little red

Edie. July 16, 2000

I’m not comfortable with birth stories that gush about how wonderful or how terrifying and traumatic the experience was. I’m not sure why that is, but have an idea its because birth and motherhood tend to be either idealised or ‘awfulised’ and having done it five times now I know its not either.

For the same reason, I avoid mother’s groups and the Parents Asscociation and even tuckshop duty. Its not that I don’t like other women or mothers or babies but simply that I don’t like talking about it. That and, because I have five apparently well adjusted daughters, I do tend to attract a lot of commentary on parenting and children.

When I say commentary what I really mean is judgement, complaint, opinion and advice. But mostly just comments – which range from pure amazement to the verge of insult;

“how do you do it? You’re so calm!”
“so are you trying for a boy??”
“oh my god! Your POOR husband!”

(I JUST do it, I have to be calm, no I’am happy with girls, yes, thanks, he’d be the luckiest man on earth.)

Now I’m very proud of my children, but I tell them and not other people. And when it comes to advising others I stick to non-commital phrases like ‘ah, you do whatever works best for you’ and ‘you’ll find the right way’. Mostly I’ve wondered if people want my advice or if they just want to talk about their own experiences.

Especially the birth. People really want to talk about birth.

Recently I overheard my baby’s grandmother describing how I ‘just popped the baby out nice and easy’ and couldn’t help but snap back that ‘it was Childbirth you know – and it hurt!’. I also couldn’t help but be a bit upset that something I’d drawn a circle around had been so casually diminished.

It could be time I started telling people and commit to my experiences without buying into the ideal – if only to keep the grandmother from spreading propaganda about my incredible baby-popping abilities.

So if I tell you about this birth I want you to bear in mind that every story is a fiction – even the true ones. By this I mean that I can only tell it from my point of view and no one elses. Perhaps the midwife would say ‘oh yes, she had a strange labour and quite unexpected’ and my four year old who sat by me would talk about the water in the bath and the red candle and how I sounded a bit like a cow.

Also, because of this birth the next two births would be effected so this is really the beginning of a much longer story.

I suppose I am getting to my point. Even as I sit here ready to write it I’m still not sure there’s a story to tell. There wasn’t a labour because even though waters had burst and there was a mild pain every hour, by the book that isn’t labour.

But there was, at that time and for various reasons, pressure to get the baby out of me and I felt it. I couldn’t stop weeping after two days of waiting – an entire cosmos seem to conspire to test my limits. I’d tried long walks on the beach, yoga, everything possible and had reached the point of despair that it would never begin.

Eventually the words ‘You’re crying for your broken waters’ sent me back into myself from the height of panic about going to hospital or the baby being at risk. It had crept up on me, inevitable and strange. My body had been doing its thing quietly and in its own time and could only be trusted, as it turned out I was ready.

There are no words that can accurately describe what happens to a woman as a child is about to come into the world through her, but I can still distincly recall telling myself that no one was able to do this for me, for us. For a while there was only me and my womb, the water, a red candle burning and a red moon above. And the laughter which bubbled up from some depths I didn’t know I had and spilled out into the air with each contraction.

In hindsight I admire the bravery of that midwife who allowed me to hold my own as my body and baby did their work, a push and then twenty minutes later another push, with me mooing and laughing in the dark. Then when there was a head already born under the water and we waited endless minutes for the next contraction, she held my hand and kept quiet.

So Edie emerged into the bathtub of my friend’s house by the sea during a total lunar eclipse, after two days of leaking waters and an hour of intense euphoria. I sat in the bath as if turned red with the blood my body had made to sustain the pregnancy, the blood of separation, holding this little scrap of child. Then she smiled.

(I’m not comfortable with my own birth stories, probably because they’re so gushy and terrifyingly strange.)

6 thoughts on “little red

  1. Thank you for sharing Danae. I could see that it was something you wanted to celebrate and share, but at the same time something you felt uncomfortable. Thank you.

    This is by no means a gushy story (birth stories are my living – both through publishing them in the magazine and facilitating support group) nor terrifylingly strange. What we’ve lost sight of as women is that there is no ‘right’ way to birth or ‘wrong’ way to birth, when it comes to birthing under our own steam. Everyone woman births in her own way .. and you would agree, not one birth is the same as the other.

    We’ve Friedman Curved our experiences (Friedman was the dude who calculated the ‘average’ birthing time which is 1cm an hour for 10 hours or so … then spent the rest of his life trying to get people to understand that he was wrong) Rather than celebrating and soaking in the differences, most women want to have it the same … they’ll have an epidural because all their friends did, they’ll have a major abdominal surgery because everyone in their family did – so why do anything different.

    We’ve also lost the point of what women do best – sit, share, support and story tell … its what we do best. Recent research said women ‘tend and befriend’ when they are stressed.

    Women retell horror birth stories over and over again because they have never had a chance to properly debrief their experience, to have their feelings and experiences validated and offered space and support to heal from the experience. So when we have empowering and joyous births .. when we are truly the Creatrix … we shy away from sharing our stories, feeling that we will belittle the experiences of others, while we are belitting our own experiences.

    I wish we could create a space in which all women feel safe, supportive and comfortable to share their birthing experiences, whatever that experience may be.

    Thank you so much for feeling and believing that this was a safe and comfort.

    As for mothering/parenting we’ve lost our tribal connection and in being forced to parent alone in the four walls of our home, I feel we’ve become both competitive and precious about the choices that we make, all underpinned by a thick viscose river of guilt. When we all pitch in together and help each other out to parent, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ .. only we.

    I admire you for holding your space and opting out of the bullshit. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have been able to belong to a circle of women and mothers who have been there to support each other in their growth as women and mothers … without judgement.

    My rant for the morning … thanks for dragging up all this … will write more on my blog later. I think I’ll go and post my last editorial up there on ‘conscious parenting’.

    PS: did the eclipse hit anything in your natal chart when Edie was born

  2. My friend’s son’s labour began on an eclipse – which fell right on her Ascendent … birth ending in a Caesarean but it was really the beginning in many ways for her, rather than the end! Her story is fascinating.

    My friend has just SMSed me to let me know her body is warming up ready to birth … but it could still be weeks away … I was warming up for two weeks before my labour began in earnest (and it was all over in just under 4 fours!)

  3. Sorry more thoughts as I re-read your account of Edie’s birth story … the power and beauty the midwives bring to birth, through their stillness and their abilty to convey just what you need from them … with a simple touch of the hand … in our case, holding your hand.

    The other thought (before I dash away to make the promised gingerbread men with Dylan!)is how powerful and evocative your language is in its simplicity … which makes it not gushy at all – it is earthy, womanly, and above all sacred. What a truly amazing entry into the world for Edie.

    Sorry I didn’t say all of this earlier … (Aries rising) had to jump up on the soap box for the social diatribe. Glad that I went back for a second read to truly soak in it … like the warm crimson birth waters. Thank you again for sharing. Will try and discover what I have done with Dylan’s story … or perhaps rewrite it?

  4. labouring for four hours is a wonderful way to give birth for the first time – you must be made for it!

    i was popping evening primrose oil and eating pineapple for three weeks before my due date with Ivy (number five). In some ways the labour and birth went too quickly…

  5. Next time I’d aiming for 6 hours – two hours to just let me know that its happening, rather than jumping in right at the deep end of it … that’s Aries rising for you … hurtling headfirst (and Dylan is also Aries rising!)

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