We were not trying for a child.
I did not ever want to be in that position again. Yet I was. We did speak about termination in a ‘We’ll get it before it gets us sort of way’ but, in truth, my nature could not handle the consequences of that action. I could not have reconciled the fact that it was me giving up hope.
My previous pregnancies had not ended well. Twins Triston and Timothy, and then our little baby girl, Georgia were all stillborn. Their deaths were followed by three late miscarriages at 17, 11 and 15 weeks’ gestation.
I felt a lot of pressure this time because life was good again. Where we lived now had no sad history and our family was doing well. On some level that I could not even fully reveal to myself, my nurturing desires were still there. When we bought our home, I went about fostering orphaned animals. Their mothers may have died or abandoned them. I also hand raised goats. Day old little ones, often weak and sickly would suck on formula from bottles and wobble around on their unsteady legs.
Maybe that mothering instinct was part of who I was? I know my grief was partly that my body did not function as it should. That I couldn’t harbour some little soul a safe journey into our world. The hope that I felt now was cautioned with self-preservation reality checks.
My fear did not lesson as the pregnancy progressed, yet I continued with optimism hoping for a healthy, screaming and sucking cherub to hold. There was nothing I could do. It was out of my hands. The only power I felt was in acceptance.
My belly continued to swell. I was cautious; Michael and I spoke little about it. I also did not tell anyone until I was past 25 weeks. Only one friend knew. Others’ opinions, fears, hopes, doubts blah, blah, blah, blah, blah: I just did not want to hear about.
When I reached 38 weeks, I drove by myself to look at a cot. At $10 it was lovely, fresh, clean and white. Driving with that cot, I needed to open all windows to stop tears. I knew I was saying: “I believe I can get you home safely.” I washed the cot sheets in warm Lux soap and lavender fabric softener. I always associate lavender with birth. Its perfume calms me and I love to luxuriate in its scent after labour in warm baths. The moss green sheets were trimmed with wattle and native Australian animals. I made pom poms in rainbow colours which I hung from the ceiling on bamboo cross-sticks.
As I made up the cot, tucking in sheets and placing covers on top, feelings of loss and hope swamped me. I thought of the child I may have and those I couldn’t do this for. Silently I held onto the sides and felt the sadness. Michael said nothing as he came into the room. He knew, he just held me and let my tears roll down.
When in labour with Georgia I knew she had already died. My experiences with the twins helped me. I had strategies and beliefs that allowed me to survive grief. Saved me. When she was placed in my arms, wrapped in her pink cuddly baby rug it was the saddest of sad. Our little girl was beautiful, formed like a normal baby yet smaller, not as plump. My love poured out as I held her close and whispered that I would always be her Mummy, that she would always be remembered. With tears running down my face I told her how special she was and that we were sorry she couldn’t stay with us now.
Now I felt that to walk out of another hospital without a baby in my arms would be too cruel. I was monitored closely. I believed that if I could get to full term all would be fine. Throughout the long night while I was in labour I imagined each contraction bringing me moment by moment closer to a sense of relief.
Keona, our precious gift, was born at 11:34 am, on 5th July. Rain poured down outside. He weighed 9 pound 10 ounces, healthy and strong, 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. He wriggled and cried. I clasped him to me placing him at my breast to suck, gently kissing his wet head. I cried as Michael wrapped his arms around both of us. Mary, our attending midwife, who had seen much in her long career, also cried. Palpable joy was in that room.
I knew this baby could never replace Tristan, Timothy and Georgia. They were accepted by our whole family in their own right as part of our clan. After their loss though I was left hanging. Damaged. This baby made me feel whole again, healed. Like the end of a chapter.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem