Birth

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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.

 

 

Home learning that carries on regardless…

I gave up homeschool planning several weeks ago since I don’t have the mental capacity or physical energy to focus on it at this stage of pregnancy but things just seem to carry on regardless. Last time we homeschooled I found it took about eight months to deschool and fall into a rhythm and it has been at least the same this time. The structures and impositions of the school lifestyle have been forgotten.

Tom says to me in the same sentence I love Minecraft and I love maths. He works through maths on the Khan Academy website for fun. He tells me that he enjoys doing cursive worksheets. I did decide that I would encourage the boys to work with the Future School maths curriculum on the computer since it is so self explanatory and requires little input from me and is therefore something they can do in a self led way at the moment. Tom does so happily as something enjoyable not something imposed, Zeph is always more resistant to structure but concedes because he realises it really is not much effort to do around half an hour per day.

This morning the boys did some Future School maths and then Zeph decided to go and make lunch, he enjoys cooking from recipes and put some chicken thighs in the fridge to marinade. Tom and Lili went outside to find and assemble some sticks, a bit later I went out to see what that meant and discovered them playing with glue, paint and small sticks.

I’ve given up trying to keep the supplies cupboard organised because they use it all the time and the chaos yet easy access for self led projects outweighs my desire for order.

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And so even though we are supposedly not doing anything at the moment we are actually still doing quite a bit. We carried on with a science experiment for Tom since he was looking forward to doing it and it makes sense to finish up the Water Cycle. One of the things I love about homeschooling is really discovering the areas that your children enjoy learning about the most. It is different from being told they are good at subjects in school when they discover for themselves what they have fun doing.


Lili has really enjoyed the garden this Summer. Every day she has been out there looking for cucumbers and tomatoes and strawberries whilst singing to herself.

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The weather has been beautiful. We are all excited about the impending birth of this new little member of our family and although the last weeks of pregnancy are always an enormous challenge, I am enjoying them too. Everything has become very slow, aside from hospital appointments the outside world does not exist.

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The time is nigh….

This is the view from my bedroom window.

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We have had a lot of rain and the plants are happy. We prepared the soil late this year and so we didn’t plant a lot of things but we have had rocket and bok choy and lots of cucumbers and tomatoes and there are capsicums still to come. It really was a struggle to keep this garden watered over the hottest days of summer and sometimes I used up my last little bit of waddle doing so but it is all worth it when it comes time to pick the produce. There are few things that make me as appreciative as freshly grown home veggies and fruit, there is something so beautiful about the whole process of growth and variety and something so calming about being immersed in greenery.

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I am spending most of my day looking out upon this view because if I spend too much time on my feet the SPD problems become really intense. It is frustrating because there is so much I would love to do in the house in preparation but still I am grateful that I can sit down and that the children are old enough to not require my physical aid and intervention all the time.

So much of our experience during pregnancy is influenced by what occurs at a subconscious level. And because we are conditioned to be rational not intuitive our emotions can get pretty confusing. Because I spent the first 30 weeks of this pregnancy completely avoiding the medical model I was able to really enter the beautiful rhythm of pregnant space. I didn’t worry about anything, I was not obsessed with time or what date I was up to, it was a lovely process. And I found the discomfort of having to suddenly exit that space and enter the world of medicalised birth very challenging. It involved a process of grieving for the birth that I longed for and because we don’t live in a society in which it is acceptable to include the mothers real experience as a priority then there is usually no vehicle for processing the grief, we are expected to just be grateful for whatever care we receive and it is thought selfish to consider otherwise. This is so short sighted because it is all so interrelated, the mothers experience IS the baby’s experience, there is no separation between these two things.

I felt very torn as I went about the decision making process, what aspects of the standard hospital procedure for dealing with Gestational Diabetes was I going to go along with? Induction is not complication free especially an early induction. And how do we really way up the odds between the risk of induction and the risk of macrosomia or stillbirth etc? It is difficult to be needing to make these decisions because what happens is that the more we are pulled into our analytical minds the more we lose touch with our natural intuition which is ultimately the thing that can help guide us make these kinds of decisions properly.

Initially I was told that I would need to be induced between 37 and 38 weeks and I was not happy with this. If left to go naturally I usually go into labour around 41 weeks. To be induced at 37 weeks is considered pre-term but particularly so when compared with my norm. Thankfully they did not push this when a scan showed that the overly excess amniotic fluid previously discovered had settled down and whilst the baby looks big there is nothing to suggest that it is big for me. At this stage it is just hypothetical, it can’t really be known.

I decided that I would refuse induction at 38 weeks and insist on being as close to 40 weeks as possible and I was kind of expecting a bit of a battle or at least being treated like a negligent fool but surprisingly it was not like that at all which gives me a lot of confidence because if there was any real medical need for early induction they would insist. I just gently asked if we could move the induction date forward a week and the doctor said it was fine. And this has taken a lot of the pressure I was feeling off, there is still a chance I will go into labour naturally and if not then at least there is far less chance of my body not being ready for birth at 40 weeks than at 37-38.

So now is really a time of waiting. Last night I dreamed that I moved with a group of women and children to a log house by a beach in Norway or Denmark. Our contemporary life is too fractured to make the real connections of sisterhood available but our bodies remember a more archaic time. I would love to spend these weeks sitting in a circle of women of different ages engaged in doing and making, to thread baskets and tell stories, to be quiet and listen. The odd conversation with a loved friend is not enough for me, I want it all day every day, I feel the absence but such is modern life.

I am being well cared for by the people around me and that is such a blessing. It is so, so hard for me to relax into needing the help of other people but the more I am forced to do so the easier it gradually becomes.

I decided to write down how I felt about not being able to home birth and it helped process the feelings.

Weary. Tonight I had a good sob after months of stoicism. Hopefully this means a good processing of all those things we are not supposed to feel but instead cover with a dose of saccharine gratitude. When another casual directive to ‘think positively’ made me want to start flying punches.
Acknowledging discomfort or loss or grief or worry does not cancel out positive thought. In fact it can be a stepping stone and a process. But it is so ingrained in our culture to silence the raw and churning places. And perhaps this is why so many live as dead zones enacting culturally prescribed roles but never really getting close to the pulse of life.
I am grateful and excited, there are a million things to be thankful for from basic food and shelter to the love of small people to the lightly showering rain.
I am also a woman on the edge of birthing sitting close to the heart of the world feeling it ache. There is exhilaration, anticipation and fatigue, fear and disappointment. I wanted to home birth and I can’t. I was pulled out of the intuitive rhythm of pregnancy into the analytical fear spaces. Trying to weigh risk against risk, decisions that seem impossible.
Birth and other rites of womanhood always open in me a gap, the longing I have for sisters, blood sisters. And aunts. Woman love. People who speak the languages of being female accompanied by unconditional love. The love that generally only blood or a shared childhood can accumulate. Pregnancy takes me into the heart of the island, my island-ness.
But well rehearsed now I can shed the tears and simply let it go. Trusting and knowing that weary spaces open us beyond our small limitations and in those openings there is peace. Shedding now the exhaustion and the hanging on and the million ways we women try to micromanage our lives. Birthing is the most beautiful time to surrender our illusion of control.

A couple of days ago I felt a real hormonal shift. I have not felt overly fragile this pregnancy compared with previous experiences but definitely in the last few days something has shifted. I have been weepy and grumpy. But it makes me happy because I know it means the time is nigh, everything is conspiring in preparation. InshAllah.

I have half packed my hospital bag and assembled the baby seat in the car. I enjoy the late summer afternoon air in the garden briefly before returning to my spot on the bed looking out on the greenery. It is time for waiting and patience and enjoying these last weeks, possibly the last time I will ever feel a baby kicking inside me.

I enjoy music that reminds me of being twenty and yet oddly contains lyrics that suit my current perspectives in life.

My little people also react to the slow pace of the household, all ‘formal’ homeschooling on hold now.

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I really truly believe that pregnancy is a journey for women designed to untie the places we are knotted. It’s impossible to articulate and so I won’t try. It is just such a truly amazing experience, a wonderful awe inspiring journey every time.

We women we know how to birth

Lili runs into the garden again and the way she moves transforms what I see. She is one with the wind and the late afternoon sun. She picks up a stick and she is calling ‘Wafa’, she looks for our cat. The sun is hot. Tomato plants wither against their stakes, tonight when it cools we will stand on the grass together and fill the garden beds with water.
The fruit trees tower over her as if already fully grown, she searches for her cat and the garden is a jungle. The fences are tall and this is her own private world. She moves with confidence.

I sit inside and I watch her and my womb is contracting. The pressure is down low, it feels deep in the earth. It tightens, tightens and I feel ready. But there are weeks to go, these are just the first signals, this deepness in me is communicating Beyond the confines of my skin and when the time is ripe the baby will come.

The house which just a few days ago was so neatly organised and clean has erupted into disarray, there are dirty dishes and piles of washing and I only dress if I really have to. My stomach is round and my breasts are low. My movements are slow and laboured. The pain in my lower back suddenly rings sharp and renders my legs useless. But all this is familiar now, I don’t resist it anymore.

I am resting. Waiting.

Sometimes I let myself be drawn out from this powerful energy, this other worldliness of late pregnancy. I am called into fear and into planning.

they will want to induce me, what am I going to do? Is there the possibility of refusing? What is safe?

The energy doesn’t want to emerge into cold sterile lights and the smell of disinfectant, the energy wants to stay home in this house that sees few people. This house with its fences and its garden and its layers of homeness. The energy is building and I want to abide with it. The energy fills a bath in the living room, it makes the lights low, it moves into the deep, it sways in the places where pain is not pain. And I am the energy and the energy is me.

I remember, last time, in early labour I climbed into the shower. Just to check it was true, if it was the real thing. And as the water ran and the steam rose it seemed as if I crossed over into the back of time. Water, steam, rhythm and sweet beautiful contractions. I could have stayed there forever.

Lili moves in the garden and I move in preparation.

I don’t want to surrender to my body being tricked. I long for the waves that flow from the deep, not a drip, not a synthetic mimicry.

I wonder why I am feeling these signals so early….
I have a glimmer of hope that maybe I got my dates wrong, maybe this baby is not too big, maybe I will go into labour naturally on my own before they set me a time on the calendar and call me in.

I am feeling the language of Maryam when she laboured by the date palm, alone.
I also hear their voices. I am too old….my BMI, the fluid, macrosomia, diabetes.

HIGH RISK!

But the deep tells me to move into the dark and these weeks now I am dimming the lights.

Now Lili comes inside and makes herself a cocoon in her blanket. She is talking to herself softly, she is several characters at once.
What’s the day today? one. two. three

Outside the foliage is enraptured, leaves like skin when touch calls it to ecstasy. I want to go into the garden and birth with the trees.

Lili is feeding her cat, she sings to her as she pulls the lid off the can. Wafa curls around her legs with love and affection.

I suspect I will be taken by the fingers and led through the lights and the lines. Step by step through the concepts of safety.
I should be grateful. grateful.

But there is a whole chorus; plants, bugs, bee’s and birds, a cat and a small child at one with the wind, they tell me not to forget what my body knows and what the back of time taught me,
we women we know how to birth.

Preparing for our newcomer

Well it seems I have fully fledged Gestational Diabetes. Now that I have to take insulin I need to be really careful about my food intake, it is different from simply being healthy. It is very demanding having to pay such close attention to food, sugar monitoring and insulin whilst taking care of a large family but thankfully the older children are interested in cooking and have been helping quite a bit with meals.

I love how much learning can occur just through household tasks. Cooking involves reading and planning, it involves maths especially as we always have to double the quantities in recipes, it even involves science.We are compiling a list of favourite new recipes, mainly things Zoey and Zeph have tried making themselves recently. Some meals they have made this week mostly managing with minimal help from me.

Tamari,ginger and chilli fish fillets with steamed veggies
Sweet potato and haloumi burgers with caramelised onions
Thyme, chilli and garlic chicken skewers with coriander rice and salad

 

I have had diabetes once before with my third child and the birth was induced at 39 weeks. Since then I have learned a lot more about induction and it is not something that I want to go through again. I wish that we could trust that such procedures would only be offered when absolutely necessary but that isn’t the case. But it is difficult for me to know whether the complications I am having are reason enough to induce, it is fairly certain that I will be put under pressure to do so. I am trying to not allow my disappointment over the potential ruining of my home birth plans cloud my feelings about the birth but it is difficult not to do so.

Whilst I am trying to come to a better understanding and make a decision about what I will do I am conscious of the fact that an induction would mean birthing in around six weeks so I have become preoccupied with preparing the house and generally getting ready…..inshallah

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And much of that involves rallying the children to help prepare and reorganise and tidy up as with pelvic instability my mobility is not so good. I remember at this stage of my pregnancy with Lili I needed to use crutches to get around. It was much more difficult then because I had three children under the age of six who all needed constant caring for and Tom was a baby who needed to be carried to the car. I had a child in Prep and a child in Kinder and I was out several times a day. Thank goodness our circumstances are different this time, the SPD symptoms are probably just as bad but I need to be on my feet far less. I’m also much more stubborn and persistent about self care.

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So we have been cooking and cleaning and going through boxes and cupboards and generally ‘spring‘ cleaning. The weather has been horrendous, I hate Melbourne Summer’s, it is just far too hot. But we put the roller blinds down and use the evaporative cooling  and it is bearable.

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After some initial reluctance I decided to turn our homeschooling room into a Mama and baby room, I just didn’t have space for the baby stuff in the room I was planning on staying in before. Although I will cosleep I do use a cot during the day as a safe place to put the baby while he/she is asleep or just kicking legs around. I love the idea of baby wearing all the time but I find that it hurts my back too much to do it for hours on end. I do generally spend hours in a day sitting and breastfeeding so we have plenty of time for skin to skin contact and bonding. But the move means we are back to using only the kitchen for our homeschooling…although really we use the whole house and garden, but for arts and crafts and writing that requires a desk/table the kitchen will have to suffice. And it means toys either in my bedroom or the front living room but that’s a happy compromise since the room we have taken over is large and has a lovely view over the back veggie garden.


We are using every available corner of this house, it really can’t fit any more stuff or children! Homeschooling does mean needing more space than usual, I have many shelves and cupboards full of resources and supplies.

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Tom turned 9 during the week and we had a pancake breakfast and he was thrilled with his present, a wooden stable with several horses. All the children love the Ostheimer wooden figures and animals, we have been collecting them for quite a few years and whilst they are expensive they are also strong and lasting quite unlike the plastic crap which my kids can break in a few weeks. I  hope that these toys are things that the children can give their own children one day.

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Something beautiful and whole

It’s already Friday and most of my plans for the week fell through. I have been feeling really nauseous, I guess it is a just recurring morning sickness but strange to experience so far along. And next week I enter my third trimester so I shouldn’t be surprised to be feeling so tired again, now comes the homeward slog. I love so many things about being pregnant but I don’t have easy pregnancies. This week I have been grappling with all those now familiar to me feelings regarding being sick and needing the help of those around me and how difficult it is for me (being hyper-independent) to experience that kind of need. I always fight it and resist and make things harder for myself than they need to be.

I put a lot of effort into meal planning and then was unable to follow through every day, we ended up eating take away. That being said, I have been substituting hemp seeds for burghul and couscous in salads and I’m really happy with the result.

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The best thing about this week is that our garden bed has been weeded and filled up with soil and is now ready for planting. Plus we have another in the process of being built. All three of my homeschoolers have either gardening or botany components of their learning to be done so this is going to work well for us.

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As a perfectionist and an idealist I struggle when things threaten to taint the bubble of beauty that I have built for myself. I build and then my relentless intellect finds ways to tear it all apart. It’s just a little idiosyncrasy that I have slowly come to tolerate in myself, I am endlessly hard on myself and on the things I choose to be close to, always striving after some kind of unreachable ideal. There is a great irony between my spiritual sense of knowing truth and beauty lies beyond all frameworks and conceptions and the constant striving I find myself performing in order to capture and compartmentalise. It’s an endless tension and a futile one because the very nature of the thing I seek is beyond all forms, it is not in the nature of form to be perfect.

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It is also a tension between my creative/spiritual self and my rational/analytical intellect. Waldorf attracts me because it speaks to the first aspect in me yet I cannot help dissecting it with my mind. I have learned to live with Islam despite my mind shredding things continually, learned to recognise what it contains of truth and to leave the dogma to those who need it so it is foolish to be dogmatic in my interpretation of Steiner education. After all my children are not in a school, they are not at risk of being indoctrinated into some reductive cult vision and I doubt really that this is the reality of most of the schools anyway.

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I am a product of a generational cynicism raised to distrust religion, to hate dogma and to be suspicious of all spiritual leaders and yet as a young person I never realised the strong dogma’s of my secular humanism and now middle aged I have learned that there are spiritual truths that require leadership and directive to move towards.

But the distinct lack of this kind of leadership and directive in my immediate physical sphere and geographical locality has forced me to always be interpreting with my mind making my mind the site of practise. The gentleness of Waldorf as something reorientating myself into my creative being is something I consider a gift to come across because it is all interconnected, faith, education and family culture, the tone and spirit of the house.

So I am leaning back towards what attracted me towards Waldorf education in the first place, something beautiful and whole. Does it matter if I call it Waldorf or Sufism or Zen? I watched this lovely short video this week and it struck me that this is what Waldorf education is all about really…or at least this is what it is about for me….

H just came in and said ‘Mum, you said fuck today!’ and it’s true, I did. Life moves on.

So after a week of take-away and television we will simply get back on the horse.