Hales Family stories

 A Blessed and Sacred Birth

On Sunday evening just after 6pm on the 4th September 2005 as I sat outside with Daniel and our friend Steve who was staying the weekend, I felt a “show” and knew that baby would soon be on its way. It came as a surprise, even though I had known it could be any time, (it was only a few days before the due date), and I felt a funny sense of nervousness. I wanted to be alone with Daniel to share the news, so I waited until we went to bed, and I whispered to him that labour was likely to begin anytime. He hardly seemed phased and suggested I get some sleep.

I hardly slept. Around 10:30pm I started to feel what I thought were contractions and I soon woke Daniel. I started getting very excited and we got up to prepare some last-minute things. We also woke Steve who helped with a few things. Daniel had a broken leg, which was still in a cast, so Steve’s presence and help was much appreciated.

Around 2am our midwife Anneke arrived. She found I was 3cms dilated and knowing it still could be some time, Steve set up a mattress so she could sleep in another room rather than go home to sleep. I found it reassuring that she was in the house for when we needed her, but that she didn’t need to be with us the whole time.

I rested on the bed between contractions and got up on my knees and leant on Daniel or went on all fours. At first, I didn’t want to invite any of the people we had planned to be with us for the labour and birth, I felt happier alone with Daniel. However, during a heavier contraction, I suddenly had the desire to have some toning (people singing single tones to help the process). Daniel tried calling Sonya and Katrina many times but could not get through to them until around 8am the next morning. He also called my mother who came around a short time later, while I was in the bath (which I felt the need for as contractions intensified a bit more). As I sat in the bath, feeling soothed by the water, Daniel and my mother toned through each contraction, adding a peaceful touch.

After an hour and a half,I had had enough in the bath and continued labouring on the bed. The atmosphere was incredibly beautiful as the room was decorated with large bunches of flowers and lit with several candles and a soft lamp. Added to this was the gentle sound of the toning. When Sonya and Katrina arrived, the space was even more beautiful as their voices and Katrina’s lyre playing joined the chorus. I experienced some very blissful moments as I rested on my bed and the lyre playing continued. Everyone was focused on the process of birthing baby and there was no distractive chatter. Daniel was a tremendous support. He was with me at every moment, hopping on his good leg with me on every trip to the toilet (where I always had a contraction) and back to the bedroom. I was able to move and flow freely as I pictured the energy flowing and opening my body for the birth.

Just before 9am I felt the desire to get up and I squatted on the floor at the end of the bed. Daniel supported me on one side and my mother on the other side. Anneke coached me as I began pushing. The waters broke during a push and poured with a gush onto the floor. I found it really hard to push and was never really sure when I was meant to. I felt the dichotomy of wanting to get the baby out but not wanting to push because it increased the pain as the baby stretched my tissues. I made a lot of fuss and even reverted to sucking my thumb and fingers a few times – quite comforting I found, no wonder babies do it!! With much encouragement from those around me (there were now nine people as Steve had joined the circle as well as the backup midwife and a student midwife), I grunted and pushed with all my strength. When the baby’s head crowned, I reached my hand down and touched it. It felt so soft and squashy I pulled my hand away so I wouldn’t damage it!! After a few more long, hard pushes the head was out. There was a little bit of action below which I later found out, was Anneke moving the cord from around baby’s neck. Daniel had moved into position to catch baby, while Sonya supported me. Another push and the rest of baby’s body was out. What a relief for me!! It was 9:43am. The baby screamed and was handed to me. At first the baby felt so slimy and floppy to me, it hardly seemed human. I put the baby on my breast. She kept screaming, which was not what I had expected. I was amazed that this little being who had grown inside me was finally out. I felt tears of joy and relief as Daniel and I looked at our little girl. Her name came to me the moment we saw she was a girl. “Hello Susan” I said (we had purposely not thought of names before the birth).

I remembered the placenta was still to come and I handed Suzie to Daniel. “Oh no, I have to push again” I said as I braced myself with the support of two people once again. Prepared for another hard slog, I pushed so hard it slithered out immediately!!

I went to the bed and Anneke found I had a two centimetre tear, which I opted not to have stitched. Daniel and Susan joined me in bed, and she kept screaming as I put her to the breast. It was a bit disheartening having a screaming baby, but when she stopped it was wonderful to see and feel her in bed with us.

We left the cord attached to her and put the placenta beside her on some sticks in a bowl to drain. It took 8 ½ days until the cord finally popped off. We had sprinkled it regularly with rosemary to keep it well, so it didn’t get too smelly. It was special to allow the placenta to come away in its own time and give healthful benefits to Suzie. Suzie stayed on the bed most of the first eight days, and it gave Daniel and I lots of time to enjoy her, without visitors picking her up.

What wonderful experience it was to have Susan’s birth at home in the sacred atmosphere we created and a blessing for Susan to begin life on earth.

George’s Birth Story

Our baby was conceived in a yurt. The pregnancy went well aside from the tiredness of early pregnancy and a little morning sickness. We lived in our yurt for most of the pregnancy but moved into a house two months before baby was due.

It was the end of November and we had been for a trip to the beach on Saturday. All through Saturday night I was up and down to the toilet. Already before I went to bed, I had noticed I had a lot of runny mucous. I wondered if this was a sign that labour was almost there. “I’ll call Molly (my midwife) tomorrow and ask her” I thought. There was no need however as at 5am there was blood in the mucous. “The show” I thought. I had already felt a few tightening’s but was not sure if they were the real thing.

Now I was sure labour had begun. Quickly the tightening’s became more intense. I could not lie in bed through them, I had to go to the toilet. About an hour later Daniel stirred and I told him labour had begun. “You can stay in bed with Susie (3 years)” I said.

Five or ten minutes later Daniel was up. He set to tidying the kitchen and making space for the pool. He brought the pool in which was already pumped up and wet from the dew. I tried to help with the dishes and sweeping however with tightening’s coming every few minutes, I couldn’t do much. I started calling Daniel to support me through each one. I leaned into him and made low toning sounds. When Susie woke up alone in our bed, she came out to see the pool being filled. She held the hose. There were pots of water on the stove heating up.

At 6:55am I called Molly to tell her I was in labour. She listened through one contraction and said she thought the birth was only a few hours away. I was relieved to hear that. I had thought it would go fast, especially as the tightening’s were so strong from the beginning. However, I had not wanted to get my hopes up in case it could go on all day. Molly asked if I wanted her to come yet and I said I wasn’t sure. She said she would have breakfast then call back. She also suggested I call my friend Insa to collect Susie.

Tightening’s continued and got a little stronger. When Insa arrived, I was very pleased. It was probably around 7:20 or so. She gave me a hug. I felt pretty weary at that point. I can’t quite describe the feeling except for “blah”. Another contraction came on and following that one I asked Insa if she and Susie could feed the chickens. As they headed out, I had another strong contraction. I was in the hallway and called out to Daniel to come – as I did for most contractions. This one was different though. I could feel the head bulging. “It’s coming, the baby is coming” I said. “Where’s Molly?” I asked. Daniel called Molly after that one.

I went to the pool which was only one third full. I stepped in but it was too hot, so I stood through the next pushing contraction. Daniel added more cold water and then I dared to sit down in it. I didn’t experience any pain relief, but then I was already in the final stages.

Susie and Insa came in while I was in the midst of the next pushing contraction. I did not want Susie around seeing me like this anymore, so I waved them out. A few seconds later the contraction was over, and I realised that it was not nice for Susie that I had not said goodbye, so Daniel called them back in. Susie came to the pool and gave me a kiss, then off they went, Susie on the back of Insa’s bike.

Daniel was in the pool with me and as the next contraction came I said “Oh no, I’m going to do a poo” Then I said “No I’m not, it’s the baby’s head” as the head popped out. I was very surprised and relieved all at once. I had not consciously pushed, my body had done it anyway. I had felt the head bulging but was scared of the pain, remembering my last birth. Well the head was out now and I was so pleased. As we waited for the next contraction I had a little concern for the baby with its head out and under water. I knew it was probably fine, but I still asked Daniel if it was okay. It seemed like a long time but finally another contraction came. This time I consciously gave a big push and the body slid out into Daniels hands.

The baby was out!! Daniel laid him on my lower belly with only his head out of the water. I held him there for several minutes in awe and feeling so happy. We bathed in the beauty of this special time. Molly arrived as we were admiring our wee treasure. She calmly took her place beside the pool. Soon she suggested we lift him up so he could find the breast and feed. She brought a towel and I picked the baby up. It was at this point we saw the baby was a boy. “It’s a boy” I said.

I placed him above my breasts and supported him as he gradually worked his way down to find a nipple. I gave him a little bit of guidance but mainly let him move himself. He did find the nipple and latch on at 8:30am. He was born at 7:47am.

While our boy was looking for the nipple, Daniel said one of his names was “Prophecy. This had come from a dream a few days before in which he was with a boy called “Prophecy” who he watched grow up. When Daniel said the name, my first thought was “not as a first name”. My head started racing with names “George, Peter” then I stopped and let it go, trusting the right name would come. The name George kept coming back to me so finally I said “I think his name is George” Daniel then told us that after the dream, the name George had also come to him.

The contractions to get the placenta out were getting more painful. Molly said that it had probably detached, and it might help if I squatted or stood. I tried first squatting then standing. Still no placenta so we went to the toilet and with a little pull and push from me, out it came into a colander. By this time, it was 9am. We left the cord attached to George – a lotus birth – and allowed it to come off in its own time. After four days Daniel cut it off as his belly button was poking out and the dry cord was rubbing and irritating it. The stump fell off the following night.

After birthing the placenta, we went to the lounge and George and I settled down on the couch where he fed again and fell asleep. Daniel made some toast and Molly made me a lemon and honey drink. The rest of the day was very relaxed as we lay on a mattress in the lounge enjoying our wee boy. Susan came home with Insa and Sharda (her daughter) about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Susie had a huge smile when she saw “the baby”. She just looked for a while in amazement.

George Prophecy weighed 8lb 4oz, a big baby after my first (6lb 9oz). A quick home birth and a beautiful baby. This was a wonderful start for his life and a joy for us.

Our Yurt Baby, Peter

This story begins at the circus. Late in May in a circus house truck our baby was conceived. Daniel is a circus performer, and we were in Hamilton for the last stand of the season. After the circus season was over, we had a few weeks deciding what to do next before we headed to Tauranga in the circus house truck. It was while we were parked up in the country on someone’s land with only a rickety toilet and no bathroom that we realised that our third baby was on the way. At the same time Daniel was drawing up the plans for our new home – a yurt, which is a Mongolian round house with a wood framework, wool insulation, and canvas skin. We had lived in a yurt in Christchurch and had found it the warmest and most beautiful space to live. I called a homebirth midwife but was too sick to go and see her, so she came to our house truck. I felt immediately happy with Vicki so did not feel the need to meet any other midwives. The nausea was the worst I had experienced, I was virtually bedridden. I was very grateful Daniel was around to look after the children and I, while also working on our yurt home. We moved to another piece of land just around the corner where we had a bathroom, laundry and kitchen and a big shed for Daniel to build the yurt in. During this time when I spent most of my time in bed, I picked up my guitar and played a lot. It lifted my spirits, and I wrote a song for baby.

Little star in the sky, come down to earth
We will love you and cuddle you and share your joy.
You will love life on earth, with so much to learn
Wondrous sights and sounds, taste, touch, and smells.
You will lead a grand life, down here on earth
Attracting the best, light love, and joy.

By the end of the first trimester my nausea was gone, and I could enjoy the pregnancy.

Just before Christmas we found out we needed to leave the place where we were living. We looked at where to go. We considered moving away from Tauranga to Coromandel or Rotorua before settling on New Plymouth where we could live at Daniel’s mother’s (Raewyn) house and put the yurt (which by then was complete) up on a terrace above her house. I was happy we would be able to have our yurt to birth in, as I had dreamed of this all pregnancy, however I was very sad to leave my midwife behind. I tried to hold the picture in my mind that I would find a midwife who could live up to Vicki.

When we arrived in Taranaki (3½ weeks before baby’s due date) I had rung around nearly all the midwives in New Plymouth and some from further away. Most were full and the few that were not, just didn’t feel right for me. I felt so tempted to run away back to Tauranga (a friend had offered we could stay at her house) where I would have Vicki. I considered an unassisted birth, but in my last round of calls I finally found Sharon who was based in Stratford. From when I first talked to her, I knew she was the right person for me. So with baby’s due date less than two weeks away I finally felt settled and ready to give birth (still had to wait for the yurt to go up though) I no longer felt tempted to go back to Tauranga.

Wednesday (due date was the following Tuesday) the yurt was up and Thursday the furniture was in, Saturday I unpacked and finished washing baby clothes (I’d been waiting to sort the baby clothes all pregnancy till we got the yurt up as they were packed in various boxes!). On Saturday afternoon we went to the beach. While there, I remembered that on the Saturday before George’s birth we had also been to the beach and he was born the next day. Both my previous babies had been born two days before their due dates so I had for a while been expecting the same this time – which would be Sunday. So, at the beach I suddenly felt the resemblance and felt that “tomorrow will be the day”. When we got home from the beach, I got all the last bits and pieces ready for the birth and started some bread rising. I went to bed waiting for something to happen.

In the early hours of the next morning I woke and felt a light contraction. They came every now and then for a while. Finally, at 6:30am I got up to go down to the house. Before I got out of the yurt, I heard a trip, trip of little feet and Susie (5 ½) came to see me. More trip, trips followed, and George (2 ¼) was up too. So, Daniel got up and we all headed to the house. When I went to the toilet, I saw that I did have a little bit of a show so that confirmed for me that this was indeed the real thing. George’s birth had been very quick, and my midwife had missed the birth, so I expected it to be quick again. I called Sharon (who lives 45 mins away) and told her labour had started but was slow, she said she would have breakfast and get ready before calling me back. Soon after Daniel called his sister Nicki who was coming to look after Susie and George. She arrived with her three children and we had a bustling household!! Contractions were light and spread apart. I had a few things I wanted to do like finish baking bread and a few other bits and pieces, which is probably why labour was slow. About 10am Nicki and Raewyn took all the children to the market (with the list I had written out the night before in case I couldn’t go!).

Ah peace. Daniel and I headed to the yurt and could get on with labour alone. It was hot in the yurt, so we stripped off. We started loving, kissing, massaging, and cuddling. It was an exciting and special time. It also brought on the contractions faster. Now I felt like it could go extremely fast. Soon I thought I better call Sharon and ask her to come.

Then I became distracted, I had heard a message from my sister’s au pair that morning (she’d left it the night before) and it seemed odd – I wondered if something was up, but as they were a few hours behind I hadn’t called back yet. Now I felt I needed to try to find her number and call, but I only got an answer phone. Later I got a text saying the au pair was looking for accommodation in Christchurch and wondered if I could help!

We went back to the yurt and then Sharon arrived. Contractions had slowed down again. Sharon listened to baby’s heart rate with the fetoscope, a bit of a challenge on a slippery oily, belly!! All was well so we all went to the house and enjoyed fresh bread for lunch. By now the others were all back. With light contractions only every 15 mins or so, Sharon left, but was going to stay close by for when we needed her. Daniel lay down with George for his nap and I did some digging in the garden to help things along. That did bring on more contractions, but it was also hot work in the sun, so I went in for a cold wash and then a rest. I wasn’t really into resting – I just wanted to get on with it. When George woke up, we took him down to the house with the others.

Daniel and I came back to our yurt haven alone around 3:30pm. Contractions were increasing in frequency and strength now. Daniel massaged me and I used all sorts of positions including hanging off Daniel’s circus straps which hung from the centre of the yurt, leaning over the bed, hanging off Daniel, arms up, rocking, moving… I enjoyed the freedom of adopting any position. Around 4pm Sharon called to see how things were going. Daniel said he thought contractions were 10 – 12 mins apart, so Sharon said she would meet her daughter for a drink at the airport as it sounded like I still had a while to go. When he checked the watch, it was 8 mins since the last one. An hour later I asked Daniel how long ago was it since Sharon called. I thought good – at least she has had some time with her daughter and might come soon.

Very soon I asked Daniel to tell Sharon to come as the contractions were feeling intense. He texted “No rush but contractions 3 – 6 mins apart” (I read that only later and had to laugh because to me it was urgent by then). She replied that she would be there in 10 – 15 mins. Yeah!! I had thoughts at this time that I did not want labour to go too fast as I really wanted Sharon to be there. Soon I got on my hands and knees beside the bed and in a very strong contraction there was a pop and out gushed my waters. That was extremely exciting for me – I had never experienced it like that before. When Sharon walked in the door a minute later, I was all bubbly and excitedly told her of my waters breaking. A couple of minutes later I was on my hands and knees pushing. Daniel was behind me and Sharon was on hands and knees in front. I nuzzled into her and told her several times how glad I was she was here as I pushed and screamed mighty loud until the head popped out. I felt with my hand as it was coming. I was relieved the intense pain of the head coming out was short lived. I waited a few minutes for the next contraction then began another mighty push, again screaming very loud (which I had not done with my other births). I thought of the poor baby’s ears, but Sharon reassured me it would be ok. When baby slithered out Sharon said to Daniel who had caught baby to “pass him through Hannah’s legs”. I was relieved he was out and ecstatic as I held our wee grey-blue baby. As I held him to my chest Sharon put a towel over him and gave him a little rub to encourage him to breathe. A few names flashed through my head and Peter kept recurring so I said his name was Peter (we had purposely given no thought to names before birth and trusted the name would come). Peter kept his eyes closed as I cuddled and enjoyed these precious first minutes with him. Soon Sharon asked if we had seen if baby was a boy or girl – neither of us had nor had she, we had all just assumed that!! We had a look and sure enough, baby was still our boy Peter!!

I sat on the bed with Peter and let him find his way to the breast. He suckled well. By now Andrea the second midwife was here too (Sharon had only been able to call after Peter was born!!) About 1 ¾ hrs after the birth, while holding Peter, I got up onto the makeshift toilet (a birth stool with a bucket under it) to birth the placenta. One push and it was out. Daniel then put it into a bowl with sticks so it could drain and laid it beside Peter and I on the bed. No need to cut the cord, we would wait till it came off at Peter’s belly button (this is called a Lotus birth). Peter lived on our bed with his placenta in a bowl beside him for nearly 5 days when he kicked it off. This gave him a peaceful entry into the world with only Daniel and I holding him till day 6. Daniel salted the placenta the next day and again the following. The salt helped it dry out and prevented it from rotting.

About 2 hours after the birth Daniel went to the house to get some food for us and invite everyone up. Into the yurt came three of Peter’s cousins, his sister, brother, aunty, and grandmother, followed soon after by his grandfather and step-grandmother. George came straight up and gave Peter a very gentle stroke on the head, Susie stood looking and smiling from a distance. It was a beautiful time lying and cuddling Peter while he fed and slept, and everyone admired him. Before dark everyone left, and we settled in for our first night together.

So, our 8lb 3oz baby was born at 5:47pm on Sunday 20th Feb in our beautiful yurt that grew as he did. It is now 3 weeks since his birth and he has not left the yurt. It is a lovely space for him to arrive into and be, as he slowly accustoms himself to life on earth. I have changed the first line of baby’s song and sing it to him often.
Little Peter my boy, welcome to earth
We will love you and cuddle you and share your joy.

You will love life on earth, with so much to learn
Wondrous sights and sounds, taste, touch, and smells.

You will lead a grand life, down here on earth
Attracting the best, light love, and joy.