I went into childbirth just prior to midnight on the day before my 21st birthday. I rang the midwife, who came highly recommended by my Aunt who had three home births. The midwife asked me all the pertinent questions; how often were contractions? How long were the contractions? Had my waters broken? Had there been a “bloody show”? Etcetera etcetera
Shortly after, the midwife and the woman she was training arrived. The lighting in our unit was dim, I had incense burning and candles lit beside the bed. The curtains in our bedroom were open and from the position I was in, I could see the full moon’s rays beaming in. My grandmother had given me a bouquet of multi-coloured poppies which were on my bedside table.
Now I know this all sounds a bit hippy and I guess it was, I have always considered myself to be a neo-hippy and my labour was going to reflect this, as this was what made me feel comfortable and relaxed. During my pregnancy I had read and reread “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina May Gaskin and was determined to have the “psychedelic” birth that she described.
For most of the early morning hours I had relatively strong contractions. Some I had standing up, some I had leaning on my boyfriend, some I had in the bath – I moved around the unit, doing what felt right at the time, being as relaxed and “at one” with myself as possible. After the first seven hours I was starting to tire and the contractions were coming strong and fast. My favourite position at this point was on the bed, on my hands and knees, staring into my boyfriend’s blue eyes -they were like an anchor; they helped me be still. The midwife was massaging my feet, while her apprentice rubbed my lower back.
The last hour of the birth was painful (though I do hate that term being used for childbirth; pain has such negative connotations and birth is anything but negative), there’s no gilding the lily, all us mothers know that the birthing process hurts. I was exhausted and the contractions were almost constant, but I managed little micro naps between the pains and I was transported. It was the psychedelic experience I had hoped for! The poppies had colourful auras enveloped in smoke and candle light. The morning glow was soft and comforting, yet somehow fresh and renewing. My body was doing its thing and all I had to do was go with it.
At five minutes past eight, the morning of my 21st birthday, I gave birth to a perfect little girl. She was born not breathing (as a lot of babies are) and instead of the midwife slapping her to shock her into breathing (as doctors are prone to do), I softly blew on the baby’s face and she inhaled, breathing colour into her face.
I held her to my breast to show her how to suckle as that was the most important thing for this new little life to learn how to do. Once she mastered this and lost interest, the midwife weighed and measured her. Then we gently rubbed the vernix into the baby’s skin. I looked at my boyfriend and said, “Indigo?” and he nodded and smiled. Our baby had a name, not one that we had discussed, not one that was on our list, but the name that belonged to her; the name that her being born told me was hers.
At some point I gave birth to the placenta, though I barely remember this as the next few hours were a whirl of photos, cuddles and serenity. My mother, her partner and my best friend came in to meet Indigo (they had been waiting patiently downstairs in my friend’s unit). My mother always says that she saw an old soul in Indigo’s eyes and my friend said that the baby had an ochre aura. They bought me a tree in a pot decorated with many little gifts and balloons as a 21st birthday gift. It sat in the corner a witness to the new life my boyfriend and I had created.
For the rest of the day, Indigo slept and fed and was adored. My stepmother brought my brothers and sister to visit. I remember my brother, who was six at the time, saying he could see Indigo’s brain through the translucent skin of her forehead. In the evening my other sister and father came with more gifts, pizza and a bottle of champagne.
Having a homebirth was incredibly important to me, it was what I felt most comfortable with and comfort is so important during childbirth. There were people who opposed the idea, but more who supported it. Having a homebirth put me in control of a situation that a lot of women forgo by having a baby in hospital. I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted to do it. The lighting wasn’t harsh and I didn’t have a bunch of different strangers poking around my vagina and my baby. In the end, it was the right way for me and my baby, because I remember, so fondly and with awe, Indigo’s birth as being beautiful, serene and the most amazing experience of my life.
What a perfect double birthday, the first we have shared of many as Indigo is now 16 and becoming a woman; a beautiful, smart, quirky, funny woman. Her birth was just the beginning of the story of my motherhood and I can’t wait for the chapters to come.
POSTSCRIPT: A big thank you and hugs to Sash for letting me share her blog space. Apologies for the bad quality photos; no digital cameras 16 years ago xx
Sarah is my sister, and Indigo, my beautiful niece. Both are to this day very important women in my life. Thank you Sar for sharing such an honest, and positive story of bringing such an important person into this world. Indi (or Didi to your little cousins), you rock my world kid… S xx