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To My Darling “Winter Baby”

By Angela Worthington

I want to tell you how amazing your entry into this world was. How my heart ached with love for you from the minute we first met, and how someday I hope you will look forward to birthing your babies and find for yourself the sense of joy, wonder, elation and satisfaction that comes from trusting your body to bring forth life.

The memory of your birth is a triumphant moment in my life, amazingly simple, yet profoundly beautiful. But your story began 38 weeks earlier...

Your sisters named you the ‘”inter Baby”, after a favorite book when you were two weeks old in my tummy.  I struggled with enjoying pregnancy with your sisters.  I disliked the feeling of growing big beyond my control and all the quirky symptoms that go with it. Forty weeks is a long time to wait!  With you, I was challenged to think about the period of “confinement” with an “enjoy each moment for its uniqueness” attitude, thus I adopted, through gritted teeth, an “I love being pregnant” motto… and I told myself this everyday, until eventually I actually believed it!

Previous to becoming pregnant with you, I had this re-occurring dream about giving birth – it was always simple, fast and painless.  Your sisters’ births had both been simple and fast but the first was far from painless, and with the second, the contractions up until transition were horrid. I prayed that my faith would allow you to be born the way it was in my dreams.

Then a friend gave me a book called ‘Supernatural Childbirth’ by Jackie Mize, which explored faith and birth. It was like confirmation that my dreams could be reality. I read the book a dozen times whilst carrying you, building my faith, defeating my fears, praying daily for you and your birth.

I was challenged by my fear at different stages. As I lost two of your siblings at 12 weeks I had to give up thinking ‘miscarriage’ and began thinking ‘full term to the day’. We didn’t scan you, so the irrational fear of ‘deformity’ was replaced with thinking ‘wonderfully and perfectly formed in my mother’s womb’. I began to recognize that the negative thoughts entering my mind had one purpose – to rob me of the joy of pregnancy.

When you were about the size of a grapefruit, I found another amazing book, written in 1933, called ‘Childbirth Without Fear’ by Grantly Dick-Read. It was like being given the missing piece in a puzzle. Dick-Read has a theory about the relationship, during birth, between fear/tension and pain. He described how the muscles of the uterus work under the presence of fear, how difficult it is for a baby to be born easily when tension is preventing the muscles from relaxing and allowing the body to release. It all seemed to make perfect sense, and further increased my confidence in my body’s ability to birth in a relaxed way.

Your wee life inside me was allowing me to grow in my understanding of myself as a woman and bearer of life. You, without even being aware (or were you?), took me deep into my fears and stretched my faith, during those weeks we were one.

As our time drew near, I began to feel my body preparing for your birth, subtle changes – stretching feelings in my cervix, changes in body smells, sleeping at night was becoming increasingly difficult, and my need to get on with the job of birth was constantly on my mind. I felt alive and vibrant and ready. I was so excited about your birthday, full of anticipation about how it would be.

It was a Friday, a cold rainy winter’s evening, when I told your daddy – “tonight feels like the night”. I was hoping to have you in the wee hours so that your sisters would be asleep and the house would be quiet.

I awoke at 1.30am with a sensation something was going to happen and then it did, our waters broke - warmth and wetness and a moment of confusion (both your sisters’ waters broke just before they were born). I gave your Daddy a fright also, as I leaped out of bed and announced you were on your way.

What does a pain-free birth feel like? I had no idea - were you going to just ‘fall out’ or would it be with the same explosive force that expelled your sisters out of my womb and into Daddy’s arms.  I was waddling around with a towel between my legs, naked and cold, ‘Do I get dressed?  Will the baby be born in 10 minutes or 10 hours?’ It was close to 2am by the time I thought – right, get some clothes on, get warm and get daddy onto blowing up the airbed so I could convert a corner of our bedroom into a birth-nest.

As I buzzed around the place gathering and preparing stuff I noticed contractions beginning, they were close together and regular but without the piecing sharpness that had accompanied them with my first two births.  I called Deb (our midwife), your grandma, Nan-Nan and Aunty Melanie and invited them over.

Deb was the first to arrive - after giving her a run down on progress, I gave her a blanket so she could kip down by the fire. I don’t think she had much of a chance to shut her eyes, as Team Family arrived one by one. At about the same time, I was beginning to move from breezing around the house chatting and being sociable, to needing to find a quiet place to focus inward.

Willow (4) woke up on cue and trotted down to our bedroom and jumped into our bed to watch. She was being really cute, but was also not well with asthma, so was coughing non-stop.

I remember thinking ‘how am I going to know if I’m fully dilated unless the contractions are really intense’, sure enough the next few were. I felt like you were close. I had decided to have no monitoring of your heartbeat or checking of dilation (I had requested that our midwife just observe from a quiet spot somewhere).  I trusted I knew my body well enough to do this ‘on my own’ this time. I felt the need to adopt a kneeling position and did so, leaning into the beanbag. “I think I’m going to be sick”, and promptly was.

With your sisters I had vomited at the point of transition, and here I was again with a bowl in front of me as a reaction to the intensity of that moment. I had allowed the fear, ‘what if I’m not dilated enough yet’, to creep in and with it brought contractions that I wouldn’t describe as really painful but definitely not a breeze like it had been up to this point. It was such a head-trip because as soon as I vomited I remembered that to be doing that I must be fully dilated and therefore I didn’t have much further to journey until you would be here, and with that perspective back, the tension eased.

I asked everyone to be quiet as I felt you weren’t far off and asked for someone to take Willow out and look after her for me (she was being sick in a bowl too!) I needed to focus entirely on you.

Your daddy was gently touching my back, tracing the path you were travelling.

I felt myself slip into an altered state, looking out at those around me and seeing, but at the same time being so inwardly focused it was as though they weren’t there. Praise and thanksgivings filled my mind. It was such a powerful, yet humbling, few minutes - for that is as long as it took you to reach me.

I felt you wiggle, it was such an incredible sensation and very different from the hard and fast contractions on top of each other that culminated in the involuntary explosive force that pushed your sisters out at rocket speed. With you, I finally was able to comprehend what I had read in active birth books about “opening like a flower”. It was like I relaxed and you were released and moved down.

You took me by surprise because all of a sudden your head had crowned - I wasn’t ready so you went back up again. There was a seemingly long and peaceful pause where I gathered my focus, and, with the next contraction, you gently moved out of me and into your Daddy’s waiting hands. You arrived with a mighty noise, which was music to my ears. Daddy passed you straight to me.

I don’t ever want to forget that moment. It stirs my heart to recall how I felt as I held you close to my skin and saw just how perfect you were, all wide-eyed, slippery and gorgeous, “Hello little darling, you’re a girl, oh you are lovely, hello”.

I put you to my breast; you latched on and greedily slurped away. I then looked around the room and was aware again that we weren’t alone. Smiles were all around us. You, little girl, were welcomed into this world surrounded by love.

Willow, Nana and Grandma were next door in the bathroom the moment you arrived. They heard you announce your presence with a cry and apparently all rushed in. When I noticed them all, Willow had pulled up her little pink chair next to Debbie to await, with great interest, the arrival of your placenta.

It came and she went, off to hospital with Nan and Grandma to go on the nebulizer.

We climbed into our bed and watched our birth nest get deconstructed, whilst I sipped on a cup of tea, reflecting on the miracle that had just taken place on my bedroom floor. The miracle of you. Our darling “Winter Baby”.

Love Mummy

Angela and Ben are 7th and 4th (or more) generation Taranakians! They have three daughters – Willow, Poppy and Milla. Ben is a builder, and Angela is a home-schooling mum. She is also President of Active Birth Taranaki, and the inspirational force behind Tummy Talk.