By Sheryl Sidery
The familiar jangle of the mobile at 3am woke me but not with a start as I had been expecting the call. I had received a text at 9.30pm giving me the heads up that things were happening. She was term plus 12 days and keen for labour to start, especially since it was a “super moon’ that night. They lived in a remote part of Pittwater in Sydney – so as I drove through the night the moon was noticeable due to the lack of streetlights. A few small grey bush wallabies sat by the roadside and looked at me as I drove past in the night.
I love the feeling of driving to and then arriving at a woman’s house – as I never really know what to expect – so over the years I try to keep my mind clear on the drive there – no expectations – just a trust in the process – one of my many mantras. This lovely woman had come to me at 16 weeks wanting to “free birth” at home with just her partner – and asked if I would provide antenatal care. I agreed to meet and as her story unfolded she described being left alone for a lot of her first labour – the midwife just coming into the room once the babies head was nearly born. She felt her and her partner would be fine on their own for this baby. I mentioned that there was a possibility that throughout the pregnancy we may form a close connection and that they may want me at the birth. By the next visit we had forged just that and the notion of a free birth was out the window.
When I arrived the house was quiet and still and I found her kneeling in a small space between the bed and the wardrobe. Her partner was filling the pool. Her surges were strong and regular and about every three minutes. The room was dark but for faint candle light but I could see beads of perspiration glistening across her back.
She slid into the pool and sighed that familiar sigh that it was the right place to be. No words had been exchanged as our eyes had met and she had smiled and we both knew that all was well. It wasn’t long until she made lovely grunt that herald’s second stage and I gave her arm a light squeeze. 17 minutes later she lifted her baby to the water’s surface and into her arms. I looked down and noticed that the baby was covered in the caul down to her waist. I waited a few moments – placing the candle nearer and the baby was asleep inside the membrane. As the mother didn’t seem to notice – I popped my finger under her chin to make a hole and peeled it back from her face. She went pink. I did manage to take a few quick photos but it was too dark. A shame as it looked quite remarkable.
Her mother wept tears of gratitude as she kissed her sweet babies forehead. I pulled the curtain back the tiniest bit and we saw the first rays of daylight stretching out over the water below the house. A kookaburra sang and we laughed too. It’s a girl. Her name will be River her mother cried.
Soon after her 2 year old son wandered in all sleepy to greet the new baby. He looked so cute in his sleeping bag – kind of waddling into the room.
After a delicious breakfast made by her partner I drove back home. This time the wallabies were nowhere to be seen.
After a quick shower, I throw some lunch in my small Eski and head off to the opposite end of town do a postnatal visit. This woman had had a great VBAC in water in the wee hours of the morning a few days earlier. She’d had a caeser at fully with a breech baby 20 months prior and was keen for a normal birth this time. She was quite conservative in comparison to River’s mother – and that is one of the many things that make my job so interesting – meeting such extraordinary people. There is no such thing as a stereotypical homebirth client. Last month my clients were a psychologist, a graphic artist, and a PR consultant. I am still not sure that a PR consultant does despite asking her many times.
I took on this VBAC client because she lives 5 minutes from my daughter – and my new grand daughter – my theory being that when visiting the client I could pop in to see my grand daughter. After the postnatal visit I call in to see them. We throw a rug on the back lawn and lay together looking up at the trees. She is the loveliest baby I have ever seen, which still takes me by surprise because I thought my own babies were. Being her mother’s midwife was such a privilege – despite how overwhelming it felt at the time – but that is another story for another time.
I drive back through the city and arrive home in time to run an afternoon clinic. I use a lovely converted verandah on the front of the old home I live in – which over looks the garden. I always feel relaxed in this room, with all my pregnancy and birth trinkets and paraphernalia scattered along the curved brick windowsill. The room has a nice feel. I see women at my home until late pregnancy and then I see them at their place. We just mutually decide how it will work. And it always does.
I finish clinic before the sun goes down – just enough light left to take my old faithful dog Hugo for a quick spin around the local cemetery. Some of the headstones are very old and many have babies names carved into them. I give thanks for my 4 healthy children and now grandchild being born in a time where a long life is expected and normal.
Then its dinnertime for my teen and myself.
During dinner I receive a text from a lovely Irish primip. “I have had some blood and mucous – is it time to get excited?”
I decide it’s early to bed again – “just in case”.