My pregnancy with you was mostly very easy. Discovering your presence in my body in July 2019 filled me with excitement and happiness.
Very early on I began exploring the options for where to give birth and discovered there was a birth centre here in Launceston – the oldest independently run one in Australia.
In the first trimester I experienced low energy and nausea, but nothing to complain about after hearing many other women’s stories. I never vomited once and any time I felt a little queasy, all I had to do was eat and it went away.
The second trimester was the best! My bump was growing beautifully and the tiredness and nausea had disappeared, leaving me with lots of energy to spend in the garden. At 14 weeks I was having a massage when I asked you in my mind “do you like this?” I felt a tiny little kick as a response and it was the first time I had felt you move. It wasn’t until 20 weeks that I felt you again because your placenta was in the front blocking the sensations, but from then on every day I could feel you kicking and wriggling around inside.
We decided to keep it a surprise and not find out if you were a boy or a girl. Although almost everyone around us thought boy, Papá and I thought you were a girl. It was very easy to decide on a girl name, but we had trouble with a boy name (another clue that you were a girl). We eventually agreed on Kai, a Japanese name meaning ocean, with Tenoch as a middle name. So it was either Aya Maria, or Kai Tenoch. Because we didn’t know which one, while you were still in my belly we decided to call you Kaya (Kai + Aya).
The third trimester really challenged me to slow down – something that took me a while to do. You kicked a lot and swam around inside me. It was so beautiful to feel you. At 38 weeks we had a scan to check your size (my belly was a little on the small side) and this was when we found out you were breech!
All of a sudden everything had changed. I was now classed as ‘high risk’, meaning I couldn’t give birth in the Birth Centre unless you turned around. This was not likely at such a late stage, but then anything is possible, right? I began doing inversions whenever I felt you move and went to see the Osteopath, who helped me to loosen up. A couple of days later we went to the hospital to try an ECV (a procedure where the doctor tries to manually turn you from the outside). I was unsure if this was a good idea but if it meant I could give birth in the Birth Centre instead of the hospital, I felt like giving it a try. But you didn’t want to turn! And strangely enough, I felt ok about it. I thought you had chosen this position and I trusted you and I trusted my body, so I knew everything would be ok.
I was 40 weeks on the 11th February and on the 20th, Omi and Opi flew in from Perth to stay for 2 weeks. We all expected you would have been born by now so they were surprised to see me still heavily pregnant. Although we were so excited to meet you, it was nice to have those days free to spend with Omi and Opi and show them a few of our favorite places.
At 42 weeks we were still waiting to meet you! My midwife, Emma, was sending me lots of case studies and information about breech birth as well as post-dates pregnancy so I felt totally well-prepared for our mammoth journey to bring you into the world. Although your position was not the usual one I knew you knew exactly what you were doing and I completey trusted you + nature + my body.
As the days rolled on I continued feeling the practice contractions (I liked to call them expansions) and felt myself going deeper and deeper inward, preparing for our journey ahead. It became tiring to have long conversations and I let go of all the things that needed to be done and allowed your wonderful Omi, Opi and Papá to care for me – which they did so well. Every day someone (everyone) asked me “is Kaya here yet?” but all we could do was wait.
On Sunday the 1st March, at 42 + 5 weeks, Papá suggested we go out for breakfast. It was a beautiful day and afterwards we went for a walk at the Holwell Gorge. I wanted to do a good hike to get things moving and it was perfect to walk up and down, over rocks and deep into the lush Tasmanian rainforest. That night during dinner I lost my mucous plug, but didn’t say anything as there had been a few false alarms already and I just wanted to keep it to myself. Around 10:30pm I started to feel the expansions getting stronger. I stayed in bed, unable to sleep from excitement, and eventually got up an hour later to cleanse myself in the bathroom. That’s when I knew for sure you were starting your journey to be with us. Papá woke up and I told him the news “Kaya is coming tonight!” He jumped out of bed and asked if we should go to the hospital. I told him to calm down as it would be a while yet.
At 1:30am I felt like I was reaching the point where if I stayed at home any longer then I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere so off we went to the hospital. It was raining hard and, even though we told him it wasn’t necessary, Opi secretly followed us in the car to make sure we got there ok.
So here we were at 2:30am arriving at the hospital, Papá carrying our bags with the salt lamp, essential oils, coconut water, and snacks, and me carrying The Crumble (for the staff) made from wild apples and blackberries harvested from the roadside, trying my best not to drop it when I felt an expansion coming on.
We were given a big room and across the hall was a bathroom with a huge bath. The expansions had slowed down as my body took some time to get used to the unfamiliar place and people. Emma arrived and suggested I get into the bath. It felt so good and really helped me relax, and with the soft glow of the salt lamp and my Ott playlist I was feeling good – tired, but good.
We continued in the bath, Papá sitting behind me, relaxing my way through each expansion and sleeping in between. They got more and more intense and eventually I felt the slightest urge to push. I thought “I must be nearly there, I’m nearly at my limit of intensity” and said so Emma. A female doctor came and asked if she could check my dilatation. I consented but told her I didn’t want to know, in case it was less than I expected. By the intensity of the expansions I had imagined I was somewhere around 8cm (my midwife told me afterwards I was 5) but I could tell by the vibes of those around me that it was not the case. I lay back in the bath, trying not to feel disheartened.
I had been in the bath for 5 hours and I wondered if I should get out to move things along a bit (I knew that the bath sometimes slowed things down). It was around 7am and the midwife handover had taken place, gifting us with our next hospital midwife . Her sweetness and obvious love for her work was one of the main things that helped get me through. She wrapped me in warm blankets and helped me move into the birthing room. I lay on the bed, very tired and changed the playlist to Alexa Sunshine Rose. I’m not really sure what happened around this time. The sensations were definitely stronger and I couldn’t really get comfortable on the stiff bed. Emma suggested why don’t I get back in the bath. It seemed she always knew exactly what I needed. I’m not sure if getting out had ‘moved things along’ as I had hoped, but it was definitely harder to bear.
So Papá and I got back in the bath, and changed to my ‘medicina’ playlist. The sensations still felt the same level of intensity but there seemed to be no end to them. Various doctors and midwives came and went, checking your heartbeat every 30 minutes with the doppler and asking me about the ‘contractions’ and ‘the pain’. I kept reminding myself “pressure and expansion, it’s just pressure and expansion”. I lay back against Papá, floating and sucking water regularly from the camel bak (seriously best idea ever!). From time to time Emma would spray the room with lavendar oil mist, leaving it feeling refreshed and magic.
Finally, I started to feel like I couldn’t go on. Even though I knew when a woman reaches that point it means she’s nearly there, I couldn’t seem to remember that at the time. After a few more expansions I said to Emma “I think I’m going to take the epidural”. Papá immediately told me “come on, you can do it, you don’t need the epidural” while Emma clearly explained to me what it would look like (lying on my back, hooked up to a machine…). I thought, “fine, I’ll just make it through one more expansion and see how I feel.” And one more. And one more. And another one, until the female doctor came back and asked if she could check my dilatation again. I felt so sensitive at this point, so vulnerable. The doctor said I had just a tiny little bit left to go (~9.5cm). Eventually it was time to get out of the bath and move back into the birthing room to push you out!
At this stage the energy shifted from relaxation and waiting, to adrenaline. I started on all fours, leaning over a birth ball, but wasn’t really getting anywhere. I’m not sure where I got the idea from, but I guess I had imagined my body would do all the pushing by itself and I should just relax and let it do its thing. Maybe that’s the case for some women, but not for me and eventually I realised I needed to put my force into it. I tried sitting on the toilet and wow that made a big difference. I felt like I was getting somewhere, and eventually the midwives asked me to move to the birthing stool so they could see what was going on. I put my hand inside to see if I could feel you and when I took it out I found it covered in meconium. For a head down baby, meconium during the birth is a sign the baby is stressed, but for a breech birth it’s very normal as the force of the muscles squeeze it out.
I continued pushing and pushing with each rush. I had three amazing midwives surrounding me, and Papá by my side, all encouraging me. They told me how with each rush you came down a bit further, but that in between while I was resting you’d slip back up again. I had to work to hold you in place while I waited for the next rush. It was exhausting. We had been up all night and it was now somewhere around 4pm. Somehow I managed to move onto the bed so the midwives could reach you easily if they needed to. I continued pushing and pushing with all my might. Even between rushes I was pushing to keep you in place. Then, someone had the brilliant idea to put a mirror in front of me so I could see what I was doing, and that changed everything! Being able to see you coming down and down was the inspiration I needed to go on. Before that it felt like I was pushing, not knowing if I was getting anywhere, but now I could see my progress, even if it was just a little bit at a time. Ok, I can do this! Papá and the midwives encouraged me.
You squeezed out all your meconium and did your first pee. One by one your little legs folded down, and then your abdomen, and then arms were out. Now for your head. I took some time to rest. Someone (I lost track of who was who at this point) tried to get me to move up a bit as your bum was already on the bed and we needed more room beneath so your head could come out. But it was impossible to move! What little strength I had left I needed for your head. I think that was why the doctor decided to hold onto your legs and lift them up and around towards my abdomen, not because you needed help to come out, but because there was no room left beneath us. She held you there, suspended, waiting. Someone applied pressure to my abdomen, pressing on top of your head still inside of me. This was the critical point as your head, being the widest part, was applying pressure to the umbilical cord. There was no time for resting. I gave it everything I had and just like that, out popped your head.
You were placed into my arms and I will never forget the moment we looked into each other’s eyes. You were so present, but also had the look of “where am I?” Someone was rubbing you with a towel to get you going. I gently blew on your face and called your name. You hadn’t tried out your little lungs yet but were still attached to the umbilical cord, your lifeline for the past 9 months. The pediatrician handed scissors to Papa to cut the cord. I had really wanted to wait and ask you when you were ready to be separated so we could enjoy our final moments together physically connected before we each began our journey of separation from one another, slowly but surely, as you grow up into your own person and my body gently wears down, back to join the Earth. So that was probably my biggest disappointment of the whole birth, but I accept it and move on, grateful more than anything for your safe arrival. It was only the second time I had seen Papá cry, not from worry but rather a huge release of emotion.
Breech babies often take a little while to start breathing, so after one minute you were taken to the resuscitation station, right next to my bed and given some air. Papá and I called out to you “Kaya, we love you”. I knew more than I had ever known anything in all my life that you would be perfectly ok. After a few moments we heard the cutest little noise neither of us will ever forget. Just like a little kitten, you sounded, waking up from a nap. You were passed back into my arms, where you’ve remained ever since. Then I realised we hadn’t checked if you were a boy or a girl yet! Well, there was only one way to find out. We folded down the towel and of course Papá and I were right! Welcome to the world, Aya Maria Cruz!Aya, a Japanese name, but more so after the most profound Plant Spirit I have ever met. Maria named after both your very much-loved Omi and Abuela, and Cruz, meaning cross in Spanish. Our hearts have expanded exponentially. We will love you unconditionally forever. Thank you for choosing us as your parents.