I got the call that Annie seemed to be in labour, and while it was stop-start, everything looked like it wouldn’t be long. My bag had been packed to dash at a moments notice, and the time had come. Who knows when is the right time. Annie had said, “you just have to be there…you just have to be”. “I will be on the next plane” I told her. It had seemed impossible that I would make this birth as the midwife said it would likely be fast, given once she went into established labour with the last one, it was only about 3 hours before delivery. So I had sent them a note, just in case I didn’t make it.
OK guys…I wrote… I’m going to do my best, but in case I don’t get there, here’s my thoughts on birthing. Trust your body. No one knows how long each stage will take but be sure the body knows exactly what it is doing and we are simply facilitating this process. Amy had said for her second birth she felt stronger and more confident and remembered thinking. “Bring, it, on!” She was ready physically and emotionally. I laughed when she told me and remembered thinking that for Tara’s birth too.
Women often get into a ‘Zone’ for birthing at the end. Brain waves slow down. Outside pressures, noise, activities fade away and only the birth is on her mind. The birth hormone Oxytocin is released when all the factors are right for birthing. With each contraction we release more oxytocin which increases the contractions. Then we release beta endorphins which are feel good and work as natures pain killers. Birth is not always painful. It can be powerful, as well as empowering.
You can do this too Annie, you were amazing at the last birth and you will be at this one also. See you soon.
As if a test of her endurance, Annie didn’t deliver as soon as I arrived, nor did she for day after day after day, despite some lengthy and strong contractions. The body moves into labour proper when its ready, and so we waited.
Would you have like to have been a midwife?” Chee asks me after I arrive. “A Midwife?, Hell no”, I laugh. I have been privileged to be included in ten of our twelve moko’s births and I absolutely love the role of doula, or mentor to our whanau’s births, but no, not a midwife.
I was very happy in the days before the birth as I dug the garden over, spread compost, began making a compost bin, trimmed the lawns edges, pruned the grapes with Chee and went for long leisurely lunches. We went to the Sunday Markets and I bought every possible plant I could pop in the newly turned soil. Covered their spindly legs with pea straw and hoped a frost wouldn’t take them.
“I’ll take the girls for a walk and let you both have some time”, I offered one day. Boots and jackets on, snacks packed we headed off. “We’ll be away for at least an hour, I called back, so don’t worry.” “Where are we going?” Three year old Aneeka asked. ‘We’re going on an adventure, I smiled. Lets see where we end up!” Two year old Piper looked up at me and grinned. We headed down to the Red Zone. I’d remembered going there with Chee and the girls last time. You end up at the riverside and its just beautiful this time of year. We came first to a man with nets out at a little estuary off the river.
“Hello, I smiled when he looked up at us. What are you hoping to catch?” Unsure exactly what kind of net he had out. “Whitebait, he called back happily. I’ve seen two go by, but caught none so far”. “Do you usually have good luck here?” I inquired. “No, he laughed. I’ve had this net eight years and never caught anything, but then this is only the second time I’ve had it out. The first time was last week”, he continued looking at my probably shocked face when I thought he’d been whitebaiting for eight years and never caught anything. “I’ve just retired and its better to be out than sitting indoors”. I had to agree but there was no time to sit around watching. The girls, quickly bored with our conversation had started off to cross the bridge so I ran to catch up. We watched the ducks first who raced up, just in case we had food, which were soon followed by huge black swans looking at us like ‘we better have food’! I edged closer to Piper, who seeing them about to head in, went back to the water’s edge to rescue her pile of stones, and as soon as they got close I grabbed her up before yelling ‘Get away!’ and got ready to run myself. Shoot they look like they mean business.
The Red Zone is where the houses were severely damaged during the Feb 11 earthquake. The land no longer considered safe to build on, the people have left, the houses have been demolished, the paths and fences removed, leaving acres of park like grounds with random fruit trees and the remains of established gardens. A rather eerie feeling as we pass along the riverside. What was a thriving community, is now an just an echo of families.
We pretended we were on an adventure, stopping for our snack to sit on logs and I told stories as people ran past with dogs, and still more set up nets at the rivers edge. Guys drove slowly by asking the whitebaiters how they were doing and we listened to them call back, ‘no luck today’.
We’d been away about an hour when Piper looked up at me and said, “I want my Mummy.” “OK, I merrily answered, lets go!” We headed off, me sure if I turned right we would soon end back up where we started. We walked and walked and walked. I was sure I needed to hear the local school on my left but I was hearing it on my right. Trying to get my bearings we played eye spy and I told crazy stories trying to distract the children as best I could, but ‘the shit hit the fan’ when Aneeka fell over. “Can you carry me, Aneeka wailed, dropping her body, my legs won’t go anymore”. “Meee toooo”, Piper chimed following her sisters lead. “Hmmm, I can’t actually carry you both but how about you have turns?” As Aneeka had dropped her lip good and proper I suggested to Piper I carry Aneeka first. “OK”, Piper immediately agreed, seeing reason easily.
I felt that once we rounded the next corner if I couldn’t figure out where we were, I’d have to phone. It was cooler now and neither of the girls would take much more of these shananigins. At one point Aneeka looked up at me a little disgruntled and asked. “Nanny, are you sure you know the way home?” “Oh yes I do. It’s just a little way up here.” No point in all three of us being worried, while I kicked myself for not taking a pushchair. For the next bit I took turns carrying each girl but before we got to the corner, Muzz, Annie’s friend pulled up and nipping across the road headed down towards us. I can’t tell you how happy this made me. “We’re having an adventure, I explained, but actually…can you take us home?” “Of course, Muzz laughed. I wondered when I saw you put one down and pick the other up, if you were OK.” I didn’t know if she could fit us in, but at this point I would have climbed onto the back of a ute and didn’t give a toss about seat belts. We crossed the road and looked on in amazement as she rearranged her seats and belts and we were soon all strapped in safely and delivered home. I couldn’t believe how far we were still from home and doubt the girls will be so keen to go on an adventure with me again.
Over the evenings I edited my China diary and explored the art of knitting again, fired up by a visit to Spotlight with Evon. We discussed the birth, using aromatherapy, distraction, massage, positive visualisations. We discussed what Annie wanted. A water birth was the first requisite. That was not negotiable. Good strong back massage. Ice blocks and barley sugar to suck on. They were good, she remembered. Everything was ready to go. Chee settled the two little ones each night and we caught up on ‘Game of Thrones’ to pass the time, until Friday night after dinner, we were on. Annie joked about it all stopping again, but we called Evon anyway who collected the two little ones. Not really wanting to leave their Mother at midnight, until dark chocolate was pressed into their chubby hands with promises of a movie. Annie and I fell into a rhythm of breathing and massage and Chee checked the set up.
With the pool not yet full enough, he guided Annie to the bathroom and looking back at me with a terrified look, quietly conveyed we had run out of hot water. I threw on all elements, filled every pot I could find, as well as one on the fire and calculated whether this might do it. When Annie came back Chee broke the news to her that we might not have enough for a water birth and I really felt for him. “You know what Annie, I spoke strong and confidently. I reckon we just might have enough and this baby’s coming anyway, ready or not.”
The midwife arrived and testing the water with her hand she tossed the temperature gauge to one side saying, “looking at that wouldn’t be helpful”. She told Annie to get in when she felt ready, while Chee and I added pot after pot to the side with a quick swirl before refilling. It was 2.45am when Jody arrived and 3.17 when baby eased through the birth canal and into the water, gently scooped up and handed into Annie’s arms, whose body was supported by Chee. A truly beautiful way to enter the world.
How ragged is the body after a birth! I remember that complete and utter exhaustion as Chee and I took turns to stay at Annie’s side to help. We all settled into the lounge. Kept the fire going with warming teas, toast, and bowls of yummy stews as required. On the third night Chee said “You look buggered Mum. You go to bed and I’ll take tonight”. No complaints from me as I showered and readied for bed, but hearing baby in full voice thought I’d check they could settle her before I slipped between the sheets. Chee looked me a bit funny as I reminded them how to wrap her, hold firm so she feels secure with a regular pat on the bum. She was asleep in a couple of minutes. “You look nice Mum” Chee complimented me as I tucked her down. “Pardon”, I answered. I was in jamas with face cream. Was he being sarcastic? “You look nice he repeated, with your lipstick on”. “What lipstick? I said, as I thought back to having smeared Chapstick on before coming out. It’s Chapstick, my lips were dry.” “Ahhh no, he laughed. Take a look in the mirror. I think you’ll find its lipstick”. Pretty funny as I looked in the mirror looking a little like a crazy woman with my grey hair all over the place and Merlot lips. Turns out I had bought Merlot tinted Chapstick, ‘hydration plus’. With no mirror to guide me I had roughly applied what indeed looked like lipstick, which from then on gave us a nightly chuckle.
Baby is a little gem, doing all the right things with her two big sisters keeping an eye on her progress. New additions to a family are such a momentous occasion made even more special when shared with love around a family. Our twelfth grandchild in almost ten years. I headed home knowing they were coping well and that I would be back for another week in less than a months time, as we had pre booked a trip down.
I am always amazed at how different each birth is, and yet how much the same they are. Three gorgeous girls for them, three years and under, each one already with their own distinct personality. This will be one heck of a roller coaster at times! They will have their hands full for a while, though fully supported by their village, I have no doubt they are up to the task.