The Fourth Baby & Mothering Three: A 2-part Essay

I wrote this essay during the course of my baby’s first year and finished shortly after her first birthday. I never got around to posting it. As I come back to these words — six months after the story told here ends — I realise there is much more to write on the themes I uncovered. If you’re aware of the goings on in my life the latter half of this year, you’ll also know the story gets more complicated. I hope to make time to process the next chapter, and write about it. The fascinating thing about writing motherhood is that it is ever-flowing and provides us with steady streams of material. I want to savour the musings from these life-changing events so that they can shift me into the woman and mother I’m meant to be. Our written words carry legacies for our children to inherent should they choose to receive. If you’d like to learn more about writing your own motherhood, please get in touch. My writing groups will soon be resuming.

Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

Part One: Mermaid Paths

“There’s one!” my four-year-old calls as we walk down our road. “And another!” She takes so much joy in spotting the rainbows on windows. In the photo I snap of my two girls after we tape up our own, I see the pride in my eldest’s face. This is our rainbow, she is thinking perhaps. “Ain-Bow!” my one-year-old begins to say after daily walks in the Spring sunshine, ever increasingly learning to copy her older sister.

The month before, we settled on a pregnancy nickname as a family for the baby growing in my womb. “Bow Bow,” because he or she is a “rainbow baby,” conceived after the loss of a pregnancy the previous Autumn. I walk the streets in our neighbourhood on our one-hour daily outdoor allowance noticing the dozens of rainbows with my girls and reflect on my own little rainbow growing inside. How long will this pandemic, they are calling it, last? Though I’m in the second trimester, I still wonder sometimes, how long will this baby last? And if she makes it, what will her birth look like come July? Not all rainbows.


Remember I want to know everything about the pregnancy. My mother messages me in the early weeks of this post-miscarriage baby. And I can never get enough of my other two beautiful babies. Maybe I could come over there sometime soon. I just miss you so much and the girls.

We process this part of our relationship — mother/daughter turned Grandma/Mum — over Facebook messages and Facetimes. We are getting used to long-distance, but it’s left little tears and holes in the fabric of our bond.

I have thought so much about you coming for the birth and staying for a while, I reply back.

I would love that, she says.


I throw some summer dresses on the girls and I, and we head to Botany Bay. The tide is out, the evening feels like the last spontaneous moment we have before the baby comes. We snap photos to treasure this season: me, very pregnant with our third daughter, the girls dancing around our feet as we walk on the beach. There are paths in between the rock pools. Little sandy lanes between the mossy, seaweed-covered chalk islands that make walking on my swollen ankles easier to get to the water’s edge. I have to walk to the water. The sea beckons the baby inside of me so that I must walk this mermaid path she makes for me. It leads to the next home I’ll have: an unexpected fluid state of transition where I can either drop an anchor and try to hold on in resistance to transformation or surrender to a valuable but violent undercurrent. These waters are new to me, to all of us. Yet, we swim on in this sea of uncertainty.


That annoying door. I remember this from when I was pregnant with my second child. Same door. Same midwife. But everything is different. I wait to be let in, this time not by the release button the lady at reception pushes, but by my midwife who is the only one in the building, the children’s centre’s normal services completely halted. She welcomes me in quickly, mask on, then retreats back to her desk to ask me the normal questions as I sit down across from her. It’s my first in person appointment since lockdown started. My previous appointment was changed to over-the-phone. I’m not nervous to be out, but I am anxious.

“For now, they are not happening,” my midwife says nonchalantly when I ask about home births. “I can’t tell you if they will or not by your due date.”

She does not remain my midwife for the rest of the pregnancy. It’s the “home births are dangerous even in the best of times” comment for me. I can’t quite fathom her perspective, especially after knowing the success of my less than 2-years-prior home birth “in the best of times” we now know as pre-Covid life. I don’t expect to have to advocate for myself so vehemently this time. Didn’t I do all that work last time when fighting for the validity of a home birth after a C-section?


I walk along the shore. Late pregnancy weight and my swollen feet sinking into the sand with each step as my friend lets me chat away. I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve spent with a friend since March. I need space, and the evening summer glow and the expanse of the sea is the opening. I stand in the gorgeous waters and speak her name, my Ondine in my belly, my “little wave” on the inside is about to come.

My husband and mother are back home waiting for me, my other two daughters upstairs tucked up in bed. “If I have her tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised,” I said. My summer baby is coming at the right time: lockdown restrictions have eased a little in England, and my mother is here in my home quarantining after her flight from my home state of North Carolina. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” was the echo of our weekly FaceTime calls right up until the day she arrived.


I am sitting in a different children’s centre examination room. The hormones are doing their thing, and I am bearing my soul and crying my tears in front of a different midwife having requested a change. She tells me she got into midwifery because she had a traumatic birth, and she wants to be the right kind of midwife for other women. She is just who I needed to calm my doubts, listen to my desires, and get on board with me. I see her colleague the next month, and I am also listened to and empowered in our appointments. They still don’t know when home births will be reinstated, but they walk with me along the way. I wait, and I hope, and somehow, despite it feeling like lockdown is taking all my power away, I remain determined to birth at home — the weight of a woman confident enough to consider free-birthing seems to move mountains, and I feel I have divinely called forth the opportunity to home birth with an NHS midwife the very week of my due date not just for myself, but for the other mothers around me.


I feel something like wetness between my legs in the middle of sleeping and waking and hoping and willing. I touch my vulva to investigate. It’s warm. It’s liquid. But is it blood? I stand beside the bed. A small trickle, and then a gush. The flow of my waters releases a giddiness and relief in the early hours of fresh daylight. 4am after my beach walk with my friend. This is definitely it, David. We google it. Read and discuss it. We sop up the liquid on the floor with towels.

“I don’t want to wake my mom yet,” I say. “I just want this to be ours right now.” I wanted Ondine to be born en caul, the “mermaid birth” I thought would suit her, but my water breaking pre-labour and not in the birthing pool is something new I’ve never experienced. A whole new world is breaking before me. I try to sleep again, but I don’t. I breathe. I wait. A few hours later, the girls wake up. My toddler has her morning mama’s milk, and I can feel a little contraction building.

“Some time today or tonight, Bow Bow is coming,” I tell them as they sit on our bed. “My body has started to tell me it’s time.” Sharing with them the sacred work my body can do is a gift. They go about their day playing and being. I try to relax, prepare my mind, and go into my own bubble in my home, hypnobirthing tracks and my music playlist going. But daytime early labour drags on, and the girls are restless. My mother takes them out. We have a visit from an on-duty midwife in the afternoon. All is fine, but contractions are very few and far between. I am left with gaps where little doubts and questions start to appear, and I have to force my mind to a place of reassurance that my body will follow the energy I give out. Magical birthing energy.

I make a space up in my bedroom to harness that energy. I rest (not sleep) and watch peaceful birthing videos and let the happy tears flow. Seven in the evening now, and I can feel it kicking up a notch, mindful that my body knows the night is coming, the children will sleep soon. We fill the birthing pool, and I invite the girls to play in the water with me as I sway and kneel, sometimes pausing to breath deeply. I love their skin touching mine, their tender eyes and precious souls not fully aware of birth power but reminding me of their intrinsic bond with my womb and the connection they have as fruit of my previous labouring. I am confident in this space, just my family with me, no professionals around.

But David makes the call to get the midwife here, as he can tell I’m near time, and perhaps we waited a little too long to call last time. He gets the girls out of the pool and up to bed, each of these things going so smoothly, me blissfully not in hard mothering mode.

I quietly labour in the pool with just my mother in the room. It is calm and something feels quite reverent. She has watched me do many things as I grew up, but this is the most powerful she has seen me. Her presence at this birth is a bridge to our bond. I will give the daughter within me one of my grandmother’s names, a formidable woman who gave birth to thirteen babies, a heritage I can claim, a reconnection to my maternal lineage.

Once David is back in the room, I want him to hold me and not let go. We have made four babies together, and when we lost the third one, it changed everything. I feel intensely desperate for him, because this addition takes on a new meaning after grief. Re-trusting my body in this pregnancy and labour when not so long before it wasn’t able to hold one for very long takes courage, and David is the one who makes me feel most brave.

I am out of the pool, prepared for the midwife to check the heartbeat. It’s actually you! I think, internally pleased and incredibly grateful as the on duty midwife who walks in is the one who first listened to me a few months back. She is trying to clock the baby’s heartbeat, but I am uncomfortable lying down, labour is moving along rapidly now, and I am certain my baby’s head and therefore chest is just too far down to really hear on the outside.

“I’m going back in the pool,” I tell her. I breathe. I roar as I instinctively push. I am hunkered down, holding my arms around David’s neck. She suggests I turn over, which I didn’t think I wanted, but it’s better this way this time. “Yep, I can see her head,” she says. On the next contraction, the baby comes out to her nose. I breathe, but I need the next wave to see her out fully. It’s probably only 30 seconds, but it feels like forever. A brief What if? or two pops up in my thoughts, but then my body’s current moves me away from anything cerebral, and she is now there in the water, and then she is in my arms and on my chest.

Everything goes quiet. The midwife (and the second one I wasn’t really ever aware of) move into the other room. I speak to my baby. Our first sighs and tiny noises we greet one another with linger there above us as David and my mother look on with joy and admiration.

“You did so well, little one,” I tell her. “We did it brilliantly together.”

After we are congratulated and praised, I am helped out of the pool. Ondine and I work on her latching to my breast as I wait for the placenta to make its way. I am easily frustrated with this part of birth. An hour passes, and I opt for the injection. There my placenta finally comes, so heavy with the life blood of sustaining a baby during gestation. It’s massive, and we investigate to see a large clot of blood sitting in it. “No wonder the birth was so tidy in the water,” my midwife muses. I marvel more this time at these little details.

There are no tears this time either, only minor abrasions. “She was actually back to back,” the midwife tells me. “It’s remarkable how well you did.”

My mind reels at this thought: “She’s sunny side up (what they call back to back in the States), and your pelvis is shaped in a way that will make it harder for her to come out.” I recall these words said to me by my doctor in hospital at my very first birth, which ended in unnecessary c-section. Ondine’s birth healing old wounds I didn’t know were still there. I have a shower. I eat. We sleep some. I am bewildered over the experience. Overwhelmed at the thought of raising three in a Covid world.


November. Another lockdown. A stressful house move with three little ones with little help because of restrictions. A subdued Christmas with a 5-month-old who can’t go to other people’s houses. A winter lockdown that drags. Postpartum depression. Rage. Then I try cold water swimming and reaching out. Therapy. Spring. Slow lifting of restrictions. My mother books another flight. Easter with friends in the park. An anti-depressant. May is grey but hopeful. The sun comes in June. Mom comes in July.

“I feel connected to you in a deeper way,” I tell her on Facetime days before her flight. “Such a good conversation,” she agrees. We chat about how the past year has linked us. I understand her differently as we have shared more openly this year about our mental health, stigmas being broken down. We’re in very different mothering worlds, my generation and hers, and I often feel far from each other in some of our approaches to life, but we are attached in deeply spiritual ways forever, just like my daughters are to me. The more daughters I have, perhaps the more understanding I have of my mother. It is, consequently, the celebration of Ondine’s first year and the subsequent birthdays of my daughters in close succession that brings my mother here for a three month stay.

The year of Ondine: the “little wave” whose context has crashed into me with such force the ripples continue to appear. A year of being a mother to three, and it is this third daughter who has also quietly brought me to the sea in a new way. Now I see that I swim fully submerged not because I drown, but because I surrender. Drenched in the weight of giving in to the current, letting go of control, and gaining an entire, new ecosystem.


“It feels like we are celebrating still being alive,” I say to David. We are sitting on the beach steps, half an hour after I’ve put the littlest ones to bed, the evening of Ondi’s birthday. The sun has dipped into the sea already, but the sky is still on embers. Mom is sitting at home and will tuck Talitha in with her whilst we’re out. The novelty of a drink out together somewhere other than our living room makes me feel almost young. I yawn, though, and cuddle in close to him, the sea air fresh and tingly on my bare legs. “The rest of this year is going to be different,” he says. I know what he means. It’s going to be better. But really I hear a proclamation for all of the future, an acceptance of change, a leaning into new territory with no idea of the twists and turns. Making new paths for mermaids.

The Elements of Plot

The Elements of Plot:

A Creative Essay

Exposition

I fall asleep with the blanket over my head. I hate that my bedroom light is on right above me and that the hallway light has been left on, too, but I don’t have the energy to turn either of them off. Nor do I dare come out of the state my husband has left me in as he ushers the five and two-year-old out and carries the five-month-old in his arms down the stairs. If I get up I might see myself in the mirror, and the current inner image of myself is already too vulnerable, as fragile as the silence I am now left with. I flick the blanket a little to get air, feel annoyed about the light again, but instead, I succumb to the good-enough obscurity that is available upon closing my eyes. One of my biggest pet peeves is forgotten about in the flimsy protection of the blanket. I want any time I have away from them to be productive. I could be writing, I think. But I need this, too, and if I’m ever going to be writing, I must slip into this subplot where I am nothing to no one as much as I can.


It’s the little wrinkled up nose she got from me, a five going on fifteen-year-old growl to match my thirty-six-year-old post-partum one, and rage-filled lips (like the ones I used yesterday on her father) ready to fire out her disapproval over the simple “not yet” she’s just heard that gets me. I will curate my words, take pause to breathe deeply and likely walk away for a moment, yet she will hurl her insults at me as freely as I wish I could. I must recreate myself. I must access the art of being calm. I made her, but she is making me.

In the bathroom, my middle child climbs to stand on the toilet. “Hair cut!” she says enthusiastically. She wants me to cut hers as I’ve just trimmed her older sister’s fringe. I have the idea to give her a pixie cut for her second birthday when I wouldn’t dare cut those baby hairs on her sister a few years prior. I’m mostly not afraid anymore of making mistakes like I was with my first. I snip here and there. “Stay still, please,” I plead. “Okay, mummy,” she returns as she smiles at me with her knowing eyes. I fluff her soft strands of hair and step back to admire the darling style I’ve created for her.

Two years before this moment: a birthing pool stands in my living room. The midwife and my doula step back and watch my power unleash. A baby girl emerges through my vaginal canal for the first time. My curated second pregnancy and home VBAC — lessons learned from the first — is the creation of my empowerment. The next morning, the sun shines through my windows, and I bask in it, my new baby in my arms cuddled in my bed.  I am proud. I am grateful. I forged a dream into a reality. I wrote my own story.

Complication

I want to conceive for the first time, but I am not pregnant yet. My husband works third shift. I am alone with Netflix to save me from this brick of nightly silence. I browse Instagram from my bed, post a few lines of poetry, but I don’t really write. I will do that tomorrow night. I have time. I think of the few concentrated sessions I spent in my twenties writing a novel, how I edit and add to the thing here and there. Yet it sits unfinished at the bottom right corner on my desktop. It has for two years. I still have time.

And then my period does not come, and I take a test, and I am elated. I sit on the toilet and he crouches in front of me and we smile and cry in almost disbelief. I have created one. I feel the magic immediately, and I know that this baby is the most real thing I have ever come up with. My body creates a safe place, and it cultivates this home daily. She grows and grows.

A writer friend tells me, in a moment of excitement and encouragement over my writing, that he envisions me finishing my novel right around the time my first child is born. “It’s good,” he says. “Don’t leave it.”


Other mothers write and publish books. Poetry. Fiction and non-fiction. They paint and draw and print and design and sale. They have massive audiences on social media, and I am a follower. Some of them I truly believe are genuine. But I have no idea how they do it. They seem to be saying I can, too. They answer questions about how they juggle childcare, their inspiration, their process. Some of them get paid to show me how it’s done. That I can also give something of my creative efforts to the vast and instant virtual museum of the people. Maybe one day I’ll take a course.

I don’t revisit the daunting file on my computer during my first pregnancy. She is nearly two when I look at it again. A few more times, but she is five now, and I have left it in its organic state all this time. Other original and some published words pour from me. Poems. Articles. Interviews. Essays. These make me a professional freelance writer. I compose dozens of heartfelt captions on Instagram. I write songs. Lullabies. A half-finished children’s book. I expect I may start an entirely different novel before I finish that first one. I am getting used to starting things whilst others are in progress.

Rising Action

I am trying to rest on my sofa, and I feel a sudden urge to use the toilet, to maybe even push. I am 10 weeks along in my third pregnancy. I know something is about to happen, and I am grateful the eldest is at nursery, and my second is upstairs asleep, so I can be alone in the bathroom for this. I catch the pregnancy product in my hands after the release. I hold it tenderly and instinctively know that it is what should have become my baby. From the amount of blood I passed the night before, there is no question in my heart. After the hospital and Early Pregnancy Unit appointments, and our own private burial of what I held in the bathroom, and after the talks with my eldest daughter that she would not yet have another sibling after all, I lock a piece of my heart away. Frozen fragments of inspiration hang around the door of my soul, but I don’t write anything. They take time to melt.

Climax

“Mummy, the baby is crying,” my five-year-old calls. I can hear the first rumbles of discomfort from my youngest, the latest one who, once conceived, actually kept growing and led me to a second home-birth. This time in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, which will someday become a badge of honour, but for now, I recognise the miracle, recreate myself once more, and trudge on. 

Just a few more tea towels, I think.

“She cryin’,” the two-year-old echoes but with that loud intonation of a toddler trying to figure out her own voice. I drop the laundry that I am folding, individual piles on the kitchen table, knowing full well that at least some of these neat piles will be destroyed within seconds of me picking up the baby and sitting down to feed her. I walk past the dishes still in the sink and nearly trip over the dishwasher door I left open. Eventually the rest of the plates and cups will join their dirty little family, but for now, I re-join mine sitting in front of the TV. The baby feeds vigorously. The oxytocin is releasing, and my eyes long to close. I, too, want to drink in this moment. But now they are gone playing loudly, and Moana is singing to no one but me, and I can hear one — no both — of them are in the laundry basket pretending it’s a ship or a car, the remaining clean clothes presumably dumped out in the kitchen floor. Nothing is ever done. Housework, toy-playing endeavours, and arts and crafts are always scattered half-way finished around my house. One big, messy and complex plot setting.


I write again, and even create space within my shrinking world of continuing lockdowns and self-isolation to encourage other mothers to write. The sound of women’s voices discussing their pieces in a mothers writing group video call fills my kitchen whilst my babies are asleep in their beds. I have opened up a way for us to connect, and to experience the bond of words. Writing motherhood.

Falling Action

Each of them are busy on the floor. The eldest is arranging her faux flower garden and bouquets, items for which she specifically asked for Christmas. She picks flowers, leaves, stones, berries, twigs, rose hips, or sea shells incessantly on our walks. She is kindred with colours and nature, well-acquainted with treasures from the earth. My second daughter is building a train track, making some kind of circle around her baby sister. She is fascinated by the little magnetic trains and how they join together to make one long convoy. The baby is on her belly observing the texture of the carpet on her teeny fingertips. Her head darts back and forth as her sisters’ voices echo between the walls of the room. They are playing and simply being — inquisitive, happy little souls — working with magic and creating their own.

I sit and watch them. I didn’t teach them this. “Look, Mama!” they say, inviting me into their dialogue. They are teaching me what I must have once known. I hope I can remind them to stay alive in wonder when they come to whatever age it is that we forget the ancient art of being. I want to keep passing this energy between us, my girls and I. I want vitality and their magic to be my legacy, the family narrative, long after I’m gone.

Resolution

We’re out for a day trip together, and the sea air is just what I need. My husband is chasing the girls, and I’m carrying the baby in the sling. Fluffy clouds are scattered across the sky, and as I look out into the expanse before me, my mind drifts. This is where she had that big moment of realisation. My main character, trapped in my computer for years, still dances around the places we go. Far removed from me, yet unbearably close.


The sun pours in my bedroom window where my little desk sits. My laptop lies closed. I want to write in the day time hours, and I can almost taste the hot coffee I would sit beside me and hear the music from the writing playlist I made once. I sigh at the visual invitation whilst my daughters are literally pulling me and my greasy hair out of my bed to another day of playing and pretending, ignoring the house work, and trying hard not to raise my voice (but still raising my voice).


And then I do get a day where my friend takes the bigger two to the park. The baby plays on the floor with random objects I give her, my fingers type lines here and there. I pick her up, and bounce her on my lap, and type with one hand. She watches patiently, a calmer soul than I’ve known with my other two so far. These strings of words. Will they ever amount to anything? I thank my mind for giving me what it can whilst holding the third human my body gave me. The coos from this squishy baby I have sustained the past six months with life-giving milk from my breasts becomes part of the soundtrack of my creativity. I take a moment to kiss her soft lips and smell her warm head. I place her in my lap and let her tiny arms reach over mine as my fingers find the keys again, my leg bouncing her. This is me. Mother. Writer.

Dénouement

I come back to the novel. My main character joins me in this place. She lets out a hearty laugh over the time that has passed since we last spoke. You know I’m not the same person I was, right? she asks me. And I know neither am I. She watches me and my girl. We linger here at the thought that my life continues, so my words will. Maybe I am not who I need to be to write her fully. Maybe she is merely my muse, some reflection of me that is urging me on.

The cursor blinks, and then I type. Plot lines and new characters await.

What is writing energy?

Our writing energy is essentially our motivation for writing. It’s the thing that makes us feel if I don’t get these words down now, I’ll explode! It’s inspiration, and sometimes it really is magical.

When it appears out of thin air, you can’t ignore it, and you’ll find whatever time you have to jot down the things coming to you. You’ll be able to do it in the middle of an average afternoon with your kids — chaos ensuing around you — and yet you’ve been gifted with some divine focus to type away at your phone or in a notebook or some scratch piece of paper on the kitchen counter. You’ll be able to do it in the middle of the night long after everyone in the house is asleep and usually you’d be too tired to know what your name is much less craft the ideas or plot coming to you. In these rare but glorious circumstances, it can feel like you’re actually possessed.

But this kind of writing energy doesn’t have to be a part of your writing history or future. Writing energy also comes from charged emotions and experiences of grief, hurt, joy, confusion, God, even from the effects of abuse. This energy is often the therapeutic and cathartic kind of writing. It can fuel some of the most impactful and life-changing writing for both the author and the reader.

It often emerges in us in specific times of life. Young children have a wealth of the purest kind of writing energy even before they have learnt to read or spell, coming up with songs, stories, or imaginary people. Amazing we have our phones with us all the time nowadays so we as parents can record these things in candid moments as our little ones can’t write them down yet. (I actually made a point to write down a song my daughter has been singing since she was three, because I loved it so much.) Teenagers find writing energy flowing freely out of angst and that first big transitional time of life. Just before or after having a baby, many people feel a new energy rise up to write, and in seasons of mental instability, there is often a beautiful creative energy released. These moments of writing energy are triggered chemically and hormonally within our biology. Fascinating, eh?

But this creativity can take yet another form. We can also manifest it ourselves by setting up a routine or rhythm that creates the space for words to come. This is potentially the hardest way for us to access writing energy as it requires discipline and focus. (I’m raising my hand here!)

Writing energy isn’t just something that we expend. It actually refuels us and gives us life. It’s like an extrovert who benefits emotionally from giving their time to be around people. We receive whilst we give.

That’s from where we should write. That’s where I want to help you get.

Birthing at Home

Original post from 29 Oct 2018
Currently updated and edited slightly

We’re presently waiting for and have prepared another home birth for the birth of our third daughter, so I thought it’d be a nice time to post this birth story on my new website as we eagerly hope for a similar circumstance.

Links for essays I wrote that were published online on this topic at the end of the post.


If you don’t already know, you need to know a little about the birth of my first daughter before reading about the birth of my second daughter. I was induced with Talitha at 3 days past the due date for low amniotic fluid. My labour was 30+ hours and included an epidural at 24 hours. I broke out in chills before I was fully dialated, checked vaginally more than a handful of times, constantly monitored, and once I was instructed to push, I was told there were 3 strikes against me: that my pelvis was shaped in a way that was going to make it harder for Talitha to come out, that she was back-to-back (meaning she wasn’t in the ideal position to come out), and that both our heart rates were going up. My doctor then asked me if I wanted to have a c-section as he told me that he’d likely have to use forceps and that he thought I’d likely have a third degree (full vagina to anus) tear. Frightened, clueless of how birth works, and unbelievably tired, I tried to push for half an hour more whilst laying on my back (the worst position in which to birth in my opinion!). I wanted my baby so badly. “Let’s do the c-section,” I said finally. Still clueless about everything, I had accepted the way it went with Talitha. But after the experience of my incision bursting due to infection at 2 months postpartum and taking months to fully heal, I realised I was going to do things differently second time around. Not out of bitterness, but from a desire to feel empowered and informed and with the passion that no matter what happened, I wanted to feel calm and positive and sure of myself.

This post is about the healing that’s taken place in my heart and my body from this experience — a total opposite event whereby the circumstances and my body were fully in my control this time. I feel so grateful and in awe that my body was able to do all things it didn’t get the chance to do last time. 

It all started when David put Talitha to bed. When he came down the stairs at 8pm on Saturday the 20th of October (which makes Evie Claire’s birth on the 21st three days past the due date),  I told him the contractions I had been feeling for nearly 2 weeks were definitely different. I felt them in the top of my belly before and was sure those were just Braxton Hicks. But these were coursing through to my vaginal area and lower back. We began to take stock of them gradually, but went on with our evening together by watching an episode of The Office and chatting. I sat on the birthing ball, scrolled on Instagram posting about our day walking around at Reculver, one of my favorite local spots. We decided if this was the real deal, we’d help things along by getting my oxytocin (the love and birth hormone) up with lots of cuddles and light touch massage. I went to have a hot shower and texted my doula at 10:45.

“Hi Sue. We think it might be building…my contractions have been stronger and more frequent. I’ve not had a show or my waters release but just been semi-tracking these surges. They feel “lower down” if that makes sense. Not sure if this is real but figured I would text you. Xx”

“Hi Christie, thank you for letting me know. How exciting! Are you able to sleep or are the contractions keeping you awake? How frequent are they? Xx”

“I have been resting but not sleeping since T went to bed. That’s when it started. The last five were roughly 3 min apart and 45 seconds or so. Some aren’t as long. I’m about to have a shower and then try to sleep I think. I’m having to breathe them through. I had one while writing this text.” 

“It definitely sounds like things are getting ready. Once you’ve had a shower, rest, lots of cuddles. Call me as soon as you feel that you are ready for me to be with you xxx “

The next text in our thread is after the birth, because I called her about 12:15am. I had stronger and stronger contractions in the shower that I couldn’t talk through. I began to get a bit overwhelmed by the idea of the pain, but a powerful affirmation rang in my ears: “my surges (or contractions) can not overpower me, because they are me.” Embracing the act of my body instead of trying to resist it completely changed my mindset and my pain level. Before I got out, David started making the rearrangements of our furniture that we’d planned and getting the birthing pool out. He had put the old mattress that we’d planned to use directly after the birth to deliver the placenta on in the lounge, so I laid down there and began to listen to my relaxation mp3s from my hypnobirthing course. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep through these contractions.

I spoke to my doula, and we knew we wanted her to go ahead and come. She got to our house about 1am, David had the pool up and was still working on filling it as he had encountered a slight issue with the tap not attaching correctly to the hose. Sue started helping him with buckets. Somewhere around this point, David asked me if I wanted my birthing playlist of music on, which I said yes. I vaguely remember hearing the music later during the actual birth. My surges were getting so strong that in some of them I felt the need to push and couldn’t exactly stop myself. Sue encouraged us to call the midwives at that point. I honestly didn’t think it would progress so quickly, so even though things were feeling quite intense I still thought we had loads of time. 

David got on the phone to the hospital at 1:45 and a midwife called him back at 2:05. David told her I was having urges to push, so she decided to come on to our house without the gas and air and would send it with another midwife. Just as that was happening, we heard Talitha, our 3 year old, wake up wondering where we were upstairs as she had peed in her sleep. David brought her down telling her “baby baby” was coming. I remember greeting her and my doula also saying hello. She saw the pool and I think it just clicked in her mind. She had a peaceful, observant, and engaged look on her face — ready to see what this was all about. We had prepared for her to be at the birth by going through a stages of birth illustrated “map” with her here and there at home.

We had also watched a few home birth videos together including ones with siblings also present at birth. She had met my doula several times as well; she even had a special nickname for her. Her name is Sue, but Talitha called her ‘Sula the doula,” which we all sort of adopted. I started to think Talitha wasn’t going to be able to see the birth as it was all happening while she was asleep, but she woke up at just the right time. I was so encouraged seeing that my contractions weren’t freaking her out. She just seemed to watch and let me get on with what I was doing. I remember interacting with her here and there but mostly I was in my own zone.

There was a moment my doula reminded me to relax my face, that my body would follow suit just by relaxing my face. I zoned in again and that reminder was a little breath of fresh air. 

Finally, the water was filled enough that I got in the pool. The feeling of relief as I lowered my body in was so lovely. But the contractions were coming so close. The midwife arrived around 2:25 or so. She told us we still needed to get more water in the pool, so David went to work with the bucket again. Talitha came into the pool just after me as was a part of our plan. She loves water just like I do, so I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist. I loved having her in there with me. She had a flannel in there with her that had come off of my neck as I had needed it to cool myself previous to getting in the pool. I remember her laying it on my tummy saying, “Here, mama, this will help.” That sweet gesture just made me melt and I told her thank you.

The midwife wanted to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, and when she seemed to have a hard time locating it with me sitting on the little seat in the pool, I felt an instinctual desire to turn and face the other way kneeling with my knees on the bottom of the pool. The midwife managed to get that one strong reading of the baby’s heartbeat, but there was no time for any other monitoring or checks!

I remember one contraction where David was not in the room filling up the bucket, but I needed a hand to hold. I reached out to my doula and held her close through it. It was so good to have her there when I needed that extra support. With each contraction at this point, I felt like I was going to give birth to a massive poo! There definitely was some that came out, and my daughter was the one to realise it. I could hear her behind me saying, “Mummy did a poo. Get it out!” It’s actually the thing she talks about the most when she tells the story! “Yes, and what else did Mummy push out?” I ask her with a smile on my face. 

Back to the action: I knew that it was happening so soon, but I made the choice not to say anything or ask any questions. I feel like my birth team knew it, too, but it was great how no one was annoyingly telling me what was happening. There seemed to be an understanding that I was following my body, and didn’t need to hear anything. I do remember hearing the midwife say when she initially arrived, “She’s handling them so well.” That combined with the encouraging words of my doula and the warmth of my husband’s embrace and the, I believe, subconscious incentive to give my daughter an amazing example of giving birth fueled me.

At what must have been 2:45 or so, I felt a big pop during a contraction. “What was that?” I asked. I heard the midwife say, “it could be your waters.” I couldn’t see anything behind me, but I realised she was putting a mirror under the water to look. My husband recalls a couple times where there was nothing to see but then the last time, the midwife told him, “There’s the head,” and David could see it. I remember on the next contraction feeling and thinking, “This must be the ‘ring of fire.’” I had been quite guttural throughout the labour, and heard myself “roar” her out as my doula so encouragingly put it later.

The midwife said the forehead and nose were out, and I heard her tell me I didn’t need to push anymore but to just breath the baby out. I focused all my energy on breathing and immediately I felt her fully descend. I turned around, heard David whisper something like, “you did it,” had to lift my leg over to receive her (that’s when I heard her cry and when David said, “it’s another girl”) and then just sat back holding my fresh babe. “It’s Evie Claire!” I told Talitha as she stood beside me gazing at her sister. “My girls…my girls…” I remember uttering.

“2:57,” the midwife said. I remember looking at my doula like wowwww. And as we all took it all in, the second midwife arrived with the gas and air! We sat in the pool for maybe 10 minutes as we delayed cord clamping. And David cut the cord. Then we moved over to the mattress on the floor, and I put her to my breasts. It took just over an hour for me to deliver the placenta, which actually was more frustrating than anything. We had turned the heating on earlier so it would be warm in the house for the baby, but I was really hot and asked David to turn it off, and I started feeling tired and just wanted it to be over with.

I actually told the midwives to go ahead and administer the injection for a managed third stage, but they encouraged me to wait for a full hour. I felt like I wasn’t getting any help from my body, but I kept letting Evie Claire nurse, and finally whilst kneeling, a little over an hour after her birth, I felt the placenta just sort of plop out! The relief! I mentally thanked it for doing a great job for 9 months, but all my attention was turned towards my breasts for the role of sustaining my baby out of the womb.

I was checked for tears and was delighted to learn I didn’t need any stitches for the minor stretching that took place. I kept thinking, “Goodness, this is just too good to be true.” 

We called our parents to let them know. We hadn’t told any of our family that we were planning a home birth. We wanted them to experience our joy after the fact instead of worrying about what all could go wrong beforehand. I said to my mother whilst FaceTiming her in America, my new baby in my arms, “I hope you don’t mind I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to worry.” She smiled and said, “You’re right, I would have worried.” 

“You know how much I wanted this,” I said. “I’m so proud of you,” she said through tears making me cry as well. 

The midwives weighed Evie Claire, gave her Vitamin K, and finished up their paperwork. They left by 5:30am. Talitha had been given her tablet (I think she chose to watch Bing reruns) at some point and we noticed she finally crashed on the couch around then.

My doula stayed with us a little longer just recapping what an amazing few hours it had been. I sent out a few texts, got cleaned up, and put on some PJs. Then the 4 of us went up to mine and David’s bedroom carrying our 2 daughters. We pulled Talitha’s mattress beside our bed and went to sleep for a couple of hours. We woke up together to a new season. One of my deepest dreams fulfilled, it feels like we’re forging into new territory where reality is just that good — it’s true.


Essays:

Something About the Water

Should I Take Credit for My Amazing Birth

On Lockdown Writing (and why it’s okay if you didn’t do it)

Do you remember at the start of lockdown how people were talking about what all they were going to be able to do during the hours of self-isolating? I vaguely recall the idealism — it wasn’t too prevalent in my online or IRL circles of mothers and young families! We were questioning how we’d merely survive the next few months not making plans for our first or next great novel.

If you were able to get some creative juices flowing, accomplish or launch something big, or tackle a new creative hobby, I’m whole-heartedly pleased for you. But I bet a lot of the work that went into what you produced in lockdown was done well before lockdown started. I could probably safely assume the rhythms and habits you had in that pursuit were in place before the world turned upside down.

And it’s okay if none of that was in place prior to lockdown.

We all struggle with comparing what others do — or seem to do — on their social media posts about their endeavours. Weird jealousies can arise when we’d really like to be happy for someone. I’d like to propose that the lockdown writing that did or didn’t happen in the past several months is what it is. Let’s leave it and move on.

How do we accomplish this? It comes from peace with yourself as a writer. Do you trust yourself to not give up? Do you know down deep within that your time is coming, because you get to choose it. When you couldn’t say yes to your writing in this season, do you understand that you were actually saying yes to other worthy priorities? Your children got more of you. Your partner wasn’t neglected. Your mental health was honoured. And would you even be happy with yourself if you had typed up something magnificent but had nothing left to give afterward? I do not subscribe to the writer-martyr archetype whose messy life, poor relationships, and bad habits get idolised simply because “they gave everything” to their craft. Mental health is serious, not merely an attractive or mysterious element of our writer biographies. I suggest we can be healthy writers without the obsessive creative stereotype.

Tap into what you actually believe about yourself and your writing aspirations. Trust that a flow will come from motivation out of a place of rest, because you give yourself space to simply be for a while. We do not always have to be rushing and doing.

A Note on Works In Progress

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I started writing a children’s story a few months ago. A rhyming one. It’s so much harder than it seems! I’ve always wanted to give it a try, and if writing doesn’t challenge you to stretch yourself in this craft, you’re not doing it properly. It was a prompt I gave my writing group right before the UK went into lockdown. I couldn’t manage working on it at all as the world went into pandemic-mode. But recently, I’ve been knocking at it little by little. It’s coming out slower than I thought it would, but it feels good to be working those muscles.

The idea of the story came to me last year during a time I randomly made up a story for my eldest daughter. I liked what came out, so I quickly took down some notes in my phone afterward. I made up another story like this once, but didn’t bother to write it down afterwards thinking I would remember it later, but it’s long gone and lost forever. Quick tip here: write everything down!

It’d be lovely to have it finished by the end of the summer, but I haven’t made a schedule of writing for that. Deadlines are useful, but in my current season of life nearing the birth of my third baby, I know it would be ironically setting myself to fail.

Knowing your season as a writer is key. It will give you the freedom to play with ideas and simply rest in your potential or build momentum and accomplish a goal. Healthy writing energy comes from inspiration not pressure. When you’re a writer in the middle of motherhood, inspiration feels scarce, and pressure will make you feel guilty. But identifying and understanding your season will give you space. A work in progress is just that, however slow the process.

Tell me, what are you working on now, or what would you like to be working on?

Why We Write

I posed this idea recently to a group of writer friends on a Zoom meeting: what exactly is it about writing that captivates us? Why do we feel the desire or the need to write? I’ll tell you now there is a joy I feel when I write or even talk about writing or have anything to do with writing that is like no other. It is without a doubt the one thing in this life, next to motherhood, that ignites delight deep within me. Call it an intrinsic interest or something passed on to me cosmically that I could never explain, but the sublime gift of writing is one of the things that makes my life full.

My friends on the Zoom had varying answers. A new pursuit. A realisation that the craft of writing is an art form, and artists might pursue anything which makes all of their art more informed. The idea that we are all writers, because we have something to say to the world, and writing gets it out there.

So why do I write? I’m chasing that thrill I get when I write a scene that feels good even if it’s poorly written when I read it back later. I’m eager for the conversation of solidarity and revelation that comes when people contact me about something they’ve read of mine that resonates with them. A lot of what’s been published of mine is personal, so when those interchanges with people happen, my experiences and perspectives are validated. Writing, in essence, is a way to be affirmed even though exposing myself can feel brutal at first. The wait to know if what I’ve written makes sense to any one else is like satisfying an itch to me. Even if I get zero feedback or interaction, knowing I’ve put something out there that I’ve come to terms with makes me feel brave.

Tell me, why do you write?