Difficult experiences sometimes cause the words to sit thick for me and to refuse to flow. I want to write the story of my sons birth but it holds back and what comes out is rigid and formulaic. Still I want to mark the present with some words, to tell it in the best way I am able even if that telling has no movement and is not inspired.
A little over six weeks ago Little Man came into this world. And for the first time, I had an extended babymoon. For more than forty days I didn’t clean or cook or do anything other than cuddle him, feed him, sleep next to him and watch his siblings enjoy him. I did occasionally have to break up a squabble or holler at them to sleep but all in all we were taken care of and it has been amazing. As a result I am rearing to get back into normal life, I’m actually looking forward to cooking! I want to spring clean the house but my little breastfed man isn’t ready to let me do that yet.
Step by step.
Little Man was born in hospital even though I had planned to homebirth. Once I discovered that I had Gestational Diabetes I lost my confidence to birth at home. I knew that I was feeling larger than in my other pregnancies and so I was influenced by the big baby fears. I really didn’t want to be induced but I also knew the likelihood of going into labour naturally before forty weeks was slim. Little Man was induced at 39 weeks and four days and his birth weight was 4.31 kilo’s ( 9.5 pounds) and he was the biggest of my five children but only by 200grams. Did I make the right decision in giving up my homebirth? It’s hard to know, I knew that I could easily birth a baby up to 4.26 kilo’s which is why I asked to delay the induction. Would a couple of hundred extra grams make all that difference? If I had birthed naturally at 42 weeks he may have been 4.8 kilo’s, is that too big for me?
The hospital birth was not pleasant even though I went into it trying to have a positive attitude. I know that had I birthed at home it would have been completely different. I will probably never know if I can birth a 4.8 kilo baby without complications. I feel very sad that it is unlikely that I will have more children and that I end my experience with childbirth with fear.
I had been induced before with my third baby but that experience was nothing like this time. I wonder about the variables, did they allow me to progress more gently? Was it less harsh because I was younger and stronger?
The labour lasted one hour and ten minutes according to my paperwork but it was two hours and twenty minutes from the start of the pitocin. Induction is so horribly metallic and unnatural, it felt like being throttled, like my body was going to shatter. I trembled uncontrollably at transition and whilst this is common, it’s not normal for me, I thought my body was shutting down. I’ve never had a labour like this and I feel grateful to have come out of it with us both well and healthy because it felt wrong. I don’t have any desire to itemise the unpleasant aspects, the unnecessary invasive fingers and the trail of ever-changing staff, the doctor who insisted it was likely there would be a shoulder dystocia before we even began. As it was he came out in one contraction, head and shoulders in one go. I think I pushed once.
I’m grateful to have a delightful and healthy little boy. I’m not traumatised by the birth but if I was a first time mother I may have been. I knew what I was getting into consenting to another hospital birth.
I have given birth five times, I know the potential for birthing to be a wonderful experience, I know how the medical system ruins this. But there are also times when birth needs to be medicalised. Was this one of those times? I am still unsure. In the week before the induction I thought about refusing but I was too uncertain. It saddens me that there is no in between and that I could not have a more gentle and intuitive experience in hospital. I began contracting naturally after having my waters broken, that wonderful soft altered state when you feel the beckoning of ancient women. I experienced the sensation of being pulled in and the warm trust that they would take care of me. It writes like a cliche but it is real. But after four hours of irregular contractions the doctors pushed me to start the drip and I accepted with resignation, I knew I was on their turf.
I wish that this last birth could have been an empowering experience that I could relay to my daughters with confidence. I still feel unfinished as if I glimpsed the transformative power of birthing but never quite made it there. Birthing is as much about women and the sacred as it is healthy babies, I believe this.
Fortunately my private midwife was with me during the birth and her presence gave me the courage to cope.
And here he is, my precious little man! I adore him and I feel so incredibly blessed to have him. He is a surprise gift, the baby I tried so hard to avoid and now he fills my days with happiness.
I’m grateful for my baby, I’m grateful for food and shelter and to not live amongst warfare. I’m grateful for a free healthcare system to treat the complications of my pregnancy. I realise that untreated diabetes could kill both mother and baby and I have wondered what outcomes there are for mothers like me in circumstances where they have no medical care. Although in many ways I think GD is related to the kind of society we live in, the foods we eat, our lack of movement….It isn’t a contradiction to be grateful for medical care whilst recognising how it could be better. And I want it to be better for all women.
written for him in the weeks after his birth
I watch my son as he grows accustomed to the workings of his body. His digestive system assails him like a storm taking him by surprise. He is caramel breath-ed fitra, a wondrous small soul. He gazes without blinking, his mouth a perfect circle and I gaze back at him.
I hold back tears when I realise we all begin like this, we enter the world in a state of complete trust. Complete grace.
His innocence is beauty that I experience as pain. There are not enough hugs that can hold him. He smells of fermented milk and angel smiles and he is entrusted to me.
This little boy is the greatest miracle that ever existed!
The movement of his breathing is profound all encompassing love. His days fill me with the curve of his newly learned smile and his curious intense gaze. I merge into his timing, sleeping and waking and seeing with him. He brings delight to my perception. Over six weeks we have lived each other’s movements, the world is his comfort in my embrace.
This precious gift that I moved mountains to try to avoid is now the greatest swelling of joy in the centre of my heart.