Birth of Sebastian Minh Thao
Until recently I had just two teenage sons. However, when I began a new relationship I knew straight away that I wanted to raise children with my new partner.
Before too long, we were excited to be expecting a child together. We had a serene, ‘no alarms and no surprises’ pregnancy. A couple of months in I turned 40. Over the Australian Summer we travelled across Europe. I felt wise, strong and shiny and never doubted my ability to carry and birth a beautiful new life at home. Our terrific midwife Ruth wasn’t fazed by my age or desire to avoid intervention of all kinds. She also coped well with banter of birthing into jelly and fancy pubic hair designs. She was the one for us!
At 38 weeks I completed hand over of job number one on the Wednesday and packed up my office at job number two on the Thursday. ‘Hahaha...you’ll go into labour this weekend now that you’ve finished work...hahaha! ‘No!’ I thought to myself. ‘I have so many things to do before the baby is born. I just need another week and then I can relax and truly welcome the baby home!’ I was so looking forward to a planned homebirth on my own terms.
My partner, Huy’s sister was across from Singapore for a family event. Friday night dinner was all rice wraps and baby names. Girl’s names had been locked in months ago but everyone that we’d spoken to over the last two months firmly stated that we were having a boy. The ‘evidence’ was becoming overwhelming so we asked Vi what boys names she liked.
On Easter Saturday, pre-dawn, 4am... a mild belly ache wakes me and I’m unable to go back to sleep. I tiptoe across the room, collect my laptop and head to the spare room to kill some time before dawn. I decide to email my students to distract me from the silent night until I notice that I am having contractions and that they might be beginning to form a rhythm. I begin recording the times that they start according to my computer clock on a scrap of paper and return to my email. I check my recorded times and notice that the 8 and 6 minute gaps have become 3 and 2 minute gaps...but then a 5 minute gap again...what is my body doing?! One student has had a baby girl and I send him congratulations with a p.s. that I may just be in labour myself!
It is 5am. Huy is a poetic, generous and attentive partner but has insatiable sleep requirements and is not what you’d call ‘an early morning person’. I decide that the time on the clock will need to at least have a 6 in front of it before I wake him. By now though, I am quite convinced that today will be a day of beautiful toil toward welcoming our baby into the world.
5.59am... I can’t stand it any longer. My contractions are now clearly contractions... regular, intense and, if I’d taken the time to consider it, quite close together really! I go to the next room to wake Huy. I gently shake his arm...‘I think that we’re going to have a baby today’, I smile. In response, a slow, sleepy ‘Whaaat?’, then a befuddled query, ‘But how do you know’? Hmmm... ‘Trust me on this one!’ I think contentedly to myself. ‘My contractions have been on for a couple of hours now and they’re pretty regular’ I say. I head back to the spare room as Huy dresses and, in a moment, I turn to find him behind me.
6.30am ish... Huy has been swaying with me just long enough to know that I am definitely in labour and that things are moving reasonably quickly. I am clearly in pain. It is purposeful and beautiful in its way but it is deepening. He suggests we call the midwife and I agree. Unfortunately Ruth is interstate for Easter so despite having suffered our unique style of chilled-out pregnancy she’ll miss the pointy end of the process. I would have loved to wait for her return the following Tuesday but... As things unfold, Emily arrives in around 45 minutes and is a wonderful support for the rest of our birthing journey.
7am ish... my knees begin to tremble then my whole body. Over the next hour I am convinced that I have made the wrong decision to home birth. ‘What was I thinking?! I can’t handle this! No drugs! A whole day ahead and already the pain is too much for me! I know that I’m not strong enough for this!....’ My previous two labours, while sometime in the distant past, both had first stages that were greater than 24 hrs. Over the last couple of hours the contractions had become very intense. I wondered how time had managed to wipe away this memory. How had I endured this bone-numbing pain for such a long time during my other labours?
8am ish... I cry out in frustration through the next contraction and feel the need to poo. ‘Great!’ I say sarcastically, annoyed at the indignity. To Huy I say, ‘After the next contraction I’m going to try to make it to the toilet’. I can see him steeling himself for the task ahead. The closest toilet is at the rear of our house and we are currently in our front-of-the-house bedroom.
8.15 ish I feel a contraction building just as I reach the toilet. The sensation is unstoppable and as I slap my bottom down on the toilet I blink and realise that I have birthed a head. The whole labour has moved so quickly that I am still wearing all of my clothes and I move my skirt to one side so that Huy can see his child’s face. We beam at one another and I urge him to call Vi who is obsessively racing up and down the hallway focused on filling the birthing pool. Vi arrives with the camera, pokes her head around the door and... ‘Is that a head?!!!’ she screams in amazement and shock. ‘Um, yes...’
8.20am I am seized by one last contraction and a sliding sensation heralds the birth of the rest of the baby into Emily’s waiting hands. She deftly passes the baby through my legs into Huy’s arms as Vi snaps photos between gasps of joyful surprise. We have a gorgeous little boy.
By morning tea time my other boys have arrived home to go to pre-arranged Yum Cha but find a hose down the hall way that leads to a new baby brother instead. They are pretty excited but were looking forward to tasty food with family and close friends so are pleased when a couple of hours later Yum Cha comes to us. The house swells for remainder of the day with food, love and laughter.
Later in the day the story of our little boy’s birth will change slightly to show that he was born ‘in the bathroom’ rather than ‘on the toilet’! If anyone knows how to airbrush out of a birth photo an awkwardly placed toilet roll holder please let me know! After a long weekend of trying on names, our little boy is given the name Sebastian, chosen by his Auntie Vi who we are thrilled was there to welcome him into the family. Sebastian is also given the Vietnamese names Minh (a family name) and Thao (meaning ‘courteous’). His full name settles as Sebastian Minh Thao Nguyen. In the weeks to follow he is interchangeably called Sebastian or Thao and a few months down the track is now regularly called Seb, Sea Bass, Seb Seb, Bastian and my gorgeous boy!