I love to tell the story of Anneke’s birth, and as a midwife I tell it often. I had an uneventful planned pregnancy. Unlike many pregnant women I chose not to have any genetic screening or an ultrasound. “Don’t you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?” everyone would ask. No, I’d always reply. As I often say even today, life doesn’t give us too many pleasant surprises, this would be one of them.
As any expectant parent knows, however, this is a choice that comes with challenges. Finding “gender neutral” baby clothes is not easy. The indoctrination of gender starts at birth. We had a wardrobe of green, yellow, purple and cream. We lived in a one bedroom apartment at the time so “decorating the nursery” really wasn’t on our radar.
I went into early labour on Tuesday and by Wednesday evening, I called my midwife insisting she help me get things going or stop, so I could get some sleep. I had planned a homebirth, and wanted to avoid any intervention that would bring me to the hospital – unless necessary of course. My midwife brought over an herbal labour tincture which rocked me into active labour my midnight Wednesday.
I thought I’d be one of those stoic labouring women, rocking, and moaning with the rhythm of my body. I thought I’d relish in massage, touch and words of encouragement. I was loud, borderline rude to all my helpers (especially my partner) and no one could touch me. In the bath I remember my doula saying ‘that contraction is gone, just breathe and think about your baby.” My head spun around like a scene from the Exorcist and I barked, “I don’t care about my baby! Just make this stop.” I was in transition.
By 7:30am Thursday I was ready to push. My partner supported me from behind as I squatted on the birth stool. I used to re-enact this scene with A. when she was a toddler, and she would laugh and giggle as I acted it out. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed and out came my beautiful baby.
The midwives quickly wrapped her and Ben and I gazed at this amazing bright eyed creature before us. We kept saying “look at you! You’re here.” There was a quiet hush in the room as we greeted our new baby. No one, except us, uttered a word. Finally, about 5 minutes later, as we were waiting for my placenta to birth, the back-up midwife quietly asked “Is it a boy or a girl?” Oh my goodness, all this time wondering, waiting and guessing, and we didn’t think to look! It occurred to me at that moment that it really didn’t matter. My baby was beautiful and the love I felt was overwhelming. How inconsequential this piece of information was and yet given such importance. We gently unwrapped the blanket and looked. “It’s a girl” we announced, “its Anneke.”
And so began our journey 12+ years ago….