how quickly things were now starting. It was about 9:00 am. With each rush of energy, I breathe deeply, grounding myself.
Very quickly, I go from being happy to being out under the sky amongst people to wanting a dark cave to curl up in.
When I can speak, I tell my three amigos:
I need to go back to the room.
Someone asks me if I am sure, but I’m already heading for the lift. One contraction on the way to the lift. Two in the lift. It takes another five to get out of the lift and walk to the room. With each one I close my eyes, stop moving, breathe deeply.
We get back to our room, and I strip out of my clothes. My skirt and boxers were soaked through from your mermaid home opening up to the world, readying you for your next journey.
In the next set of contractions, I find myself kneeling on the floor. I moan deeply, moving my hips, pushing my head into your Daddy’s lap. With each set, I move around, trying to find a comfortable place. My amigos gather around me, trying to help, massaging my limbs, fanning me.
It might sound like this all happened very quickly, and it did. From zero to full contractions in the space of twenty minutes – maybe less, maybe more. In labour-land, time makes no sense for the birthing mama. An hour can be a moment, a moment can be an hour.
I realise quickly that if I keep moving around, groaning, trying to escape the pain that I was going to get tired very quickly. At a very distinct moment, I heard myself tell myself:
This is it Leonie. Time to use CalmBirth.
Between contractions I got up and lay on the bed on my side. I became as still as possible and began my calm breaths (breathing in through my nose for four seconds, breathing out through my nose for five). It felt more manageable, but only slightly. I stayed on the bed for some time, until our midwife decided she wanted me to have a long hot shower to try and speed up labour.
I didn’t want to move, but after some coaxing moved into the shower. I think. I must tell you, at some point during that day, I checked out of conscious, logical thought. Even the day after it happened, I told your Daddy how lucky I was that a part of it had only lasted a few minutes. And he looked at me with wide eyes and said
honey, that went for houuurs.
So I may not remember all the story, how long it went, what happened sequentially. I can only tell you dearest daughter what it felt like for me to give birth to you.
The shower was a relief for me in some ways. The Magical Love Injuicement meant I had to have Barry the Love Machine attached to me constantly. It also meant you had to be monitored. Monitor devices were strapped to my belly and hooked up to another machine that constantly beeped. (Remember the beeping machine from Pixie’s vision?) As much as I tried to love everything, I did not love that beeping machine. It restricted my movement, its beeps invaded my peace. I spent most of my labour hiding from it as much as I could. I discovered the shower was one place. The toilet was another.
After the shower, Rachel helped me move around, swaying my hips. Eventually, I found the birth ball and discovered if I sat on it just so, I could move my hips just so to help move though each contraction. I found a breathing pace that worked for me – instead of using the CalmBirth breath, I used the HypnoBirthing breath – I breathed in through my nose for four, and breathed out, counting backwards from eight to one. I noticed it would take me three of those breaths to get through each contraction.
I tried opening my eyes and talking between contractions, but soon realised I needed to keep breathing and meditating between contractions so I was already relaxed for the next one.
I closed my eyes, and kept them closed for the next seven hours. As your Daddy said to me:
You left the room that day. It was like there was no Leonie, I didn’t have my girlfriend. But the instant she was born, you were back in the room again, laughing and talking and normal like you had never left.
There was many things I thought I would be like, or like, in labour. I thought I would like music, touch, using my crystals. Instead, I became a sitting monk. A birthing buddha. Just me on my birthing ball. It took all of my energy to sit through each contraction, to not run away from the pain, complain, or freak out. My method was simple: be.
I didn’t want your Dad to touch me – or anyone. It took too much of my attention away from being where I was. I didn’t seek relief – I knew it would take too much of my energy away from being present. Any relief I may have found through heat or massage would have been too small. It would have distracted me from my Very Important Task of Breathing.
I didn’t speak anymore. I would motion with my finger when I wanted some water and one of my three amigos would jump up and put a straw in my mouth with a cup of cold, refreshing water.
My dearest daughter, I hope I’m not making birth sound easy. That meditation was easy. It wasn’t. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It took every ounce of my strength, courage and strong-mindedness. For me, birth was a vision quest, an initiation. I needed to go to that place to return as your mama.
Your Daddy, Rachel and Ellanita were the three best birth amigos I could have ever asked for. As your Daddy said later:
We just had the perfect people there. It was exactly what we needed.
Your Daddy was strong and calm like a river stone. I have never seen him so wholely devoted to holding the space, being present and being there for you and me.
Rachel was our birth guardian. She watched me attentively, checking in that I was in the right head-space and right body for you to be born. She aligned her energy with mine so I never felt we were separate – just that she was there, she was a woman sister, and she understood what I needed.
And Ellanita – with her joyful heart and wise spirit and her elder energy. I felt safe with her there – that everything would be okay, everything would be sacred because she was there. She turned up to the hospital in purple and red to celebrate your birthing day. She is an Aries girl like you – she said:
I am wearing red for us fire spirits! We Aries girls, we like to have fun!
And then she laughed that beautiful, melodic laugh of hers.
I am reminded of her words often since then. You Aries girls do like to have fun – I see it in your spark and your smile and the way you shimmer when I look in your eyes and make you laugh.
So while your mama was being a birthing Buddha, our three birthing amigos would sit, watch, witness, hold the space. They watched me so attentively that they could fulfil all my needs without me speaking. And in a way, they held the space for each other too. I don’t think it would be easy to watch someone in labour, their energy so intensely focussed inward. They would take turns to go on breaks, walking out into the sunshine, breathing fresh air and returning anew. At least, that’s what your Daddy told me later. I had no idea. I was so immersed in breathing that I didn’t hear.
At around 2pm, our midwife checked how we were progressing. I was 2cm dilated. Another midwife told me later they thought I would be in for a long night of labour. I didn’t know. And I don’t even remember being told I was 2cm – if the midwife had told me it could take a long time more, I might have given up.
Just keep breathing.
This breathing thing? It started around 9am. It finished at 6pm. The longest, most intense meditation I have ever done.
I breathed you into this world.
By the afternoon, it was getting harder and harder to stay on top of the contractions. It seemed I was only getting a few long breaths before contractions started again. I kept feeling like I really needed to do a poo. All during my pregnancy, I turned from being the World’s Champion Pooper to Constipation-City. And now it felt like nine months of poop was stuffed between my butt and my abdomen. The feeling lasted for hours. I kept thinking to myself:
Birthing a baby is going to be easy! All I need is to get this poo out! I want this poo out!
At some point, I told Rachel that I REALLY NEEDED TO POO, and she unhooked me from Mr Beepy and led me into the bathroom, turning off the lights and leaving me have some Cave Time in there. I stayed there for a long time – something about the dark and the way I could sit on that toilet brought me enough relief to get through. It was getting harder and harder to manage. I remember clearly getting up, washing my hands and staring into the mirror.
This is hard work. I want to escape. Please someone take this pain away. I just want five minutes to regroup. I just want a break. I know now why women get epidurals. I wish I could have a Caesarean. I want to escape.
I get out of the bathroom. Two more contractions as I walk back to my birthing ball. I find Rachel through half closed eyes and hold on to her arms as I have another contraction.
I whisper to her
I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard.
She looked into my eyes, and said firmly, gently:
You can do this. You already are doing it.
Just this morning I found a big white piece of paper I had written on during our CalmBirth workshop. Up the top, it has in big letters BIRTH PLAN. And then there is only one dot point below it – no pain medication. I had meant to finish writing that birth plan, and add many more birth things I wanted: a water birth, a Birth Centre birth, no episiotomy, no caesarean, dim lights, music… But maybe I did finish that birth plan. Because what I had on that sheet of paper was the one thing that happened.
Although I dreamed about escaping, although I wanted a Caesarean, although I utterly wanted the pain to end, I didn’t think at any time that I should have pain medication. It didn’t enter my mind that I should ask. It was never offered. I don’t know why I didn’t ask. I just didn’t think it was an option. I had been so adamant during pregnancy that I wouldn’t take pain medication that I closed my ears whenever it was mentioned. I just stayed on that path of breathing.
Another contraction pulls me to my knees and my brown furrows. As soon as I stop doing my breathing, the contractions are more painful. When I complain, the contractions are more painful.
I learned many things from your birth. And this was the biggest.
Breathing made contractions better. Complaining made contractions worse. Complaining took me out of the present moment and made me hold on to pain for longer.
And if not complaining, and using breath can help me move through something as big as childbirth, then the same principles must hold true in living my life. The path of not complaining & deep breathing makes things easier.
So back in to deep meditation and breath-watching I went. It was the only place I could go.
Ellanita asked me later:
Where did you go in labour? I’ve never seen someone do that in labour before.
And I wished I could have said I went to a land of glitter ponies and yellow ducks and tipis and ancient spirit beings and fairy floss. Instead, my answer was this:
My breath. I went into my breath.
Back on to the birthing ball I went. Back into my breathing in for four, out for eight.
I escape back to the toilet again, still desparate to get rid of The World’s Biggest Poo. This time, my mission is successful and I emerge from the toilet cave feeling somewhat triumphant.
Things are starting to feel different now. Back on the birthing ball, I start pushing down with each contraction, and letting out a low, deep moan. The moan is less from pain now, and more energy moving down down down.
Remembering that feeling now brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. I liked that feeling, that pushing down. I felt powerful and in control for the first time during labour.
The shadows are lengthening through the windows now. Between contractions, I find I don’t need to concentrate anymore. I open my eyes. Rachel and Ellanita are sitting in front of me, smiling.
Things feel different now.
Can you please tell me how far along I am and how long this is going to take?
Rachel smiles more.
I can’t tell you unless we do another vaginal examination. And I don’t know how long this will take. But things are heading in the right direction – you can feel that can’t you?
I nod. It’s not the answer I want – I want numbers and results and a timeframe. But birth teaches you that all of life is in the Great Mystery. We can never really know, we can only trust and have faith that we are heading in the right direction.
Soon, the bearing down feeling becomes stronger. Your Daddy comes back into the room, and I drop onto all fours on the floor. Your Daddy crouches by my head, Ellanita sits behind me massaging my lower back, Rachel sits beside me, encouraging me. It feels intimate and right and good there, on the floor, in the softening dusk.
Suddenly, I lose a clot of blood. I look down, wide-eyed.
Is that supposed to happen?
Yes. That means your baby is on the way. Why don’t you see if you can feel her?
I am in shock.
A baby? I am having a baby? You are near? The moment has finally come?
I check, but I can’t feel your head yet.
I am putting off writing this final bit. Because then your birth story will be finished, and I don’t want it to be so final, so done. I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to forget it. I fear that if I finish writing this, it is no longer alive, changeable, twisting and turning. I fear that my words are not enough, that they don’t share the truth of what it was like to birth you. Here you are my little girl, sleeping and nursing in my arms as I write this. You are three months old, and everyday you become even more beautiful and luminous in ways I could not have dreamed possible. I try to be the best mama I can be. I want your life’s journey to be filled with strong, good love. With magic and possibility. With the love and healing of Mama Earth, Father Sky, Grandmother Moon, Brother Trees and Sister Animals. I want you to have the faith, joy and tools to move through and awaken when things are challenging. And most of all, I want to help you see this world is beautiful and such a blessing to be in.
Here we are my daughter. How can I possibly share the intensity, the magic, the cyclone, the tenderness that was your entry into the world?
I know you lived it too. This is only my story. You have your own of making your own winding way between my hips and out into the night air.
I will do my best, dearest daughter.
Our midwife came back into the room.
Looks like we have a baby on the way,
Rachel tells her.
I can’t tell you how deep, delicious and surprising it was to hear those words again, my dearest daughter. They carried with them the scent that our lives were changing in that very room.
Our midwife is surprised. She moves us over on the floor so she can begin preparing.
I feel strong and confident and powerful. This pushing part? It is easy! A celebration! It feels natural and true and right.
Our midwife decides she needs us on the bed. I want to stay on the floor, but at the same time, I don’t care. I only know you are coming and that I can do this.
On the bed, I stay on all fours, letting out deep moans with each rush to help you down. I can feel you coming through my hips, and my body is strong and knows what to do. It instinctively opens my hips out as wide as possible.
Our midwife tells me she has asked another midwife to be there. A woman doctor turns up to observe (as is hospital policy). I don’t care. You are coming. That is all that matters.
The other midwife comes to the head of the bed, tilting the bed up so I can look directly into her face.
I look into her eyes, and I am surprised. She has wild auburn hair and amber eyes. She is strong and intense and a goddess. I name her Hera in my head. I know she is meant to be there.
Leonie, I am here to help you. You can do this. Your baby is coming. Let’s get her out.
Your Daddy is standing by my left shoulder. I feel his hand on me, cool and loving. I feel like we are one.
I am in my element now. With each contraction, I moan deeper and push and let my body do what it needs.
The delivery suites that night were full. Every bed was taken up with women birthing new souls. In the room next to me, I could hear another goddess giving birth to her baby, singing the same deep song I was.
I sent her a silent message through the labouring air:
I am here with you sister. We can do this. I hear you. I know. We can give birth to your babies.
Things were moving quickly, and I know in this instance my time-memory is right. In my maternity record, the time is recorded: Third stage of labour – 21 minutes.
The midwife is still having to monitor you. Syntocinin can make baby’s heart rate drop in the final stages of birth.
And just as I wrote this, you woke up, crying in my arms. You never do this.
I wonder if you are remembering it.
I hold you and kiss you and tell you everything is okay, that you are loved, you are safe, you are held, that you are taken care of by a thousand angels. You are here now.
The midwife was finding it difficult to hear your heartbeat as you moved down through my hips. There is action around me as everyone tries to get the monitor to work.
I don’t care. I know you are fine. I am not concerned. In my heart, you are safe.
The midwife says:
Leonie, baby’s heartrate is dropping. We need her out now. I’m going to give you an episiotomy.
I know she is okay.
I know you are coming, and you are fine.
Fine, you have two more pushes to get her out, otherwise we will give you an episiotomy.
says the midwife.
Leonie, we want baby here.
We wait for the next contraction, and I push with all my heart and soul and body.
We wait for another contraction, and I do the same again, pushing until long after the contraction has ended.
Your head is still just emerging.
Our midwife says:
Leonie, let’s get baby out now.
I trust and know you are fine, but I say yes.
I say yes to you.
They move me onto my side, and your Daddy holds my leg.
The midwife gives me an episiotomy, and I don’t feel a thing. I don’t care.
I keep saying that – that I didn’t care – and I really didn’t.
I didn’t care about a thing but you. Anything that had to happen to bring you here – I didn’t care. All I wanted was you. I gave myself over for you. That was the gift I wanted to give you – and the gift you gave me. I let go of myself, and let God.
The world started and ended with you.
The next rush came over me,
and in that instant, you washed into the world, riding on an ocean wave.
In that instant, you were born.
Your Daddy caught you in his hands, and I turned onto my back in one movement, bending down, reaching for you.
Your Daddy gave you to me, and I brought you up to my belly.
You are here,
You are here.
You gave one big cry to say hello to the world, then was quiet. Your eyes were wide and blue and open, taking in the world.
You were beautiful beyond compare.
There you are. My daughter. You are here. You feel so new, and yet so familiar.
I heard the word Avalon. I knew that is where you were from, and that I needed to include that in your name. That it was yours.
Your Daddy cried happy tears for the first time in his life, and I could only smile.
From the moment you appeared as two lines on a pregnancy test, to the moment you appeared in my arms, my only thought was this:
She is here. My daughter has come for me.
And so you had.
It was 6:14pm. You weighed 6 pounds 14.
I held you for a long, long time. Until you had your first feed. While I lucked out and had the Professor of the Hospital do what we called “Vagina Embroidery.”
And I didn’t care about the Embroidery. It was all so small, so nothing, so insignificant, compared to you.
You are more than the ecstasy, the episiotomy, the birds, the beeping machine, the oceans, the induction, the stars, and everything in between.
Just to have you. Just to hold you.
Your Daddy held you as the midwife washed meconium from you, and you began to cry. But then your Daddy started talking to you, and you stopped crying and turned to see your Daddy’s face. And the whole room went quiet. We felt like we were witnessing a miracle… the miracle of a daughter remembering her Daddy for the first time.
He loves you so, dearest Starry.
We all do.
My darling baby, one day you too might give birth to your own son or daughter. I want you to know that by hook or by crook, however your child comes in to this world is the way they needed to be born. You may have a water birth, an induction, a caesarean, an orgasmic birth, an assisted delivery, an active birth, a vaginal birth, an episiotomy, an epidural, an ecstatic birth. And they are all equal dearest, because they are all still the act of birth. Your babe’s birth will be an initiation, and you will emerge the warrior mama goddess they need. You will find strength, courage, grace and faith deep inside you, hidden in mountains and trees. You can do it, my dearest daughter. I believe in you, and know you are supported and surrounded by thousands of angels.
And that, my darling girl, is how I became a mama, and how you were born.
And I don’t know how to adequately describe the day you were born…
but I can only tell you
that it was the most magical thing that ever happened to me.
Thank you for being born, my dearest daughter.
And thank you for choosing me.
All the love in the stars and down here too,