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The Birth of Juniper Joan

I have always kept things. Hoard is too strong a word, though my mother would use it.

I’ve kept symbols of people, of events, of seasons in my life. Plays and films I’ve been a part of. Cards and letters. Dried flowers. Pieces of costume. Boxes full of journals. Representations of a meaning and sentimentality I should feel, but more often than not, don’t.

 

My keepsakes are out of guilt, if I’m honest. This is something I should care about. This is something I should physically remember. To discard the motifs of a season or experience in life feels like a betrayal. The memories prevail regardless, but some of these objects are souvenirs of trauma, or they’re only ‘socially’ seen as important, and don’t really feel that precious to me. Some of the keepsakes are of people I do not hear from anymore, or hear from so often that the token feels redundant.

It isn’t that I would preferably forget these chapters of life, but more that the weight of forced remembering becomes very tangible when you have six boxes of scripts, letters, photographs and other memorabilia to cart from rental to rental. In our most recent move, I felt God nudge me to discard almost ten years of journals – without rereading them first. It felt incredible. I was allowed to move on.

 

So it is strange, that for the first time in a long time, I have a collection of items so steeped in the sacred, that I must keep them. They aren’t much to the untrained eye. A glittery drinking cup with a straw. A handful of amateur drawings. A stained bra. Two combs. The straps of a CTG monitor, with words written on them in permanent marker. A tiny vial of clary sage oil. And a dried curl of umbilical cord, in the shape of a heart.

These odd items are part of an oxytocin cocktail so potent, that even glancing at them produces a physical response (read: breastmilk). On March 23rd, they were my armour. My comrades in the fire. Tools of a divine art-form. Tokens from a long journey through an unknown land.

 

This story is a visceral, recent memory that is not an obligation to recall. For me, it is a reminder of all that is holy, and terrifying and good.

Beyond our humanity, and yet completely human.

 

This is what I tenderly remember about the birth of my second child.

 

*

 

We were at the zoo, before the zoos closed. We were well into the pandemic, but not yet in lockdown. Before we really knew how serious things were. We were outside, enjoying the sun, chasing our toddler through the snake exhibit (help) when I realised I hadn’t felt the baby move in a few hours.

It wasn’t the first time. I had presented to hospital on four other occasions, each two weeks apart, because the baby would inexplicably slow down, or go still. I was a vocal advocate for taking these things seriously, after the premature birth of our daughter Mercy. Trauma trains you to prepare for trauma. We knew, from before we were pregnant, that my chances of having another placental abruption went from 1/100 to 1/10 this time. My job was to watch my body closely, particularly in the third trimester, and present to hospital if I had any concerning symptoms.

And yet, by my fifth presentation, I was embarrassed and pissed off. Each hospital visit had proven her healthy, and I was beginning to wonder if I was subconsciously manifesting drama, or actually going crazy. The days she would slow were highly anxiety-provoking, and the hospital visits felt like a waste of everyone’s time (though the midwives and doctors expressed continually how important it was I keep coming in).

 

Only a few weeks previously, we had moved interstate at two week’s notice – packing up our home, selling possessions, and driving up from Melbourne to Queensland through the bushfire crisis, over Christmas. We then had to unpack, settle our toddler in childcare, get Jonathan thriving in his new job, get me back to my freelance work, find a church and try and make friends. I had transferred my maternity care from a high-risk obstetric team at Box Hill hospital, to a mixed team of doctors and midwives at Sunshine Coast University Hospital, and it felt like I had had to explain my circumstances to about twenty-five different professionals over the course of the pregnancy. Some doctors informed me of my increased risk of having an abruption again, others dismissed it and said it would never happen twice. I had scans every four weeks. I was confused, and constantly monitoring my baby and body. The third trimester was exhausting.
I had dreamed of a VBAC (a vaginal birth after caesarean) but I was warned continually that it was merely an ‘attempt’, not a given. It felt like there were so many variables that needed to be aligned before a VBAC could happen. I needed to get to term, without an abruption. My baby needed to be healthy and in the right position. I needed to avoid an induction, avoid interventions, and my uterus and scar needed to be able to handle the contractions. Whenever I became nervous, the croaky voice of Ina May Gaskin (a famed American midwife) was on repeat in my head: Your body is not a lemon.

But honestly, I wasn’t so sure about that. What if mine was?

 

I decided to immerse myself in natural childbirth education, and give myself the best possible opportunity for a healing experience. Stressors aside, I loved every bit of the birth and baby preparation. My dear friend Jill was pregnant at the same time (one week ahead of me), and we shared each milestone excitedly, comparing our bumps, cravings and symptoms. We did a hypnobirthing course together, along with our husbands, and encouraged one another in the positive births we dreamed of.

 

It was a tremendous milestone when we hit 33 weeks, the gestational week Mercy was born. At that point, I felt a nudge from God to begin a forty-day feast (as opposed to a fast). I was to pray for and creatively celebrate each new day of pregnancy, writing poetry and preparing our hearts and home for the new addition. I practiced meditations, and imagined transcending whatever pain was present. I painted my own affirmations, took raspberry leaf tea, and vigilantly went for acupuncture. I ate six dates a day, did my physio exercises, and celebrated every annoying Braxton-Hicks contraction (of which there were many), so proud that my body was preparing itself. Proud that my body was creating and sustaining life so intuitively. It was a joyful, soothing practice. My anxiety lessened.
Every extra week after that felt significant. So much of our pain from the previous birth was around our separation from Mercy, whom we did not get to hold for three days, and then did not get to take home from hospital for almost a month. As I inched closer to full term I was overwhelmed with anticipation, knowing that if I gave birth after 37 weeks I would get to hold my child, I would get to breastfeed my child, and then I would be able to take my child home with me. I cannot tell you the number of times I daydreamed about pulling my baby from my body, onto my own chest. It wasn’t a promise, or a vision from God. It was just what I wanted, more than anything.

 

However, at my 36 week appointment with the obstetric team, they suggested that at 38/39 weeks I get an induction. I had a number of risk factors (particularly my previous birth), and the decreased movements were a red flag. After so much preparation for a natural birth I knew the complications associated with inducing a VBAC. I knew about the escalation of interventions. I knew it increased my chances of ending up with a caesarean again. I knew it wasn’t in my plan. I also knew that I wanted this baby to come out safely, and (selfishly?) soon. Despite my joyful feasting, I had found myself increasingly tense as I waited for the next drop in baby’s movements – like I was waiting for the next abruption.

I felt very torn and frantically texted Jonathan back and forth, weighing our options. I prayed, and asked for clarity. God had assured me, weeks previously, that I would experience redemption in birth no matter how it happened. I felt that reminder, yet again.

You will have a healing birth, Anna. Whatever you choose.

Jonathan said the decision was mine to make.

As I prepared to go back into the doctor’s office, I realised that though induction had its risks, it was not just the safest option for my baby in that moment, it was the best choice for my mental health, too.

I agreed to it, and they brought up a calendar to book in the induction date.

Uncannily, the day I was set to be labouring just happened to be the final day of the forty-day ‘feast’. There was my peace.

 

Little did I know that in the three weeks following this appointment, coronavirus would hijack all aspects of our future, and infiltrate and change pivotal elements of hospital birthing processes and post-partum care. I did not know how lucky I was to have adventures outside with my toddler, or days cooking and preparing the house with both my parents. I savoured these moments, but I was oblivious.

 

At almost 38 weeks, and a mere few days away from our induction, we drove home from the zoo. I still wasn’t happy with baby’s movement, and made the call to the hospital.

We had a warm and gentle midwife once we were in there, who affirmed our vigilance once again. Jonathan and Mercy came too, and crawled all over the hospital playground while I was being monitored (sort of unthinkable, now). Baby was, of course, healthy. But this time I felt secure – proud of my choices. I knew the behaviour was abnormal, and I knew I had done the right thing in checking. This pattern was disconcerting, but it just a part of this pregnancy, and soon this pregnancy would be over, and an entirely new season would begin.

Two doctors came in to scan me and suggested moving my induction forward to the following day, just to be safe. Jonathan and I had suspected they would offer this, and discussed it. We felt ready. My body felt ready. God had given me my peace. I was primed. Trained. Unafraid. We said yes.

 

*

 

We arrived at the hospital at 3pm the next day, wide-eyed and nervous. I was to get a balloon catheter inserted overnight, and have my waters broken the following morning, followed by the syntocinon drip.

 

The midwife who admitted us was cool and authoritative. She told me I was 1cm dilated already, and that the balloon would manually open my cervix to about 4cm overnight, if all went to plan. There would be some possible cramping, but with some Panadeine and a sleeping tablet I would sleep through the night.

Try and hold off the pain relief to as late as possible, though.

 

I asked if the catheter ever triggered full-blown labour for women. I had tried everything in my power to prepare my cervix and go into labour spontaneously, and really longed to know what natural (not drip-induced) contractions felt like.

Yes, but only rarely.

 

I wondered how bad the cramps would get, as she inserted and then inflated the balloon catheter – two balloons the size of mandarins, filled with saline, either side of my cervix. The insertion was slightly uncomfortable, but very manageable. Once it was in, and baby had been monitored, she moved us to a small private room in the maternity ward (at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, every maternity bed is in a private room with a pull-out couch for dads to stay – incredible). I was starting to feel quite crampy, but it was barely 5pm, and I knew I had to hold off the painkillers. We met our friendly new midwife for that evening, and even gave her our birth plan, which she promptly read, photocopied, and placed in our file.

 

They kindly delivered me a hospital meal, but I really didn’t feel like eating. Jonathan suggested we put on Netflix.

I feel quite uncomfortable, actually. 

The cramps were coming in waves now. In contractions. They were distracting – and required focus.

Curious as to whether this was the start of something, we decided to practice a couple of the hypnobirthing meditations, with Jonathan using soft touch on my back to divert the pain signals. I had wondered if these techniques would do anything for me ‘in the moment’, and was surprised to find them very effective. I had also brought out my combs – a funny little acupressure technique for pain relief where you press the teeth of a comb into the crease below your fingers. Soon, however, the surges became a little more intense. I took myself to the shower, and circled hot water over my belly while Jonathan timed them.

They were jumping around – some were close together and not particularly strong, and others had long gaps and were taking my breath away. Jonathan called in our midwife, who promptly came into the shower with me and began to feel each surge with her hand. After a few minutes of gauging them, she explained that it was quite common for women’s bodies to respond with surges to the catheter, and mine were still quite irregular. Only time and painkillers would determine if they would ease off, or turn into labour. She gave me the drugs, and told us to call her if things intensified.

 

After two more hours of rocking, breathing and hot water bottles, with my nose buried in a tissue soaked in clary sage oil (delicious and calming), the painkiller and sleeping tablet were having zero effect. She assessed us again, and chatted to her supervisor.

We think you’re in early labour, but considering they’re still irregular and your catheter hasn’t fallen out, we’re not going to put you on a monitor or anything yet.

I knew the catheter would fall out of its own accord when I dilated to four centimetres, and was honestly quite disappointed that it hadn’t… but early labour? Without the drip? Regardless of whether it progressed, I had experienced one of the things I had been so curious about – labour off the back of my own body’s hormones. I was elated.

 

Jonathan grew tired and asked my permission to sleep. The midwives changed shifts, and the room became darker, and more lonely. The surges weren’t leaving, they felt wild and unpredictable – and somehow that catheter was still in. I didn’t want to be labouring ‘in vain’, but there was no way I was sleeping, so I rocked and bounced on a fit ball (truly a God-send) and sniffed my (now scrunched and bedraggled) clary sage tissue. The new midwife came in to check on my pain levels and asked if I wanted the catheter removed. Was she kidding?

This is what I’m here for, right? To open? Bring it on.

She was very much on board with this attitude and proceeded to help me through the night – encouraging my different positions, and even rubbing clary sage oil on my acupressure points to help speed things along. I appreciated the care, and the company. Just knowing someone else was invested in this strange, repetitive pain processing helped me stay calm, and a few steps ahead of each surge.

 

But by 3am, I was curled on the bed. The surges had eased off to cramps, and the sleeping tablet was playing with my consciousness. I was deflated and tired, and drifted off clutching the torn up tissue of oil, hoping and praying that this was not an indication of the day to come.

Your body is not a lemon.

Your body is not a lemon. 

Your body is not a lemon.

 

*

 

A new midwife came into the room at 5am.

I’ve come to take you over to birth-suite, to break your waters. 

She’d come an hour earlier than scheduled, informed that I had been having surges all night, but it meant that we weren’t ready. I had planned to put on deodorant and clean my teeth, at the very least. She waited outside while Jonathan and I threw things into our birth bag, and then we stumbled out after her through the hospital corridors. My belly was soft and still. No sign of the activity from the night before.

Has your catheter fallen out yet?

I looked down. No, not yet. 

What if I hadn’t dilated at all? What if I never dilated? The VBAC felt very far away.

 

Once left alone in birth-suite, we began to wake up a little. The room was large, fitted with the usual bed and equipment, but with a big birthing bath, a bathroom with a toilet and shower, and another pull-out couch. Nervous, I set Jonathan to work setting up our affirmations, massage tools, oil diffuser, music speaker and playlist, and a little collection of baby clothes, laid out as encouragement. I could hardly believe that at the end of it all, we would have a baby.

 

The midwife came back.

Have you thought at all about your preferences for pain relief?

Yes, I said quickly, and she raised her eyebrows.

I would really like to try and go without it. If I can.

She looked back at me, understanding. I gave her the other copy of our birth wishes – which, can I add, I was a little embarrassed about creating and handing out – but every midwife we came across read it hungrily, seemed genuinely grateful for the information and was supportive of our preferences. I think I expected them to judge me. This midwife was a woman of few words, and yet I felt I had an unspoken ally in her.

 

She and another midwife inserted my IV, and then removed my balloon catheter and broke my waters. Without the catheter, the pressure on my cervix was eased, and it was a relief to feel the release of the warm flowing waters that had been cocooning my baby. Jonathan held my hand tightly and whispered in my ear. I felt bolstered, and peaceful. Plus, I was 3cm dilated, and ‘very soft’. It wasn’t much – but it was progress.
An unavoidable part of inductions and VBACs alike, is the need for continuous monitoring of both the baby and the surges. I knew this and had accepted it, as it was wireless and didn’t disqualify me from movement or water. The midwife set up a heartrate monitor internally, attached to my baby’s scalp instead of strapped to my belly. This would allow for greater physicality in labour, though I still wore a CTG monitor on my belly to measure the surges that were to come. I had kept my CTG straps from a previous visit to hospital, and had written scripture out upon them. If the monitors had to join me on this journey, I had figured they might as well be life-giving companions.

She will be standing firm like a flourishing tree
planted by God’s design
deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss,
bearing fruit in every season of her life.
She is never dry, never fainting,
ever blessed, ever prosperous.

Psalm 1:3 TPT

 

The drip began, and I promptly moved myself to a fit ball, unsure of what to expect.

The surges started very gently, and consistently. I had gone in expecting a real ferocity to them, as per pretty much every induction horror story, but these were actually sort of enjoyable. The surges weren’t just mild cramps – I couldn’t speak when having one – but they were much more predictable than the haphazard ‘natural’ surges of the night before, and I felt strong, sensual and empowered as I rocked and vocalised through each sixty-second wave.

Jonathan ducked out to get breakfast, letting me press into the worship music now playing, and into my own mind. The midwife returned to the room with handfuls of candles (electric) and fairy lights, and wordlessly set them up around our birthing room. I felt so grateful that she was on board with the plan.

 

I rocked away on my ball, and Jonathan held a heat pack to my back and pressed acupressure points on my hands and shoulders. Soon, it was a shift change, and a smiling woman called Stacey was introduced to us.

The previous midwife wished me luck. You’re in good hands, with Stacey.

Stacey was across our birth wishes, and praised our hypnobirthing set up excitedly. She was a grounding presence, and she seemed to have the utmost confidence in me and my body. After feeling a few of my surges, she asked gently if I would consider letting a medical student be present for the labour and birth. She explained that most medical students rarely get to witness birth the way we were hoping to do it. I agreed, and soon met Tilly – a softly-spoken, angel-haired girl. Our little labour team was complete.

 

The surges slowly increased in intensity as I stretched my pelvis over the fit ball. It seemed that a position or action would be effective for a particular level of intensity, and then the surges would move outside the original borders, and I would find myself getting breathless and distracted.

Stacey was very intuitive in these moments, and always knew how to accommodate the next level. I asked if I could move to the shower, and she promptly set it up for labour with dim lights, the fit ball with a towel over it, and the two shower heads – one for my belly and one for my back. As the surges strengthened, and grew closer together, she encouraged me to press my pelvis down into the ball, to help my body open, and to drive my vocalisations deep down through my centre, instead of out and up.

I had never expected to make noise in labour, I’m not really that kind of a person. But from early on, gently ‘exhaling on voice’ proved to be a very natural counter-pressure and pain relief. The sound wasn’t a cry or scream, but a vocal redirection. A big shout out to every acting school voice class that taught me how to harness that energy.

 

Jonathan had been with me almost constantly, either stroking my back, holding a shower head or giving me sips of water or jellybeans. I hadn’t eaten properly in 24 hours. Soon, the level increased and I needed to move again. It was uncomfortable now – an intensity I wasn’t completely sure I could work with. Stacey shifted me onto mats on the shower floor, kneeling and leaning over Jonathan’s legs. I was losing my sense of control and empowerment. The surges were ahead of me. I grabbed for Stacey.

I am getting overwhelmed.

She laid her hands on my back gently.

Embrace that feeling. You must become overwhelmed. This is about surrender. You’re going to touch another world today.

I could see that world far in the distance, and in all honesty – in that moment – I didn’t want to go.

I don’t think this baby is ever going to come out.

It was becoming a lot. So much. Too much.

Another surge, and I felt my own heart back away from it.

No, I whispered, and yet Stacey was there, hands upon my belly, countering the pressure.

Yes, Anna. Say yes to it. You can be open to this.

I let my body feel it, and I let it hurt, and I let it scare me. Then I let it go.

Sixty seconds passed, as it always did, and I regrouped against Jonathan’s legs. The shower was beginning to feel small, and uncomfortable. I already needed to move again.

Stacey was still there.

Remember you have your faith, Anna. You can do this.

 

It was a humbling thing, to be reminded of my God by someone who did not necessarily believe in Him. I groped blindly for Jesus, desperate. Speak to me. Help me. Please help me.  

He was closer than breath, around me and within me. He spoke to me continuously from this point, but I only have memory of this particular exchange. His voice was calm and pointed – I knew that what He said was what would happen.

This part will not last too much longer. Only a few more, Anna. But you need to take the hardest part of this path alone – they cannot go there with you. It is dark and it feels lonely. It will seem impossible, but I will be with you. I have done this before, remember.

I understand pain.

Go willingly into the dark. Do not be afraid.

My soul quietened in the presence of peace.

 

The next surge was blinding and hot and raw. Again – No… it came out as a whisper, and as I heard myself say it, something stronger and hotter and far more dangerous than pain came out of my mouth instead.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Stacey whispered emphatic encouragements. Jonathan told me how proud he was.

I was consenting, to this. I was pressing into the intensity. I was choosing to walk through the dark, not because I was brave, but because it was the only way. Because He drank from the cup first, and I knew I must drink from it too, in my following.

 

Stacey suggested moving me to the bed, to help my body rest in between surges. I felt resistant, and afraid, but I trusted her. She prepared the bed, while I curled on the floor of the shower, letting the worship music wash over me, and the surges shudder through my core.

Stacey came back to lift me up.

When I take you out of the water, it’s not going to feel good. It’s going to take time to adjust. But you will adjust.

We got as far as the bathroom door, my drip pole following me as a constant, silent companion, before another came, and I turned to Jonathan and Stacey in distress. Stacey helped me lean into the both of them, and untangled my cords.

Why are you still holding yourself up? You can give me all of your weight.

I hung off of them both like an animal, broken.

Jesus was still there. Only a few more. Go further now, go in.

 

Once on the bed, lying on my side, I understood what Stacey meant by ‘not going to feel good’. I vomited and vomited – just water and jellybeans. Your body is so clever, declared Stacey. It knows where it needs to focus. My legs shook uncontrollably. Tilly massaged my back and applied heat, Stacey pressed acupressure points on my feet, and Jonathan stayed close to my face, giving me water and whispers of encouragement. It was all loving, and effective, but an earthquake was growing within me that could not be diverted, or relieved – why weren’t they doing something? The intensity could not be worked through anymore, it could only be met, face to face. Something pivotal was erupting, reaching out from inside my body, moving down my spine, and it seemed impossible that nobody else could feel it.

 

It was beyond physical sensation. I had reached that line, between heaven and earth, that I thought would be passive, and benevolent, and easily crossed. The one I thought I could transcend. Instead, it was furious, and pure, and terrifying to traverse, whilst somehow – somehow – still safe.

 

Later, Stacey would explain that they had moved me to the bed because the hormone drip was still turned down very low. As far as she could tell, my labour was going to take quite some time, and she was priming me for a marathon by encouraging me to rest between surges. She quietly told Jonathan this much, and sent Tilly out on a coffee run. They were prepared for the long haul.

The baby, however, was not.

 

I knew I was in transition. I vocalised every exhalation, and drove the sound down, down, down and out of my body. I needed to move, to stretch, to open. I pulled my legs up into child’s pose, and Stacey helped me up to kneeling, folding my upper body forward over the back of the bed. I stretched one hand to the sky on the next surge, and felt the satisfaction of something moving through my centre the way it was supposed to. Soon, the feeling changed.

Stacey. Pressure. Bum.  

Whole sentences were no longer possible.

Sometimes baby touches the same nerve that indicates a bowel movement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready yet. Keep going.

 

She went to the computer, to fill out some more stats, and possibly increase the drip. Tilly was gone. Jonathan stroked my back. The room was quiet, except for the worship diffusing on repeat, songs of opening, of surrendering, of receiving.

 

The next surge, my body involuntarily began to push.

Jonno, get Stacey. Pressure. PUSHING.  

She saw the shape of my bottom change, came over with a mirror, to gently check what was going on. Suddenly she laughed in shock.

Oh my God, that’s a head.

 

In a (calm, midwife version of a) flurry, she called Tilly, and told her to rush back. I had only been labouring for 3.5 hours.

Remembering our birth wishes, she began to fill the bath for a waterbirth, then came to my kneeling body and began to coach my fierce impulses.

You are way further along than I thought.

 

Jonathan dutifully got out his ‘Hypnobirthing Birth Partner Cheat Sheet’ and jumped to the script titled ‘Bearing Down’.

‘Mother and baby, working togeth’ –

SHUT UP.

My dear husband nodded, regrouped, and put his hands back to work. The meditations had been brilliant earlier on, something new had been unleashed.

 

Pushing felt incredible. It happened instinctively, but I could finally meet my body with strength instead of softening, and it was an action that directly partnered with the pressure of the surges themselves. Each surge, Jonathan would press into my sacrum with full force, and I would let out ancient, guttural sounds – bellowing the baby down towards this world. Stacey affirmed every push, every inch of ground we made.

Your body is so clever. It knows it needs to stretch.

The head moved slowly – up and down – and eventually Stacey told me that the hot stretching between my legs that was intensifying then subsiding, would soon remain constant. Baby was crowning. This stage felt like five minutes, though it took almost an hour.

 

I was tiring, but focused. The baby was close. So close. I was stretching, though I felt no pain. It was time. But just as another surge powered down, and Stacey pressed a warm washer against the base of my body, she felt something give way.

Anna – trust me – I would not normally make a decision like this, but we need to give you an episiotomy.

It was an internal tear at risk of going much further, and an intentional cut would prevent it. I trusted her. She saw me. It was the best option. They turned me onto my back – the still-running bath long forgotten – and on the next surge Stacey quickly and expertly redirected my body’s own bursting.

 

With a sharp sting and roar from another world, my daughter emerged, immediately crying out. Jonathan caught her head as her arms and torso followed, and in one primal, hungry swoop I leaned forward, grabbed my child, and pulled her up and out of my own body.

I drew her to my chest in shock, both of us bawling and covered in blood.

It was the single most satisfying moment of my life.

 

 

*

 

Juniper Joan Weir was born at exactly 38 weeks, on March 3rd, 2020, after 4.5 hours of labour. She weighed 3kg. She was perfect.

 

In entirety, her name means ‘the evergreen graciousness of God, planted by the water’.

She will be standing firm like a flourishing tree
planted by God’s design
deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss,
bearing fruit in every season of her life.
She is never dry, never fainting,
ever blessed, ever prosperous.

Psalm 1:3 TPT

 

Afterwards, there were so many tender moments.

Like the labour, they’ve mingled with my hormones, and I remember them as hazy, hallowed vignettes, soaked in milk and pride.

The breast crawl, and first feed.

My beautiful, entirely functional placenta, perfectly shaped as a tree of life.

The stitches (I needed gas).

Jonathan’s face as he held his second daughter for the first time.

Stacey embracing me, as she said goodbye.

 

Our labour was somehow protected from the steady deconstruction of the outside world, but as we emerged from our bubble we soon realised things were quickly changing, for everyone’s safety. Due to the virus, there were no visitors allowed at the hospital. We were offered a 6 hour discharge following the labour (we stayed until the following day). There was only the bare minimum of post-partum home care (mostly done over the phone). Our interstate family could not visit, and we soon realised our local family could not visit us either. Regardless, our post-partum journey has been redemptive, and blissful. We have had both our children at home, in our arms. We have had enough frozen meals to last us this time of confinement and slowness. We’ve had ‘The Tiger King’ and ‘His Dark Materials’, complete with sticky date pudding. We have had one another.

 

I know that for many pregnant women, the unknown of birth and post-partum is rendered much more intimidating by the increasing restrictions. It is my hope that this story is an example of a COVID-19 birth that went beautifully. A birth that didn’t go to ‘plan’, and could have had complications, but a birth that healed something that was still hurting within me. No matter the state of the world, the holy art of life-bearing continues, and my husband and I still received the emotional, physical and spiritual support we needed as a birthing couple from the healthcare workers on shift. They risked their own health to do this, and in a way we also risked ours – but we were engaging with one another’s humanity, bridging that invisible line to introduce another human being to this world – not a world of death and isolation, but a world of connection and love – and I truly believe this kind of support is essential. For that, a big thank you to SCUH, to the midwives and doctors, and to Stacey. They were the hands and feet of God, for us.

 

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About Anna Weir

Anna is an actor and writer, based in Melbourne, Australia. She can be found on Facebook under @annaweir, and on Instagram and Twitter under @annamcgahan.

3 thoughts on “The Birth of Juniper Joan

  1. Thank you for your memory and evocative story, reminding us of the clarity of grace amidst this foggy time. Christ shows us how beauty is born in – and then transcends- the brokenness. May your daughter be further blessed, and bless the lives of your family and others.

  2. Anna, thank you for sharing your journey. Your hopes and fears. Thank you inspiring other mothers that their body is not a lemon!

    I am a midwife, and I cried happy tears reading about how you travelled through the uncertain days, how you leaned on God, and particularly how you were blessed with such supportive midwives! Hallelujah!

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