Meet Ani-Mei and her Looloo-Ma (Grandma). Riana and Ola welcomed little Ani-Mei into this world on April 6th 2016. This week we get to hear the birth story from a very special Grandma who flew from Australia for the birth. I LOVE her raw perspective on such a sacred experience. I can only imagine how it would feel to watch your daughter experience so much trauma without being able to bear the burden for her – something I’m sure most parents are familiar with. I feel so much love, compassion, hurt, and strength in this piece. I appreciate this perspective so much.
I wasn’t meant to be there, but this grand baby of mine seemed to think otherwise. Ten days overdue we arrived in NZ the night before induction. I’m an advocate of going with nature, not against. Induction isn’t the ideal start to a birthing experience. It came with a cannula, constant monitoring at the end of cords, wires, belts and buckles. As an observer, these insisted additions don’t lend to my expectation of a natural experience. As a birthing mother, they create undue stress and added agitation (or so it seems to me). Riana is practical and had a good attitude.
By lunchtime the monitor told us that labour was established and all was well. Riana maintained a positive attitude and sense of humour as things continued to progress. Time is interesting when it is measured by experiences, it’s depth and breadth vary accordingly. Riana felt that time just flew, I’m sure for her siblings waiting quietly in the corner of the room, it did not. For Ola and I it was measured by each second of minute long contractions and remaining focused and attentive for each of them as her support. Did I mention, minute long contractions, separated only by 30- 60 second intervals that sent time packing well into the afternoon and evening. By 6pm, I was exhausted!
Labour was increasing, Riana was slowing and I was praying. The midwife was getting twitchy. Although very non committal, Gillian had hoped baby would be coming around the early to mid evening. She had said if things weren’t evidently at that stage, she would take a look. Riana had been listening intently to tracks from a technique called hypno birthing. It is a self hypnosis method, using deep relaxation and meditation. I had birthed my last 2 babies using it and it was a priceless tool to a wonderful relaxed, controlled birth.
Although very relaxed and in control whilst focused on her listening and breathing, Riana was becoming tired. Gillian decided to put a saline bag in via the cannula to rehydrate Riana, hoping to give her some renewed energy.
Riana had not had an easy time of it during pregnancy. She had had great nausea and vomiting during her first 20 weeks. If she wasn’t careful of when, how and what she ate at any time, she was sick during the rest of her pregnancy, this coupled with UTI ( urinary tract infection) in the last weeks hadn’t left her in the best physical position. As I stood as an observer of my own daughter, I marveled at the strength of women. I marveled at my own strength as a mother and I marveled at the energy and endurance being created in the room at this time.
We had just watched my husbands Dad die the week before. Death and birth are so messy, so base and raw, so alike in vulnerability and sheer mortality, so confronting!
Gillian decided to take a look to see where baby was. Riana was experiencing her greatest pressure in her lower back. For some hours her spine and the area around it were bulging awkwardly outward. I had decided in all my motherly wisdom, that baby was sitting in a posterior position. This was confirmed during examination. Again, how incredibly enduring are women. A vaginal examination on a good day is not a pleasant experience. The focus needed not to respond to ones reflexes is a difficult task, not to mention breathing through ongoing contractions in a position the body doesn’t want to be in. Is anyone else in the room thinking this is just craziness?!!
Midwife Gillian began to take short and urgent phone calls outside of our room. The sinking, desperate feeling I was doing my best to avoid was increasing, as Riana began to express an urgency to expel her baby.
To even write this causes me distress and loss of strength. I want to skim over the details and arrive at happily ever after. This was not a birthing experience I want to remember or experience ever again in my life! I have to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t me who had to do this! Perhaps that’s why I did experience this so deeply, I had birthed 2 of my own babies positioned posteriorly. They were not my best births either. It was like pushing replay on those experiences. I had to control the panic as I watched from the other side and remembered in every slow second of immense overwhelm, exactly what Riana was feeling.
A second midwife appeared happy & bright. She brought some positive energy into the room & shared her confidence with us. She wanted to re examine Riana, there was concern that cervix was still remaining in front of baby, so with gloves on, Riana again awkwardly in position, in she went… “No, all seems good… Go for it, push!” Gillian does a mad dash for the door and I’m swallowed up in ongoing contractions, of rocking, rubbing, breathing.
Obstetrician so & so enters the room. “Hello. I just want to do another examination, I’m sorry… Blah blah blah. Oh and by the way, don’t push, just breath” said through grim smile..
I must stop here and rant. Any woman who has been asked to not push and just breath, knows what I’m talking about! ‘JUST’ BREATH..!! ‘Just’ is not a long enough expletive to express what that means! There is no experience even close to, you have a giant watermelon shape pushing its way through your va jay jay and just hold that thought, whilst contractions overtake any sanity you thought you had left, whilst you calmly and deeply ‘just’ breathe, over and through the whole event. The closest thing to being asked to ‘just breath instead of push, is, needing to poo very, very urgently and being to told the toilet isn’t available and ‘just’ hold on!
So exam number 3….. Here we go, isn’t this pleasant! What a wonderful happy occasion!! If you haven’t noted the sarcasm & bitterness, please do.
“Oh no, I can’t tell either,” let’s get another person to climb in and have a look.
Midwife number 4 was finally able to tell us that baby wasn’t in a good posteriorly position and an epidural was recommended to relieve Riana of the urge to push and hopefully baby would relax and move enough to freely deliver.
This is where I completely gave up and was scheming my exit at the next given moment so as to avoid the ensuing contractions. “I am just the mother” I was telling myself. “Ola is the father, her husband, he is built like a machine, so therefore he can continue being the support. I’m made of lesser things, like, coward, let me out of here!!” I must say, as I was turning to water and beginning to evaporate, Riana was still holding strong. Her resolve had definitely lessened, she was questioning her own sanity at the experience. She knew her limit and she was there.
The next couple of hours are a blur to me. I did make a realistic excuse to get the hell out of there. As I exited, under protests from Riana, her father dashed in and he and Ola gave Riana a Priesthood blessing. For Riana, the blessing allowed her to focus on preparing to receive an epidural and enduring the endless contractions and urge to push, which of course she managed with just breathing through them. Epidural in place and the Drs decided, despite the relief for Riana, they would perform an emergency caesarean. Baby arrived an hour or so after that, in the last hour of that day.
By this stage I was almost in fetal position on the outside of the room in the hallway. I was asked by each swing of the door, “Are you ok?” I’ve never been one to hold back and didn’t on this occasion “NO, I am NOT alright!!!” I was traumatised deeply. This trauma continued well into the next day, only softened by the birth of my most beautiful granddaughter.
Again I marveled as I was feeling quite numb and still exhausted. We visited the hospital the next day, to find Riana, bright eyed and bushy tailed, full of joy and wonder as she held her darling Ani-mei.
I was reminded, women are amazing!! I had never been on this side of birth before, where I was so deeply related to it but not doing it myself. It had always been me experiencing the hormone rush, the surreal hours of life changing forever. Why I had never realised the incredible strength and superhuman endurance women demonstrate on a daily basis before, I cannot tell. But I won’t again. This experience has etched this sureness on my heart and in my mind, it won’t be forgotten.
Life definitely has changed for me forever. I cannot even begin to describe what being a grandparent means. I feel honoured beyond description. It is a sacred responsibility, a wonder I muse over at any given moment, a deeply satisfying delight. I love my grand babies. It has brought a renewal unlike any other experience. I would have preferred a much more natural, relaxed birth for my daughter and every mummy, but am so very grateful to have been able to welcome my Ani-mei into the world.
And so the cycle begins again.
Whilst newly married we had thrown around ideas of ‘future kids names’ so as soon as we fell pregnant we got a pen and paper out and put her name down. I had already decided her name but wanted to see what my husband Feingaola (Ola) would come up with. It was meant to be, he came up with the beautiful idea and name of Ani’tilose-mei Letisia Blake. Which just so happened to be the name I too, felt fit for our daughter.
Anitilose is my beautiful mother in law’s name. There are already a few others named after her too, so we decided to add an apostrophe to make it a little more individual, so pronounced a little different too.
May is my mothers middle name (I love you Ma, but there was no way I was going to name my daughter Lindy so we went with her middle name instead) although to be a little different again, we spelled it Mei.
Letisia is one of my gorgeous sister-in-laws names, she has had and continues to have a big influence on my husband. It is only fit we thought, to name our sweet girl after these 3 women who have been the greatest example to us of love and gratitude, hard work and enduring to the end.