Birthing Grace

Peta's daughter: Baby Maia

Baby Maia

Birthing Grace

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The air is quiet.  The clock ticks in the hallway.  Outside a loan bird starts the first predawn call.  In my mind I can see the morning star blinking down at me.  Quietly, my womb contracts.

It’s probably another practice contraction.

Another contraction breaks into my sleepy dream-world.  I role over and snuggle up behind my husband’s back and try to go back to sleep. Something warm trickles down the back of my leg.

That’s different.

I wait. More warmth spreads and a wet pool starts to form on the bed.

“Jo, my waters just broke.”

He’s awake. “OK, what do we do now?”

“Notify the midwives, make tea and start setting up the birthing pool.”

I sms the midwives.  The response is to put in two sanitary pads and go back to sleep.


At 4:30 am my little boy, Noah, starts making wake-up-threatening noises.  We decide to get up and start preparing. By 5 am I’m packing Noah’s things and calling Granny to come and fetch him.  Tea is on the go and Jo is tackling the pool.  I’m sending updates to the midwives and checking how far away they are.  They are in Obs and are together having attended a birth here the night before so they can be on my doorstep within a few minutes when the time comes.

Noah is fetched at 6 am by a very excited Granny.  With Noah gone, things speed up.  Contractions are coming stronger now and I ask the midwives to come at 7 am.  Jo is making himself breakfast and I’m starting to struggle.  I stand in front of the mirror where I have put up my prayers for labour and read through them as I begin to cry. I look up at the clock and will  it to be 7 am.

Mother God, God of creation. I open my body to your process as I open my mind, heart and soul to your love and to this great process of creation.

Suddenly I remember that I haven’t notified Thembi and she’s on her way to work.  Adrenaline to my system shakes me present enough to give her the instructions she needs to get to my mother’s house… my labour slows.

The midwives arrive. My labour stops. I am embarrassed.

“Is it possible for labour to stop after the waters have broken?”

A hesitation before the answer, “It’s possible if the mother gets a big fright”.

We sit and wait.  Slowly labour starts again.  Marianne, my midwife, leaves for an appointment with a client.  Things are still easy and progressing slowly.  She can go.

I sit on my bed looking at my closed, grey curtains. Jo leaves to go to the shops.  I ask Ruth, my doula to come and sit with me.  We were school-friends who lost contact after school. She holds my hand during contractions and tells me about her life; when she got married and how she met her husband. I tell her about my wedding and I ask her about naming her children. Together we occupy this semi-light, womb-like space.  I remember the feeling of her as my friend.

I start to lose track of time.

Marianne comes back and then Jo.

“How are things going?”

“Plodding along.” Is the answer given.

The contractions have been progressing in sets, strengthening over an hour and then seeming to rest or stop for about 20 min.

Ruth and Jo swap places and Ruth and Marianne go and sleep.

I picture flowers opening and petals blowing in the wind. Pink, peach and cream petals swirl in the darkness. I take myself to my special place in my mind using Robyn Sheldon’s hypno-birthing technique.  I find there something new.   Growing next to my earth hut is a peach tree in full blossom as if it as always been there.  Petals fall from its boughs and cover the ground.

I am waiting for Marianne to tell me that I can get into the birthing pool, that I am far enough along.  She comes to check on me.  She looks at my face and says: “I think you are in active labour now. You have that look in your eyes; that…” She hesitates in describing it.

“…That don’t-talk-to-me look.” I finish.

She laughs and leaves me with a pleased look on her face.

Ruth and Marianne are outside.  I’m hanging in there waiting for the pool.  I don’t care if it’s too soon anymore.

“Jo, I want to get in the pool.”

He has to change some of the water as it has cooled too much.  I start moving towards it. I want it now!

Ruth and Marianne come in. “Pool Time”.

I strip my clothes off and get into the water and immediately I have a contraction.  My analytical mind says: Good.  The water is speeding things up not slowing them down. You probably are in active labour.

My phone rings. Jo looks at it and I say: “Hang up and put it on silent. They can bugger off!”

I phase out again. I am an animal surrounded by azure blue.

Marianne tells me to put my head underwater if I want. I dunk myself and am aware of the bubbles rising. I focus on the blue and the bubbles.

Between contractions I sit legs bent outward in front of me, during contractions I reverse on all fours and move my hips up and down back and forth.  I’m moaning, I’m vocalizing, I’m blowing out with a hissing nosie. I’m trying to control my breath; trying to stay on top of this!

I give in to wracks of sobs.

My discursive mind says: I am such a whuss, such a prima-donna.  I’m probably only about 4cm dilated. I probably have a long way to go. Get on top of this, Peta!

“This is so haaard!” I wail.  Marianne and Ruth just look at me and say nothing. Jo walks around the pool and decides there isn’t enough space and I’m moving too much for him to get in with me. They are all quiet.

I close my eyes and see flashes of indigo, violet, yellow.

I look at the clock. It’s 1 pm.

I am frightened.  I don’t think I can do this much longer. I need help and I’m sure that I’m probably still in fairly early stages of labour.  There’s enough of a pause for my conscious mind to come in. Mentally I talk to myself:

Don’t give over to the pain and fear Peta. Garner yourself for the long-haul. Get on top of this. Relax. Focus on breathing and openness. Release your jaw. Stop tensing your muscles.  Where is the tension? Find it. Release.  Pace yourself. Slow your breathing down!

I look at Marianne. My mind screams that I can’t do it anymore, that I want it to stop, to end, I don’t want to have a baby. Make it go away! What I say is: “This is probably going to take a lot longer isn’t it?”

She looks at me with a light in her eyes.  The red-ringed clock glares at me from the wall.

“Well, let’s put it this way; we are not going to be spending the night here tonight.”

OK, I have to be prepared to go to 5 o’clock then. Stay in the moment. Do it, one step at a time. One breath at a time.

I think I need to go to the toilet again. I get out the pool, Jo comes with me. I sit there through contraction after contraction, gripping Jo’s arms as he stands  in front of me.  I stop myself from biting into his stomach and settle for the cloth of his T-shirt, it’s grey, mottled texture filling my sight, mouth and mind.

I’m getting tired, I look down and see a translucent strand of mucous between me and the clear water below. I decide to move to the bed, get up and can’t walk. I find myself on hands and knees in the doorway to the bathroom. There is a flurry of midwifery activity around me and a linen saver appears between my legs.  It catches more mucous. It’s pink this time.

In my mind a bloody show means 5cm dilated and that we are just getting going with active labour.

“A bloody show.” I say.

“Oh Good”. Comes the response.

Why is she so cheerful? This is moving so slow and it is so very hard!

“Are we only there?!” I moan.

“Hmmm.” Comes the high-to-low pitched tone of someone who knows you are the butt of a joke you’re not getting.

I crawl to the edge of the bed where Jo and I are arranged for the next two contractions. Clots of something fall from my body onto another linen-saver. I wretch, but the white potty remains empty and clean.

OK, something has changed. Wretching and clots means transition. I am not in the early stages of labour. It’s possible that Baby will be here soon.

My mind disengages.

I climb onto the bed, Jo behind me in the classic stirrup position. With the next contraction my throat catches. I try to breathe through it, to relax, to rise above it, but my body is pushing. I try to open, to soften to give over but every muscle in my body is doing something that I can’t stop.

What?!  I’m pushing!

Marianne puts my hand down to feel the top of her head. It burns and seers.  It’s going so fast!

“Hold your breath, slow it down.”

I try but my body is pushing again and then again and her head is out. I look down, it looks so strange sticking out between my legs. The seering pain is more than I can handle. I want her out. I want it over!

“Get her out!”

Another push and she’s lying on the bed.

My mind is a black hole.

She opens her mouth and bellows a loud angry cry. It wakes me up and I reach down and pick her up pulling her to my heart.  She starts rooting. She is determined and crawls all over my chest looking for a latch. I help her to my nipple and within a few seconds she has a good strong suck. Her mouth is working up and down.

My being is in love.

By Peta