Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hazel's birth

I was quick to write about Mo’s birth after he arrived; it was a dramatic story. I was proud of the fact that I’d had the courage to fight for the birth I wanted, and that, when it came time to deliver my baby, my body hadn’t let me down. I didn’t want to forget that feeling of strength and empowerment, and I will forever keep those pages of passionate scrawl to make sure I don’t. Mo’s was the birth I wanted, but it wasn’t the story I wanted; fights and drama may make the story interesting later, but they’re stressful and unpleasant at the time. For my second birth, I dreamed of having an ordinary story to tell, free from crisis or suspense or any of those other elements that make a story one that others itch to hear the details of. There was nothing gripping about Hazel’s birth. It was exactly the birth story I wanted.
Moses listening for Hazel's "heartbeep"
On a Tuesday night last August, two days past my due date, my midwife (Jo) messaged to ask how I was feeling. “I reckon it’s going to be a while yet,” I wrote back, feeling zen after weeks of impatience. I had a clear picture in my mind of what the birth would look like. Timing-wise, it was just like Mo’s: my waters would break in the morning and labour would start that night. Around midnight the baby would arrive, and we’d wake Mo up so that he could come meet his little sister, and he’d be bleary but super excited as we cut the cord and wrapped Hazel up. Then I’d have a shower, we’d all jump into bed, and we’d sleep like logs until (late) morning when I’d wake up feeling refreshed and probably bake some bread for us to eat for breakfast. My children would arise and call me blessed. I’d go for a jog or something. (I'm getting carried away; the point is that in my mind, Hazel would be born at night. It was all going to happen at night.)

The next morning I woke at around 5am and then spent the next hour or so in a dozey state in which it wasn’t clear if I was actually in labour or just dreaming I was in labour. I woke up properly at 6:30am and discovered that the contractions were not a dream. When I first timed them at around 7am, the contractions were coming every eight minutes, but they only lasted for 30 seconds at most. Jo had warned me that there might be some pre-labour before the real thing kicked in (Hazel had been hanging out in posterior positions), but it was a little while until Alan had to figure out whether or not to go to work, so I turned my mind to the next most important decision:

I was having a homebirth, and I knew we needed to start filling the pool as soon as it was clear that labour had started. I’d avoided showering before bed for the previous week so that we wouldn’t use up the hot water in case it was needed to fill up the bath if labour started early in the night (IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN AT NIGHT, OKAY?!). BUT I’d run out of shampoo a few days earlier and had finally bought a new bottle the previous day, and my hair was so dirty I could have styled it into a mohawk using its own grease to hold it in place. I couldn’t have a baby with hair like that; I hate all photos of me post-Mo’s birth, and I desperately wanted to have a crack at getting at least one of those beautiful look-at-me-I-just-had-a-baby snaps I’d seen in homebirth magazines (I’d also invested in some waterproof mascara for this reason (Yes, it’s vain, but you should see my post-Mo photos (Except I won’t let you see my post-Mo photos because I hate them so much))).

I decided that we could use the kettle and saucepans on the stove to supplement the hot water for the pool, but nothing besides washing it could make my feral hair clean, so I showered. I wasn’t sure whether this was proper labour yet, so I figured there was still time. After my shower, Alan told me he was going to start filling up the pool. I told him it was too early, I didnt even know if this was labour. He ignored me and started filling up the pool. It was his one job, and he was going to get it done, dammit.

At 9am I was on the phone to Jo, trying to figure out whether or not she should call in at her place on her way from another birth to grab some tea and toast before heading to ours (I told her, yes, she should stop for breakfast; I was terrified of having her arrive just as my contractions completely stopped and having to tell her, “OOPS! My bad!”). I’d been lying down to see if the contractions would peter out, but they kept coming (they were now three minutes apart, we noticed as we chatted), and intensifying so that it was no longer comfortable to be horizontal; I needed to start walking. By 9:30am they were two minutes apart, but still only 30 seconds in duration. Jo decided to come.

Throughout all of this, Mo was running around as if it were any other day, demanding food and digging in the backyard (Jo’s first job on arrival was to go out and inspect his muddy creation). I still didn’t know whether I was in labour or not – what’s the difference between pre-labour and labour?! I had no idea. My contractions didn’t seem to be lasting long enough to be labour, even though they certainly felt intense enough. Plus my waters hadn’t broken, and it was DAYTIME. This was not how Id seen it going. Jo assured me it was labour, and Alan looked a bit proud of himself for having ignored me and started on the pool.

I was pacing, trying to find somewhere dark (who goes into labour during the day?! WHOOOOOOOO?) and away from the bustle in the kitchen/lounge room, where Alan (and then Alan and Jo) were hurrying saucepans of hot water to the pool. It was about 10:30am when Moses playfully whacked me on the bottom during a particularly bitey contraction and called out, “TIP!” I calmly informed Alan that if it happened again he might not live to meet his little sister, and we decided that Alan and Jo would drive Moses over to the home of a friend who lived only a few minutes down the road, and she’d drop him back when birth was imminent. We threw some snacks into a bag for him, and off they went.

Jo had told me she thought things would speed up without Moses around; left to myself in the quiet, I put on my CD of Pachelbel’s Canon and cried at my baby (Hurry uuuuuuup! I just want to meeeeeeeeeeet youuuuuuuuuuuu [my zen phase was over, I wanted this baby out pronto]), and then, in response, had the kind of contraction that let me know the wait would soon be over. By the time Alan and Jo arrived home, I was starting to feel like pushing. This announcement brought on more of Alans frenzied running from the stove to the pool, while Jo magically managed to be in all places at once, helping him while also pressing a hot pack onto my lower back while also setting up her things ready for the baby’s arrival. My waters broke at 11:05am, I jumped in the pool at 11:06am, Moses came home sometime soon after that, and Hazel was born at 11:21am (Jo’s notes say, “Annelise breathed out a beautiful baby girl.” I dont remember it feeling that easy, but I love that line anyway).

I was in water for the birth this time (I’d been “on land” with Moses), and, though I wasn’t in the pool for long before Hazel arrived, I loved the warmth of the water (“It’s too hot!” cried Jo, and Alan switched the hose to cold water instead), the space that was all mine, and being able to press my forehead against the rubbery pool side. Jo passed over a cold flannel for my face just as I looked up to ask her if she could please fetch a cold flannel for my face (she can read minds), and Alan stood by with my drink bottle handy; I was crazily thirsty throughout the whole labour. Each contraction seemed to bring Hazel’s head right down, but then as it passed I’d feel her moving back up again. I was restless, thinking, “COME ON! This is taking forever!” I was a little embarrassed at my whining when I found out afterwards that this second stage of labour had lasted only 11 minutes.
And when Hazel did arrive, I pulled her out of the water and finally held my precious girl for the first time. She was less excited to meet us, refusing to breathe for a while; Jo asked me to blow on her face while she rubbed her with a towel and brought an oxygen mask close. Hazel soon decided breathing wasnt that bad, and Alan and Moses came closer to say their hellos. We hopped out of the bath (I say “hopped” but it was far less graceful, considering Hazel and I were still attached via her umbilical cord, and the pool’s sides here high; Jo held Hazel, Alan held me, there were manoeuvres, and then I was out) and Hazel and I cuddled on the couch, while I waited to birth the placenta (it turned up just over an hour after Hazel did, at 12:28pm).
Over the next little while Hazel started adding to her list of Firsts (first breastfeed, first poo). Alan cut the umbilical cord (Moses was too wary), and I ate roasted sweet potato and sent out our news in text messages. Moses went to have his nap, Alan started emptying the pool into our garden, Jo brought over the placenta to show me the hole where the sac had burst, I nearly threw up, Jo took the placenta away again. I was shocked that it was only lunchtime and I was holding a baby who had been on the inside when I woke up that morning; it took a while to sink in: She’s here! It’s over! I’d prepared myself for everything that could go wrong during the birth (you have to if you decide to birth at home, other people make sure you’re aware how terribly it could all turn out); it came as a bit of a surprise to get through with no frantic race to the hospital. 

And that’s the story. It could have been far more exciting if there was a mad rush to the hospital, and no doubt I’d have written that story down months ago after telling it a bazillion times. But that wouldn’t have been the story I’d dreamed about; this one is. This one’s exactly the story I wanted: a boring, beautiful birth.


  1. Love it :) Thanks for writing it all out!

  2. So,so beautiful, made me cry and feel very happy!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Love hearing/reading birth stories. Can't believe it's almost a year ago.