Sunday, 6 November 2011

Remembering Phoebe's Birth

10 years ago, I was holding our cherished newborn Phoebe Malika in my arms.

I had awoken to the familiar cervical ‘pulling’ sensation coming and going in motion, like the flowing movement of the edges of the sea.  I lay there in bed beside my sleeping soundly 21mth old daughter and husband, wondering if this was It or Not. My midwife, was Sarah - my dearest friend. We had shared an apartment, trained and studied and practised as student midwives, shared the struggles and joy of becoming midwives together, midwifed each other for our first pregnancies, homebirths, and babies – shared the most significant period yet of our lives together. 

Sarah had urged me to give her ample opportunity to navigate the dense traffic of London from the South through the East to our home in Hackney as soon as I suspected I was in labour. This was running through my head whilst I lay there – noticing the sensations and wondering if I should call Sarah or leave it longer. It was morning, and the traffic would imminently be banking up around the Blackwall Tunnel. Another hour or so, and it would become impenetrable.

I chose to make a cup of herbal tea – always my initial strategy for problem solving. Noticing my reluctance to eat, a regularity to the tightenings, and a definite altered state of consciousness, I rang Sarah, and told her to decide. “It might all fizzle out, and you would have come all this way…..” She came anyway, with her husband Chris (our dear friend), and Evie, their beautiful daughter, who in two days would turn one year old herself. Evie was our daughter Tilda's special friend, and the two girls were delighted to have some time together again. I put the kettle on again and we all had tea. 

                                                              Drinking Raspberry Lea Tea with Tilda on lap, and Evie looking on. 

By the time Sarah and her family had walked in the door, my surges had dwindled to the odd tightening here and there – and I felt very regretful for having my husband, Nagadeva, take the day off work, Chris take the day off work, and our friends drive all this way – for Nothing. I sent everyone off to Clissold Park, and whilst they were there, was determined to fully arrive into labour. Suddenly I was utterly invested in having the baby today! I tried being active - to no avail. I tried being very relaxed – to no avail.  I finally cried, out in our shared garden beside the rosebush, realising I couldn’t will it to happen. I had no control. I let go.

                                                                        Making more raspberry leaf tea, and a light surge arising.

They rang me from the park and I asked them to stay out for a bit longer. I was relishing the quiet and lack of stimulation. When they all returned, Chris decided to return to their home with Evie, and Tilda wanted to go with them. They left and I decided to go walking.  I felt an urgent need to be in motion, to pace, to take movement as my medicine.  I remember distinctly it was Friday afternoon. Stamford Hill was our home, as well as home to Europe's largest Hasidic Jewish and Adeni Jewish community. I noticed the Jewish men were quickly walking from work to home before the arrival of sunset, the veil between the day and night, on a Friday. This marked the beginning of their Shabbat, when they would feast, celebrate, and pray with their families. I walked for several hours. Around and around our huge block, past the local school, and traffic surging along Stamford Hill Road, the footpaths thick with people. I kept my head down, my eyes averted, and marched on relentlessly. I went back inside and recruited Nagadeva to be my companion at some stage, a little concerned that my waters might break or the sensations would intensify dramatically – leaving me stranded on the footpath amongst a sea of strangers. So my husband walked beside me in silent companionship. Whilst I walked, the surges came regularly. They felt warm and radiating and purposeful. I was walking fast and working hard. At last I needed to go inside to pee, and to see what the surges did when I stopped moving. I still wasn’t convinced that this was It, and still felt guilty Sarah was here and not at home, when I might not have been in authentic labour. However, the Birth Energy did continue pulsing power! I remember stepping into the pool in our front room feeling gleeful! Yes, I was in labour, and would have our baby this day or this night at least!

Once I was in the pool, the surges took hold of me and plunged me deep within. 

They strengthened in their power and fastened in their pace over the next few blurry hours. What I remember is that I started having a compelling need to kiss Nagadeva passionately and deeply after each surge! He was most surprised, but happily reciprocated the connection! As we kissed, I could feel the baby moving down, and feel my cervix opening. My heart felt open-wide!

                                                                     Feeling full of love and passion for Nagadeva and the baby. 

This was the 2nd of November -  a few days prior to the 5th of November (‘Remember remember the fifth of November. 
Gunpowder, treason and plot. 
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
, Should ever be forgot...’) For those not familiar with this British custom, it is a night to remember the time that Guy Fawkes and other conspirators tried to blow up Parliament House with explosives over 400 years ago. Around this week, fireworks are legally sold in little shops that spring up for this occasion, and each evening in the first week of November, the air is full of flashes, colour, loud bangs and the smell of gunpowder. Traditionally a bonfire was made, and an effigy of Guy Fawkes was burned on top.
                                                                                                                                                             Whilst labouring in the pool, with silence from Sarah and Nagadeva – and the low background music of the CD 'The Ultimate Collection of Handel' –  blasts and booms and sirens resounded just outside our front room window on our street. Nagadeva and Sarah were immediately at the window, whispering and peeking through the curtains. Apparently a gang of young people from the Council Flats down the road, had set off fireworks beneath the multitudinous number of Volvos in our street – cars the Hassidic Jewish families drive for safety and seat numbers for their large families. Car alarms and explosions alerted neighbours, and soon there was a fire engine out the front of our home with flashing lights, shouting, more bangs and louder sirens blaring. A neighbour knocked on the door which Nagadeva opened a fraction, to hear him ask if we could call for the police to come and sort out the chaos. I’m not sure if he wanted further calls made to the police, or it was because he wasn’t permitted to use the phone, being Shabbat. I remember hearing Nagadeva letting him know that No he couldn’t call as his wife was having a baby…..Yes, here and now in our front room. Our neighbour respectfully retreated.

Phoebe Malika was born blissfully that evening into the pool in our front room. Perfectly congruent to her nature, she was born amongst passion, explosions, fire and alarms! The CD, which was never changed and continuously played the Handel collection with much synchronicity, included the pieces: "Water Music", "Music for the Royal Fireworks Overture"," The arrival of Queen Sheba", "For Unto Us a Child is Born", and "Hallelujah". Utterly apt and telling!

                                                                                 Nagadeva meets his baby daughter.

During the birth, despite the outside havoc of London city life, I always felt safe. My birth felt undisturbed. I felt safe with Nagadeva and Sarah as the guardians of my external world. I felt safe in my pool. I felt safe in my home. I felt safe in my body. I felt safe in the process of Birth.

               Sarah, my midwife, holding Phoebe, (my legs in view!) whilst I call family and friend in Australia to tell them the wonderful news.

I've enjoyed recalling this day - just over 10 years ago!

Happy Birth Day beloved Phoebe Malika! We are immensely grateful that you came into our lives and abundantly blessed and enriched us.......


  1. As are we. Birthing day blessings to you all x

  2. Thank you so much Shannon! xx

  3. Happy birth Day, Pheobe! ANd happy birthing day, Georgina. Thank you for sharing xxxxx