Oihan means ‘forest’ in the ancient Basque language of Northern Spain, which is where I come from.
I crossed continents and oceans to get to Australia, the land I fell in love with, and where I fell in love like never before. My journey started at the feet of the Great Barrier Reef in a magic island where John and I decided that we would start our family. It was after visiting a tea tree forest covered in blue tiger butterflies, that we made the decision that changed the paths of our lives.
We travelled back and forth between the two hemispheres, and finally our compass took us to a special place for the birth of our son. It was a birthing centre in the heart of the Spanish Mediterranean coast called Acuario.
My waters broke at about 7am, but contractions didn´t start until 5pm. We got to the centre around 7pm, and I was only 1cm dilated. The midwives took us to the beautiful orange tree garden and left us on our own. The Acuario retirement apartments were on the other side of the garden, and as the groans from my contractions rang out across the courtyard, I could hear the oldies in the background talking about how nice it was, that another baby was about to be born. Acuario is a place where both ends of life meet and coexist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. That makes it a unique place.
It was getting dark and a nice summer breeze was cooling us down. The midwives came and took us to our bedroom. I remember that my mind started leaving the room after each contraction. I nodded off a few times, but each contraction took me back to the reality of the moment. I started surrendering to the physical pain. We never timed the contractions. There were no clocks in the room, no phones to show us the time.
After a while, I screamed at John, “Call the midwives. I cannot stand this pain!” The midwives, Raquel and Cari, came and took us to the peaceful birthing room. I felt really comfortable there. I looked at the bath and felt the power of all the women who gave birth there before. I wanted to get in. I was now 6cm dilated, so the bath was filled. The warm water felt good and eased the pain. John set up the iPod with the selection of music we had prepared for that very special moment. The atmosphere became magical, as the intensity of the contractions peaked. A new soul was about to enter the room. With each contraction I would get under the water and connect with Oihan. After a while, I found that the contractions became less intense, and I felt an immense relief.
I have to say that I really enjoyed the pushing phase. I felt I was in the wild, with the man who helped me through my journey to motherhood, and two beautiful women who really trusted my body, respected my wishes and held our space. I screamed, as I had never screamed before. It was a scream coming from deep inside. A very primal scream to welcome my child. I felt I was caught up in a ball of fire.
And there he came, at 12:25am, so alert, so happy. Cari placed him onto my chest, and told me to hold him very tight against me. Enrique the obstetrician turned up and gave me a kiss on the forehead. He pressed Oihan tight against my chest again, and said that my placenta would come out very soon. I felt another contraction and they delivered it.
Dad took Oihan to the other side of the room while Cari helped me with the shower. After the routine checks, we were taken back to our room, where I had laboured a few hours before. The midwives tucked us in bed and left.
The days we spent in Acuario were a dream.
Our other obstetrician, Pedro, came to see us the next day. He was the one we saw in the weeks before Oihan´s birth. He picked Oihan up, and whispered in his ear: “hello beautiful baby. Welcome…” Then, he went to the window and drew the curtains while he said to us “they come from the darkness…” He was a man of few words, but I knew, that he had made his career a fight for women´s rights, for non-violent labours and labours full of love.
I thank Mother Nature for being so kind to us, and for being able to say that we really enjoyed our labour and the moment we were born as a family. I also have to say that it was so special because of the people who helped us through our journey. We chose them because they made us feel very comfortable and protected. We chose them because they love their professions. We chose them because they respected us and our choices. We knew that even if a complication arose, the theatre wouldn´t be a cold place, and we knew that we were in really good hands, hands we trusted.
I know, this is just another birth story, but it is actually an excuse to pay tribute to all the midwives, obstetricians, doulas, women and men who make out of each birth story a journey of love.
“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