for nine months i tried not to think too much about alba’s coming birth. not because i was afraid but because it made me cry from all the excitement, impatience and love that welled up inside. the thought of holding her made warmth travel over my skin. the thought of bringing her into the world made me bliss. the little girl who i’d already fallen for.
on the morning of the 23rd of january i decided i felt ready. my mother and sister were here, the birth pool was set up, candles placed all around, incense ready to be burned, alba’s clothes freshly washed and a box full of everything i would need for labour. i asked m to let alba know she could come today. he held his palms over my heavy belly (marked with mother lines) and softly said ‘you can come today alba’.
i didn’t really think she would come then, i thought i would surely go over my due date and time would continue to drag on. but maybe she heard us. we spent the entire day nesting. the house was piles of unsorted things being sorted. my belly would tighten as i moved about, but it had for weeks so i didn’t think a lot of it. it was chinese new year so we decided we would go out to a chinese restaurant for dinner. by chance it was in a small chinese restaurant on chapel street, melbourne in 2009 (in the crazy months when we were homeless) that we first decided to have a baby together.
the tightenings (which i thought then were braxton hicks) were becoming stronger so i brought a hot water bottle into the car to place against my stomach. this is when i began to wonder. but for fear of getting my hopes up only to find out it wasn’t real, i said nothing.
the restaurant was small and run-down, but i kind of liked that about it. it had a charm to it that reminded me of asia. between bites the contractions came and my face tensed up. it would have been a strange sight, and at the time i hoped the waitress didn’t see this as disgust at my meal. i laughed to myself imagining my waters breaking here. my wonder grew and grew on the drive home. the sun set in thick fog before us, a night coming that would stretch on forever.
i rocked on the birth ball, closing my eyes and breathing as i’d been taught in hypnobirthing. my little sister asked ‘are you in labour?’ and i told her i didn’t know, maybe. m had been fixing an old record player but was still missing a part, so he madly began to compose a playlist for the birth. songs from when we first fell in love. the soundtrack to our life together.
the intensity grew and my mother said ‘try to get some rest’. so i lay with matt upstairs while he timed my contractions. my eyes grew very heavy, so i dozed, being woken by the contractions every little while. i went to the bathroom and found i’d bled (what they call a ‘show’), something i’d been waiting for to tell me this was all real. m and my mother began to fill the birth pool. our hot water system is weak, so they boiled water in kettles and saucepans to keep the birth pool warm.
i texted my midwife at 11pm and told her i thought i was in labour. she told me to sleep as it may still be very early. so we lay upstairs again, but i couldn’t sleep. i kept focusing on my breathing as the feelings grew more and more intense. i wanted to get into the water already but i knew i had to wait. i lay in the fetal position in my underwear, with m tracing my back. in between contractions i told my mama i couldn’t imagine it getting more intense than this, i had no idea.
the whole world began to fall away. i was no longer conscious of the candles flickering around me, the music humming in the background or the smell of the night air mingling with fire mountain incense. i was far inward and all my thoughts were quietened. i was in a place i had never been.
the peaks of pain made me feel very sick. my mother would hold my hair back and i’d vomit between contractions. m rang the midwife. it was 4am and she said she would be here in an hour or so. i wanted her there very much. i needed to hear i was progressing, to know how dilated i was so i had some idea of when the pain would end.
i sank deep down into the warm water. my entire body breathed relief. the contractions slowed for a short while. everything was calmer. i’d lean over the pool’s edge and squeeze my mothers or love’s hands during contractions. i did this so hard they felt it for days. i wouldn’t let m leave me. my little sister fanned me with a book. i was barely aware of anything.
my midwife came in the front door a little after 5am and set up everything she needed. i said i wanted her to see how far along i was. she asked if i was sure, because if it turned out i was not far i might become discouraged. i was sure. she told me i was 6-7cm and this was wonderful news. but still i wished i was more.
i spent a long time kneeling on the cold bathroom tiles, vomiting now and then into the bathtub. m placed towels beneath my knees and held me tightly, telling me how proud he was and how well i was doing. at times i would lose my focus and say i was scared or that i couldn’t do it any longer. sometimes in the silence i would cry out.
the morning sun began to flood in through the glass doors. the contractions started to feel different. slowly the pushing urges came and i welcomed them. pushing felt good. the midwife listened to alba’s strong heartbeat, and to know she was calm helped me carry on. my other midwife came now, but i didn’t notice her arrive.
i told m to come into the pool and he sat behind me, tracing my spine. it was all close now. i could feel alba there between my bones. i could feel her moving down with every push. they took all of my strength, more than i could have ever imagined having. i was a warrior, fierce and powerful in those few hours of pushing.
her head crowned and i felt my skin stretched tight. i was so close to meeting my daughter. i touched her soft head and felt wildly excited. my body ached but i was so close i kept on. pushing her out was the hardest thing i have ever done.
she was born into the water at 10:05am on the 24th of january and me and m caught her. i brought her up to my chest and i was overcome with so much love. i was too overwhelmed to cry, i just said ‘oh, baby’ and ‘i love you’ over and over in a shaky, awestruck way. m cried and kissed her with the same enormous love welling up in his heart. ‘you were worth all of it’ i told her.
remembering the moment i first met alba will always make me teary and warm. she gave a few short, beautiful cries and then settled herself, gently watching us with wide eyes. it was as if she knew us, as if she loved us already.
she was perfect. my eyes and lips, and m’s nose. the beginnings of blonde curls. ten tiny fingers and toes. she weighed 4kgs and 60grams. she was more than perfect.
i don’t know how long it was that we sat in the water just contently staring at her. i was on a high, bonding and love hormones flooding through me. even though i’d known for so many months there was a baby growing in my belly, and felt her moving everyday, i realised then it’d never truly sunken in. this was a real little person.
eventually the umbilical cord stopped pulsing. i birthed the placenta, my mother cut the cord and the water became blood red and cold. the midwives carefully helped me move to the daybed and placed alba skin-to-skin on my chest. she found my nipple and fed, still so wide-eyed and alert. m cuddled us both. we were a family.
we thanked the midwives. the wonderful women who made my pregnancy and birth all i’d ever dreamed. they left, and i remember being so happy this precious little thing was ours to keep.
from the corner of my eye i’d catch m staring at me in awe. like i was some kind of incredible superhuman. i felt proud, it’d been the longest night of my life and i birthed my daughter naturally without drugs. it felt like the greatest thing i’d ever do.
we were all so sleepy and exhausted, so we curled up in bed together and slept. while we were dreaming, bunches of flowers were delivered from our families across the country.
birth candles & salt crystal lamp
timing contractions & dozing between them
my love whispering kind things, early hours before sunrise
resting between pushes
holding mama’s hands tight
moonflower, just born
our new family
alba’s first nap outside the womb
our first night together
flowers from everywhere and red water
seeing the way m is with alba, the way he talks to her and cuddles her, makes me realise i am not alone in my overwhelming love for her. it hurts to love someone so much. every little cry makes your heart ache.
papa loving his girl
pixie holding her new niece
first bath with alba
late nights with baby
our first trip outside, to pulpit rock