the birthing of beren argyle

On the afternoon of my due date we took a walk up the big hill behind a friend's property. From the top you can see out in all directions, the highs and lows, bends, boulders, hills, forests of our part of the country. We are new to this place but its felt like home from the moment we arrived. Something I can't explain, a feeling maybe, a history in my blood of the farming folk who settled here years and years ago, or before that to the indigenous peoples - a love for earth, space and open sky... my mum took my portrait from the top of that hill, and I'm glad she did - the ripeness, the expectancy. More than anything I remember feeling peaceful that baby would come when he's ready, and he did three days later.

It was Wednesday morning, April 8th. I was 40 + 3 weeks with child, and it was the day our 300 broiler (meat) chicks were arriving. Alex's alarm went off at 6am and I roused myself from light sleep. I felt a dull cramping ache in my belly and a pressure - an urge to visit the loo. On returning, I curled up around Alex under the warm sheets and lay there wondering about this sensation I felt - those cramps - getting stronger, then tapering off, going away altogether, beginning again. I breathed deeply and kissed that man beside me. Was I in labour I asked. Are you? Let's see where it goes...

Alex drove off to do morning chores and I began on breakfast; porridge, rice sourdough toast, scrambled eggs, a plunger of coffee, a pot of earl grey tea... Reuben woke and I hugged him tight. Every few minutes I had contractions - rushes of crampy pain - I began to time them and jot them down on a piece of paper... six minutes apart... five minutes... five minutes... four minutes...  regular, anticipated, increasing in force - I held onto the edge of the kitchen table and bent my head down to breathe. I think the baby's coming I told Reuben.

When Alex came home we breakfasted. Then we decided to call the midwife - and she agreed that we should come into the hospital. Alex collected his parents who were staying nearby so they could watch over Reuben while we were gone. I packed my bags and pillow into the car. I looked up into the sky and saw a big arching rainbow through the clouds. A promise I thought, of what's to come... 

We got in the car and began the twenty minute drive into town. I clutched my pillow as we drove those familiar winding roads, and we listened to the birth playlist... I remember gazing out at the landscape and feeling comforted, excited at the thought of meeting our baby. We talked and laughed. 

We arrived at our small country-town hospital and went directly to the birth room. It was 9am. One of my midwives, Helen, was there getting things ready. She began running a bath at my request so I could labour in warm water. I lay back on the bed as she lay hands on my belly, trying to work out where baby's head was positioned. She was having trouble, he was so low down - all she could feel were limbs. Gently she examined me - I was already 6cm dilated and thin, really to have this baby soon. 

I went into the bathroom, my waters broke soon after. I remember undressing and looking at my heavily pregnant body, with tummy so full and tight with child, my hair was still neatly braided up. I got into the bath and that warm water washed over me. It soothed. I was left alone in there for a while - another midwife came in and introduced herself. Alex hooked up our music - Alt J, Sufjan, Sigur Ros, Tazie chants, Iron & Wine, Boy and Bear, Radiohead, Cornor Orbest, Sixteen Horsepower... 

My contractions became more intense. Alex came and sat by the edge of bath, I lay my head on his arm and moaned and breathed through the pain. He stroked my face. I was transitioning and the pressure was increasing. I felt unstable floating in the water, I needed to get out. so I did. I leaned onto a gym ball on the bathroom floor, dazed, breathing hard, moaning for relief. Alex put pressure on my lower back and reminded me to make low sounds, to keep breathing. I remember my mum calling, talking to me on the phone - encouraging, loving me from afar - I think we were both weepy - our spirits close and vulnerable, I told her that it hurt so much... 

Then the desire to push came quickly, forcefully -
I felt scared for a moment -
then I let go, I had to -
prayed a silent prayer,
I followed my body's call,
the midwife urging me to push,
and it burned like fire -
I was leaning into Alex when baby's head emerged,
just as I had done with Reuben,
not that we planned it 
it just seemed the right place to hold myself -
a head, I felt it
and the longest minute
waiting for the next contraction to push the rest of him out,
and ah, oh, a beautiful body
a pink boy hollering for me,
dark haired and lovely.
It was 10.01am.
Throughout the pregnancy my midwives and doctor thought the baby would not be so big, but when he came he was a fairly decent 8 pounds 7 ounces. He actually looked robust, muscular, with big strong hands and eyes that could fix on faces. It's hard to describe, but he felt more mature that my first baby, already wise to life out of the womb. I guess we were older and wiser too. 

His name - Beren Argygle - was picked out months ago. We always imagined Beren as a dark haired baby so when he came with that crop of dark brown we were decided. Beren is an old-English name that means "brave" but is also a nod to our shared love of Tolkein and fantasy. Argyle is Scottish and refers to the west coast of Scotland - which I was able to see years ago, and fell in love with. It is a homage to our shared Scottish ancestry and to the history of the area which we now live and farm on. The Scots were some of first farmers of this land, and I think would have felt at home among the rocks and boulders and windswept hills... 
It all went so quickly - from moment of waking that morning to meeting my babe a few hours later. I am asked if it was easier than my first birth - and it wasn't, it was different. In many ways I felt more peaceful when labour progressed a bit slower with Reuben, and this time I felt a kind of shock by the brevity and intensity of it...

But there is nothing so lovely and good in all the world as holding that baby against your chest and those eyes squinting open at you, and breathing him in. To know a tiny child already so well, but to first meet him face to face...

forty weeks

dearest babe,
tomorrow you are officially "due" and we are patiently waiting, hoping you might come into the world while my mama is visiting. tomorrow will also be easter sunday - a celebration of sacred promise, redemption and new life . I feel you moving lower and lower in my womb, especially in the middle of the night. I wonder about how you will arrive - the time of the day, the mood, the people in the room. I let go of a perfect "birthing" and focus instead on what I know - that my body is healthy and able, that you and I are loved immensely, that I cannot control the unknowns, that I need not fear. I am so ready to hold you close and whisper a truth in your ear... I love you so. 

prepare

the daisies I planted are finally blooming,
a little jacket is ready for seaming,
baskets are filled with small clothes, nappies and cloth,
the first quince of the season handpicked from a friend's tree,
and a batch of hot cross buns are baked -
this morning the boy introduces "his chicks" to the pasture,
and we spend the late afternoon harvesting honey,
elevenses are observed,
as are zinnias, and behind them golden nasturtiums, red geraniums -

we are in the final days of waiting for this so-loved little babe to emerge, and so we potter in the garden and plant out cabbages, we prepare our bedroom and assemble a bed with three sides next to ours, we clean the house, we keep running a business, we bake for easter, we plan a birthday meal, we hiatus from facebook, we cuddle on the bed and read stories, we welcome the gifts of friends (child-minding, encouraging messages, hole-digging, maple smoked bacon, pickles, appliance installation), we stretch on our hands and knees, we reflect on the word...

there is so much to be thankful for, so much to savour
and the less I worry about everything on my to-do list
and more I savour the rhythm
of these fresh autumn days,
and anticipate...

to nest and sew

I am nearing thirty-six weeks and feeling so very full of child! The due date no longer seems a mile away, but actually rather soon. I do not want to hurry along these next weeks of preparation - nesting - readying my home, body, heart for a new season of newborn haze and winter hibernating... aside from the myriad of book-keeping, cleaning and cooking tasks, is my wish list of things to sew before this sweet babe arrives (when I am sure my sewing machine will lie dormant for some time in the corner of the spare room).

Some recent makes:
I love a good U-shape pillow, especially when breastfeeding but I lament how limited options are for cases. I made this simple case with some lush double gauze cotton by nani iro, and to my delight had just enough left over to fashion a cover for a hot water bottle - another postpartum essential item to soothe those after birth pangs...

Then there's a new pillow case for the tired looking reading cushion in Reu's room - sewn from folksy printed linen...

A stash of washable nursing pads in pure linen and repurposed cotton pre fold nappies...

A peg bag to remedy the cumbersome bending down for pegs in the rusty tin scenario...

And finally some tiny booties and bibs for the babe, just because...

Still on the list (and possibly never to be complete/begun): a linen hospital bag, a soft fleece sleeping sack for babe, linen pot holders for the kitchen, drawstring bags for carrying nappies and toys...

xx

thirty five weeks

Sweet babe,
You're more than thirty five weeks grown, and life seems busier than ever. Nature is telling me to lessen the load, but I'm afraid we do have another fortnight or so of hard work; farmers markets to bake for, art classes to teach, chickens to order and others to prepare for, pigs to help butcher, friends to love and support, a wedding to fly to, gardens to plant. Sometimes I feel strong and full of vigour and other times I want to curl up in the bed and do nothing at all. I read that your ears are fully formed now and can hear some of what's going on out here - in the last little while you have heard me cry bitterly in grief, sing to your brother, laugh at your dada, listen to howling wind and a thunderstorm, mill up flour and potter around in the soil as the crickets begin their dusk-light chant... I remind myself that my slowness is not something to fight against, but to accept gratefully - it is a blessing to be so heavily pregnant with a healthy, soon to be known and kissed and wrapped warm - you....

thirty one weeks

my sweet babe,
your every-so agreeable father captured these photos of us today, just as dusk began to crept in - we were all tired after a day of busyness but I couldn't let the moment go - the very moment of being exactly this full of you. Like your brother you seem to be settling with your head down and while I am glad for you to be practising this positioning, the pressure is at times uncomfortably intense. Skirts and dresses and loose cotton pants are worn often, and this beloved linen dress - locally designed and handmade in the city - is especially luxurious and accommodating. I am certain the next nine weeks will fly by as we chase your brother about, bake for the markets, run an art class, prepare for hundreds of chickens to arrive, sow dozens of seeds and plant out vegetables, embrace the lenten season, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, usher in the crisp cool of autumn and quiet prayers for you, for all of us, to keep growing, trusting, hoping... love you always, mama xx

twenty six weeks

Sweet babe,
I feel so full of you! We've been on holidays in Sydney for a week now, and soaking in the long summer days - playing board games with my siblings, eating so much cheese and ripe mangoes and melon, driving to the oceanside... Oh how wonderful it is to feel cool and light in the water and breathe in salty breeze. Satisfying sleep seems hard to come by at the moment with your brother's unsettled nights, vengeful mosquitos, summer humidity and my ever-increasingly impatient bladder. You are moving so much little one - especially when I'm still. I imagine you're telling me its good to pause, slow down and make room in my heart and body for you. I've been busy sorting through boxes of our belongings to take back home - tiny garments for you to wear, picture books for you to thumb through, artwork by your dada to hang on the walls, fabric for your mama to craft quilts and bibs and booties from. Keep growing little laddie, I am so glad for you...
xx

twenty weeks, oh boy!

Long before I conceived you, before I had your brother, before I met your father even - I dreamt of future children. I saw the backs of these sturdy, curly haired boys on the cusp of manhood - following their father through a wooded forest. My heart swelled with pride at the sight of them, and the thought of maybe, one day - getting to be a mother of boys who could grow into men with goodness, strength and tenderness, compassion in their hearts...

And then last week while I lay on my back and the radiographer followed your beating heart and growing brain, long spine, nose and cheek, and so-very-often moving hands and legs - we learnt that you are indeed a he... 

so, beautiful boy of ours - twenty more weeks of growing and expanding, of feeling you turn and kick, of deciding on names, of preparing your brother for your arrival, of growing a farm, of nesting a happy home, of wondering who you will one day be...

twenty more weeks till I can hold you in my arms and kiss your cheeks and whisper in your ear...

17 weeks

"I heard the heartbeat today and it sounded like someone hammering beside the sea." 
Rebecca Elson

There is something so magical, unearthly even about hearing another heart beating inside you... still so small and yet you throb with all the strength and determination of waves crashing against the shoreline. you are seventeen weeks and growing mightily. I am impatient to feel you moving - sometimes I catch a fluttering when I wake to pee in the night, or when I'm stretching on my hands and knees... You keep me hungry most the time, and sleepy before night falls. I crave sharp cheddar and sweet ripe pears, hot baths and oysters (that I dream of)... I am keen to find a daily rhythm that nourishes and soothes this needy body, cares for your active brother and keeps on top of all our work... when you arrive we hope to have hives full of bees, garden beds full of vegetables, chickens laying eggs and maybe a piglet or two. I met one of the midwives today who might be there when you are born - I was so glad when she said she believes in stepping back and letting the mother lead the way in birth... I look forward to the intensity and mystery of breathing you out into the world. Stay well little wave, keep on growing...  love mama xx