Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The baby that came bearing gifts - Part 1

It would be easy to assume on the birth of my eighth child that I am a veteran of birth, a knowledgable birthing woman in tune with her body and the rhythms of birthing, and secure in my role as a mother and lover and creatrix of little people.  But to be truthful, the more I birth, the more I realise I know nothing about birth, or more to the point – I could birth another eight times and still feel like I was standing before a limitless vista of birthing potentials and possibilities.  And lessons to learn and fears to face.  Attachments to let go of, and sacred cows to murder……  I had so much more to say about what was ‘right and true’ when I was just beginning my birthing career.  And now I find that everything just is.  Take out the judgement and it’s all just lessons.  The more I birth, the more I realise there is to know about birth……

So to set the scene for this recent birth, we’d all just got to a really nice place with each other, after a long long time of being observed and judged and in other people’s spaces, and sorting through recent trauma’s, and were all cohesively living and loving together and playing and having fun. The description of this time was in my last posting about Love….. Lasted about a week.

Only thing we needed to settle us, and before we got serious about baby preparation, was beds, cause the rest had been catered for.  So one day we get beds, the next day we drive to get our big girl from the airport, and the next day a friend turned up with her two young girls.  That same night a fellow community member dropped in too, and it was all of a sudden too many other people in our sanctum.  We slipped into our bedroom that night and felt overwhelmed and like we’d made a big mistake.  We’d finally got to a good and private place and then invited the world into it, and gave it away, what the hell was with that? When were we gonna be free to be ourselves in our own home again?  Went to sleep feeling slightly silly, distraught and ominous, after lots of activity and socialising….
And then woke up at 3am that morning, went for a wee, and had amniotic fluids running down my legs.  Shock, denial, fear, disbelief, horror, and panic played poker for centre stage, and I woke Currawong up to tell him, so they could tap dance in his head as well.  We decided to hope for the best, believe that my bladder had finally and all of a sudden sprung a leak after all these birthing years, and go back to sleep.  I woke up at 7 in the morning, had another wee, and this time the plug came away, with a whole heap of fluid, and I knew that I had to face up to it.  I was 35 weeks pregnant, which many people would agree is far too early to be considering birthing at home, and going into premature labour which is associated with lungs not yet ready, and a hospital birth with lots of backup, care, and postnatal attention.  After talking to my birth support person, Annetta, we decided that it was safest to just ring the local hospital and go in for their help, so sadly and miserably I packed my bags and asked my big daughter and our friend who’d just turned up the night before, to look after all our babies, while we went to the hospital for who knows how long.

We got there, and I mistakenly expected all the flurries and attention of the hospital folk that you’d see in a tele drama, and instead we got mostly left in a room for hours on our own. One of my first thoughts was about a midwife friend…….who had greeted this pregnancy with a seeming prophecy (that really messed with my head throughout the whole pregnancy), about how if this baby was to be stillborn, or with special needs, or needing intensive medical assistance, then that would be fine……and I told Currawong that she’d been right.  Here we were in hospital.  Feeling really depressed.  A hardened midwife of many many years was our tour guide into the system, and at first she was horrified that I was so far into a pregnancy at my age and with my history, without having had any tests, or ultrasounds, or doctors appointments…..  She wanted to kick us out and stop us wasting her time, so we could go and do paperwork and blood tests with a doctor instead of her.  It’s a tricky thing to try and explain to a hospital based midwife that I trusted my body and the process of birth, and hadn’t seen the need for medicalising my experience or getting information that might haunt me, especially considering that we wouldn’t have aborted this child in any case.   She put one of those machines on me that needed strapping in two places to my belly, and that recorded my blood pressure, baby’s heart beat, and contractions.  Currawong and I chatted and told stories, and asked her questions about herself, till she started to thaw, and realised that we weren’t homebirth extremists, and started making comments about ‘some alternative people who aren’t as open minded as you two….’ and the like. A sad chapter in the war between homebirths and hospital births is, this woman was bitter from the attacks she’d felt from ‘alternative’ types while she was doing her job to the best of her ability over the years……and if we had reacted to her reacting to us, we could have had a very different experience. 
A young doctor came in and asked a whole heap of random questions in the hope we wouldn’t notice he was checking us out, and that was the last we saw of him.  Then there was just hours of us sitting in an unused and sterile birthing suite, chatting, making phone calls to the kids and friends, Currawong popping out for fruit cake and bottled water whilst pouring money into parking meters, looking around at the standard fare in surroundings for women and families who birth in hospitals, and having moments of tears and disappointment, as we thought we were watching our homebirth sail off into the distance.  About 5 hours later and after not seeing a doctor or having an ultrasound or having anything really checked out, our new friend the midwife came in with a pill to stop labour, tags with my name on it for my wrist, and a shot of steroids in my bum for developing the baby’s lungs, as it was premature.  6 hours later another midwife came on duty who we connected with straight away, as we all told each other how judgement was futile, and it was far easier to make peace with your own decisions, and accept other people and the choices they made, rather than fight about it.  I had another 2 pills over the next hour, and time for a huge hug and cry with Currawong, as we realised that this was really it, and I’d be staying overnight in the hospital on my own, and he would go off to spend the night with the kids.  We really don’t dig spending time apart……

7 hours after getting to the hospital, a wild eyed doctor came in, asked about the dates, and within minutes had ascertained that I’d got my dates wrong, because I’d counted from  conception, rather than the two weeks before it, when the egg had descended and become ‘alive’.  Or in plainer language, I’d counted from conception, instead of from the first day of my last period, which is when the rest of the world considers the beginning of pregnancy to be.  I wasn’t 35 weeks pregnant, I was 37!!  We looked at each other horrified, and thoughts jockeyed in my head about how I’d robbed us of a homebirth, how stupid I felt, how I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life, and all sorts of other barbs.  But in my defence, we’d counted it from conception because we both remembered so clearly how this baby was made!  And the date of it.  It was a memorable event.  Other people remember holidays or outings, but my love and I remember conceptionsJ  So as we sat there looking shocked, the doctor tried to joke us out of it, asked us about our birthing history, and got very serious when I told him that our last birth was twins born at home in water and two days apart, and told us a few times in a tut tut kind of voice that we were very very lucky that it had worked out well for us.  He also told me that I was high risk anyway because of my age, and how many babies I’d had, and because I’d had a caesarean and twins most recent.  And then finished up by saying that I may as well stay in if I was already there, and spend the night even though there was no risk and we weren’t premature after all, and have an ultrasound in the morning so they could see what was going on.  Of course they wouldn’t be giving me any more pills to slow it down, or the other shot of steroids that was coming.   
He left the room and I wailed to Currawong about what an idiot I felt.  And then I rang Annetta.  “Get out of there!  And I’ll come visit you tonight, and we’ll see what we do from there” was her advice.  And big old strapping hippy me, the alternative lifestyler, the anarchist, the system questioning one……really needed somebody else to give me permission to go.  Afterall,  once I was booked in and had the tags on my wrists, wasn’t it a given?  And a really sad consideration that was probably one of the main reasons I was in hospital in the first place, and yet another casualty of the war between homebirth and hospital birth, was the knowledge that if something ‘bad’ happened in hospital, it would be considered par for the course, but if that same ‘bad’ thing happened at home, as the writer of a blog that was rather public about my impending birth, I’d most likely be hauled before the coroners court and demonised by the mainstream media and a horde of anti-homebirthing internet activists who’d doctor my photographs so I looked like Charles Manson……  What a shame politics has entered the arena of a woman’s personal choice for a place to birth.  So I needed permission.  All of a sudden this was a totally normal birth, and it was safe to do at home, and I could exercise my rights and just…..walk…..out…..of…….there……. 

The nice midwife came back in with a very unappetising hospital version of spaghetti bolognaise, and with tears in my eyes I told her that I wanted to be back with my family, to which I was overwhelmingly happy when she totally agreed, thought it would be best, and I’m sure she gave me a veiled message to stay the hell at home, when she told me about how I could come back in the morning, and sit around on my bum for another 8 hours till they could get around to giving me an ultrasound….or stay with my family and see how labour progressed at home.  She went and worked it out with the doctor, and before you could say ‘Homebirths-R-Us’ we were getting shooed out of the room, and I took those tags off my wrists, and we scampered out of the building to the big sky, and the fresh air, and our wonderful magic bus that was going to spirit us back home.  The feeling of reprieve from impending doom was immense.  The reminder of how unspecial a hospital environment can be, even when they’re doing you the tremendous favour of helping you or saving a life, was timely.  And maybe that doomsaying midwife friend hadn’t been right after all!!  Maybe we really could pull off another beautiful homebirth.  
And as a little aside and to skip to the present, it’s only a few weeks after our birth, and already the story has spread round the area like wildfire, and friends have already heard a few times how “That woman who has SO many children, didn’t even get her dates right!”  Reminds me of when I had an emergency caesarean with Balthazar, and “that woman who’d had all those natural births had to have a caesarean, so you never can tell!!”, and there were also some nastier comments about how the ‘mighty homebirther had fallen’.  And it sits in a funny place within me.  Like a slightly uncomfortable itch that intermittently annoys.  A bit of a wrinkle in my birthing fabric.  I also got my dates wrong with Spiral-Moon, because the first day of my last period wasn’t actually the first day of my last period…..it was a miscarriage of her twin.  And I only found out that I’d got my dates wrong because I was going to freebirth her in a town 250kms away from Adelaide, and thought I should at least make sure that the placenta was in a good place and everything was going well before we did.  And you know what?  Sometimes the medical system and ultrasounds get it wrong too.  I’ve got just about every detail possible ‘wrong’ throughout all my births, and hardly ever predicted correctly which gender they were going to be.  But what I’ve learnt from my  ‘mistakes’ could fill a book, and has taught me far more than being ‘right’ all the time could have.  And in getting so caught up in getting it ‘right’, we can get so swept up in using other peoples terms and talismans that we can miss the subtle little nuances that were meant just for us.  Like how in getting my birth dates ‘wrong’, we ended up in hospital for a day, and got to really live out some of my most dastardly fears about the birth I was about to engage in the Tango with, and to really sit with them, in the hospital, with all the staff around us, and then get the incredible opportunity to break free, fly the gilded cage, and empower ourselves towards the birth that we really wanted.  What an amazingly emphatic way of working through some last minute fears and creating some clearing around them so that the forthcoming journey was made all the sweeter and stronger!!

And (to get back to the story), the first thing we did was go shopping.  I was so unprepared for this birth, that I didn’t even have a pair of knickers!  Let alone something to bleed into, or soak up my excess breast milk, or baby clothing, or wrapping cloths, or a birthing pool…..  I was especially worried about the lack of birthing pool.  Annetta couldn’t get her hands on one at this short notice, and how could I birth out of water!  Surely there was a kids pool to be bought in the megaplex that would do? But they were all too shallow or too big, and I calmed myself with the knowledge that we had a bath at home that would probably do.  Getting back home again was like a homecoming scene from the Waltons……hugs and tears and many children draped all round me asking for the story, and telling us how glad they all were that we were both back.  We settled them all down, and got them into bed, our visitor and her girls went to bed also, and Currawong went to bed early too, after our exhausting and emotionally roller coasted day, while I sat up to wait for Annetta.

She drove up in her awesome 4WD home, and parked outside, walked into the front door, gave me a huge hug and kiss, and then scooped up a baby bat that was sitting in a corner between the bathroom and hallway doors.  “You’ve got a baby bat” she said as she held the little one up, and we looked for something to hold it in.  I brought out a basket that I’d made as a meeting between crochet and basket weaving, nice and wooly like a mamma bat, and we popped it in there, till I could pass it on to my big daughter and the other kids to look after later.  We both decided it was a good omen, bats being considered good luck by many peoples, and a baby bat to boot…..  And I told Annetta about how we were all sure that this baby coming was a girl, and how Currawong had liked the name Batsheva for years, with it’s meaning being ‘daughter of seven’ which we all thought was apt.  We chatted, I told her the story of the day, we had cuppa’s, and then she checked me over, felt the head that was down in my pelvis nicely, heard the baby’s heartbeat, and checked me on the inside to see how I was going.  The only danger now was one of infection, as the plug was gone, but if I kept clean, drank lots of water, and showered regularly, all that risk should be avoided.  Everything was tickety boo, I was so relieved and greatful to be home and out of the hospital, and we smilingly went off to bed, hoping that the next time we saw each other would be early in the morning while I was in labour, and could ring the hospital and cancel that ultrasound, as my baby had come and was safe at home.

3am in the morning I woke up and started having tightenings, sat up for a while on my own, and then Jess, my big daughter, woke up and joined me.  We had a lovely time out of time together, in the endless seeming hours of the early morning, as I told her stories about how horrendous I felt when I realised that I was 37 weeks pregnant in the hospital and thought I’d ripped us all off a homebirth, and how glad I was that we were home, and how strange it was to be birthing without my mother around for the first time, and how freaked out I was about birthing out of water……  A really bonding and connecting time.  She started timing the contractions, and they were very nicely and evenly heading down a narrowing tunnel of focus towards contractions close together and getting more intense.  In between them I kept chatting, and was getting more and more excited and empowered as I realised that I could manage my tightenings out of the water!  I was finding a position that tucked my bum in, while hanging my pelvis in as relaxed a manner as I could, rubbing the top of my bum, breathing out through a wide open mouth, and rubbing just under my belly all at the same time.  Currawong woke up feeling well rested, and joined in the dance I was creating through the house and the verandah, and we were both feeling happy and like we were going to meet our baby soon.  The contractions were getting closer and closer, and Jess went out to wake Annetta.  She came in too, and the dance kept winding round the house, and in between contractions I was brilliantly alive, and intense, and telling them the magic of this baby.  This new baby was all about letting go of the old and my attachments I decided.  I’d lost my birthing necklace with the Kali cow bone bead that I’d had since Griffyn’s birth, to Balthazar bashing it to smithereens early on in the pregnancy.  I’d left my breastfeeding dressing gown at my mum’s house.  I was birthing for the first time without my mother around, and interestingly, was out of the water and out of my traditional birthing position on my back, that was the same position that my mother had birthed me.  I’d been into the lion’s den of the hospital, thinking that my anxieties and that dire prediction had won, but had been released to birth at home, and was finally able to shrug off all those negative omens!!  I was standing on two feet strongly grounded, and looking birth in the eye!  I was wearing a lanolin soaked, handspun, bird cape with a raw fleece bustle that I’d made for Tribal Fibres, as a wrap to lend me power and magic.   I was meeting birth in a different way than I’d ever met it before, dressed in power clothes, standing tall and strong, perching my pelvis in a way that relieved the pain, and with my Currawong firmly at my side, instead of running around boiling water and making sure that the bath was the right temperature.  He was just as delighted with the new fangled way that this birth was happening.  I was grinning and smiling and laughing with delight at the fears I was facing, and the new birthing paths I was treading.  It looked like we were heading nicely towards birthing in time to ring the hospital with our awesome result, and then get on with the rest of the day…..

And then our guest woke up.  She had breakfast, and was telling stories of herself and her relationship and her births, and chatting to all my people who’d been dancing with me, and the contractions started to slow.  I tried to entice her into the birthing cocoon we’d been weaving, and she joined in the dance for a moment.  But then we were hearing about her plans for the day, and her daughters woke up, and my expansions virtually came to a stop.  I was bereft.  We were heading so cleanly and strongly towards birth weren’t we?  What had happened?  How could it have gone away so completely?  I came to the conclusion that I needed to ask our guest to leave.  I needed to reclaim my birth space, and keep it sacred and for the people who were in on the dance with me, and immediate family and my birth support person only.  Our guest didn’t take it too well, and felt like she was being kicked out, and was very pouty about it, but I stayed strong.  Which was actually a really big thing for me.  Underneath the strong alternative exterior, I’m actually quite a wus, and have often given what I want over in the face of opposition.  I’ll compromise what I want to make others happy before just sticking to what I want and exactly how I want it.  But I was clear.  “This isn’t about you, it’s about me, and what I need for this birth, and who I want around me, and it has to be family only.  Bummer about the timing, and thank you for your help yesterday, but that’s just how it is.”   I organised with a dear friend closer to Nimbin for our guest and her girls to stay in their community house for a few nights, and after packing up she was gone.  And so was my birthing process that had felt like it was coming to a conclusion.

We sat around for a bit, I had a few spasmodic contractions, and tried hard to not feel like I’d failed in some way.  Annetta decided to head off for the day, advised me to rest, and said she’d be back later that night after the babies were asleep, and we’d see what happened then.  We all agreed that we’d give it till the next morning, and if nothing was happening then, we’d have to consider hospital again.  That day was a bit despondent.  I tried all the things that I knew could bring on labour….walking around, squatting, and other positions to give my body every chance to kick back into the birthing process.  The hospital rang to see how we were going, and Currawong told them that birth had been happening and then stalled, and we were waiting to see what the rest of the day brought, and if nothing had happened by the next morning we’d be considering coming back in.  But the highlight of the day was Currawong’s favourite birth starting procedure…..making love.  And this was the first time in our birthing career that it actually worked.  All the other times we’ve tried it have been with lots of people around, and as a purely mechanical antidote.  Currawong’s enjoyed it, but I’ve been unimpressed, unfocused, and interested in what it might do for my body only.  But there was no-one around, the kids were all off on a walk, there was nothing else happening, and our lovemaking session did kick off a few contractions, but that was not the main aim of the exercise anymore.  We actually had the time and space to melt into each other, and visited the special place we create together, with the added spice of immanent birth.  I climaxed quite a few times, and Currawong was crying as our bubble of us drew to a close, telling me that watching me love him was what he was born for.  That moment he was watching me, was the moment he was born to witness.  Gotta love a romantic bird man.

Birth meanwhile, had gone on a very extended coffee break, and wasn’t coming back into the space anytime soon.  The day dwindled into the night, and well fed kids went off to bed, and Currawong again went to bed early with them.  I sat alone and waited for Annetta again, sad, and depressed, and tired after two days now of little sleep and big stress.  She came in again like a breeze of hope, and just hugged me and let me hold onto her.  And then she checked me over again, checked the baby’s heartbeat and position, and we sat as she explained what she was piecing together.  After having so many baby’s, my uterus was looser than normal, and hadn’t quite contracted tight enough to start pushing out a baby.   My body had been taken by surprise by the plugs defection, and a bit like my birth preparations, just wasn’t quite ready.  There was nothing wrong with the baby either, and it seemed like the little person inside had been caught on the hop as well, not quite ready to shimmy down my birth canal.  The culprit it seemed was the fact that my cervix which, again after having had so many baby’s, had been dilated and open for quite a while beforehand, and had left the plug vulnerable and exposed to the hungry bacteria that live in every healthy vagina, which had snacked on the sweetness of my mucus plug.  And then stresses, and moving, and cleaning and the like had helped weaken it, till it came away earlier than my body and baby were ready for.  So there was nothing wrong with us, except a mechanical fault that had thrown a spanner in the works…..so to speak.  And we seriously spoke about how getting this far from the plug having come away, there was still an increased risk of infection to me and the babe inside, and I had to finally and completely let go of the idea of a water birth, as water increased the risk of infection too.  I went to bed despondent and tired, but I felt like I at least had a clearer picture about why this was happening, and that there was nothing wrong with my body or baby. 

And guess what……..I’ve reached my self imposed limit for a blog post, so I’m going to finish the story in another post.  We have another situation of a ‘to be continued’.  It may not be twins, but it goes over days again, and a lot can happen in three and a bit days!!  And sorry, but this birth was far too engaging and intimate for any of us to have bothered with taking many photo’s, so you’ll have to imagine how it looked in your minds eye………….


  1. I have read your posts over the years and was thinking of you today. Wondering if you had birthed your babe or how far along you were. Was surprised to look at your blog and find you have. Congratulations to all of your family and I hope you are all feeling wonderful. Love and blessings....Emily Clements-Porteous.

  2. Helena, it is very easy to imagine everything you write about in one's 'mind's eye' as your writing is so evocative, emotion-filled and weaves a beautiful tapestry of your experiences... For those of us who have birthed, we really are dancing with you in your sacred space as we read.... and learning with you about letting go of our need to judge, compare or control this amazing process. Wonderful story (thus far!).... awaiting part 2 with bated breath! xxx

  3. Wow, another amazing story from you Hellena. As for 'getting it right', I love the saying (I may be misquoting it) 'Would you rather be 'right' or rather be free?' It seems to me that you & your man really do embody a sense of freedom, strength & love that is just so 'right', wonderful & inspiring. Thanks for sharing with us again. I can't wait to read the next instalment. Your nest looks lovely too!

  4. Hellena, you are amazing. I love the way you experience and how you share that with us. I love, love, love your writing.
    I'm reading this with a big smile plastered on my face. So glad your big girl was there. So glad you had a different birthing experience, they are all different aren't they?
    Can't wait to see you and the beautiful zarra and all of your wonderful family.

  5. Ooohh I have been waiting for this post!! :)

    Please be gentle on yourself in regards to dates. I have been a charter and in tune with my cycles and ovulation from my first period, and even I have made mistakes with my dates. I too count from ovulation/conception, my date from period is not as accurate given how long my cycles can be.

    I was nodding so much at your paragraph about the more births you have the less you know. I feel exactly the same way. I feel like telling people who ask me questions, "Don't ask me know, ask me 4 babes ago, I knew it all then" lol

    Looking forward to your next post!

  6. Your writing is such a reflection of you, getting more and more beautiful and focussed every time I visit here.
    I adore that photo of you there wrapped in orange!

    Thank you for sharing your gift of telling your life, its real and honest and intelligent, you help keep me sane.

  7. What an interesting and exciting beginning to new life! Looking forward to the next installment. Much love and peace xx

  8. I love how you share your experience with "thawing" the midwife. I am planning a hospital birth after 3 UCs and a huge part of preparing for this birth is finding an approach to the system so that I can maintain some autonomy without getting sucked into the adversarial dance -- reacting. that piece of your story really touched me. thank you <3

  9. Congrats, looking forward to the rest of the story. Love love love...

  10. Thank you very much for sharing and so good that you have found such a wonderful home.
    There is film that could be interesting for you.
    here is a link to the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siLbqthiTWo

    Love and Light from Susanne

  11. Well for some reason my internet connection wont allow me to view these comments and reply to them, so I'm sitting in Lismore library again..... Emily Clements-Porteous, what serendipity, and thank you! And Sally Amazon, what a beautiful response you gave..... Ady, the nest is awesome, and thanks for getting that impression of us! Hopefully if you met us you'd still think the same:) Ariad, it was great to bump into you the other day, and yeah, all births are (completely!) different in my experience anyway, and Clare, I kinda knew that you'd relate to the 'more births I experience the less I think I know' approach, and you're so very kind and compassionate around my dating experience! Like I'd expect from a sweetheart like you:) Jennifairy,thanks for your gorgeous feedback too, and in the times when we've chatted you've helped keep me sane too! Karina we're getting there....Lia Joy, I so love that this part of my story really spoke to you - I really appreciate your input into the collective web around birth, your openmindedness and your honesty too!! The best of birthing luck with your new birth, and if you want to talk about it I'm more than happy to chat about anything. Love love love to you too star faerymother, and Majikfaerie, was awesome to finally meet you! And Susanne, thanks for the link to Orgasmic Birth - haven't watched it yet, but I will get to it, and you are all wonderful:) Thanks so much for your continuuing support and for egging me on!! Love and blessings to you all:)

  12. Another awesome story, thank you so much for sharing it - I can't wait to read what happens next!

  13. My "mind's eye" is just singing and smiling about your experience! Your story telling, your wisdom, Radiates!! I love, love, love that you stood firmly for yourself and your needs in the end! And here I am, a week late to your blog/story.....I adore you and look forward to hearing the rest. Would love to dance with your family one day! Blessings Dear One, I am so happy for you!!

  14. I could birth another eight times and still feel like I was standing before a limitless vista of birthing potentials and possibilities. And lessons to learn and fears to face.
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I love your comments, and your feedback......it makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile. Peace and blessings to you!