Category: Pregnancy

Dear Daughter as you near your 10th birthday,

I see you growing up right before my very eyes. Your body is changing and you’re noticing every single occurrence, both welcoming it with excitement and feeling overwhelmed from it, because, really, you’re still so very young.

I watch as you come and wrap your arms around me awkwardly, all legs and arms.. and then no sooner, you’re running off to your room, slamming the door behind you because you want to be left alone.

I know you’re in this place of in-between. I can’t imagine how frustrated and confused you feel. But I want you to know you’re not alone.

We argued this morning, we both said words we didn’t mean and although we have both since apologised and made up, it’s still lingering with me. I don’t want to be someone you can’t talk to, but also, if you don’t want to talk – that’s okay. You don’t have to talk. Silence is good with me, if it’s with you.

I’m in a place of watching you go through changes hormonally that seem totally out of your grasp, and I just want to hold you. I want to tell you it’s okay. I want to tell you that it gets easier.. but I don’t know if it does. Maybe it’s not that being a woman gets easier or if it’s just that we become stronger. Because we learn to embrace our innate feminine power and all that comes with it. Slowly we learn to surrender to the ebb and flow rather than fight against it.

But daughter, I can see why you’re fighting against it. It’s new and relatively unknown, and being a woman isn’t easy. Becoming one is even harder. I can understand why you’re fiercely trying to hold onto your childlike innocence, I can see that you don’t want to grow up.

Here’s the thing, though. No matter how old you are, no matter how many moody outbursts you have or how much you try to push me away – I will always be here. My love for you is not conditional – you may outgrow your clothes but you’ll never ever outgrow me. I will always have time for you, I will always make time for you and I will always be in your corner.

I know this shit is tough. And I’m more than willing to let you live your life, your way, as you learn to navigate it independently. But nothing you can ever do will make me not love you, and there will never be a time I won’t be your constant.

Always,

Mama.

Ever The Patient Student; This Time The Teacher.

As parents my husband and I are constantly encouraging our girls to walk their own paths and we talk about autism as being just a “different way of doing things”. But in our family where the Daddy is autistic as well as two of her sisters: being NT (neuro-typical/non-autistic) is also a different way of doing things too. And having the eldest daughter of our family of four daughters being autistic means that our beloved second daughter has had to tackle many firsts bravely on her own; some of which her eldest sister has never done, at all. She hasn’t had a standard role model to copy or mimic because many of the struggles her eldest sister has, she doesn’t have and likely never will. She doesn’t struggle with change, she doesn’t get lost amidst the sea of grey that exists within the nuances that is friendships, noise and bright lights don’t scare or overwhelm her and crowds don’t phase her. She isn’t rigid, she goes with the flow and although she has a feisty temper that she no doubt inherited from her mother – she floats through her life, happily and without much struggle.

Tonight the beloved second daughter in our GirlTribe had her very own “first” which we all enthusiastically celebrated: she excitedly went off to attend her first ever school disco. I have no doubt this doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people but it was pretty significant in our house.

 

Our home has been filled with gleeful giggles all morning and afternoon and a little girl so excited to go to a disco for the first ever time has had us all captivated. She was so excited to dress up and go and hang out with her school friends and dance! Sno has never attended a school disco because the combination of change in routine + noise + flashing lights + people is just an equation for chaos, for her. It was so wonderful to watch as Raralilyo was able to have one of her own firsts celebrated.

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So many times this amazing kid has had to take a back seat while her eldest sisters needs were attended to and met, before hers. So many times she has had to cop the meltdowns from her sister and never once has she ever complained or put down her sister being autistic. It’s just her life and she accepts it humbly and compassionately, ever patient and understanding. She has had to learn her patience the hard way and she has had to develop her understanding and compassionate from a place of complete surrender.

It can’t be easy for a seven year old or a young child of any age to repeatedly watch as their siblings get new things when they don’t, even if they are classified as “therapy tools”. Therapy tools may as well just be called toys for all the sibling of an autistic child cares. They have to miss out, they have to manage stuff on their own when the more urgent needs of their siblings take precedence.

 

Cj and I actively and consciously attempt to carve out and also encourage Raralilyo to walk her own path, separate to that of her sisters. We want her to try new experiences, make new connections and put herself out there so she can enjoy life to her own capacity that she can define.  And she’s doing that so well, so bravely and beautifully: and we couldn’t be prouder.

Tonight there was a beautiful role-reversal that blossomed in our house: as Raralilyo came home from her disco she had her eldest sister awake and waiting to hear from her and learn all about her night. This time she is the one teaching Sno about how the world can be and what it looks like; sharing her own unique experiences with an attentive and interested audience. Tonight, Raralilyo got to be the one to expand her sister’s awareness and perceptions of the world and gleefully share news. And it was beautiful.

 

Empowering Births: How To Choose Your Care Providers & Have The Birth You Want

 

Maybe you don’t think that birth is something that you can plan, however if you really want to have an empowered birth there are some things you should think about and do before hand. Such as..

  1. Talk to other women about their births.
    Surround yourself with role models for birth – women who have wisdom you can learn from. Learn from the good experiences of others and also the negatives, so that you may learn not to repeat the same mistakes they did. Find out the best parts of their experiences, and find out what they’d do differently. Discuss the types of care they had during pregnancy and also after pregnancy, too. Information is power. Normalising positive birth begins with discussing birth in an open field, and doing lots of listening.
  2. Ask questions.
    When you have found prospective care providers to support you throughout your pregnancy, have a list of questions you want to ask them ready prepared. Be detailed! This is your birth – it’s an experience you’ll never forget. If their answers don’t mesh with your values then perhaps it’s worthwhile to look elsewhere, or keep asking more questions. Ask them about their caesarian rate, ask them about why they are in the maternity-care industry, and what they love about it. Find out about what the root of their passions are, to see if you’re in sync. Ask them about what kind of care they offer when things don’t go to plan, too.
  3. Think about the kind of birth you want.
    Whether it’s giving birth in water, having your other children present at the birth or even Lotus birth – brainstorm it, so that you can then be clear in your head about your goals. And then find care providers who will support you to achieve your outcomes
  4. Think about beyond birth, too.
    An empowered birth experience does not just end when the baby is out. Think about what you’d like your first few days as a new mother (or a new second-time mother) to look like, and make sure you discuss what postnatal care encompasses from your care providers. If they can’t offer you much support post-natally; find out who can.
  5. Make sure your partner is onboard & can be your advocate.
    Birth is definitely women’s business; but it really helps to be clear with your significant other about the kind of birth you want to have, so that they can be there to advocate for you when you are not in the position to. If you don’t have a significant other, that’s okay of course – but have someone who you know and trust who can support you to achieve the type of birth you want, and can boost you emotionally when you’re feeling fragile so that your wishes are respected.

Birth isn’t just one day. It is a sacred rite of passage; and one that you will forever remember. So believe me when I say, it helps to be prepared.

I’ve Had Four Babies But The One I Had An Epidural For Hurt The Most.

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I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’ve given birth vaginally to four beautiful daughters over the last 9 years. The last three were drug-free home births and the first was a hospital birth; and that was the one that hurt the most out of them all. Yep, you heard me right. My eldest daughter’s birth took place in a hospital and after an excruciating 13 hour labour – the last 4 hours of which I had an epidural in place for – she was born. Despite me being numb from the waist down I still felt a lot of pain and pressure and pushing her out was not something I ever wanted to relive again. It was fairly traumatic as far as births go: there was little empowerment on my behalf, I felt very awash in a sea of people I didn’t know who took turn at looking at my private parts and the end result was me feeling very much like just a number in “the system” and a piece of meat on the bench. After her birth I went on to develop Post Natal Depression and also Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It took months of psychiatric counselling along with some medication to get me well enough to even contemplate going for a second child and when I did, I made totally different choices regarding my birthing plans.

For my second daughter, after reading about the concept of birthing at home with a registered midwife; I set about immersing myself in information and researched what unhindered empowered birth looked like and decided that was more my bag. With my husband’s support; I interviewed a string of independent midwives and settled on a care provider who I knew would support me to have the birth I wanted. And when the time came to finally push my baby earth side  – I did so in the bedroom of my own house, in a candlelit room, with just my husband, midwife & doula present; and it was amazing. There were no drugs needed for my pain because the pain simply wasn’t there: it was what I would describe as just an intensity, instead. Not pain. The things that got me through the labour were my body’s own set of amazing drugs: hormones! I rode the labour waves on oxytocin; and because I felt safe and secure adrenalin stayed at bay. I then went on to birth at home twice more without any complications and I would even regard the fourth birth to be ecstatic. I would describe my fourth baby and my third drug-free birth at home as pure joy; I laughed my way through the contractions that I renamed “waves” and I soared high on my hormones pulling me through and grunted low as I pushed my baby out into the birth pool, catching her in my own hands and bringing her to my chest.

Throughout these experiences as a woman; a few things became very clear to me. The first thing being that fear hinders birth. When a woman is scared or frightened; she isn’t going to labour or birth in an optimal way. Her labour may be prolonged, disjointed or halted entirely. Think of it this way; you don’t often hear of women birthing in the middle of a supermarket and that is because women’s bodies are innately intelligent and they know when a woman is at risk or scared; so labour does not begin. When a woman feels supported, knows & trusts her care providers and can work through any anxieties she may be having as she has them; her birth flows normally and beautifully. The other important thing I learned was no matter how many times people may tell a woman who is pregnant that she “can’t plan everything” or to “take it as it comes” – this is incorrect, and information really is power. When you know about the type of birth you would like to have, and find out exactly how you can have that; you have a greater chance of having that type of birth. I really believe it is important for a woman to remain at her utmost in terms of being informed; so this means learning about delayed cord clamping, the benefits to skin on skin, what physiological third stage of labour means and what type of birthing positions are the best to birth in. Information really is power, and it is ignorant to assume otherwise. The final thing I will say is consider your language closely. You can re-phrase birthing words to suit you. Contractions become waves, pain becomes opening  & expanding and I’m telling you that sure, pizzas may be delivered…but babies are born.

If you are pregnant and reading this; I implore you: women, take back your births. They are yours and they will shape you or they will break you. It may sound trite to suggest that they are a sacred rite of passage but this is very true. Your experiences of birthing your baby will remained engrained in your being forever, please do not take this lightly.

Nell’s emergence – a birth story after a 44 week long pregnancy.

As far as pregnancies go, my fourth was fairly fantastically normal and “by the book” compared to the other three previous. Morning sickness abated by 12ish weeks, and things flowed fairly normally. I was relieved not to have Hyperemesis Gravardium this pregnancy. Despite being hospitalised for kidney stone removal surgery and also having three wisdom teeth out in the chair, the pregnancy and belly dweller within me kept growing safe and well, boringly normal.
Around the beginning of the second trimester I began to get serious about deciding who would be on my birth support team, to support me to birth at home. We had only moved up to the sunshine coast 4 months previously, and my previous births had been attended to by the same amazing midwife. So after much scrutiny and a lengthy interview to ensure we “meshed” with our ideals surrounding birth and pregnancy, I decided on my midwife. I felt she was a wise woman, who knew and trusted in birth and women, and I felt she was a good match for my needs.
At 32 weeks I gathered with much beloved women friends and was honoured during my Blessingway ceremony. I felt held and special.
I knew I would more than likely be faced with another long pregnancy (my previous spontaneous labours occurred at home without issue at 43 weeks 1 day, and also 42 weeks 5 days respectively; I was induced with my first for “post dates” {boy haven’t I learnt a lot since then?}) but for some reason I still felt surprised. My 40th week rocked up right on the first lot of school holidays, so I was easily distracted by having to wrangle my three girls through two weeks of home-time; whilst also feeling the physical ache and heaviness of having to lumber my hugely ripe belly through plenty of outings with excited children, as well as the normal household day to day stuff. My husband was, as always, a massive support to me – but it’s easy to understand that I still felt exhausted. I didn’t see many friends this holidays, which usually is something that serves as a comfort and distraction for me from the chaos – this time I stayed close to home, and I hermited, with minimal contact. I was very conscious of shielding myself from outside pressures no matter how indirect they were. My head space remained crucially clutter-free.
I was having weekly appointments with my midwife by this stage and my chiropractor, baby was fully engaged and my pelvis felt full and ready. I had felt it warming up for weeks with random bursts of regular Braxton Hicks, some really good ones that were kicked off when my toddler would breast feed. I knew it was readying itself to birth, gradually. I joked to my midwife that I wouldn’t labour while the girls were at home – too much noise, and that I would likely go into labour on the days after they returned. Free moments of days were spent walking around the lighthouse, sitting on my favourite rock, meditating, talking to the baby dwelling inside me. I told her (we didn’t know the sex but I did know, instinctively, it was a “she”) that we were ready to meet her, and how much her sisters loved her. I told her all about the beautiful mountain we lived on, how you can smell the rain, how the sound of the waves sound as they crash against the rocks. How I was so excited to show her my favourite beach where pumice stones litter the sand, and the sand itself leaves your legs and skin feeling moisturised and supple. I spent a lot of time connecting with nature and allowing myself to be surrounded by its unfaltering repetition of impermanence and surrender. It soothed me. Despite me being quite an impatient woman by nature in most of life’s pursuits, previous pregnancies and births had taught me to have utter faith in my body and its ability to gestate for the perfect amount of time, unhindered. I trusted, and I felt all was well. My baby was active and very happy inside me.
Well, the holidays wound down and the big girls returned to school; met with a sigh of relief.. and still baby stayed cocooned inside me. My husband had arranged to begin his leave from this point to take some of the pressure off too,  a welcome decision. When the 43rd week came, I woke up and felt really sad and confused – I was *still* pregnant. Why wouldn’t this baby come? Why did longer pregnancies have to be my “normal”? Why were other women having their babies before me, why did I have to wait? I knew the answers deep down but this didn’t stop me from feeling completely frustrated and overwhelmed, and my mind would wonder and I would begin to envision myself at 46 weeks pregnant, and that upset me. Surely it couldn’t be much longer, surely? I was so utterly sick of people’s comments relating to their apparent impatience to meet my baby (which of course, seemed to supersede mine) and so I continued to lay low. I felt heavy, huge, uncomfortable. My bladder was being constantly tested and I couldn’t sleep comfortably. My poor husband endured cycle after cycle of emotional upheavals from me; some days I was fine, others – a crying mess. I tried my best to ride the waves of my emotions rather than fight them but it was exhausting. I was ready.
A few days past 43 weeks (the longest I had remained pregnant yet) I arrange on the advice and agreement of my midwife to have a biophysical profile ultrasound done, to check on the cord flow, placenta functioning, fluid levels and a general check on the baby. I was apprehensions about this scan; thoughts flowed through my head: what if it showed something wrong, what if the people doing it pressured me to get induced or gave me a hard time for “still” being pregnant? Armed with the support of my husband, and the distraction of my utterly gorgeous toddler – we went to the scan. I was happily surprised and relieved to the maximum amount to have a fantastic, gently spoken, respectful monographer to do my scan. And as I lay back and let my very large bulbous belly be scanned I was reassured by what I already knew, intuitively: everything was perfect. The monographer asked if I’d like a close up of my baby’s face, and I excitedly agreed: she printed this photo out for me, and I stuck it to the wall beside my bed near my birthing pool. This baby’s chubby, adorable face served as a comfort for me over the next few days as I continued to wait. My baby was healthy and happy, and everything was functioning as so. I got commended by letting my body choose when to labour by the beautiful receptionist too. I felt heartened, and content. And more importantly: validated. Here we live in a society so intent on the “magic 40 week” point, and warned of the apparent large dangers in going beyond this; yet here was my beautiful baby, healthy, growing and perfect – at 43 weeks. We left and I felt a few of the clouds of doubt in my mind shift. I told my midwife the results of the scan and she was happy to keep on keeping on.
As I was still pregnant, and quite emotionally over it, my midwife suggested a stretch and sweep to kick start the Braxton Hicks contractions along that I was having. Despite my first experience of such a thing being with my first daughter under non-consensual circumstances and in very different settings – I agreed to two rigorous sweeps, both of which gave me shows and ramped up a bit; but then died down. These sweeps were done by my midwife – a woman highly educated on normal birth, someone who I trusted. I was being challenged.. my baby was clearly snug and not ready to be born yet. On the second evening of labour that fizzled out after I decided to rest and go to bed after bouncing on the optiball and willing my body to be ready to birth. I fell asleep and woke up at 1am, and text my midwife. She had one more trick in her book: a homeopathic tincture. I took the required dosage over 3 hours and my body didn’t even react to the medicine. I fell asleep; listening to the sound of my husband snoring.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling incredibly tired and frustrated. My body was randomly surging but with no regularity. I made an appointment to visit the chiropractor again, and my midwife said she had a full day planned and would visit in the afternoon. I spent the lay resting on the couch, alternating between a “surrender” state of mind and one of completely ignoring the fact that I was still pregnant, and in a grump. I visited the chiropractor who said that my pelvis and hips were in perfect alignment. I went home, continuing to have random surges which I paid minimal attention to. I sort of felt like my body was teasing me. I felt under pressure – but not sure by who: my husband and midwife were fully supportive. I felt like I wasn’t performing according to expectations, and then this made me feel confused. What was going on? My husband suggested that maybe there was some sort of mental block preventing me from entering labour land – a suggested of which I disputed, and loudly. I had done everything! I had worked on any emotional blocks, I’d been in nature, I’d meditated on surrender… I had done it all. It was not me. That evening I went to bed.
The following morning my body woke me with a rock hard belly (as usual) and I gently surged every ten minutes or so. My midwife messaged me and told me because I was still pregnant, we’d need to consult with the hospital. I knew in my mind at this stage that I was completely over being pregnant – something I’d never fully reached before, surprising given my long gestations. I knew that I wouldn’t consent to any form of chemical induction – my first induction with my eldest daughter still remains one of the most traumatic experiences of my life – an experience that left me feeling powerless, like meat on a table for public display; I suffered post natal depression and post traumatic stress disorder for six months after it, and I don’t even remember my first daughter’s six months: it was a blur, of crying, dark, depression and hurt. There was no way I was going there again.
I arranged to meet a girlfriend (still surging) for breakfast at my local favourite cafe and then do some op-shopping. My beautiful in laws were due to come up and take my two older daughters to their swimming lessons, and my husband would go off and do the fortnightly grocery trip with our toddler. I met my friend at the cafe and promptly got teary. I began to unload and tell her that I didn’t care anymore about how the baby came out: I just wanted it out; safe and healthy. I told her that I had done everything I could possibly think of within my realm of comfort to encourage the baby to come but she clearly wasn’t. So it wasn’t about me anymore: my baby wasn’t coming due to a lack of what I was doing or something that I was. Clearly my baby had her own agenda. It was their journey for whatever reason to stay inside me and it was not mine. I told my friend I just wanted to book a cesarian so that I could have an end-date in mind: some certainty, some control. I felt calm and emotionally ready to birth my baby this way. My dear friend was a fantastic sounding board and was a great listener for me as I unloaded. We ate our delicious breakfasts, did a spot of op-shopping and then after she enveloped me in a warm hug I said goodbye to my friend and got in the car to drive home.

I’d realised I had missed a phone call from my my midwife so I rang her back. She told me she had consulted with the registrar at the hospital and they wanted me to come in for some CTG monitoring. My midwife said she would come in with me, and that they wanted me around 4ish. She also told me that due to my previous 3 vaginal births, that the hospital would not agree to an elective cesarian and instead wanted to break my waters and induce me. I expressed my vehement disagreement to my midwife at this suggestion: there is no way I would consent to an induction, not after the experience of my first one with my eldest daughter 7 years earlier. I told her that even if I did just get my water’s broken there is no guarantee that I would go into a labour that wouldn’t end in a cesarian anyway, and I didn’t want to go through the traumatic snow-balling cycle of monitoring, and doubtless intervention that would come in a hospital setting. I wanted certainty and control, for once. So no I did NOT consent to that, I told my midwife. She pretty much took my answer on the chin, and told me she wanted to come over in a few hours to give me a massage with some Clary Sage oil as she had been talking to another midwife at a morning tea that morning who suggested thos and its effectiveness. I scoffed at her at the suggestion, and said fine, I would see her at 1pm. I drove home.

 

my belly that day
On the drive home I spoke to my belly dweller. I told her that she really should choose to be born at home in the next few hours, and that the baby moon we would share together would be far more restorative and nurturing if she chose to be born at home. I told her that it didn’t matter to me really how she came, but that if she didn’t come in the next few hours – that I’d be getting her out. I told her I had reached my absolute limit, I had been patient – but the time was now. I told her of the delightful milkiness that we would be able to share in our own bed, with her sisters around and how there’d be no separation or pain – a very different story to that if she chose not to come at home, and instead in hospital. I pleaded with my belly dweller that she should choose today. I closed my eyes, my hands holding my ripe belly – and I breathed light and love into her.
When I got home I greeted my husband, told him of the plans to go to hospital. He told me he was tired and wanted to rest in case we were in for a long night – I said that was fine. I went and put our toddler to bed, and I snuggled her around my belly for what would be the last time.. (but I didn’t know that yet!). She soon drifted off to sleep, and I enjoyed feeling the weight of her limbs curled around my belly, and the smell of her sweet breath in my face; at the same time feeling the little belly dweller tumbling around inside my belly. I extracted myself from underneath her limbs and I went into our bedroom where the birth pool was all set up – and I began packing my bag for hospital. I had laid out about 6 changes of tiny clothes for our baby, pyjamas for me and blankets.. all the necessities, along with toiletries.
My older daughters arrived home from swimming lessons and going to the craft shop with my wonderful in laws and just before 1pm my midwife arrived as well. I’m very close with my mother in law and she was visiting today along with my father in law because tomorrow morning at 7am age would have to fly down to Hobart again to help support her mother who was unwell from an accident and trying to make it back home to the Sunshine Coast.
The girls went about showering off the chlorine and getting changed, and I woke my husband from his sleep to let him know my midwife was here. She greeted me with a hug and showed me the oils, and wanted to start the massage. So we went into the birthing room, and I knelt down on my knees and she began vigorously rubbing handfuls of undiluted Clary Sage oil into the sacrum of my back. Within about 7 minutes I got a very lovely surprise by feeling my first real surge – one that required me to breathe through it. My midwife kept the massage up and sure enough, 3 minutes on the dot later – another surge hit. And then I called out for a bucket because I needed to vomit. My husband, who was still walking around in a bit of a daze after being woken from his nap – shot up to action. This being his fourth birth, and third home birth to be present for meant that he knew fully well that a definite sign of labour for me was vomiting, so he immediately began conferring with my midwife who was also in a bit of disbelief and intent to keep rubbing my back – about filling up the pool. I remember my mother in law walking past as I vomited, and she was a bit unsure of what was going on – to which I quickly managed “I’m in labour!” to her face of disbelief. Sure enough, 3 minutes passed and BAM another surge hit! My midwife scrambled to find her phone and after much “where is my phone? where is it? oh it’s in the car!” she let her partner midwife know that I was evidently in labour, and she also rang the hospital to let them know the same.
Over the next two hours I laboured leaning over the hard wooden frame of my bed on my knees – eventually with a pillow under my knees. I was laughing, and joyful. The second midwife arrived and my toddler soon after stumbled out from her nap – a little dazed and confused upon seeing me doing “breathing” and settled on the bed in front of me. She acted like my little Doula, mimicking my breaths and eventually as my noises got more guttural and low – those too. She enjoyed sitting beside the second midwife, dictating drawings to be done (but not shared!). Her presence didn’t irritate me or annoy me or distract me. I enjoyed having her around. I felt free to labour, knowing my big girls were out the back with their beloved grandparents, and my husband and toddler were with me – all the people that I loved the most were surrounding me. My husband offered me ice-chips at one point, to which I gratefully accepted and my midwife suggested I take off my harem pants to which I said “what? why?” and her reply of “because you’ll be meeting your baby soon!”. She told me she could see the line lengthening up my buttocks (indicating dilation), and I laughed saying “talk about timing! this baby!”. I continued to breathe between surges, rocking on my knees forward over the end of the bed whilst still having my back rubbed, sometimes being reminded to keep my sounds low. I sporadically vomited into the bucket as well but this didn’t bother me – it felt good, cathartic, cleansing. As the intensity grew my noises got louder but lower.. the pool was almost filled, and I wanted to get in. I asked my midwife if it was much longer, and she reassured me it wouldn’t be.

As I got into the pool, I whipped off my knickers and I leaned over the edge, into my husband’s arms. The pool felt warm, safe.. cradling me. Similar to how my husband’s arms made me feel. H held me (and the weight of the pool, apparently, because I was leaning so hard into him that I was making water pour out over the edge.. I’d later find out that he was completely saturated and needed a change of clothes!) and I asked my midwife to shut the bedroom door – the toddler was outside with her sisters and grandparents, and I could hear them play fighting and I didn’t want their noise to stagger my labour. Soon after I exclaimed to my midwife that I was “done! I can’t do this much longer, am I going to be done soon? this bit sucks!” and she reassured me it wouldn’t be long at all, and that I was doing beautifully. Sure enough she was right and I soon began grunting “I need to poo.. I need to poo!” I said. My right leg was propped up right and I made a few more grunty noises. I recognised this as the baby moving into the birthing canal, and I was encouraged to feel between myself and see if I could feel the head. At the first feel, I couldn’t feel anything, but soon after another surge hit and after I grunted my way through it – I could feel something. It felt smooth, but it wasn’t a head – it felt like a bubble! “It’s a bubble! I can feel a bubble” I told my midwife. She told me that it was the baby’s head inside the sac of waters. It felt amazing. I got into a squat position as the next surge hit and I grunted and breathed my way through it – feeling absolutely everything about it to manage – the tightness in my belly, my back, the way it shivered up my belly and peaked, and then as it petered out. It was amazing. Soon I felt the familiar “ring of fire” and exclaimed “ouch! ouch! the head is coming!” and instinctively I leaned backwards, with my hands on the base of the pool and my feet apart. As the head was born I felt her waters break simultaneously and her shoulders were then born too.. my body then ever so generously gave me a minute or so reprieve from surges, and I was able to sit back and watch as my baby was half womb-side and also half earth-side, floating between my legs.. until another surge hit, and I pushed her out entirely into my hands, and pulled her immediately onto her chest. She was slippery, blue – and covered in vernix! I quickly yelled out for my girls to come in, and then they were there – watching as I exclaimed “I did it! It’s over! The baby’s here, the baby decided to come, finally! It’s done! I did it!”. My midwives marvelled at her vernix coated head, back, arms and neck and also at the pool’s water – there was not a trace of meconium present. They congratulated me warmly, and my midwife quickly rang the hospital to tell them I had birthed (only to be met with disbelief on the other end of the phone.. “already?!”) Meanwhile I was absolutely euphoric, and within seconds my gorgeous husband, three beautiful daughters and mother in law were all beside me as I sat in the pool, holding my new baby – eyes all wide with amazement and awe.

 

 

immediately after catching my vernixy sweet babe and bringing her to my chest
A few minutes passed and I decided to get out of the pool to birth my placenta (as I had done with all my previous homebirths) due to a sore backside and wanting to get warm. I carried my beautiful vernixy baby a few steps onto my bed where I was boosted with pillows and covered in a towel to keep me warm. My baby was pinking up quickly – by now only her feet were a little blue. My midwife suggested I check the sex and I quickly moved her cord out of the way and exclaimed “it’s a girl, I knew it was!” and snuggled my baby to my chest. My toddler sat beside me in bed, stroking my arm and cooing over her new “baby stister”. Within a few more minutes I felt the familiar urge to push and I birthed my placenta in one big gush – and it was beautiful. Perfectly formed, absolutely no grit or calcification, ripe. The cord had stopped pulsating by now and my husband cut it.
I lay in bed with my beautiful new baby for the next hour or so where she had her first few breast feeds as my birth support team went about tidying up – siphoning out the birth pool water into the garden, putting towels into the washing machine, dimming the lights. My mother in law got the big girls fed dinner and bathed and into their adorable flannelette pyjamas. We rewarded my amazing midwives with tea and carrot cake which they were very thankful for – but I declined any food, I wasn’t hungry and I could feel after pains coming on. So I took some panadeine and got a heat pack and was supported by my mother in law to have a shower which felt fantastic. I felt quite weak though, it had been a quick labour – but at the same time not too quick. Turns out it only took 12 minutes for the Clary Sage to kick in, and my active labour was 2 and a half hours – 7 minutes of which from when I was fully dilated to when I had birthed my baby. My beautiful mother in law helped me into fresh pyjamas while my husband had his first cuddle of Nell, along with my midwife, and they dressed her and wrapped her and passed her to me after I had made my way back to bed. They also weighed Nell and she was a perfect 9lb exactly.
I bid farewell to my Midwives then, and my husband and I said goodbye to his parents and thanked them so much for everything they had done. We would see them tomorrow, but for now we were keen to get the big girls into bed and asleep so that we could snuggle in bed together with our newest addition. Once they were asleep, my husband joined me and Nell in bed and we just chatted and ogled her in absolute awe. Our last baby, our youngest daughter was finally here. She was just so beautiful. We chatted about the birth and my husband told me how utterly proud and amazed he was of me.
Eventually he drifted off to sleep but I couldn’t sleep much that night – I stay awake, just staring in absolute bewilderment at my new baby, watching as she suckled my breast and slept against my chest. I sniffed her in – she smelt amazing, so fresh and new, so wonderful. The journey that this baby had taken me on throughout my pregnancy and right up to her birth – it was like no other. Right when I had given up all hopes of birthing at home again, in a loving supported environment – right when I had completely surrendered to whatever will be will be – she decided then, to be born. She was born at 1 day shy of 44 weeks, against so many odds – covered in vernix, with clear waters. She was born at home surrounded by all the people that loved her the most. My baby clearly knew all along the exact perfect moment to be born, despite me even doubting her (and myself). Oh, how much she taught me – even at a few hours old. I really thought that by the fourth pregnancy I couldn’t gain much more wisdom and understanding about pregnancy, birth and what it means to be a woman.
It just goes to show that we as humans never stop learning, ever, and so often the best lessons are hidden in places that we are often too fearful or busy or hesitant to explore. But when we do go there, and tread carefully in unchartered waters, with faith and belief in our bodies – we emerge from the depths wholly new, empowered, enlightened.

The irreplaceable Neurotypical sibling.

I don’t often discuss my second daughter, much.

This isn’t because I love her any less than my other three daughters but because she is… well, so much easier to parent and be with than the other three. She doesn’t have autism. She’s of an age where she is able to be relatively independent and she enjoys time to herself. She doesn’t need any support socially. She doesn’t have one single sensory issue or struggle. She eats well. She sleeps like a log. She gets along with people fairly effortlessly and she isn’t overly particular or pedantic. She goes with the flow.

Sure, she definitely has a temper. And who could blame her? She’s sandwiched between two other sisters, both of whom have special needs (and opposite triggers, at that.)

Every day I make the conscious effort to connect with her on a special level. To give her time to talk uninterrupted, and listen to her when she speaks. I try really hard not to tell her to be quiet even when I am absolutely exhausted from her other three sisters and their unique demands (one of whom is still a baby and isn’t at the point of understanding the concept of negotiation or compromise just yet).

She fulfils a vital role in our family. She is the sounding board of “normal” or “neurotypical” (aka non-ASD), if you will.

She manages so much. She is so patient. She listens and tolerates her older sister melting down for hours upon hours on end, and her first younger sister bouncing off the walls in hyperactivity and constantly encroaching on her personal space. She doesn’t comment when her older sister is laying on the floor, fingers in her ears, rolled into a ball, screaming loudly. She’s calm when her second youngest sister is hysterical about the way her dinner was presented, and hits and bites her in frustration. She holds her baby sister, lets her thwack her with a brush when it really hurts because she knows that’s her version of “brushing” hair. She reads her stories, makes her giggle, helps her get down when she’s stuck.

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She does not complain. Not once.

Because this is her normal.

Having siblings with special needs means she has been raised to be compassionate and understanding by nature. She doesn’t find people “odd”. She doesn’t judge or make fun of. She doesn’t minimise struggles. She is open, accepting and kind.

She’s got a wicked sense of humour, too. She’ll need it to get through her childhood and how it’s been laid out. So we make sure that we honour and encourage her interests and pore over her strengths. They’re totally different to her sisters ones and that’s so fantastic.

She wears her heart on her sleeve – she feels all the feels, the high highs and the low lows. And when we probably should be stricter with boundaries regarding her temper and how she is learning to manage it – we usually aren’t. Because she needs to have an outlet, a safe space where she can fall apart and yell the injustices of her world. She needs to have this space where she can get it all out and know that we won’t punish or scold her because her life is tough at times. She has been dealt a card that is unique to many people.

So we just hold her space and love her through it all. It’s OK to be angry sometimes. But she will never be so angry that we don’t love her or value her in our lives, there is no limit on our understanding and compassion for her. We model that when we fall apart sometimes it’s OK – we just slowly piece ourselves back together again. And our love for each other as a family is unconditional – exactly like her love for her special needs sisters is, too.

I see her. I notice her. I love her. And I am so grateful to her. For balancing us out, for being the pull in our push. For being the fire in our at times icy world.

Do not discount a woman’s feelings regarding the births of her babies.

When a woman has a baby and the birth didn’t go the way she had hoped, it is incredibly silencing and hurtful to tell her the following 3 things:
1. “Oh but the baby is OK and that’s the main thing.”-
NOT TRUE.
By saying this you are indirectly telling her that her needs are insignificant.That the baby’s health is the top and foremost priority. That a healthy baby somehow erases any trauma, disappointment or hurt that the woman experienced in giving birth. Giving birth whether it is vaginally or via surgery isn’t always a magic life-changing day just for the fact alone that the child was born. This doesn’t happen by default, much to the misunderstanding of others. It definitely can be this way for some women, but there is so much pressure for a woman who has had a baby to hold up this false pre tense that everything was just fantastic when actually it wasn’t. It was shit, for whatever reason. And yes the woman can go on to learn from that experience and she will likely evolve next time she is pregnant – but the health of a baby is NOT the main thing, it is part of the equation.

2. “It’s just one day.”-
EXCEPT IT ISN’T.
Every woman remembers the day she gives birth and how it makes her feel. She may remember what she wore, what she ate, what the weather was like, who was around. She will draw on this experience for the rest of her life. It will either empower her, or make her feel weak and filled with regret for what could or should have been. Giving birth is a sacred rite of passage even to women who may not be in the frame of mind to realise this yet. So it isn’t just one day. The day you become a mother whether it be for the first time, second time or even the fourth time – you become a new mother, again. And each birth is unique of itself and different. Each birth brings new lessons learned and challenges either overcome, or not. It might be one day to YOU, but to the mother – it is not just one day.

3.”But look at the positives.”-
JUST NO.
Part of the healing cycle is to grieve. And in order to grieve one must look at the negatives and feel them, wholly. Once a woman has been able to grieve the loss of a birth she had planned for, dwelled and moped – ont then can she pick herself up off the floor and begin to heal, and move on. This process is different for every woman and can take years for some. And that’s OK. Because you cannot put a time limit on grief. And overcoming birth trauma is the same.

So what CAN you say to a woman who has had a difficult birth?
Well, how about any of the following:

“I’m here for you.”
“Take your time. ”
“Be gentle with yourself.”

When a you visit a woman who has recently given birth you are visiting a woman who is fragile, and highly emotional. What you say to her on your visit can either build her up or break her down. So buy her some chocolate. Bake her some muffins. Do some laundry for her, bring her a meal. Be gentle and tender with her.

It’s not fucking rocket science.

 

When you’re heavily pregnant and people just don’t understand

.. that asking when you’re about to give birth is ANNOYING, please feel free to use this image:

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A friend of mine made it for me when I was pregnant with my fourth daughter. I gave birth to her joyfully at home at 44 weeks (yes you read that right.)

I find it really useful and effective at cutting through the bullshit that comes with being heavily pregnant.

 

I’ll share her birth story another time.

 

 

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