Nathanael John Broadbent was born at 5:49am on Friday 20 June 2008. It was a full moon.
We celebrated the full moon the night before with our traditional family ceremony. Our oldest son Benjamin had laid out the Balinese Kris (a ceremonial dagger) and some other ceremonial pieces on John’s sarong – candles, crystals, feathers, an Amazonian head-dress, a Shamanic eagle and emu feather stick from Uluru, and we lit all the beautiful coloured candles left over from Benjamin’s naming ceremony - the first time they’d been lit since 6 weeks after Benjamin’s birth on 25 June 2002.
We each lit a candle and invited our baby into our family, placing our candles in a circle on the sarong as a sign of lighting his way in. We played a CD of beautifully serene flute music and enjoyed the sacredness of the moment as three was soon to become four.
From 2.35pm (precisely!) that afternoon I’d been having mild contractions every 15 minutes. They were regular and different to the cramps and Braxton Hicks I‘d been getting on and off for the previous 10 days. I was excited now and could feel the difference in these signs, as I watched the clock out of the corner of my eye for the rest of the day, loving their regularity.
At the end of the afternoon I felt there was still something unfinished, and so called one of our support people. I needed to ensure she was ok with the possibility that I might not need her to come over and take care of Benjamin, which she was, and to let her know that Benjamin might just stay with me and John but I’d ring her if I needed to. I felt a huge sense of relief at having made the call, whatever happened next was now entirely up to me and I was positive now that there were no expectations from anyone and because of that there was much more space for me to focus on what I needed to do.
I had a very strong nesting urge at about 5.30pm and got very frustrated as I went about cleaning up, as Benjamin seemed be making more and more mess and doing the opposite of what I needed! We talked about it that night and I realised he could sense our time as the three of us was in its dusk and my relationship with him was about to change dramatically. Benjamin and I then had our nightly bath together and the contractions stopped. I was a bit disappointed but not surprised as I’d heard of that happening in warm water.
John and I enjoyed the quiet of the house after Benjamin had gone to bed, and went to bed ourselves about 9.30pm. For the past 10 days I’d been going to bed with the excitement I’d felt as a child going to bed on Christmas Eve with all the anticipation and excitement of what lay ahead, and tonight was no exception, except this time I felt more magic in the air. I slipped into sleep. I had restless dreams and was dreaming about Benjamin and other close friends being our baby’s Godparents when I woke up. I instantly knew my waters had broken. Relief! It wasn’t going to happen in the frozen peas section of the supermarket after all. This was it! Could it really be? Yes! It was 1.20am. I got up and went to the loo, and then went back to bed. A sneeze and I felt more, a cough a few minutes later and more again, to dispel any possible doubt in my mind about the fact that this was it, it was really happening! I woke John up saying “Darling, I think my waters just broke!” and he got up with me. I remember looking at him and seeing a most peaceful expression on his face. I wondered how he could look so calm and awake when minutes earlier he’d been fast asleep. Contractions started again very gently just after the first sensation of my waters breaking, and they were gentle enough for me to get dressed into a sarong and loose top, with my dressing gown on top to keep me warm.
I didn’t quite know what to do first, but instantly felt grateful it was the middle of the night so there was peace and quiet in the house, and I didn’t have to worry about who was going to take care of Benjamin as he was sleeping deeply and restfully. The question of who was going to take care of him had been one of my major concerns as it meant inviting others into my birthing space, and now that we were in that space I simply wanted to be alone with John and Benjamin. At Benjamin’s birth I’d had our two wonderful midwives Robyn Dempsey and Jane Palmer, and 3 other people at the side of the pool supporting me and John, as well as several people in the lounge room and two people in the kitchen. Although that was what I’d wanted then, this time I wanted to be alone with my family. I got out Jane Hardwicke Collings’ book ‘Ten Moons’ and took it down to our lounge room to have another look through as I knew there’d be something in there for me which would help me in labour. I felt very safe having some of her knowledge there with me, as I could feel her strength, wisdom and essence through her printed words. I’d reconnected with my own wisdom and strength after being on one of her awesome Pregnancy Workshops a month earlier, and wanted to stay in that powerful space in myself where I knew what to do and how to birth my baby. With a reminder to go into the feeling of each contraction and to sing ‘Om’ during contractions I was ready.
The contractions started to intensify, still manageable though, enough so that I was able to send a text to friends who had been at my Blessingway, and also my sister, to let them know our baby was on his way. It was a funny thing, being practical took my mind off the waves of pain, yet to John walking into the room he just shook his head in disbelief that I would even be entertaining the thought of using my mobile at a time like this! I wanted my friends to know that their thoughts and the beads on the bracelet they’d made with their blessings were helping me and that now was the time to light their candle, if they were awake (which I doubted as it was 2am, but you never know!).
As the contractions intensified and got closer together, John asked me if I wanted him to call Robyn yet. It was 3am. I was a bit hesitant as I didn’t want to wake her too early, however I knew she could make that decision for herself based on what information John gave her. I was kneeling on our South American rug I’d laboured on with Benjamin’s birth, leaning over the sofa near our full moon ceremony circle and by the light of the candle altar. It was a very beautiful and sacred space. As the contractions came, I saw in my mind an eddy of energy in a whirl of water, and the way to get through them was for me to focus on the very centre of the energy, to go with the flow of its swirl and to swim with the energy rather than observe and be overtaken by its strength. I wondered whether this was what Jane meant about going into the pain, and I tried as much as I could to simply focus and surrender.
The pain intensified even more and the image changed in my mind – what I kept seeing was the end of a didgeridoo, its circle and sound was my cervix, and in the centre of it was a flame. John had changed the music by this stage to music from Uluru and there was a deep, earthy resonance of the didgeridoo which seemed to fill the house, it was a very grounding and comforting sound. Focusing on the image of the candle and the shape of the opening was very comforting, it helped me to focus on opening my cervix, allowing me to open naturally to birth my baby. I was vaguely aware of the front door opening and when the contraction subsided I looked around to see Robyn quietly coming into the house. I felt such reassurance that she was there, and much as I wanted to birth this baby myself, I was happier because of her presence knowing she was right there for me if I needed her. She eased into my birthing space and I was aware a little while later of her putting her hands on my back and stroking the pain away. At another stage where she put her hands right in the middle of my back it was as if she had got right to the centre of the pain, of that eddy of energy where it was all coming from. Oh, the relief in that moment of those wonderful Reiki hands!
A little while later I heard the door open again and looked up to see Jane coming in. I was very reassured by her solidity and knew that meant that we were serious now, there really was a baby coming!
I handed Nathanael to John and birthed the placenta in the pool after a couple of contractions. We wanted to have a Lotus birth after getting the message very clearly about one month before Nathanael’s due date that this is what he wanted. I’d sewn a beautiful deep red corduroy bag lined with soft white felt for the placenta and the umbilical cord, and had bought bags of salt and some lavender oil in preparation.
More waves came and I started to feel nauseous, which took me by surprise as I hadn’t expected that. At the peak of another contraction I had the thought of I now knew why women choose caesarean births, as the pain was so intense. Jane was upstairs with John filling the pool, while Robyn found a large bowl in the kitchen and brought it over. I didn’t need it in the end, as I started to see the image of the warm filled pool, reassuring myself that I could get into it soon. When I said I wanted to get into it Robyn told me it would be good if I could hold off a little while longer. Suddenly the image of it was overwhelming and my need to get into it much stronger, and so it was time. After a contraction I got up and moved to the bottom of the stairs, looking up them feeling as if I was a climber looking up at Mount Everest. I wondered how I would ever make it, yet I did, all in one go. I stripped off, I was so very hot, and got in to the pool though to my surprise the water felt too hot for me. I stood for a while until it cooled a little, then got in. Instant heaven, such relief from the intensity of the pain and pressure on my knees as I could squat and lean on the side of the pool. I looked down and saw someone had placed a mirror underneath me. Shortly afterwards I was aware of Benjamin sitting on the futon, gorgeous and sleepy-eyed in his Spiderman dressing gown, who’d come into the room and was looking at me in wonder and curiosity. We’d often talked about this moment but nothing could really give him what it was like without actually being in the experience, and I felt so proud of him and that he was handling it so well. A little while later he disappeared, putting himself into our bed as he said he was “Tired of hearing Mama going ‘Oooooh’ ”! There was a lot of torchlight shining behind me and a different sort of pain now. This was the most difficult part, and it was almost more than I could bear. I couldn’t understand why this pain continued to feel like it wasn’t getting us anywhere, why I couldn’t yet feel my baby’s head with my hand and why it was so agonising, and then I remembered I could ask for help. I prayed to my angels and guides and asked them to help me with this part as I felt I couldn’t do it on my own. Suddenly the pain decreased (Jane thought that there might have been a final bit of lip of my cervix in the way), and with this something within me seemed to click. I felt much less uncomfortable, less stuck and the urge to push was much stronger.
Gripping John’s hand with all my might I felt we were so very close now. Jane got Benjamin out of bed and brought him through, as with a massive push I felt our baby’s head crown. I was aware of Robyn using the Doppler on my tummy a few times and had been reassured that all was well, and at this point to finally feel the top of his head felt like a major victory. I remembered the image Jane H-C had given me of the 100 candles on the birthday cake and blew them out one by one with short tiny breaths. With my hand on baby’s head I saw an image of an erupting volcano, the intensity of the burning pain taking me by surprise. I said “I need a bit of help”, and so with Robyn encouraging me to take “A really big push now” and Jane’s hand with mine, I felt myself gather every ounce of strength of every woman I had ever been in the past, and of all my female ancestors who had ever birthed, and with this gave an almighty push. Out came baby, and as Jane and I lifted him onto my chest I finally saw him for the first time. What a beautiful head of hair, I thought! A towel appeared to cover him up and I was aware of Benjamin looking at us in awe. It was 5:49am and here was our new baby!
We had decided not to see straight away whether baby was a boy or girl and so took a few moments in that blissful space to simply be with our baby. A strong contraction came and I held onto him for a moment, then decided it was time to look. The moment that I discovered he was a boy, I instantly heard the name “Nathanael”. It took me by surprise that we had a boy because almost everyone had told me they felt the baby was a girl and so I had almost begun to believe it for myself. We’d had a girl’s name in mind but no boy’s name (other than the Leonardo or Raphael names Benjamin had suggested, after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!), and so hearing his name was totally out of the blue, we didn’t know anyone with this name nor had we ever discussed it. I said to Benjamin “Guess what – you have a baby brother!” and he was ecstatic. He gave a mock victory movement with his arm and said “Yessss, I always wanted a baby brother” – which made my heart sing even more! Our baby had told us his name.
I handed Nathanael to John and birthed the placenta in the pool after a couple of contractions. We wanted to have a Lotus birth after getting the message very clearly about one month before Nathanael’s due date that this is what he wanted. I’d sewn a beautiful deep red corduroy bag lined with soft white felt for the placenta and the umbilical cord, and had bought bags of salt and some lavender oil in preparation. A big bowl came into the pool and we placed the placenta into it, staying there for a while in the birth water, simply gazing at Nathanael and enjoying the sacredness and newness of that moment.
I got out and had a bath with Nathanael to wash off the blood of the birthing water, after which I walked down the corridor to our bedroom. Someone with a practical mind had lain out some towels on the carpet which lead into the bedroom, so with careful tread I made my way into our bed. Jane and Robyn measured and weighed Nathanael and filled out their paperwork, then went downstairs for a cup of tea as we connected with Nathanael. He was a little cold as we’d slightly overstayed our time in the pool and bath, and so needed some oxygen waved just under his nose to try and calm his slightly-too-fast breathing. As she left us to our new family of 4 on her way to get a well earned cuppa, Robyn suggested we talk to Nathanael and invite him in, which we did and which seemed to help with his breathing. All the while he rested next to his placenta and attached to me in his first attempts at breastfeeding, with his daddy and big brother looking on. His breathing was still quite fast however he seemed to be more present after a while and when Jane and Robyn came back in they checked on him again, with the eyes of the utmost caring professionals and beautiful women and mothers they both are. They left us to enjoy our babymoon together as we started heralding the birth of Nathanael, truly our “Gift from God”.
As discovered also from Jane H.C. there was a placenta remedy we could make which would be a great help constitutionally for Nathanael and so I asked Robyn if she could make it up for us. She let Nathanael know what she was doing and spoke to him as I took a tiny thumb-nail size piece from his placenta which John and I had chosen as the piece to take. Robyn told Nathanael that she would be bringing it back and he seemed to totally understand. He had a grizzle when I took the placenta piece out and calmed when hearing it would be returning.
We’d decided before Nathanael’s birth that John would be the one to take care of the placenta, and so that night he carefully wrapped it in a cloth nappy which had lavender oil sprinkled on it, and placed it inside the placenta bag. I was very careful to keep it next to Nathanael as close as I could and spoke to him to reassure him that I was taking good care of it. I’d been pre-warned that it could be very difficult to see the Lotus birth through to the end, because it could become cumbersome and mentally very challenging when dealing with it and all the needs of a newborn. This warning was the best thing that could have happened as I was prepared for a difficult time. Our journey was not to be like that though. Nathanael stayed attached to his placenta for three days, and on the third day I had a strong sense that it was transition day. I used some Bush Flower Transition Essence on myself and Nathanael, and went into the bathroom to get something. When I came out I noticed that Nathanael seemed ever so much more present, his eyes were wide open and he seemed very chirpy. I looked down to see the umbilical cord between his toes and realised that he had pulled it out and separated from his placenta. Nathanael’s birth process was complete. He was most decidedly present and ready for life.