I had a strange sense of anticipation on Saturday night, November 5th. I was just three days shy of my due date, and it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to carry my full belly of baby around - to sit, drive, keep up with a busy toddler. After putting the boys to bed and a hearty dinner of roast chicken (raised by us) I set about sewing with varying success; a linen changing mat cover and a pair of cotton gauze pants. Later than night Alex pulled up a chair and we chatted about the pending birth; we agreed that Monday would be the best day for baby to arrive, if one could plan these things!
I struggled to fall asleep that night, every position I got into seemed uncomfortable, I tossed and turned, felt a dull ache in my stomach, and finally around 4am decided to just get up. I felt like the baby would be coming soon, and began to potter around the house; stacking the dishwasher, clearing the sink, getting breakfast ready, packing away sewing things, I was hungry and ate yoghurt with chopped up banana and granola. I had to go to the toilet again and still had a lingering dull crampy feeling, so I decided to run bath with lavender and epsom salts. It was just after 5am now - I had a little lamp on for dim light, the warm water washed over me, then contractions started to come regularly every 10-12 minutes. I felt them come and go - anticipated the intense rushes and breathed long slow breaths - the spaces between contractions were becoming more and more of a relief. It felt sacred somehow, to be alone and labouring, and yet feel safe in my home, in the bath my mum helped us install, trusting my body to know what to do. I thought about the babe inside my womb, wondered what his face would be like, the colour of his hair...
The warmth of the water was so soothing, I must have been in there for almost an hour when Alex woke up and popped his head round the door - I think it’s started I said, so he went up to quickly feed out the chickens. Slowly I got out of the bath, dried and dressed myself - pausing for contractions, learning on the edge of the bed, circling my hips for relief, taking the slow “silky” breaths I'd practiced throughout the pregnancy, and exhaling through my mouth. I got my hospital bags ready - and felt so thankful that my older boys had been able to have a full night’s sleep. Reuben was up first at around 6.45am, then Beren soon after. They had breakfast and we called my parents-in-law to come and collect the boys. I called our local country hospital and spoke to the midwife, and we agreed since my last labour was so short, I should make my way in soon.
There was a bit of confusion about cars - you see, we had a farmers market to attend to that morning. Thankfully we still had Ant, our farm volunteer staying with us, and he agreed to go ahead with our car (packed with market things and our chickens and eggs) and set up. My father-in-law would drive me in to the hospital, Alex would follow behind in Ant's truck. I closed my eyes for most of the car trip in, gripping the seat in silence, leaning my head into the window, praying. I wished Alex was with me.
At the hospital, midwife Lisa was there to greet me with a big hug and a warm smile - we were both glad to have “got each other” this time - she took me up to the birth room, Alex soon joined us with my bags and set up our music - the same playlist we made for Beren's birth (and Reuben's before him), with a couple of extra tracks added in. Lisa started a bath and we chatted, she told me to relax, that the car trip might have slowed things down a bit, not to worry… the bath was soon ready and I undressed - as I walked toward the bathroom I had such a powerful contraction I had to get down to my hands and knees to breathe through it. When I finally made it to the bathroom, I looked at my big tight belly in the mirror, just to pause and take the familiar sight one last time…
The warm bath water was sweet relief for my lower back, which was really beginning to ache unbearably. Alex joined me by the side of the bath, kissing my face, stroking my head. He told me to loved me and that I was strong, I could do it, this would be the last time I had to… I stayed a while in the bath before feeling an urgency to get out and return to my hands and knees on the floor, the contractions were getting more intense and I needed to feel firm against the earth. I leaned into a gym ball and Alex pressed warm towels into my back. I wanted to move back out into the main room - it was lit only by the natural morning light streaming through the windows. Lisa got a mat ready, felt my belly and listened to the baby’s heartbeat through the next contraction, she said I was beginning to sound different, like I was needing to push, I felt it too.
The transitional stage felt so different from my other births, my contractions seemed to alternate between mild and so much more intense, forceful pushing ones. I asked Lisa to check how far I was along, she did gently and said I was fully dilated, that I could push when I felt like it… and with the next contraction my waters broke, I groaned and pushed, leaning on my knees into the end of the bed - I could feel baby’s head getting into place, I made short blowing breaths as baby’s head began to crown, and that minute or two, between the next contraction, seemed like the longest in all the world. A searing sting, and then a final push, and out came baby. I sat down on the ground, holding my new baby boy, his cord still attached, I took in the sight of this pink, squishy babe - dark haired like his brother, he was covered in white vernix. His head seemed rounder and more delicate than my other babes. It was 9.45am. We were in love.
We had three boys names on our list, but Archer fit best of all. We named him Archer Brenin. Brenin is Welsh for king, and Archer an old English name we just liked the sound of - we call him Archie and Archie-babe...
Leading up to the birth I asked a few close friends to pray for me, to write a blessing or a word of encouragement… a number of people prayed specifically for joy and peace - and truly I felt that - it was as peaceful a labour as one could wish for (in the circumstances) - yes, I felt discomfort and intense pain, I had to persevere, but I also felt strong and able and the sweetest,
"Weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning"