[Hudson Kane, although some of what I am about to write sounds otherwise, you have only changed my life for the better. I would hate that one day you read this and feel like my words of processing are words of complaint, so let me just say it here, my son, I would do it over again and again because you are my joy and I love you in a way I didn’t think was possible.]
So, I’ve started to write this story quite a few times and then hit delete. It’s almost impossible to find the words for one of the most redefining, beautiful, intense, hard and mysterious experiences of my life; the moments (and by moments I mean hours, 33 hours…but more on that later) when I went from being a fairly independent married person, to being a mum, the centre of a little person’s world and the meeter of almost all of his needs. It’s also crazy how quickly the memory fades and the things that, in the moment, I thought would be imprinted on my mind forever, have become more of an impression…so the telling of this special story is from my heart as much as my head.
The plan had been to paint a picture while I was labouring, a sort of expression of the journey marking his arrival. Well, that was ambitious.
My waters’ broke at midnight on Tuesday – this was it, the beginning of things, things that I’d prepared for, prayed about, dreamed of. I knew that I was supposed to try to sleep, but I mean, come on, first time mum, first time labour, I was waaaaaay too excited to sleep so I waited for my first contraction, which came not long after midnight [Retrospectively, just by the way, sleep would have been a really smart move]. I sort of expected that that would be it for the next hour or so, but then I had another contraction about 3 minutes later. Right…you’re coming then my boy, let’s do this…I remember about 2 hours in, as the surges were only getting stronger, feeling pretty confident that he was going to be out by the morning, maybe feeling a little smug that it was going to be so smooth. I woke Lloyd around 3.30am as the weight of labouring alone had got to me, and I realised I needed him, but also set him to work on building the birth pool, as things were feeling pretty intense.
I was really privileged to have an incredible birth team. I had decided to give birth at home, and had a doctor/homeopath, Daphne, who had journeyed with us throughout our pregnancy, who knew our hopes around birth and who was calm, practical, sweet and kind. Then there was Leigh, our doula, who we had lived with throughout our pregnancy, one of our best friends, and a spiritual giant keeping the atmosphere filled with worship and encouragement [and also a LOT of cleaning up and tea making]. Later in the game, Lana, the back-up midwife was also there, such a gentle spirit who, I think (?) was the first to hold our treasure.
No-one tells you that once your water breaks, it’s not like a one-time thing and then that’s it, gone, but that from that moment on you are leaking fluid everywhere (listen if this is overshare at this point already, probably don’t read on, I won’t be offended, all you need to know is we have a beautiful, happy boy!). So anyway, by the time Lloyd got up, I was already tired, not exhausted, and mentally still very ok, but contractions are no joke. For me it wasn’t a pain thing, but with each surge of muscles contracting and movement and whatever else is actually happening, you are required to be completely present to it, and to journey through each one. I had read about this, and had maybe found it a bit waffy sounding before the time, but with contractions every few minutes, I had to get my mind in the game pretty quickly, no browsing through facebook or instagram. Even now, I’m surprised at how unable I was to engage with much conversation at all, even in between contractions.
With each surge, I realised that something that eased the pressure was to have Lloyd squeeze my hips together…I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, especially when things went much longer than I thought they were going to, but Lloyd could barely stay awake as he was also needed every 3 minutes..in the moment, I was a bit more like, dude, I think you’ll find I’m the one doing the work, but I see a bit more clearly now, my hero, swoon!
Leigh arrived after not long after 4am, and basically, she was completely present and available, but almost invisible, keeping on top of the fluid trails, maybe making coffee for Lloyd and capturing these beautiful moments on camera. Things, I thought, were amping up (although again, retrospectively, Daphne wasn’t in any rush to come over, so I guess she knew things weren’t quite as amped as I felt they were…) and so I jumped into the birthing pool around 6am.
This is the dream right? Beautiful and serene, baby flowing from me into water where he can float into someone’s hands and be placed on my chest, candles burning and some song playing gently in the background…
I got in the pool and pretty much from that point on, what had felt like acceleration started to feel like all the brakes coming on. Everything slowed right back, Daphne arrived maybe around 8am and confirmed my fears, that we hadn’t really gotten started yet. She also was interested to know how I was eating, sleeping and peeing… that was a no to all of the above. I forced a few nuts down me, and then had to deal with the fact that I hadn’t actually pee-ed for a pretty long time, I guess when there’s so much, um, else, coming out down there, it all gets a bit blurry. Alas, I needed a catheter, first an in and out one to empty my bladder, and then a permanent fixture when it emerged that my sweet boy, you were sitting on my bladder and blocking its flow.
I think it was around midday that I hit a fairly big low, everything had slowed, I was told I hadn’t even really started, I was still leaking everywhere and then I had a friggin bag that I had to carry around with me, full of my pee. Dignity. I was spent. I had thrown so much of myself into those first 8 hours that I was now feeling pretty over, my body was starting to quiver with exhaustion, but more than that, mentally I had given up a bit. Daphne sent Lloyd and I to go and walk around outside…I’m not totally sure what we talked about, maybe I cried, I know he encouraged me (because through this whole thing, I could see that he could see what a thing this was, and how proud he was)…and slowly my courage was rebuilding.
Still physically pretty done, Daphne gave me a full body massage (what a hero…above and beyond in so many ways) and sent me to bed…I cannot remember what happened that whole afternoon, but I remember being in bed and sleeping, and about every 6 minutes, waking up with a contraction, feeling incredibly alone as Lloyd was faaaaast sleep beside me, but then hearing Daphne, half asleep on our couch, timing things, and she would pop in and check my boy’s heart rate, then I’d drift back to sleep for another few minutes. That went on til 6am, when I decided I was done being alone and got up, had a cup of tea, some food and a shower. While contractions still remained 6 minutes apart (slow..) things felt intense, but having had the shower and a rest, I was a bit more ready for what was to come.
At 7am, I popped to the loo and realised that I had meconium in my amniotic fluid. Daphne told me this meant we had about two hours before my sweet boy needed to be out, and so we probably needed to move towards the hospital. Ok, don’t judge, but Lloyd and I had not packed a hospital bag. It’s like the most obvious thing on the to-do list, and we hadn’t done it…so Lloyd is panicked, I can see it in his face, desperately trying to find things that, only I know where – I could see that he was seeing the rush hour traffic we were going to face, and maybe starting to imagine the possible set of drama and scenarios…like giving birth in our car on the N2…but Daphne suggested she give me a quick exam just to see where things were at, before we drove. Bearing in mind my contractions were still very far apart, she looked at me, a little surprised (?!) and asked if I was ready to push, I was fully dilated, we were good to go, we wouldn’t be making it to the hospital.
Even when I thought we were going to go to hospital, I felt strangely peaceful, maybe that’s what exhaustion does, but when Daphne said that we weren’t going to go to hospital afterall, my peace was even greater. I had been wrestling with God during church the previous Sunday about all the various bumps and challenges throughout my story towards being a mum, and I felt him reassure me that I was going to give birth at home, a deep knowing I guess. And so when that was confirmed, there was no fear, I was ready.
I was laying on the bed at this point and gave pushing a go, wasn’t really feeling it, and it was ridiculously sore on my back, so that position didn’t last long. It was at this point though I noticed Lana, the other midwife had arrived, as I felt someone do something to my foot that brought some incredible relief, she barely said any words, but was this strong, gentle presence that made me feel very safe.
Just before I left the bed, Lloyd and then Leigh came and prayed with me. We knew that this was it, the sacred moment of the arrival of Snowflake, our beloved son was now in reach, and we all needed that moment just to stop and sit in the beauty of this hope. We moved to our wee bathroom/showerroom thing and I sat on the loo where I started feeling the need to push a bit more [the toilet was actually my favourite spot throughout my labour, maybe the presence of a catheter made sitting down a little less comfy, I dunno, so back I went]. Lloyd sat on the small green kiddie chair in front of me and held my hands and smiled, and maybe tried to make a joke, but mostly was just with me.
I do have a memory during one intense surge and set of pushing where he suddenly had a camera in my face – in my head I was like, what the actual [insert set of expletives]…but in my heart, I knew he was in awe of his wife and this incredible thing he was witnessing, and so somehow, I managed to not saying anything (which is pretty miraculous for those who know me).
Now, let me talk about pain for just one second, up until now, there was pain, but it was more intensity than pain, but pushing y’all, ayebo. I don’t think that mums are superhuman or better than anyone else…but let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that pushing a human through your vagina is something quite incredible and that women who submit their body to the growing and delivering of little people understand some things about strength, humility and sacrifice…jussayin’.
I knew that the dreaded ring of fire I had heard about was in process at this stage, and there were definitely the oh-my-goodness-i’m-crushing-his-head moments and the what-if-i-cant-push-him-out stage, but then I think maybe Lana suggested I stand up as it was time to push push. As I stood, I must have found some crumbs of strength from somewhere else and pushed and felt his wee head crown and hang between my legs! My contractions were still 5 minutes apart and while this felt like seconds, there was a longish pause where his head was chilling there waiting for the rest of his body to be released. The next push and his slippery body came out…Lloyd and I both straining to catch our first glimpse.
The cord was around his neck and arm and Lana was trying to unravel him, all the while, Lloyd and I are just desperate to touch him, to hold him, to have him with us. This moment is pure joy. I felt completely new and strong and fresh as my boy was placed in my arms. Oh sweet one, we have waited for you.
As I stripped off my blood and poop stained clothing and got my little one onto my skin, he found my boob and started to suck. How incredible, this little thing that has barely breathed more than a few times, is able to make his way towards food and the source of life. [Even in our weakest moment, we have the ability to stretch towards our source of life, the one who carries and nurtures us, Jesus, keep me like a child]. As the three of us lay on the bed, a song played which has been etched into my heart, and now Hudson Kane’s heart as I sing it to him every day, (more on that another time) “Take courage my heart, he’s in the waiting” and finally breathing out, I wept, with joy and exhaustion and peace and hope.
The rest of the story from here involves a rather slow releasing placenta, waaaaay more stitches than you’d want down there, but mostly just the sweetness of having a son, watching him sleep on his father’s chest, and watching Lloyd, my rock and partner in this marathon, step into fatherhood without missing a beat, as if it was what he was made for. Hudson Kane, we have waited for you.