Sunday 03 June 2012
This was my second pregnancy, and physiologically not very different to the first, although I was much more tired more often. I was also working pretty long hours so that also contributes. Some women dream their un-born’s dreams whilst they are in their womb – I didn’t dream at all throughout, but I got three very clear, very direct messages, and I felt they came from her.
We knew it was ‘a her’ because the first day I knew for certain I was pregnant was a Friday and I had caught the train to work – all day I felt heavy and slow and tired! When I knocked on our front door, mt partner and daughter answered. The first thing he asked was: why does you tummy look so big – and I just wanting to curl up on the couch at this stage say: because I’m pregnant. So my daughter takes my hand –walks me through her room to where she has laid out two of her creations. She point to the one and says “that’s for my baby sister (and pointing to the other), and that ones for me”. Well, I was at the pharmacy before they even opened the next day, to confirm everything that had been felt and shared the day before. And there were those indescribable double lines, and the knowing, and the joy and the uncertainty and the prayer: oh please please please please please please please……. As the myriad thoughts tumble down into the dawning realisation of what will be.
The strong message – and I suppose none came directly from her, they were through me too and from me too but it was definitely an act of co-creation between our two souls. The strongest message and most difficult to align with my partner – was that of going to Hamburg in the Easter Cape, so as to be with our original and much loved midwife. Confirmation that my first three best choices for the birth in Cape Town were unavailable to me, made me even more certain. What enabled it to become a reality however, was the gracious offer of my best friend to ‘escort’ my daughter and myself there. The due date happened to coincide with a wedding expo my partner would be attending, and having paid, he would not be opting out so he would fly down and the two girls with the two kids would embark on a ‘birth safari’.
We meandered down the coast line of South Africa, enjoying the sites and the welcoming hospitality of those who gave us accommodation along the way. Having only finished work the day before we left – the trip was a good way of clearing out what was not necessary and preparing myself for what lay ahead – towards the end, I was anxious to get to the birth place, to get settled and know I was in place, although we were hoping little one would wait for her daddy before streaming into the world.
The space that was made available for us was very generously offered by the (s) only five days before we arrived. Thank goodness my midwife had not let me in on that little episode, as I would not have coped at all! The space was immaculate and spacious and nothing like the double garaged birthing space still in construction – that could not yet accommodate us. So while we thought we would be roughing it, we got the 5star safari option!
Deborah and Kito had a wonderful holiday and were sad to go but happy that the belly was still in-tact and that Dad would soon be on his way. Well, the anticipation for dad was ridiculous. In the morning we got up and baked and cooked up a storm only to find out that the plane was delayed. Well it was one of those domestic situations where he waited all day to board that flight and Ajualuna and I could hardly bear it! Well he arrived and given that nothing else seemed to be arriving in hurry, we had a lovely relaxing time all together exploring the sand dunes, enjoying the surf and cherishing being with one another.
Karen’s husband Garvey sells the most wonderful coffee from their front garden most mornings and on the morning of the 8th we had a relaxed breakfast and made our way across the hills for the enticing aromas of hot chocolates and cappuccino’s. As soon as I decided on an iced coffee – I mentioned to Mary, I probably shouldn’t be drinking it, what with the caffeine and all – but I had drunk coffee all through this pregnancy and only weaned myself off in the last weeks. This one would be a treat again. But once we’ve finished and we start walking we are all drawn to exploring the hills and so we follow Ajualuna who follows the cow paths and get into a complete zone until we realised we’ve nearly walked for two hours, we’re hungry and still have to head back…. By the time we open the door to the house I desperately need to put my feet up, but find I can’t sit at all – there is the most uncomfortable and awkward pain in my behind that won’t let me sit! I try another chair another angle and then I just know – it’s no use, this is the start of labour and I better get moving to get myself comfortable. So given that the other insistence coming from my body was to eat, I set about making us all lunch – which we all gobble down.
Feeling considerably more weary now, I go to the bedroom to lie down seeing as I still can’t sit, and two things happen – one, I realised there’s no ways I can sleep, and two I get a really strong contraction that whips me off the bed and into action mode. I realise I must tell Peter, as the first time I sent out all the wrong signals. But all in all Im not too worried as they are still very manageable. There is also an undeniable nesting instinct which has taken hold of me: I need to set up everything for the baby. Well, her stuff had come up in a surfboard cover on the roof racks and it had been dumped in a room without another thought. I loved unpacking everything – finding a place for it and getting Peter to help move in a table where we could change her and put the cradle and a chair for the feeding. That nesting urge was so great and so strong – if I had had any doubts, this often spoken about instinct turned all that around. So I thought it best I call my midwife and let her know. The strangest thing happens – I get her voicemail, well I have never, so I just leave a message and think nothing of it – that’s about 5.30, and I tell her I still have a sense of humour, so not to rush.
This gives me time to do the washing, fold the clothes and make another meal – which I’m not expecting I will eat at all as in my previous labour I had had one bite of food and spat it out. Well, the food I made looked so yummy; I had a massive plate full. Because I can’t sit – Ajualuna asks cautiously why I’m doing what I’m doing – and I tell her I’m in labour. (We have play acted the pushing out of the baby so many times in our baths together at night. But this comment doesn’t elicit mush of a reaction) That’s pretty much the last time we interact as Dad focuses on the bed and bath routine for her and I focus on moving through the discomfort, finding quiet places to hold and bear and oh going to the toilet! I had had so much diarrhoea at this stage there was burning down there and I had long let go of my under ware. At some point I call Karen again and get hold of her – she thinking it’s the first time I’m calling and hearing me so chirpy, says she will be over in an hour.
Well when I see Peter again, he has put Aji down (don’t remember saying goodnight to her) and is reading a magazine. Reading a magazine! It’s the second time he’s done something so strange to my eyes during labour. When in the first one he had suggested we sit and watch Wimbledon I knew in my bones, I had done too well on my own for too long and I needed to communicate to him how much I needed his energy and support and reassurance. This time, I wasn’t quite there yet, but I made it clear that he should set up the bath. He didn’t rush to getting round to it, and I was still managing to potter on my own and was lighting candles and burning oils and incense around the house when in the middle of lighting a match, I had a surge so intense, I immediately put down what I was doing and walked back to the bedroom, which was where I felt to be.
Soon after that I called for Peter – no wait he says, I’m busy with the bath. Well I retaliate – I told you to do that ages ago and I need you here with me NOW. What could he say? For the first few he attempted to run back down in between contractions to continue with the bath but soon I needed him right there all the time. We got into such a beautiful rhythm, and I remember breathing and moving into each contraction while he gave me counter pressure across my back and massaged out the tension in between contractions. We had been going good like this for a while when Karen came in. She saw we were handling and went to take over with the bath where Peter had left off. It was so reassuring having her there. And peter and I were in such a trance. But before long I needed the toilet again – and what it is with sitting on that seat, the contractions just came and blasted me! I didn’t know how I would get out of the toilet. I know it was the first time I let out a huge groan. I couldn’t make it back to the bed either and Peter’s touch was just not enough. I writhed with pain, trying somehow to escape it but couldn’t. At this point, Karen came down to my level, looked me in the eyes and told me I have a choice – I don’t remember what the choice was, I just remember I knew it had to be the bath. Well, I think at this stage they still hadn’t filled it completely. See throughout my pregnancy, because I had become a doula after my first, I had seen loads of women labour without water – and so I thought I could too (even though when I got into the water for Ajualuna’s birth it felt like 5 star luxury!) So Karen gave me the option and before long I was bellowing “is the water ready yet?”
Well it was and I huddled my way down to the bath and in and ooooooohhhh how beautiful and welcoming and warming and wonderful!!! Oh why oh why did I ever doubt this, was the first though to spring to mind. And I told myself right there and then, to never again do something for the hell of it, that when u know something’s good, its good and that’s that! Karen told peter he should hop into the water too and I saw him running back down the stairs, bather on and looking pleased and punch and as in it as I was! He sat behind me in the pool and he was my support and resting place between each contraction. The pain was so uncomfortable – and yet it almost actually isn’t pain. Its sore yes! But such a strange sensation, its sore and heavy and awkward and uncomfortable and searing and shakes your whole body, but to call it only pain is to call do this multidimensional thing an injustice – it is powerful, it is potent, it is a tsunami – and to be in that crazy destructive force that feels like it’s gonna rip you apart can be harrowing. And at a certain stage the room was grey and there was a corner close to the door, with dead branches and I looked up there for help and I bellowed and wearily I wondered if I would ever return from this barren desert shore where I had landed up alone and washed out?
Well, little did I know, that no one saw or even sensed that I was in that place – I moved through it so beautifully Karen said. And yet, and yet I see that place – that corner, the place I thought I could not pass through when in fact to have that vision, is to know that I did. Because the next image was of my big girl running down to see what was happening and to answer her sister’s call. WE were holding a beautiful baby girl – and I had felt her head come out through my body and up into this one. The one I was holding with the motor bike fists as her sister gestures (all tightly locked together). She later recalls how she heard my bellows as well, but lay in bed listening and it was her sister’s call that drew her down. She came with big sparkling, shiny eyes, keen to see and full of glorious love and anticipation. We were in the blood bath, a picture she couldn’t quite behold as yet and she ran back up to her room, till we were out of the bath and on the couch and she could join us all together there.
My little girl is turning two tomorrow and she has taken me to that unmistakable dearth like despair again and again in these few years. That’s one thing you can count on – pregnancy is in preparation for the birth, birth is in preparation for life. Each time, I only know I have moved past it because I’m not there anymore. And something about that gives me the courage to trust in myself – further and deeper and longer that I think is possible. And to trust in life – the source of all energy, the breath, the body, the sky the stars, the earth and all, and to be grateful; deeply truly awakened to the love that is here for us all.
Zara you are a radiant example of raw, exuberant energy. May I nurture your spirit, holding the essence of you and the fullness of your being so that I may guide and direct your magnificence to the best of my ability. We love you, thank you for choosing us!