I walked into this birth knowing that I occupied many high risk categories – being 39 years of age, having had a caesarean 21 months beforehand, being a ‘grand multiparous’ woman, (or a woman who has birthed more than 5 times), as this birth would be of my 6th and 7th children, and high risk just because I was having twins. I also knew that if I went anywhere near a doctor or hospital, a great and negative deal would be made of all these factors, and I would be experiencing a totally medicalised birth, not allowed anywhere near the water that I love and need to birth in, monitored the whole time, and induced if the second twin took longer than half an hour to be born after the first twin. I also knew that I’d have to struggle to be able to hold my twins after they were born, work hard to keep them out of the nursery, and fight strongly to be able to keep my 21 month old Balthazar with us in hospital, as he was not ready to be separated from us at night yet.
And I realized straight away that to avoid all this, and be able to stay at home and follow birth’s ancient journey, I’d need to employ the services of an experienced, groovy, birth trusting midwife. And that midwife was Lisa Barrett. I’d wager that if I’d gone with anyone else, the outcome to this story would have been very different indeed……
My last birth taught me a lot. Not least being a deep respect for fear, and a respect for the experiences of many many women in our culture who experience medical births. I found that almost every week, another layer of my most recent caesarean birth experience peeled away to be closer examined, worked through, and cleared, to make way for my upcoming birth of twins. And I had 4 other natural birthing experiences to call on! What courage must women have, who have had a caesarean as their first birthing experience, and go on to face their fear and strive for a natural birth afterwards!?!? I was more nervous coming up to this birth than I’d ever been before, and more aware of all the things that could go wrong. The normal birthing fears (will they be stillborn? Disabled? Need intervention?) seemed magnified, not to mention a big fear that my body wouldn’t be able to travel birth’s path gracefully, and that my fear would disable my ability to cope with what happened. I was also well aware that I was entering the twilight zone, with a whole heap of wierd seven things going on..... Being the seventh child of two seventh children, about to have my sixth and seventh children, and almost a pure Friesian, Currawong part Friesian, a country with a flag that has 7 blue and red stripes with 7 red love hearts..... And the biggest thing that messed with my head was how I’d ‘positive thought’ my way through my previous pregnancy – focusing on an ECO or Easy Comfortable Orgasmic birth, sure I was having a girl, and we’d already named her too – Faye Wildcat. Needless to say, I got it wrong on all points, and have come to realize for myself that our thoughts really do create our reality……except for the random factor, where things happen that maybe you need rather than want. Apart from my head wounds, my body was capably and beautifully carrying twins, and I astounded my alternative health practitioners with how healthy, robust, and well my body was operating. The twins spent the entire pregnancy in Yin and Yang position – one with it’s head down, and one in breech position. From the different heart rates, Lisa predicted that one would be a boy and one a girl, which was a prediction that many people, us included, favoured. She also predicted that the baby in breech position would nicely turn over to be head down once the first twin was out. Lisa came to visit regularly, and proved a wise midwife indeed, as nearly every time she came she offered me a different way to approach my fears, or a nugget of information that helped my journey.
Late pregnancy was heavy, ponderous, and intensely inward, and a heavy case of thrush came in the last weeks making life itchy and sore. Coming up to 38 weeks I was in that weird inbetween place, where I was hoping for it to happen soon, but really glad that it wasn’t yet, all at the same time. Had a bit of a false start where I thought it was happening, and surprised myself at how well I coped when it came to it, which helped me feel better about the fears that had been plaguing me. And then came the night of the 20th, where we were both feeling ready as we could be, and I even felt well enough to indulge in some love making. Currawong reckons he knew exactly what we were doing that night, and what would be the result, but I didn’t have the same premonition. At 3am in the morning, I woke to my waters breaking, (which had never happened to me before…), got up and panicked for a minute, and then started shaking for an hour or so. Rang Lisa first thing and asked her to come straight away – I’d been worried that this birth would happen so quick that she wouldn’t have time to get here – as it was, she probably could have stayed home a bit longer…..
Currawong got the birthing pool happening, and Mum and Jess got here, and we gently labored till morning.
The kids all woke up and hung out in the birthing space, and some fellow community members were dropping in and out and keeping an eye on what was happening, and some older members even dropped in, as it was the community meeting day.
At 9.25, to chanting and humming and sounding, a baby boy was born, and he shot out like a cannon towards the side of the pool.
He was quickly passed to me and was quite blue and not making any noise, and Lisa told me to breathe in his face, which I did, and he spluttered and gave a cry.
First thing the name ‘Maxamillion’ came into my head, with the thought that having a million in your name must be a good omen. I said the name, and then Currawong said ‘Hercules’…..Lisa said “Maxamillion Hercules, what a great name!” and thus he was named.
Everything was wonderful, a successful birth had been achieved, and Max was totally perfect and calm.
Ever seen that birthing scene in Absolutely Fabulous? Where Adina’s friend was birthing in a room with people speaking beat poetry, playing music, and generally being very hippy?? Well I felt like Max’s birth was a lot like that.
He had an extremely short cord, and couldn’t reach my chest even, so Lisa cut it as soon as safe, and we hung out and blissed in the bath for a while.
As there was another baby still inside me, and the placenta’s weren’t likely to come out till the other babe came, it was clamped off and left hanging from me.
As the day wore on we started getting worried about when the next baby was going to come.
Max was gently held by my mother, and my 17 year old daughter also did me the huge favour of taking off her top and sitting with him skin to skin……making sure that Max was being held all the time as I tried every trick in the book to bring on labour.
Standing up, hanging from a rope from the ceiling, taking Currawong off into the back room for a quick fix of sex and semen, walking round the property, leaning all sorts of different ways……it wasn’t working. Max would wake occasionally and have a feed, and all the other kids were generally milling around with distractions being given to them, so we could focus on trying to bring the second baby earthbound.
As the day moved into evening, we were all getting progressively more worried. Contractions had eased off largely, and it seemed like nothing else was going to happen. I’d never in my wildest dreams anticipated such a prolonged gap between babies. Nothing had prepared me for this eventuality! I’d just assumed that the second baby would be born soon after the first, and was hoping that we’d all have time to deal with the first baby before the second one came. I’d thought I would have one birthing experience, with two babies coming for the price of one.
I rang Andrea Hart the acupuncturist to come and see if she could do anything to bring the second baby on. We’d arranged that she would come along to the birth beforehand, but Max’s birth had progressed so quickly and neatly that I’d never got around to ringing her for it, but we thought maybe in this extended pause some acupuncture could speed the process up. She came around about 8 that night, gave me a few needles, and then had a prior engagement that she had to go to. She told me later that the moment she’d walked in the house she’d had the feeling that my seventh child had a very strong presence, and also a strong desire to have a different birth date and karma, and that nothing she could do would change that.
So on we went…..trying to bring on labour over ten hours after my first twin was born. The longest gap between twins that Lisa had ever experienced was 12 hours, and we were all starting to get worried. Around 12 that night everyone had a bit of a snooze – except me. I paced round the house, willing my second baby to be born safely, worrying, and trying to bring on labour. A quiet and lonely time on my own. Around 3am on Sunday morning the worry was turning to desperation. Lisa had said that we were leaving her comfort zone, and she was prepared to go till 9.30 on Sunday morning – 24 hours after the birth of Max, and after that we’d have to think about our options again. The cord that we’d detached from Max was filling with blood, which was puzzling Lisa, so she clamped it tight, which was a real distraction while I was trying to bring on labour – having a scissor clamp jutting through my legs was intensely uncomfortable, so she instead tied it very securely with about 5 cords. Funnily enough, before the birth, Lisa had dreamt regularly that she was at our birth, and that one would come out and the second would turn to be head down, and in her dream she’d forgotten to bring clamps for the first umbilical cord, so she was prepared for this eventuality!! But I was still hale and hearty, the second twin had very considerately gone from breech position to head down, engaged nicely in my cervix, and both our heart rates were normal and healthy.
Currawong and I went for a walk in the moonlight and I was really bummed out. Thinking that after coming so far it was all going to end in a hospital drama afterall. Tension was high, and we were both despondent on walking down the road towards the creek. On the way, Currawong started talking about how I was healthy, Max had been born successfully, and the second twin was healthy also, so we had to start looking at this experience as TWO separate births, instead of the one birth of two babies we’d assumed it would be. Two separate births. This seemingly subtle shift in perception actually made us both feel better. If it was two separate births, all of a sudden it seemed more doable. We got back to the house where mum and Lisa had been chatting about it all, and we both told Lisa that we wanted to let it go longer than the morning, and told her our altered perception, and both started crying when we said how much we didn’t want to go to hospital. We told her that we were aware that we were risking her reputation and practice, and that if the worst came to the worst and we had to go to hospital a day or so after our first twin was born, we’d tell them that we were freebirthing, and leave her out of it completely. And bless her heart, and to my total awe and respect forevermore, she said straight away that she’d rather go to jail than leave us during this birth, and that she was there for the ride. We all decided to get a bit of rest, as it had been a very long and testing day, and we’d talk more about it after a nap.
I layed down in bed for a while, but found it impossible to sleep, Lisa went into another room for a catnap, mum went off and slept for a bit with Max, and my strong birth warrior Currawong set about cleaning out the birthing pool water, disinfecting the pool, and clearing away all the other paraphernalia of the first birth, making way for the second birth to take place..............