Hugh Charles Aitken – A Birth Story

12 Jun

As a woman and particularly now as a midwife, I have always held birth in incredibly high esteem. I have always been enamoured by the strength and the magnificent beauty of a labouring woman; I have always been in awe of her primal, animalistic, primitive instincts and her ability to bring her baby into the world with very little encouragement or coaching required.

I have always been incredibly inspired by the writings of amazing midwives and obstetricians that truly believe in and advocate for normal birth – particularly that of Ina May Gaskin and the wonderful Michael Odent.

I would sit in class as a midwifery student, listening to our professors wax lyrically about the beauty and the power of childbirth on women, on a family unit, and on humanity as a whole. I would get goosebumps, and more often than not, wet eyes from emotion hearing these wonderful tales and truths. I was in awe of the magnificence and significance of womankind, and I longed with every fiber of my being to experience such a powerful thing as childbirth – something which I held in such high esteem.

Last Friday, the 31st of May 2013, I experienced just that – and my life is forever changed.

This is my story.

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On the evening of the 25th of September 2012, I was home alone. Mark was at his weekly basketball game and I was pottering around the kitchen listening to my favourite album Albertine by Brooke Fraser. It was a lovely Spring evening. Mark and I had both celebrated our birthdays in the week prior and we were in a happy and contented place in life.

But we wanted a baby.

This particular evening, I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that I may in fact be pregnant. Several symptoms led me to believe this may have been the case, but with the grief of a recent miscarriage hanging over our heads and clouding our judgement we had not wanted to get our hopes up until my period was actually in fact, LATE.

Just before Mark got home, I dug out a pregnancy test which I knew I had, but had hidden away as looking at them reminded me of our recent loss. I will never forget weeing on that stick – almost immediately the two most beautiful, dark, convincing and healthy lines came up indicating that I was, in fact, growing a new little life inside me.

I quickly wrapped up the tests (I did two, just in case the first one was a fluke!) and hid them amongst the doona and pillows on our bed. When Mark walked in after his game, I held out a black box tied with a white ribbon and told him to open his belated birthday present. Upon the realisation of what was in the box, there were many kisses of my tummy from Mark and many tears shed by a very grateful and emotional me.

My pregnancy was tough – but I loved it all the same. I vomited every day for 17 weeks, bled intermittently for 25 weeks, had heartburn and back pain. However, I truly loved being pregnant. I will never forget the feeling of his first movements – I was 16 weeks pregnant and felt a tap-tap-tap on the inside. I knew it was very early to feel movements, but I have never been more sure of anything in my life – I knew it was my baby moving.

I loved my belly growing steadily each week. I would look forward to taking my weekly photo every Saturday morning and documenting my changing shape and size as my little child grew inside me. I loved the feeling of him moving and wriggling and rolling and kicking inside my uterus, and I loved that he was all mine, almost like my own little secret, whilst he was in utero.

I never got sick of being pregnant. I never wished it away or hated being in that state. I loved it the entire time, up til the moment he was born.

Mark and I went to bed on Thursday night, the night of the 30th May 2013 at about 10:00. I had carried out my usual routine of moisturising my tight as a drum belly, followed by listening to my Calm Birth and birth affirmations CD. I drifted off to sleep in a comfortable and calm way, thinking I’d wake up in the morning just as I had done so every other morning prior… However, this night was set to be very different.

At 00:20hrs I woke up to my waters breaking. There was a huge amount of fluid, which soaked many many towels! I called Claire, my midwife who I had asked to care for me during my pregnancy, labour and birth. Claire is a beautiful woman with a passion for women and normal birth, a wealth of experience and an infectious laugh! After a short conversation we arranged to meet at the hospital at 09:00 to monitor the baby if labour had not started before then. I was happy with that plan, I felt safe and secure that Claire was only a phone call away, and that she knew what I wanted for my labour and birth. Mark went back to sleep at this point, but I was far too excited to sleep, despite trying my hardest.

At 02:00 I began to feel the faintest of period like pain across the top of my pelvis.

At 03:30 I began to have contractions that were 10 minutes apart, but these were still quite mild in their pain levels.

By 4:30 I felt like I’d like a shower because I had liquor all over my legs from my waters breaking, and I wasn’t sleeping much anyway. Almost immediately after I stood up, gravity must have played its part, because my contractions then ramped up to one every two or three minutes. They were increasing in intensity and I was having to breathe through them. These contractions were painful, but the overwhelming feeling I experienced was incredible pressure.

I had two speech bubbles in my head at this stage – the first reminding me that typically primips (women having their first babies) on average, labour for 12 or so hours; but the other speech bubble was telling me that both my mother and my grandmother had very fast labours, so perhaps I too was following in their obstetric footsteps.

I soon felt a sense of urgency to get to the hospital, so I phoned my Mum to come over. Mum arrived by 05:30 and watched me have two contractions, one on top of the other. I felt quite transitional at this time, but was unsure how this could be? I had only been contracting properly for one hour! Mum volunteered that she thought I needed to get into the car and head to the hospital. I was equally reassured by this and alarmed by this.

The car ride to the hospital was one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure. I remember thinking to myself how much I wished I was having a homebirth, as I could not fathom sitting in the car in order to drive the 25 minutes to the hospital! Luckily there was little traffic, as about half way there I began to develop an overwhelming urge to push. No matter how hard I tried, both mentally and physically to control this urge, there was nothing I could do to stop myself from pushing with every contraction. I didn’t say much during the drive, but I distinctly remember telling Mark and Mum that I no longer felt safe and that I was beginning to get scared.

Soon after this, we arrived at the hospital. I have never been so grateful to walk into my own workplace! The first midwife I saw was my dear friend and colleague Katrina, as we had beaten Claire in arriving. I’ll never forget seeing Katrina that morning, she was exactly what and who I needed. She looked me in the eye, touched me gently on the shoulder and said in the most comforting of voices, “it’s alright lovely, you’re doing so well.” Seeing her was like seeing your favourite aunty – someone who just fills your heart with warmth, assurance and safety. She quickly and gently examined me, telling me that I was fully dilated and to listen to my body and to just go with it.

My body was ready, but my mind was not. I felt rushed, like everything had happened with such speed, that I was caught almost unawares… The human body truly is a miraculous thing. It knew that my mind needed time to catch up – and it gave me a break from contractions for a good five or more minutes. I had to talk to myself during this time, and work on stamping out the fear that was slowly creeping into my conscious thoughts. My mantra with every contraction was TRUST.YOUR.BODY.

Claire arrived just minutes later, and again, I was so grateful to be surrounded by people I loved and trusted. There was a happy, expectant, excited feeling in the room. Not a single flicker of doubt or worry or concern. Even though I was very insular during this time, I was aware of the gentle laughing and the clicking of the camera – I found this of great comfort, as I knew as long as I could hear these jovial sounds, there was no concern for the wellbeing of myself or my baby. I knew that everything was normal.

I very quickly found myself needing to stand. I needed to feel the firmness of the floor beneath my feet. I needed to use gravity to help me birth my baby. My legs were strong and unfailing. My husband was a rock to which I gripped and clung to over the raised bed with every surge of pain. The urge to bear down and push was innate. I had never done this before, but alas, I knew exactly what I had to do – my body literally took over. Having my Mum stand behind me, my husband in front of me, and my midwife beside me was incredibly reassuring. Again – I felt safe.

Pushing my baby out was a surreal experience. I had seen hundreds of women do this before, but the experience of doing it myself was incredible. It was painful, tiring, frightening and difficult – but with every push, I could literally feel my baby moving down inside me, a feeling I hope I never forget. A few times I put my fingers inside me and felt his little head maneuvering down, cleverly turning and twisting at exactly the right times to fit through my pelvis and come into the world.

After about one hour of pushing, my baby’s head was crowning. I felt my Mum’s hand gently supporting his head, and when his face was born, I heard exclamations of how pretty “it’s” face was. At this time, I knew there was only one more push before I met my baby. I stood up straight and with his head between my legs I took off my top and my bra in full anticipation of lifting my baby up onto my skin in only mere seconds. The next push, I pushed with all my strength and might. I felt my mum’s skillful hands guiding him out of me. I felt his shoulders, body and legs slip and wriggle from my body out into the world where we would fall in love on the outside, with him – our child!

My mum passed him gently through my legs, where I leaned down to take him from her, to meet my precious baby.

It’s a boy!! It’s a boy!! I love you, my son!! I must have uttered these words a hundred times, both aloud and in my mind. I was blown away by the fact that he was here, that he was a boy, that he was our son!

My heart has never felt so much in one single moment. It was bursting with love for my new son, this new life that we had just welcomed. It was overflowing with adoration for my husband, my rock, my partner, my ahava. It was filled with gratitude to my body for birthing my baby safely and efficiently. It was brimming with pride that my Mum had been able to deliver her first grandchild, and share in the most significant moment of my life to date. It was singing praises to God for bringing him to us in his most perfect state.

I’ll never forget Mark’s face in that moment. He looked at me with such love. He kissed my face so gently and whispered “I love you so much”. He kissed his son time and time again…

Soon, our family and friends started rushing in to meet our baby. I had been warned to take it easy, to protect this time, to rest and not have too many visitors… However, I wanted to shout him from the rooftops! Our most beautiful, adored baby was here!

One of he loveliest aspects of this day was sharing our joy with our fellow midwives and staff at the hospital. They had been such a source of love, strength and support to both Mum and I throughout my pregnancy, and it was wonderful to be able to share our joy with people who were so genuinely interested and happy for us.

At 15:30 that same day, Mark and I bundled our new little addition into the car and drove him home for the first time. When we placed him in his tiny cradle that night before going to bed ourselves, we were a bit overwhelmed with all that had happened that day. Mark said a goodnight prayer for our baby Hugh, and we commenced our lives as a new little family of three.

Our story does not end here – it is merely the beginning! 12 days later, I love him infinitely more than I thought I ever could. My love for him multiplies exponentially every day. I am so honoured that he was sent to me, for me to love, to nurture, to grow and to parent.

I hope I do him the justice he deserves.

During a contraction vs. between contractions!

During a contraction vs. between contractions!

Pushing

Pushing

Continuity of care at it's finest. My lovely Claire.

Continuity of care at it’s finest. My lovely Claire.

My support crew - Love my Mum smiling in this one

My support crew – Love my Mum smiling in this one

The moment that changed our lives forever!

07:48 – The moment that changed our lives forever!

There are no words.

There are no words

So in love with my child.

So in love with my child

Daddy's first cuddle

Daddy’s first cuddle

Our sweet boy

Our sweet boy

Uncle Guy, Aunty Jess & Aunty Galina and Uncle Lee

Uncle Guy, Aunty Jess & Aunty Galina and Uncle Lee

Nan & Grandma and Grandpa

Nan & Grandma and Grandpa

Overwhelmed with emotion.

Overwhelmed with emotion

Taking him home

Taking him home

Nanna and Papa

Nanna and Papa

Emotional, fabulous, exhausting day

Emotional, fabulous, exhausting day

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The Nearness of You…

28 May

“It’s not the pale moon that excites me / That thrills and delights me / Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you….”

Every day that passes, Mark and I are closer to meeting our little person, our baby who we are so immeasurably in love with.

Our sweet little girl or our cheeky baby boy who we have been dreaming of and talking about for the best part of a year.

Everything is ready – the linen is washed and the cradle is warm and cozy.

The clothes are hanging in the wardrobe.

The bags are packed and in the car.

The car seat is in the backseat, simply awaiting its precious cargo!

Now it is just the equally glorious and torturous task of waiting until this baby is ready to be born, and to meet all the wonderful people who love it so.

“If you’ll only grant me the right / To hold you ever so tight / And to feel in the night the nearness of you”

Shelves which will be filled with special things and photos of special memories for our special baby

Shelves which will be filled with special things and photos of special memories for our special baby

Love hearts bought at Eumundi Markets when I was 6 weeks pregnant and sick as a dog!

Love hearts bought at Eumundi Markets when I was 6 weeks pregnant and sick as a dog!

My favourite saying bought by my cousin and BFF will serve as a reminder to me every day

My favourite saying bought by my cousin and BFF will serve as a reminder to me every day

The cradle our baby will sleep in is mine and my brothers' from when we were babies!

The cradle our baby will sleep in is mine and my brothers’ from when we were babies!

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This beautiful blanket was lovingly hand embroidered by my Nan - there are four of these garlands - one on each edge... A new family heirloom!

This beautiful blanket was lovingly hand embroidered by my Nan – there are four of these garlands – one on each edge… A new family heirloom!

This Steiff bear was bought for my baby in Germany by my Pop who died in April last year. He was so looking forward to his great grandchild that he bought this bear for him/her before we were even expecting. A very special man who is very missed by all

This Steiff bear was bought for my baby in Germany by my Pop who died in April last year. He was so looking forward to his great grandchild that he bought this bear for him/her before we were even expecting. A very special man who is very missed by all

All the little pink clothes are hanging ready to be filled by sweet little girl

All the little pink clothes are hanging ready to be filled by sweet little girl

Or a cheeky little boy...

Or a cheeky little boy…

I am dying to know which one it will be!

I am dying to know which one it will be!

Old and Loving Acquaintances…

17 May

Any day now, my life as I know it, and my life as I have always known it for the last 28 years is going to change.

My darling husband and I are expecting a little bundle of joy to arrive sometime in the next two to three weeks.

I read a quote the other day that really resonated with me.

It read… “A mother and her unborn baby are old and loving¬†acquaintances who cannot wait to set eyes on each other” – Thomas Verney.

I, most definitely, cannot wait to set my eyes on our most precious, infinitely adored little person, who I am already so head over heels in love with – be still my heart – what will I be like when he/she is here??

I suppose my heart will swell to be the largest it has ever been to fit all the love in ūüôā

Bring it on, I say.

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Me at 31 weeks pregnant. I am going to miss my bump!

Marche – Seattle, WA

30 May

Our first night in Seattle was a dreary, cold night – our need for a cozy restaurant and comfort food was paramount.

We were jet-lagged, cold, tired from walking, but had big eyes and big hearts drinking in the sights and sounds of the beautifully green and wet city we found ourselves in.

I am astounded at how much of American food is either deep fried, double fried, shallow fried, flash fried or fried fried… And how their salads are nearly opaque with creamy dressing – enough to make me gag and swear to be a freegan-vegan-fruitarian all the days of my life.

Alas, we were determined to eat fresh, local produce.

So we wandered down to the pier where we found this beautifully tucked away, stellar restaurant called Marche.

This is my handsome dinner partner.

We started with pomme frites and house made mayonnaise and a salade verde (butter lettuce, arugala, lemon, hazelnut oil and brique agour cheese)

We had the restaurant nearly to ourselves, sharing only with three other tables. Our waiter said that 8:00pm is too early for the local folk, and their dinner rush was at 10:00pm. Either he was lying and had a very quiet restaurant, or he was in for a looong shift!


I ordered the petite wagu New York strip steak, with roasted shallots and a fine herb butter. Was delish. I was so hungry I couldn’t even take a shot that was in focus before devouring this tasty morsel. Sorry focus aficionados.


Mark enjoyed the fish of the day, which was locally caught salmon fillet, on leeks (and I can’t remember the rest because it wasn’t written on the menu and American’s speak really fast.) But it was tres yummy.



Any place that has an arrangement of flowers this pretty on their front desk is a winner in my books. Spectacular.




Tea with the Rich and Famous

27 May

During our whirlwind tour of the west coast of Canada (impressed that I know which coast we’re on Dad/Guy??) Mark and I felt very swanky indeed as we sipped tea and ate scones at the Empress Hotel during afternoon tea time.

We sat with the beautiful people.

We listened as the pianist expertly and delicately danced his fingers across the grand ebony and ivory.

And we pretended like we had money to burn – Revenge style. I channelled Victoria Grayson as hard as I possibly could – minus the plot to kill, treason, fraud and philandering husband of course.

On the menu were smoked salmon pinwheels, mango and curried chicken sandwiches on rye, cucumber and horseradish double decker sandwiches on white, free range egg croissant, sun-dried tomato mousse on crostini, freshly baked raisin scones with house strawberry jam and cream, batternburg cake, lemon meringue tart, rose petal shortbread, apple cheesecake and macarons.

Delectable to say the least.

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And on the way home, I stopped and smelled the roses. Because that’s what I do on holidays.

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Butchart Gardens – Victoria, BC

25 May

“This is my garden, my joy and my pride. When I am here, I feel God by my side”

My Pop was an avid gardener.

He was a gentleman who appreciated the very finest of things in life – particularly beauty stemming from hard work, which meant that gardening suited him to a tee.

My Pop would always speak about the ‘magnificent Butchart Gardens’ and that ‘perhaps’ I would go one day.

Well, today, I thought ‘perhaps I shall’ and oh Lordy, was it a treat.

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mid¬∑wife (noun): with women

20 Oct

We are witnesses to the miracle of life, and to the strength of women.

It is incredibly rewarding work and incredibly demanding work.

We are ‘with women’ throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum – listening, counselling and holding emotional space for her.

We sit with her through loss, abuse and disappointment.

We feel her joys, accomplishments and transformations.

We hold women as they squat, dangle, lunge and kneel – gripping our hands as they bear down.

We contort into various positions to get heart tones and to catch babies.

We work odd and long hours, living in a constant state of ambiguity and contingency plans – often working on little or no sleep, eating on the go.

But being a midwife is not merely a job…

It is a lifestyle.

It is in our blood.

And we could not imagine filling our days, weeks, months and years with anything less.

Twenty-One Things

16 Oct
1. I daydream about being REALLY good at a particular thing… Like being associated with a skill that is amazing… and having people say, “Ohhh! Erica, she’s the amazing ballet dancer” or “Ohhh! Erica, she’s the incredible opera singer!”
2. I come from a long line of nurses… my grandmother is a nurse, my mum is a nurse, my dad WAS a nurse, my aunt is a nurse. I spent the majority of my childhood swearing black and blue that I’d NEVER become a nurse…

3. I am a serial buyer and taker backer. I rarely try things on at the shops, I just see something I like, buy it, and then take it back if need be. I am an expert on stores refund policies.

4. I have two mantras in life. “All things happen for a reason” and “Let go and let God”.

5. I once burnt my toe in a cheese and tomato sandwich. Seriously.

6. Anyone who says they LOVE to exercise, is lying.

7. Despite #2, I adore being a nurse. I feel like it was always in my DNA, and I feel like I fulfill a purpose in the world each day, no matter how minute it may be. I love looking after my kiddies, and their families, and they affect me more than I realise.

8. Dawson’s Creek speaks to me. It hits a place deep deeep in my teenage heart. I was Joey, and he was Dawson. Ugh, teen angst…

9. One of my favourite things to do is to go to the flower markets with my mum. We get up super early, buy a V on the way, and race around like crazy women!

10. I want to own my own florist one day shop with my cousin Jess … part time florist, part time nurse/midwife!

11. I am incredibly emotional. I find myself getting teary over anything remotely happy, sentimental, or lovely.

12. When my baby brother was born, I was in grade 1 and I took him to school for show and tell!

13. I love camping. Some of our happiest and most fun holidays were camping on the green grass right on the edge of Lake Hume in Albury. We would ski and wakeboard by day, and chill out by night.

14. I wish I lived on the upper east side and my life was Gossip Girl. Although, in the same breath, I’d be completely content with living in a tiny country town.

15. When I get to heaven I’m going to ask to sing¬†and play the piano like Katie Noonan.

16. I fall more and more in love with my husband every day, so much so, that sometimes I think I might burst.

17. I want to grow old… I want to be so lucky to have that many years of living, and I want to pack them full.

18. I hadn’t listened to the Spice Girls since about 1999, then the other day I put their CD on, and I knew EVERY SINGLE WORD.

19. I remember sulking in my cousin’s room being forced to play lego with my brothers and my little boy cousin while my two super cool older girl cousins went to see MC Hammer in concert, decked out in their hypercolour t-shirts, parachute pants, scrunchy socks, and crimped hair. I was deemed “too young”. Most traumatic night of my life.

20. I am in love with my bridesmaids. They consist of my 2 cousins from #19, my childhood friend whom I spend years and years camping with in #13, my beautiful friend whom I met completely randomly at Castle Hill McDonald’s one night, and another beautiful nurse friend from uni who just ‘gets me’.

21. I love the photos on my fridge of my babies from work. Most people think it is sad, and while it is sad –¬†I feel happy looking at them. I love them, and I don’t want to forget them.

Ruby Red Rhubarb

20 Oct

So I love living in the Hills District.

I have been known to refer to it as “God’s country” on more than one occasion.

I love the wide open spaces, the rolling hills, the paddocks with their horses and cows…

What I particularly love, is the abundance of fresh produce grown in the market gardens that are so prolific in this area. I love that at nearly every corner, one can find a little stall selling cut flowers, honey straight from the hive, fruit, vegetables or even cow manure if you so desire!

The other day I picked up a beautiful bunch of rhubarb for the grand total of $1!

I was so excited I bought the whole three bunches on offer and gave one to my mum, and one to my psudo-if-we-were-catholics-then-this-woman-would-be-my-God-mother friend.

I decided to stew my rhubarb, as I love anything stewed.

My brother Lee would disagree, as he would vehemently state “hot fruit is unnatural”

Alas, I began stewing.

Ruby Red Stewed Rhubarb

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of rhubarb, washed, chopped into 3-4cm¬†pieces
  • 3 tablespoons white¬†sugar
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons water

Method

  • Add all ingredients to a saucepan and stir over low heat
  • Leave to simmer/stew for about 10 minutes
  • Eat hot or cold!

 

A Little Touch of Fancy

12 Oct

For my birthday this year, I received some money with which I was told to buy something nice!

I had been drooling over chandeliers and pendant light fittings for quite some time, so when a little extra cash found its way into my hot little hand, I knew exactly what I wanted to buy!

I found the perfect chandelier at Beacon Lighting and the next day Mark and my very handy Dad had it hanging above our dining room table.

What do you think?

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