Birth Story - Sarah Buckley's recounts the homebirth of her daughter, Maia who was an unexpected breech baby.
Nicholas, my beloved, and our three children bought me a rose garden- ten rose plants- for my 40th birthday in May, the seventh moon of my pregnancy, and planted them outside our bedroom window. In July, a radiant pink rose, dearest, budded and flowered as we awaited the time of birth of our fourth baby.
In this pregnancy, the moon had been my calendar, and I knew that the birth time would be close to nine moon months from the waning crescent under which we had conceived our baby. The night before our baby’s ninth moon, two weeks of frequent tightenings culminated in a strong sensation that woke me from sleep. Still, I thought, maybe a few days more for convenience and completions. The next morning, Nicholas photographed the moon at dawn- a silver crescent framed by the sun’s early rays on Eucalyptus trees.
That day saw me compelled to finish some important shopping at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre- not my favourite activity, but I was in such an altered state of consciousness that the hustle and bustle washed over me. Lucky, too, that Emma (9) was with me to fill in the gaps in my rational mind, bless her!
Early in the evening my dear friend Suzanne and I – plus my Jacob (4) and her two children- were cooking soup for dinner. I leaned forward in the pantry for an ingredient and…pop! - floods of beautiful clear fluid, and the smell of babies and birth. This was the first time my waters had broken before labour- and miraculous also, as a friend had wanted me to collect some amniotic fluid for her, and here it was, pouring out. We lit candles through the house, and Suzanne smudged me and my birth space with sage and blessings for an easy birth.
Emma and Zoe (6) returned from hockey practice, curious and excited- “There’s so much room at the top of your tummy now” Emma said. Nicholas arrived home to a candlelit dinner, and we wondered if my soup might be seen again later that night! Still, I was hungry, and it felt good to be going into labour so well nourished.
Two photos of our family at dinner- the only photos we have of Maia’s birth- show each of us with an expression of our experiences that night, from total bliss (me) to uncertainty (Jacob) to excitement (Emma), pride (Nicholas) and blessings (Zoe). Moreover, both photos, although taken with a flash, have an inexplicable pink hue.
After dinner, Suzanne readied the children for bed. At first, the mild tightenings of the last few days continued, and we decided that Suzanne, who we had asked to be our support person, if necessary, would sleep the night with her children in a bedroom at the other end of the house.
Nicholas and I shared some quiet time, and we remembered the early hours of my first labour, almost 10 years earlier, which had caught us by surprise. The waves of labour had been strengthening, then as now, and I had been rocking, moaning and hanging off the wardrobe door as Nicholas sorted the baby clothes. At a pivotal point, I had realised that they would not be washed and neatly stacked before our baby (Emma) was born. Here too, in this labour, was the need to let go of things not done, and to surrender myself as wholly as possible to the unfathomable mysteries of birth and baby.
Nicholas lay down with Zoe and Jacob, and I cuddled with Emma, who was excited but keen to get to sleep, so we would wake her, as we’d agreed, when the time of birth was close. My last two labours had been in the daytime, and Emma and Zoe had been with me for the full labours and births of their siblings. This time I wanted a more solitary space, and they agreed reluctantly. Jacob, who was the least experienced birth attendant (“I’ve only been at my birth”) was a bit unsure, but didn’t want to be left out.
While I lay in bed, Zoe came in to say goodnight, and she recalls our conversation-
“Are you a ghost?” I apparently asked.
“No” she said
“Are you an angel?”
“No” she said
"Are you Zoe”?
(Actually, I think she’s come straight from the angelic realms)
I took the opportunity between my still-mild expansions (not contractions) to phone my friend Sunderai in Melbourne- she had been present at Jacob’s birth- asking her to hold me in her heart as I laboured. I remember looking at the clock- it was 9.20 when I finished.
After this, I moved into our ensuite bathroom, my trusty yoga mat on the floor to protect me feet from the cold tiles. I was on and off the toilet initially, emptying myself and my bowels, but then back to my mat. From this time on, my expansions were very close together- I couldn’t even get back to our adjoining bedroom to read the beautiful birth blessings sent to me by my women’s circle in Melbourne, or to gaze at the birthing mandalas which the children had coloured so exquisitely in my pregnancy. No time either for music, dancing, essential oils or water- as my friend Davini wished for me, this birth was to be “simple and present”.
Our baby’s birth was to be witnessed only by the family- there had been a strong feeling from the start that this was what this baby wanted. This was not a comfortable option for Nicholas who, like myself, was trained in GP obstetrics, and who was very aware of the possible complications and of his responsibilities. However towards the end of my pregnancy, he became more accepting of my wishes, and we stopped arguing about medical vs alternative responses. He prepared his medical kit- IV fluids and Syntocinon in case of bleeding- and I prepared my box of homeopathics and herbs for myself and baby.
Along with the decision to give birth unassisted, I committed myself to be optimally prepared on every level. My body was well nourished, I practised yoga and meditation daily, I had regular massage, osteopathic and cranio-sacral treatments, and later in my pregnancy, shiatsu, which revitalised and balanced my body wonderfully.
I also chose to have no medical care or tests- not even blood pressure- in this pregnancy. I trusted my body and my baby to tell me, through feelings, dreams and impulses, what was needed. It was a great gift for me, with my medical training, to liberate myself from numbers, and from expert thinking.
In my meditation, I had been given a series of affirmations, one for each level of my body, which I used in the last months as my own medicine. In the final weeks, it was only the last- at the level of my crown, and with the colour violet- that I needed: ‘I totally surrender and trust’.
This baby had a very soft pink energy- most of us felt that it was a girl, and even Jacob, who said he wanted a brother, commented “I love the baby because the baby makes me like pink”. The other colour that was strong for me in the pregnancy was deep blue- the colour of the night sky. The children saw both of these colours at the birth.
There was also a simple, domestic feeling to this pregnancy- no need for outside activity or people- and I felt keenly this baby’s love of family. I felt strongly not to be poking my belly, nor to let others do this, especially with intent to ‘palpate’, or check for position. For example, when I considered whether to book into a local hospital, as back up, I couldn’t face the idea of my baby being touched by others.
In my yoga I had worked a lot with pain, stretching into tight and painful areas and finding the surrender, the bliss at the centre. I wondered how it would be in this labour- could I find the ecstasy at the heart of the expansions? How would I be this time in the intensity of giving birth? I had shown the children the video of Jacob’s birth, and Jacob, especially hadn’t liked my loud moans. Zoe had commented, after hearing my birth mantra ‘Oh baby, baby, I love you, baby’
“I wouldn’t say ‘Baby, baby’, I would say ‘Love, Love’…”
All of this was in my mind as I moved so rapidly through this labour, feeling, with every few expansions, shifts in texture and timing, as my cervix- and my whole self- was taken up more and more; was sacrificed- made sacred- in this ancient initiation.
After Nicholas had settled the children- except Zoe, who kept getting up and so was present the whole time- he joined me, and we cuddled. I was standing, mostly, moaning, and circling my pelvis with each expansion. Then a new and exquisite space opened up for me, and, for the remainder of my labour, I was looking into the eyes of my beloved, telling him “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.” peaking and subsiding with each wave, while Zoe was holding onto his leg, cruising the love energy.
I was in an ecstatic, timeless space, yet also aware of the rapidity, of my baby moving down so quickly. After an hour or so, I felt a familiar catch in my throat- a feeling that the urge to push was close. “This baby will be born soon,” I said. But my mind was incredulous- it had been such a short time, and I didn’t want to wake the children too early. I said to Nicholas “We should feel my cervix”. “You do it”, he said. Probing my body myself, I felt the vital ring of my cervix fully open, enclosing a soft and strangely boggy head.
Nicholas had filled our sunken spa bath by now- Zoe recalls that it was too hot, and needed more cold. Zoe went off to wake Emma, who tried her best to wake Jacob. During this time, the urge to push became irresistible. I was standing on my mat, leaning forwards slightly as I worked and feeling the strong rushes as inseparable from my own energy- my body and my baby’s body working together, as we have always done.
As Nicholas left to wake Jacob I had a sudden desire for water, and jumped in, finding myself a beautiful position in the triangle of the tub; upright and kneeling with my feet supported on the sides as I pushed.
With Emma, Zoe, and now Jacob, still drowsy, sitting in front of me on the mat, I felt such beauty and fulfilment; a sense that the stars themselves had stopped for these exquisite minutes; and the absolute and total rightness of being- of all of us being- here, now. “It’s so beautiful having a baby,” I said.
The children said I ‘screamed a bit’, but I felt every centimetre of my baby descending, and I could hold the growing pressure in my vagina, without contracting against it. In this way, progress was very quick- two or three pushes, and not even a strong stretching feeling, and I said, “I’m crowning”. One more push and “Here’s the head”. Yet strangely, I had no feeling of my push finishing easily at the baby’s neck.
We were in candlelight, and I was tucked into the darkest corner of the spa bath. Nicholas had a torch ready, and he shone it into the water to check the baby- “It’s a foot”, he said. I turned, my baby still half in my body, and saw a left leg waving in the water. Nicholas leant down- I still don’t know how did it without getting wet- and freed the other leg, which was straight against her belly, held only by the foot.
I had two clear thoughts- firstly, that she might be posterior as well as breech. This would mean a very tricky delivery, as had been the case with a friend’s baby. But then I realised that I couldn’t figure out which way was up, in my state and position, so I let that one go. Secondly, I was glad to have Suzanne in the house with us.
I asked Nicholas to feel the cord- she was born past her umbilicus by now. “It’s not pulsating,” he said. We both knew what this meant; our baby would need to be born quickly, as the cord was being compressed between her head and my pelvic bones, cutting off her blood supply. “I’ll stand up” was my instinctive response.
Standing with ease, I leaned forward, my hands supporting her slippery little legs and bottom, and, without waiting for the next wave, I pushed. Out came her chest, arms spilling out, cord tumbling and tangled, then lastly, with one push, her head. I scooped her up into my arms, to the warmth of my heart. She was like a little bundle of kelp, floppy, blue and not breathing. (The children said later “We thought she was a dead baby”.) “We love you, baby, we love you” they cried, calling her in. After twenty or thirty seconds- it seemed longer, but Nicholas was watching her closely- she opened one eye, squeaked, and took a breath, pinking up straight away.
From blue kelp to pink flesh, our little breech mermaid, born tail in the water and top out! Emma and Zoe both saw deep blue and pink – her colours- in her aura at birth, and Jacob saw “blue, pink, purple, yellow and orange”. Emma had the important job of recording the time of birth- 10:48pm, July 26 2000.
Nicholas helped me out of the tub and back to the bedroom, and I lay on the bed, skin to naked newborn skin, all of us in the purest bliss. The children were very keen to know her sex, but Nicholas and I needed a bit of time to recover-which we did with joyous laughter. After a few minutes, we pulled back the towel to see that our baby was, as we had guessed, our own girl, Maia Rose! (Emma said, “I’ve been right four times now”).
I put her to my breast – her eyes were open now- and she suckled straight away. Zoe went to get Suzanne, who had heard the whole process, including our laughter, which told her that all was well. She helped with the children and with cleaning up, and prepared us a beautiful plate of fruit -and the juice that I hadn’t had time to drink in labour. I sat up after half an hour or so- it was getting a bit uncomfortable- and squatted to deliver Maia’s placenta.
We didn’t cut Maia’s cord, as we had chosen Lotus birth (as we had for Zoe and Jacob) where baby, cord and placenta remain whole and attached until natural separation. My perineum was totally unscathed- I have been blessed this way with all of my births- and I bled barely at all. My body felt amazing.
“Perfect!” said Nicholas- “An evening birth, then a full nights sleep”- well, almost!
In the days that followed, I was respectful of the enormous opening that my body had been through, and I stayed in bed, in a quiet space, with my baby. Maia’s cord came away, without any fuss, on her third evening. It was seven days before I even left the bedroom- where our family shared all of our evening meals-, and I didn’t go past the letterbox, or in a car for a full 6 weeks. Nicholas had arranged 1 month off work to care for our household, which he did beautifully. As well as this, friends and neighbours brought meals, flowers, muffins and practical help. We were fully nourished and our community shared in the magic of birth and baby.
The lovely Claire- traditional midwife and naturopath extraordinaire, -who had been so supportive of me and my choices in my pregnancy, visited on the third day, and weighed Maia at about 8 lbs. Actually we’d borrowed the neighbour’s kitchen scales the day before, but balancing a newborn baby on a dish made for food wasn’t easy, or accurate, as it turned out!
Maia was very inner in the early weeks and months, curled up like a rosebud and content just to be in my arms. Incrementally, over the months, she has opened up, more in accord with her Leo sun sign, and now, at 11 months, is very sociable.
For myself, also, there has been a gradual ‘coming out’ process, and I continue to reap a rich harvest from my experience of Maia’s pregnancy and birth. We have been blessed with enormous, and continuing, love and support from friends and family- thank you to each and everyone- and, most fundamentally, deepest gratitude to the Goddess for answering our prayers with such a gift- Maia Rose, Goddess of Spring, and midwife to herself.
“Faith in a creative, fulfilling, desired end- sustained faith- literally draws from the Universe all the necessary ingredients, all of the details, and then inserts into physical life the impulses, dreams, chance meetings, motivations or whatever is necessary so that the desired end falls into place as a completed pattern. “- Jane Roberts/Seth, as quoted in Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley