The FreeBirth of our first Child, Nalu Mango Saleh.
Hey Baby, You’re three weeks old now, how the time flies with you and how i wish it would slow down so we can savour every delicious second with you. You’re nestled in my arms making those sweet little noises and i’m hoping I can portray even a glimpse of how utterly magical and other worldly your birth was, how magical & otherworldly you are. It seems the universe conspired to bring you into our lives and on the night we made love and hoped to bring the child your daddy had dreamed of into being, you chose us too. You were ready from that first moment, like the shooting star we would call you in my belly, this beautiful miracle shone into our lives and I found it so hard to believe how lucky we were, your daddy believed straight way. You’ll get to know this unwavering confidence he has about things he really believes in, especially when it comes to you. After a blissful ten moons of you in my belly (truly, I so loved being pregnant with you) our birth story starts the week of the Autumn Equinox. As we cuddled in the grass over the ocean and watched the sun set turn the sky a warm orange, the full harvest moon rose in the same warm hue and I had very tiny tingles in my womb. The next morning, the 22nd of September 2021 (your due date and the day daddy said you would come) my mucus plug left and suddenly you felt so close. Daddy had to pop out one final time, although we’d been at home together nesting a lot, and i cleaned our house-bus top to toe and sat down tired but ready. That evening during the night i began to feel period-like cramps in my womb and as they got more intense i started counting, one every ten minutes that lasted for 15 seconds. I wasn't sure what to make of this but now i know that was the mild initiation into labour, by the morning they had stopped and we went for our last walk with you in my tummy. The sun came out and we sat on the squishy grass, you were stretching out so much, making my bump a funny shape. Towards the end of the walk i felt another gentle tingle and excitedly we went home. At home Ginny came over with lots and lots of Dahlia’s from her garden and together we placed them all around the birth tent and everything was ready. The sensations in my womb had been coming and now they were more consistent. It was early afternoon and we were in the bus, daddy was trying to get everything ready and cook a stew as the surges came quicker and closer together. It was like a dance, with me hanging from the skylight moving and breathing through the mild rushes, your daddy cooking, making sure everything went into the tent like oils, towels and water, although it had been ready for you for a few weeks by now. After a little while i could really feel the waves in my hips and daddy had to press deep into them as a natural pain relief and then run to do his jobs before another came. At some point we climbed into bed and made love, which was so special, making love was how we made you after all, with all that oxytocin we were overflowing in our bliss as you journeyed closer. Dad put some blankets and big pillows out on the grass in our forest garden, wild with ferns. It was a beautiful warm day amongst a grey rainy week, the sun was shining for you, and soon the stars would be too. We spent the next couple hours, as the waves gradually intensified, talking and kissing in between surges, watching the wind blow the tall ash tree’s, hearing the wood pecker and the cows, of which had visited the garden the week before. In many places cows are a symbol of mother nature and fertility, they felt like a sweet, watchful omen hanging around our home. It was sacred, knowing you were coming and we were soon to meet the love of our lives earth-side, but sharing this time alone together, feeling sensual and empowered, a woman doing what she was made for, so in love and so safe, a man being the father he always knew he could be. I wish every woman could feel this way during birth. As the temperature cooled a little we went into the big bell tent, the sides of which were open and it felt as though we were still outside in the nature. The pool was set up to one side, a double mattress and pillows on the other, with a log burner and candles by the doorway and a table at the back with an alter to you full of candles, shells, precious stone like rose quartz and photographs of precious times. Then of course all of the flowers, fairy lights, blankets, oils and chocolates, a space that I had spent our blessing way ceremony in with very special women. We had been timing the waves and they were lasting about 50 seconds every 21/2 to 3 minutes, giggling as we ignored the alerts from the app saying it was time to go to hospital. We were always going to have you at home and we didn’t invite the midwives having decided a few weeks ago that if everything felt well we would trust that feeling and birth you alone, neither did either of us even mention them during the whole labour. We felt so safe and new this was how you deserved to be born, peacefully and uninterrupted in our own time. As the light dimmed and the candles were lit, me and your daddy laboured as one. Always so present and devoted to us, supporting me with sweet words, in awe of what my body was capable of. He pushed my hips with all his power every single surge, as i bent down to dolphin pose, finding what worked. I couldn’t lie down or stand up, if I was on the toilet for a surge it really hurt, this deep sensation in my hips was really intense. Only occasionally did i feel this in my vagina and then daddy would push up on my sacrum to help the pain. I couldn’t eat anything now and at some point mid-surge i would throw up a lot. Throughout the morning I had been going to the toilet a lot and over the course of labour I was sick 4 times, emptying, making space. We had Bob Marley and Alton Ellis playing our favourite reggae, Otis redding, Nina Simone and sam cooke playing our favourite soul. Dad put lavender and rose on different muslins for me to smell, burnt Paolo santo by the fire. The pool had been filling up and as things felt really intense quite quickly, it had been maybe 5 hours, I surrendered to the call of the water. The warm water was an amazing pain relief, in that moment i was so happy we had the pool, what refuge it offered my body. I slipped into the water and could float on my back, I had a little respite here and enjoyed taking a few breaths. To keep things moving I transitioned in and out of the pool, daddy would dry me off and we’d move back to the pillows. On land I would be sat up and then have to turn onto my knees every couple of minutes. I wondered when we should call our doula, how long it would be before I was fully dilated, and how long I would endure these sensations but your dad was my rock and reminded me how beautifully we were orchestrating our own rhythm, our own experience and how special it was just the two of us. I’ll be forever grateful we had that time alone together, although that intimacy guided and nurtured our whole birth. It was primal and raw, we both found our intuition, empowered and devoted to giving you the birth you deserved. Our dreams really did come true. We called Lina, your doula, and she arrived at 10.30pm, talking to your dad about how things were going before she quietly came into the tent, pressed her forehead against mine and gave me a kiss on the cheek to let me know she was there, in her gentle way. I was in the pool and this gave dad a couple minutes to empty some water and refresh the hot water.
Here I stayed on all fours in the water for the rest of labour, as the waves kept rolling and my awareness of time or with the outside world began to slip away. I noticed little things during the last hours of this Thursday evening, Lina sat looking at the fire, the words of love and encouragement from your dad, the owls hooting in the forest. At one point Talib invited me to get some fresh air as he felt things had slowed down a little and I agreed a change would be good, so they wrapped me in a blanket before I went outside into the fresh night. The fairy lights created a beautiful scene, almost like a set from a movie, as Dad held my weight and more surges came, much more intense in this position. The clear sky had a million stars shining down and the cows were rustling nearby, as close as they could get. As we went back inside things felt like they really picked up and my voice thickened, turned to groans. Hearing this the cows joined in, deep ‘moo’s’, supporting my groans. I made a little joke about them being my spirit animal, probably just before I went totally inward. Inside I was waiting for transition, but looking back the thoughts of ‘when is transition, this is already so powerful’ and ‘i couldn't have another baby this hurts so much’ were my brief transition, apparently I didn't ever voice these minor niggling feelings, I was feeling you baba, moving down, talking to you and myself as daddy whispered sweet things in my ear. Before I knew it I was feeling the urge to bear down, but in my mind I wasn’t even fully dilated yet, where was the long transition and sequential respite that I’d heard about in so many other birth stories? I asked Lina if I should push and she told me to breathe, the real test to trust and follow my body. I am proud to say I always followed my breath and my body, moving freely, to be still and meditate on the knowledge that every wave brought me closer to you, it was the most present I have ever been. My voice was breaking as my groans deepened, your daddy was there with me for every breathe and he started toning to help focus and bring you down, he would tone deep noises when mine began and together we worked as one. At the end of these long notes i would surrender to the push, bringing you closer. The intensity had changed, i still needed dad to push my hips in and the feeling was incredibly strong, but somehow more bearable, knowing we were really getting there together. I’d say I really enjoyed this part, I felt the most powerful, even sensual, I took my hair down and felt my wild woman bear down to deliver my baby, as all mothers have done before me. I felt like I was joining you in the womb, this dark red galaxy that resided in side me, a brief glimpse at another world that created our celestial being. I used my fingers to feel how far away you were, at the beginning of the pushing stage you felt about a fore-fingers length away, I had brief thoughts like ‘is that my cervix i’m feeling, is it still closed’ and as you came further down I couldn't feel hair on your head but only vernix, wrinkles and bone, which i briefly thought could be the placenta (although i would have ben bleeding a lot by now if it had been) and soon i was sure it was your head. These thoughts quickly passed, in fact pushing lasted only around 25 minutes. I felt a little pop and your amniotic sac burst. As you came down I told daddy he could feel you, he was so excited. Especially when he could feel the huge bulge of your head, for me this burning, stretching sensation was overwhelming, how could you possibly fit?! I too was in awe of my body and you, for knowing so intuitively how to be turn and move in right way, to be born. I wonder how it felt for you. Lina guided us to ‘papapa’ on the out breath when your head was so close, which she had also felt, so to not push you down quickly and tear. I changed this to a mantra of ‘bababa’, talking to you my darling, which we did on every surge, but always ended in a ‘rrrrrrrrrr’ pushing you out. I couldn’t help it, I wanted you so badly. Then in one tremendous push your whole head came out, the most unbelievably exhilarating feeling in the world, knowing you were here my darling, nothing could have prepared me for that moment. Daddy felt your head and gave me a beautiful long kiss. In this candle lit tent in the forest where we lived, under the stars and the full moon, so in love and caressing as you came out of my body, you were born into pure ecstasy. I know nothing will ever be better. I had sat up on my knees now, your daddy still behind me. In the next wave your body slipped out so quickly and I caught you, I felt the cord tug and noticed it was looped once around your neck whilst you were still underwater. So you stayed there for a few seconds whilst I unlooped the cord and then brought you up to my chest. It was 3.10 am on 24th September 2021. Words will never capture the wonder of that moment, you were here, it had always been you, our love. You quickly began clearing your airways of liquid and this took a few minutes, but you didn’t cry and your eyes stayed closed, you’ve been so peaceful ever since. We stayed there holding you, warm in the water, soaking you up. Within ten minutes i felt a surge coming on and i birthed your placenta. I caught your soul sister with one hand, with you in the other and there you were together, the divine duo as one. There wasn’t too much bleeding and i had no tears, thank you body for playing your part so wonderfully. We stayed there a while longer and thats when we discovered you were a girl, after daddy's dreams of a daughter and my whole life imagining a little girl, of course you were. It felt so right. I looked at daddy and said, is she Nalu? Yes, our baby girl Nalu. I was starting to feel a little shaky, it had been a long time since i’d eaten and i had a lot of adrenaline, so we got out of the pool back onto the pillows, cosied up in our love cocoon. Gazing at each other, our family had just been born and me and your dad had been reborn as your parents. Lina brought me buttery, honey bread and we just kissed you and held you and couldn’t believe how lucky we were. The full moon guided us back into the bus where we bathed your placenta and decorated her with Himalayan salt (from Pakistan) and a herb mix I had prepared, with Rosemary, lavender, rose and marigold flowers. With drying, healing properties and a delicious aroma, they dried her out beautifully, we did this every day for your lotus birth. Your little cord went from purple to white really quickly, all the blood going back into you, along with all the essential cells and goodness. You stayed attached like that for the first 5 days of your life. We paid respect to the organ that had grown you and kept you safe, I think she kept you sleepy and peaceful, knowing you still had your guardian right there with you. When you were ready to say goodbye to this form you gently nudged her off with your feet. You were sat in bed with daddy, his head against yours whilst he imagined love from his heart flowing into yours. I felt like it had taken this time for her soul to travel up the cord into you, where she will stay with you forever. Not long after we took her to a special spot on Barafundle bay, we all walked into the still water, glistening in the sun. Your first time in the sea. We thanked her again for all she had given to our family and let her go. Now part of her and part of you is free in the ocean, wherever you are in the world you can step into the water and connect with her, feel her caressing you with each wave. We climbed into bed at 6am on the 24th September 2021, just as the sun began to rise. Ofcourse over those first few weeks we didn’t sleep much, we just gazed at you, learning what you needed and how to look after you. You are the most beautiful soul we’ve ever seen. Your daddy did everything to look after us and make home cosy, everything felt like a ritual, a ceremony for our goddess. Daddy whistled whilst he cooked, he was so high on love. He would hold you and say ‘oh my god, i love you so much’. At night I was say ‘talib’ and he’d jump up on his knees to change your nappy. Me and you cuddle and feed all the time, you feel so safe there and just want boobie to hold onto sometimes. Its such a pleasure to nurture you through my body, to be connected to you in this way. I cried so many tears of aching wholeness, love and wonder, so grateful to be your mother. I will keep writing to you about these sweet moments, but for now, here is the story of your birth. The Birth of our dreams, for the child of our dreams. We love you Nalu.