marigold fable | a birth story
On one of our final days in Bali last year I was preparing to have a massage and wondered why the masseuse didn’t want me lying on my front. “But you have baby,” she said, gesturing to my belly. “No,” I replied. She looked perplexed but let me lie down and as I looked through the hole in the massage table I saw a ring of marigolds around an Om symbol and, for the very first time, felt a presence within me.
There she was.
Two whole weeks later a pregnancy test confirmed what that intuitive Balinese woman already knew.
For someone who has preached the importance of faith in the body and power in the mind to hundreds of pregnant women over the years, I journeyed towards Marigold’s birth anxious and fearful.
My previous birth, with Percy, was positive but, at times, traumatic. He was born healthy and I recovered quickly and without complications. And yet for the first six months of his life I soothed a very traumatised baby who would only settle in my arms and whimpered like he was scared. I didn’t discuss it much at the time because I simply thought I had an unsettled baby. But in retrospect we were both recovering from a frightening experience; one that he would soon forget and one that stayed at the forefront of my mind.
I opted to birth at the local hospital as opposed to the low-risk birth centre I had previously chosen. I knew that I would feel more grounded and secure if medical back-up was close by. Instead of requesting a particular midwife I made the conscious decision to let the universe decide for me – it felt like the right thing to do.
At 11weeks I answered the phone and heard Sue’s voice. And there she was, delivered to me, and just what I needed.
She asked about my previous birth and listened to me wail as all the fear that lay just below the surface bubbled up and over…permission to release. So began a conversation that would continue throughout my pregnancy and right up to the day before birth; my fear soothed by considered and encouraging words.
Apart from low iron levels, I relished in a smooth, enjoyable pregnancy. My belly continued to grow as I went about mothering three children and as the weeks ticked by I reminded myself to savour it all…this would be my last pregnancy and I didn’t want to wish it away.
On Mother’s Day I had the most vivid dream; I birthed my baby in the water and guided him out, a dark-haired boy with the most beautiful face – big eyes and cherub lips. I woke with a renewed sense of faith, like I knew that it was all going to be ok. In the weeks that followed I came back to that dream whenever I felt myself falling into fear.
As I added ticks to my to-do list, filled the freezer with homemade meals and tended to snotty children, it seemed like all-of-a-sudden I was at full term. Those last few weeks of pregnancy are unlike any other and I found myself, once again, transforming into my late-pregnancy self; a vulnerable, emotional, foggy-headed, voluptuous woman journeying towards transition.
On the 18th, the day before Poet’s birthday, I lay down for a quick rest before school pick-up. And all of a sudden, a small gush of fluid that had me up and running to the toilet. “My waters!”. Daniel was working in Sydney so he headed home, his mum collected the kids from school and I packed bags for sleep-overs, all the while wondering: “Is this it?”
No matter how many babies you’ve had, you still wonder. Pregnancy, labour and birth is a humbling experience; it pulls you back to earth, grounding your body and levelling your mind, the ultimate preparation for motherhood.
A few hours in the hospital confirmed that it wasn’t my waters but, perhaps, hind waters or excess mucous. Sue stayed with me for a few hours and calmed me with reflexology while she diffused clary sage to balance my hormones. She reminded me that labour doesn’t tend to “switch on” in fourth pregnancies…there’s often a slow and steady build up – an ebb and flow that can exhaust and confuse.
We headed home and the next day we celebrated Poet’s birthday with pink roses, chocolate cake and mild contractions.
I grew more anxious as the days went by and tried my best to calm the growing sense of anticipation. “So when is the baby coming?” the kids would ask. And right there, a great life lesson: “We don’t know…we just have to wait.”
So we waited. And I breathed deep through contractions that faded as quickly as they commenced.
Those days were slow and meandering, much like me. I pottered, prepared food and re-organised the pantry. Daniel made sure we had a good supply of towels in the new 7-seater car and installed the baby capsule. And the kids asked: “When is the baby coming?”
On the morning of the 23rd I woke at 5am and rocked through a contraction, slightly more intense that the last. I wondered: is this it? At 6am I had a show (the first in all my pregnancies!) and hours later, while dancing in the kitchen, I was sure my waters had broken (they hadn’t).
Once again, Daniel handed the kids over to the doting grandparents and then we spent the day together. I napped and danced and jiggled and cried. And he stayed strong and steady, grounding my flailing emotions with reassuring words and open arms.
I sat on the front steps in the sun around midday. I felt lost and unsure and scared. I was having contractions but they weren’t regular and I couldn’t shake the fact that it felt like Percy’s labour all over again. I called my midwife and because she sensed my unease she asked us to meet her at the hospital in the early afternoon.
She turned up wearing a shirt covered in Marigolds.
We stayed with her for a few hours. I watched my baby’s healthy heart-rate on the monitor and cried because in that moment I felt like I’d lost all my power. And once again I was consoled and supported. Sue reminded me that my body was just warming up and easing into established labour. “Baby is happy,” she said. “Go home and rest.”
Daniel and I ate chicken soup for dinner and then we settled in to watch a movie. I sipped lemonade, started breathing deep through contractions and thought that perhaps it was a good time to download a contraction app.
I was contracting every 10 minutes or so when I suggested that we should get some sleep. Unsurprisingly, as soon as I got into bed the contractions grew in intensity – quickly. By 10:30pm we were in the car and by the time we reached the hospital I was contracting every few minutes. They were, by far, the strongest contractions I had ever experienced.
I power walked through the carpark, bypassed all the patients in emergency and waddled my way to the birthing suite. Sue was there – ever-calm – and she ushered us into Room Number 5 and let us settle in. I crunched ice, Daniel got his camera ready and Sue put geranium in the oil diffuser.
With every baby you have the uterus gets a little weaker, hence it has to work harder during labour. My contractions were powerful; I was groaning ferociously, grasping for physical support. At midnight, when Sue confirmed I was 4cm, I wasn’t disheartened. I knew my body and it felt like it was doing its most productive birth work. It wouldn’t be long till I was pushing.
Sue started to fill the portable bath and I stood under the shower, holding tight on the rail, almost overcome by the sheer intensity of the contractions. This was a whole new level of labour. I asked Daniel about the bath because all I wanted was buoyancy; he told me that it was almost deep enough to get in. I peered around the corner to see about 6 inches of water and a rather sheepish-looking Daniel.
I got on the bed, hung over a pile of pillows and screamed for Daniel to save me while Sue pressed into the soles of my feet. One contraction on top of another and that sense of “Get me out of this!” And I knew – transition.
I felt my baby drop into the birth canal and I rested back on the pillows and started pushing with the next contraction. The radio was playing Kiss Me (Dawson’s Creek fans will know it) and while I hadn’t heard it in years, I started singing, word for word, lost in my own world of I’m about to meet my baby.
I’d never been interested in guiding my baby out before but this time my hand was there, on her head, as she crowned. She was still in her amniotic sack and with one more push she was out. Sue broke the membranes to set her free.
Sue handed her to me and I gazed at the little face from my dream – round, wide-eyed, beautiful with a head of dark hair. And then I looked. “A girl! It’s a girl!” Daniel and I were in awe…it was the most profound sense of relief, an overwhelming blessing.
Marigold fed for two whole hours and gazed at me the entire time. I soaked her all in and cut the cord when it had stopped pulsing. “You did it,” said Sue. “You did it all by yourself.”
Marigold’s birth was such a redeeming experience. In the midst of those intense contractions I felt my most powerful; her gentle entry was incredibly healing for me as a woman and mother. And while I may have laboured, contracted and pushed by myself, I couldn’t have done it without Daniel’s unwavering support and Sue’s mindful guidance.
Marigold Fable, you’re a dream come true.