Birthing Ashara Persea Sylke Elinna Wood
20th January, 2010
It has been two years since Ashara's wonderful birth. I look at our beautiful little one now and that time has flown by so fast although I feel like that time has been felt with much presence in each moment. I feel so blessed that she has chosen me to be her Mama.
My beautiful husband Greg and I had just returned from an incredible and very spontaneous holiday in New Caledonia when we began to talk about and then decided “ lets have a baby!”. Within a few days of this declaration I was pregnant although I didn't know it at the time.
I had never really given where I would have a baby any thought before. We had friends who had birthed at home and friends who had given birth very conventionally and even then it had never really crossed my mind. When we found out that I was pregnant, in my heart and mind there wasn't really any decision to make – we were having our baby at home and Rosey would be our midwife because she is who helps birth babies around here! Simple. Easy. Decision made.
This was the easiest part of our homebirth decision – knowing and acting on what we wanted. The hard work came along in dealing with everyone else's fears, confusion, lack of knowledge and the fuel added to this with all bad press in the media about homebirth. People would say to me “oh your so brave” and I would respond with “ I think women are very brave to have hospital births where they hand over there bodies and birth for someone else to decide what happens next”. It was a delicate subject and one we got savvy about towards the end of the pregnancy. When anyone would ask where we where having our baby we would coyly say “McLaren Vale. We have a wonderful Midwife.” leaving them to assume we meant the hospital here instead of our home. It always warmed my heart though when I talked with older English women who would say “ oh I had all my children at home, I don't know what all this big fuss is about here. We were perfectly fine, It was the done thing.”
My pregnancy with Ashara was what I would call easy. Apart from all day morning sickness which actually turned out to be a wheat allergy, it was great. I was really active, especially in renovating our house (what is it with renovating or building a house when you're having a baby?!). I continued to eat a vegan diet and felt fantastic for it. At six weeks I had the first and only ultrasound as I was getting pains that worried me. All was well and I got to see a little flashing heartbeat which was wonderful. I trusted my intuition and chose not to have any more scans. As my belly grew and my body changed I continued to see our wonderful friend and chiropractor, Ara, who helped keep my body working along splendidly during pregnancy, especially during the birth and afterwards when all those hormones wore off. I think that it really helped me stay in my body and that, in turn, helped me trust in it's ability to birth naturally.
At 37 weeks we held a family blessing way and invited lots and lots of friends and family to join us in giving blessings to our baby and for the birth. It was hugely overwhelming and beautiful. Each person was asked to bring something to hang on a mobile (made from branches that Greg had strung together) and as part of the blessing everyone decorated a flag to become a string of prayer flags that we would hang in the big trees at the front of our house once our baby was born. We felt so loved and supported . The blessing way was a great opportunity for us to connect with everyone and for friends and rellies to let go of any fears, ask other people questions and for us to enlist some support like a food fairy meal roster for the weeks after the birth. We also needed that time to share with everyone our need for some space and quiet time before and after the birth. At the time I had a really strong instinctive urge for Greg and I to spend as much quality time together and to take time to really focus within myself, to get really centred and to create the space I needed to birth in. We had talked about having a 'babymoon' after the birth, staying close to home, to settle into our new life and to just be in our own family space for the month after our baby arrived. It was really hard for some people to understand this but we were really firm about it and so was our dear midwife Rosey at the blessing way. We were really grateful that everyone respected our wishes. We certainly weren't shutting anyone out, we just needed to pull all our energy in.
We found out through both pregnancy and just having a baby in general how big the issue of 'boundaries' is. Things that would be so inappropriate at any other time seem to be ok. I feel like it was really good for us to have been really strong about our needs especially with family. I think it definitely paved the way for other boundaries around our parenting and our wishes for Ashara's environment and diet etc.
Greg and I enjoyed such a great time together connecting, finishing our renovations and enjoying the end of my pregnancy. We were so organised with everything we could possibly need for a baby (we are not generally very organised people so this was a really big deal for us!). Rosey had dropped around the birthing pool which was when I had the big realisation of “ Oh my goodness, there really is a baby in my belly and it is going to come out soon in one of two ways (I know which way I want it to happen) Oh my God this is really going to happen. Its happening. There's no turning around!” It took a little time to process this feeling but it was a good one. The perfect mix of fear, excitement and reality!
The 10th of January which was the 'due date' came and went in the mega heat wave of 40C + days. We both had felt like our little one might be an Aquarian rather than a Capricorn so when the 20th of January rolled around we both thought it might be alright to start thinking about giving bubba a few hints like going out for Indian food for dinner and taking the bumpy dirt road home and then some ‘good lovin'. Little did we know that bubba already had her own ideas.
During the day our dear friends and fantastic photographers Lee and Pauline, had asked if we'd like to come up to their studio for some more belly photos. These ones with an Indian theme. We were really happy to have some more belly photo and we headed up before lunch to their studio up the road. A while into the session I started to feel a bit uptight. Maybe I just needed to eat as it was about 2pm after all.
Greg and I headed home after thinking about going out to eat, but Greg said he'd make something at home. It was a really good call as I spent the next half an hour or so back and forth to the toilet, really frustrated that I couldnt actually go. It wasn't until our dear cat Garlic came into the toilet and sat there staring at me for ages, that I realised that I was going into labour. Aha! That was what was happening. I should have really known that Garlic had it all worked out – he would sleep next to my belly each night and I would feel baby move move to him. The night before he had slept between my legs!I came in to tell Greg, knowing we were both as ready as we could be to do this. It was about 3pm when I went to the loo again and noticed some blood so Greg phoned Rosey and asked her to come over. The first contraction that I had was at 3.30 and Greg was busy getting the pool ready and setting up the lounge room ready for us. I just wandered around trying to sew this little flower that I had set aside for 'things to do during labour'. The next few contractions were about 5 minutes apart and surprised me at how uncomfortable they were.
Rosey arrived at about 4.30 and Greg had also rung our friends Lynn and Emma, our birth supporters to let them know. Lynn arrived just after 5pm and I remember there was quite a bit of flurry with all the getting ready, especially with getting hot water for the pool from our then crappy hot water service. I quietly kept having contractions and breathing to the sounds of Fat Freddy's Drop and Angelique Kidjo. I'd given up on the sewing.
I wanted to get in the pool at about 5.45 and I remember how fantastic it felt when I got in. This is where I stayed for the rest of the birth. Emma arrived about half an hour later and not long afterwards Greg was able to get into the pool with me. I had been really clear with everyone at the birth ahead of time that I wanted to be left to trust my body and listen to myself and our baby in what I needed to do. I needed support but I didn't want direction unless I asked for it or it was absolutely necessary.
Greg was such a welcome support in the pool. It helped me stay more in my body
as I had found my mind working overtime when I was in the pool on my own stayed in the pool with me for the whole birth. I really believe in Dr Emoto's work about the healing power of water and its ability to take on energy so it was wonderful to know that we were both in that water creating thespace for our baby to enter into.
Greg, Lynn, Emma and Rosey were so wonderful at seeing me through each contraction which were still about 4 mins apart. Hot water bottles and some serious massage from Lynn and Emma on my hips and thighs helped with some of the really full on pain. I was so surprised at the intensity of the pain I was getting through my thighs.
Rosey kept me going and hydrated with watermelon juice and sesame snacks and some rescue remedy at some stage. I also remember Rosey suggesting that the sounds and energy I was vocalising could be sent downwards – to send down the energy. Also to remember what all this was for. We were going to meet our baby soon. I think that Greg got the biggest workout in holding me standing up I went through the intense contractions.
Some of the birth is a bit hazy to me. Not so much because it was a while ago but mainly because I was so in the zone and in myself it just kind of unfolded . It was all so calm. My waters had not broken earlier on and I remember when this happened I declared, slightly surprised “ something popped!”. I also remember transition as me feebly and tearily asking “can we make it go any faster?”. Both Greg and I had prepared ourselves for a huge 'birthing bitch from hell' kind of transition as I can have quite a temper! I remember at the time thinking “this can't be transition, I'm not yelling or angry.” At this stage I was kneeling up against the side of the pool, resting my head.
Every time Rosey checked the baby's heartbeat she pronounced “Happy Happy!” which was quite encouraging and cute to think of as our baby's first nickname. It was after dark and candles were lit. It was such a beautiful birthing space. I remember Rosey asking me to try and feel with my fingers to know where our baby was. When I did, I was so surprised at how far down and Rosey told me it was the head. Not long to go.
As the contractions got closer together I could feel the baby moving down as I pushed. When it was time, Rosey placed her fingers on my perineum and exactly where I needed to push and this was such a good help making it really easy for me to know where that energy needed to go. I can honestly say that the stretching and pushing part of the labour wasn't anywhere near as painful as the intense earlier contractions that I felt most in my hips and thighs. Compared to that, this part was very bearable.
It was great to hear the excitement in everyone's voices as they encouraged me in those last few moments. And with me kneeling up against the side of the pool out she came head first into Greg's hands at 11.45pm. The cord was deftly unlooped around her shoulders by Rosey and I had somehow spun around and Greg handed our beautiful baby to me. Straight onto me and held close to my left breast, we were so entranced in this moment and I was so surprised at how big our baby was (I thought that because Greg and I were both tiny babies we would have the same) that we didn't check to see if our baby was a boy or girl for about 10 mins. When we did go to look we found baby's legs crossed! It was a girl! She was the perfect blend of both of us and here in my arms. We wrapped our baby girl in a piece of silk that I had hand painted and she began breastfeeding happily within 15mins or so of being born. The three of us stayed in the pool in total bliss for about an hour with Lynn and Emma topping up the water to keep us warm.
Before the birth we had been a bit worried about blood loss as my iron levels were low. We were prepared as much as we could for this with Lynn as an acupuncturist if needed and a good birth plan and bag packed in case we needed to transfer to hospital. Thankfully this was never and issue and both baby and placenta were birthed without big blood loss. After birthing the placenta it floated in the pool with us, cord still attached.
At 12.50 Rosey said that we should probably get out of the pool. Greg and Bubba
stepped out of the pool and wrapped up in a towel they moved to the couch whilst
I got some help up out of the pool and sat down next to them. Garlic the cat immediately
came and curled up on Greg 's lap next to baby. So sweet. We all enjoyed some
banana bread, cups of tea and vegetable soup. It felt so nourishing and helped to
ground me a bit. Lynn needed to go as she had work in the morning so with much love
and gratitude she went.
For the lack of a torch, Rosie with Emma's help used a bike light (giving new meaning
to the Tour Down Under) to check my bits and that all was ok. Apart from a few nicks
and grazes all was good a nd no stitches were needed, Hooray! After a while Emma
headed home. We decided to cut the cord at 2.15 and and Greg did the honours. Rosey
gave us all a final checking over and then saw us all off to bed at 2.50. She would be
back in the morning and told us that all was good and to try and get some sleep.
The next few days were amazing, life changing and such a joy. We hung the prayer flags from the blessing way in the big trees and we spent most of our time under the skylight in the kitchen to get the sunlight needed to help clear jaundice. Phone calls were made and we asked family to give us a few days before visiting. I felt totally wiped and not in control of my body and family were very understanding of this even though it would have been really hard for them. When our families did visit it was lovely. They brought food to share and I felt ready and not so vulnerable. It was so good to be able to share our experience with them and for them to see exactly where our baby was born and look at the placenta if they were curious.
We had decided we would announce our baby's name in a family naming ceremony a month after she was born It gave us time to choose the right names and a special way of celebrating her without having a christening or the like. She wore an antique white christening gown that my mum, myself and my brother and sister had all worn which had been made from my Nana's wedding dress. It was very special. Of course everyone was so pleased to find out her names – Ashara Persea Sylke Elinna Wood.
The weeks that followed Ashara's birth were wonderful, hard at times but so, so rich. The journey into motherhood was blessed and so wonderful but really disorientating for me. A lot of what I was feeling, I thought was the start of post natal depression until I spoke with Rosey and she assured my that it was all quite normal just few mothers ever talk about it. It's true – there is this conspiracy of silence written about in Wendy LeBlanc's book Naked Motherhood) where we all spout freely how wonderful new motherhood is but keep quiet about all the uncomfortable change going on for us. Fatherhood brings big stuff up for the guys too. Life changes, relationships change, everything changes – its so normal. Let’s be normal about talking about it! I have been so blessed to have had women in my life who could deal with sharing the real stuff.
Ashara now at two is amazingly beautiful just like her homebirth and the joy she brings to us and everyone she meets is huge. My heart is so full of love and gratitude for her each moment. My loving thanks and much grace my Bubba Girl in the dance we did together on the night you were born.
Heartfelt love and gratitude always to my dear Greg for his strength, love, care and connection in birthing our baby and for being an amazing father (and dishwasher and laundryman).
Love and respect always to Rosey our super Midwife. Your trust in me to do this right from the very start was so empowering, Thank you for all the little things, the stories, practical tips, the love, honesty and your experience, wisdom and instinct; and for being you.
Lynn and Emma thank you both for being with us at that amazing time. For your hardcore hot water bottle and massage skills and for the love support and energy you poured into that pool for Ashara. What a blessing for Ashara to be born into a room of strong, powerful women and for her to experience the grace of her amazing Dadda in her first moments out of my womb.
Much love to all our friends and family for your ongoing love, respect, support, yummy meals and your acceptance of our choices. Especially knowing that we will do it our way regardless and being ok with that. Oh and big love and cuddles to Garlic our feline birth supporter, for your insight and the love and patience you have for Ashara.
Written by Sarah Wood 2012