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Welcome Gracie Juniper

Eight years ago today my waters had already broke. Actually they broke over 36 hours ago and there I was, waiting for you to be born. I was a ball of nerves; tired but not sleeping, anxiously awaiting my first born. I was pretty sure we’d be welcoming a baby girl but time would tell.

I kept having tight pains in my belly and wondered at the strength of these contractions, my belly taut and as firm as a watermelon. I would think, okay this must be it, each time the pain surged. And I would ask my sister who came to visit, how do I know if I’m in labour? Oh you’ll know, she said. She was right, you do know.

We had just bought a property and built a cozy home, the one we lovingly refer to as the blue house. From my bedroom window I could see the water and I imagined having you cocooned with me there. We had an open space on the 2nd floor where we set up for your birth, I was determined to welcome you at the home your dad had just built. People thought I was crazy for attempting a home birth, especially for my first. But you likely already know that I don’t do things conventionally and people often misunderstand my desires as whimsical and odd.

June 24, 2012, I had a visit with my midwife to do a quick check to see if anything had progressed since my water breaking. Nothing! My friend and chiropractor Laura came by, she helped me make a few moves to encourage you to come lower down, you were resistant to this. It had been days of you avoiding where you needed to be! Interestingly you still struggle with transitions, no matter how big or small they appear. Me and your dad went for a long walk after Laura left and I felt things starting to stir. At home I felt the surges of the contractions and I knew, this was it for sure.

The next 18 hours are blurry — a parade of people coming, the midwife, family, friends. Setting up the birthing tub. Trying to ‘rest’ between contractions, a bizarre concept that I couldn’t seem to master. Midwife off to another call and leaving us there, feeling unsure what was happening, feeling pretty certain that an expert should be available. Hours bouncing on an exercise ball. Hours in the water it seemed, skin wrinkled, your dad trying so hard to keep the water warm enough as the hot water tank emptied over and over. I would nod off (pass out?) between contractions and it felt like for ages nothing was happening except this raging storm in my belly.

I had my eyes closed for so long it seemed. I was beyond exhausted, I was scared, I started to doubt my ability to do this. I was encouraging you to emerge and also losing my patience, you seemed to stubbornly want to stay inside. My midwife suggested we take an ambulance to the hospital and I said NO WAY. So once more she turned you, the most terrifically painful experience, and this time… you were ready.

You do want to do things on your own time, and I appreciate that. You need lots of gentle encouragement to overcome subtle change and you chose a family that is seemingly always awash in change, perhaps there is purpose in that. You can learn to be adaptable, I can learn to be solid. We are always learning from each other, and our children seem to teach us the most.

The night had been windy and pouring rain but now just before 7am the sun was shining brightly. I felt you moving downwards and everyone gathered around the birthing tub. My eyes still closed, the midwife commanded I open them, everything felt surreal and out of focus, I still felt unsure I could make this happen. It was so hard I didn’t know if I wanted it to happen. “Reach down and touch the head” everyone was saying to me and as I did, I felt this immense connection, this wasn’t just toiling away for the sake of working hard, this was bringing life into the world. Suddenly desperate to meet you I had the energy to make the final push. You flew out, your eyes wide open under the water.

Just last week you wanted to show me how you can open your eyes under water. You laid back in the tub, facing up, and I had this moment of deja vu looking at your blinking eyes under the water.

June 25th 2012, 6:50am, my first little daughter born into this world. Big voice, a restless spirit, seemed to want to do so much from the very start. You seemed to feel challenged by just being a baby, you’re a do-er Gracie Juniper. You’re a celebrator, you make each day special by seeing the best part of it and sharing that with everyone you know. You’re in perpetual motion, I recognize myself in that. There is no doubt of how marvellous your life will be, simply because you’re you.

Eight feels like a big number, no longer a baby or a chubby toddler or a wee kiddo. And yet still totally a kid and immersed in everything ‘childish’, I’m utterly grateful, I will extend this time for as long as you let me. Born with eyes wide open, you have a knowing of this world and I already worry at how much you will take in, this world is a lot for a sensitive soul like you. But you are also fierce and strong and have convictions that will carry you. I don’t need to worry about you in this world, I know you have the power to make it a mirror of the beauty, peace and kindness you possess.

You’ve been planning this birthday for months, and now it looks a lot different than we anticipated. Challenged by changing directions, we’ve been talking a lot about how to make it feel special. You don’t know yet that we’re going to surprise you with a pool party at our great friends! I can’t wait to see you light up with joy, your grinning smile, big eyes of wonder and delight. Those same eyes, the first thing I saw 8 years ago on that bright morning. And I know you might also need a bit of comfort to adapt to the changes, I’ve got you. You made me a momma, what a gift that is.


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