A parent is born

“Mummy, he’s got brown hair!”  My (then) ten year old exclaimed as she stood shoulder to shoulder with the midwife, watching her baby brother’s head crown. This time it was my turn to tell her, “ he’s got black hair!” as she gave birth to her own baby son .

I feel so privileged to have been invited and accepted by my daughter and her husband to support them at the birth of their baby – to share not only the birth but the gentle beginning of a new family: My baby grandson was born naturally, without drugs (or stitches), into water with dim lighting and the quiet strains of Tracey Chapman playing in the background.

As his tiny head appeared before his body was even birthed, baby Griffin opened his eyes under water and looked around – this was pure magic to his father who was in the bath behind my daughter (and for me! ). Then, with one more push, ‘our’ baby slithered out and ‘swam’ under water, forwards, between my daughter’s legs (she had been leaning against the edge of the bath on her knees as she birthed him) where she scooped him up into her arms.

One of the most beautiful things about being part of this birth experience has been witnessing the depth of love and bonding within the new family and how it allows both parents to unselfishly meet the intense needs of  their newborn: my daughter’s husband is so proud of her courage and strength; she is totally impressed by his support during her labour (he stood for hours in complete silence, hosing her back in the shower) and both of them are utterly besotted with baby Griffin.

My daughter’s birth experience is a far cry from that of most women I work with.  I feel sad that there is so much fear around birth and that so many women feel ‘ripped off’ when it comes to giving birth or that we are so in awe of any birth, but especially a first birth, that is as natural and ecstatic as my daughter’s (although of course, every birth is awesome and each baby a very special miracle!).

Giving birth is a rite of passage: it is our first step into the unknown for the love of our child. Just as in parenting, because each of us is unique and there are many variables involved, there is no one-sized- fits-all set of instructions that can promise us a perfect outcome or a smooth passage. However, you do need to remember that it is your journey – your body and your baby. Putting yourself ‘under’ the doctor isn’t a recommended birthing position but, by becoming an active, informed participant in your birth experience – by asking questions, understanding your body and how to make birth easier, choosing carers and support people who are respectful and include you in decision making, and a birthplace where you feel safe (baby Griffin was born at Monash Birth Centre in Melbourne) – whatever the outcome, you will learn valuable skills that are transferable to all parts of your life. You will discover strength and a depth of feeling you may never have believed possible. And you will develop reserves of courage that will sustain you later as you are faced with other challenges throughout your parenting journey.

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