Some time passed. And then a birth.

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6 months ago and one day I gave birth to our daughter. I was reminded today of an email that I wrote in the weeks shortly after her birth.

Back in November 2018 when we all met […] I was at one of the lowest points I’d had in years. After years of trying to conceive naturally, my partner and I had just exited medical fertility treatment after unsuccessful IVF. And then I went to [] where I reconnected with old friends, met wonderful new people, sang in a circle, talked permaculture and seemed to be surrounded by other people’s pregnancies and babies. It was both the best place and the hardest place to be working through grief about the life as a mother that I had imagined would be mine and the type of family I would have with my primary partner Tim.

So, Tim and I went off and started doing other stuff, imagining a different life. We lived in a bell tent for a couple of months on a permaculture project, bought a block of land in Western Australia and thought some more about working on a sail cargo project.

As is the ways of this mysterious universe, about 9 months later, Tim and I managed to accidentally, miraculously conceive. I think we were helped along by the full moon, and a lunar eclipse too.  And even more wonderfully, almost another 9 months later, on March 1st, 2020, we welcomed our daughter Tilia.

Tilia’s first name is inspired by the European Linden or Lime tree _Tilia cordata_  and related species. The Linden is a beautiful tree with heart shaped leaves, and flower bracts that are loved by bees. The flowers are collected to make a fever reducing tea and apparently the leaves are also edible for humans! (I am yet to try eating the leaves). Tilia species are also known as basswood, a useful working timber.

In order to get where I am now, I really felt that I had to move through that low, that pathway through grief. To  acknowledge that the particular future life I had imagined was not guaranteed and that I had to be broken open to allow other pathways to unravel.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity to just think over the last months of pregnancy.  Working through grief about how we have imagined The Future to be is so important. By releasing a particular vision, we open so much more possibility up, even if a new possibility takes us very close to the original vision. This grief work is relevant to responding to our personal situations, the climate crisis, or to this new weird pandemic world that we are living through.

I wanted to thank you all again for witnessing my grief, and for being so supportive of me [] when I was feeling so vulnerable. While I may not be able to pay that gesture of support and witnessing directly to you all, I hope to repay it by supporting others when they find themselves falling apart, afraid of a future they haven’t mapped out.

BIRTH STORY BELOW (with permaculture inspired reflections)
I feel incredibly grateful that I had both permaculture and hypnobirthing approaches as tools to help approach and  understand Tilia‘s birth. Of all the Holmgren permaculture principles that stood out for me, the most important was CreativelyUse and Respond to Change.

Tilia’s birth was adventurous, woken up by a spectacular breaking water flood, a walk around a spooky empty nighttime hospital singing in the stairwells as I tried to bring on contractions.  I did get a couple of hours in the warm water of a birthing pool, but ended up with an emergency caesarean section as labour was progressing very slowly and the baby’s heart rate was dropping with every contraction.

It had been clear that surgery was likely from quite early on (clues: stopped from eating and drinking or even changing position, asked to remove my earrings, midwife led care interrupted by medical staff including my favourite doctor).  So, with that surgery sector observed and moving closer all the time I chose to accept all the drugs possible! Once the decision to operate was made I spent the next minute or two relaxed (a little high ;-)) and observing the experience of farewelling Tim and asking that he have first skin contact before being rolled along corridors. I only was in the operating theatre for about 45 seconds before I went under, but my major observation was that the 10 or so people in the operating room were like an ecosystem of midwives, anaesthetists, surgeons, surgery assistants and pediatricians.

Damnit, while this was not my envisaged birth path, I am so bloody grateful for other people (especially my partner Tim) being there to help me and care for me.  This experience has made me reflect how the hypnobirthing model (which I otherwise loved) may end up placing too much emphasis on _just_ the mother(and birth partner), a concept which could easily hangover post-partum. While I recognise the important emphasis on the mother’s agency and independence is in response to overmedicalisation of straightforward pregnancies and delivery, it can also come across as Do It (all) Yourself. Over-emphasised, this is an approach that could make asking for help and support in pregnancy, labour and post-partum that much harder.

Maybe this is the most important permaculture / ecological learning that came out of this pregnancy, birth and VERY early parenthood. While Tilia grew in my belly, formed with the lucky combination of genetic material of her father and I, she is made up of so much more than just me or Tim. After years of trying, we ended up accidentally producing the conditions that made her life possible, but ultimately that life was emergent out of the symbiosis of my body and her growth process and supported by so many more connections.

Tilia is the result of soil life helping grass growing, grass being eaten by cows who produced the milk (and the calves put to one side so that milk was available) and the farmer, the tanker driver, the glass bottle manufacturers and the local organic store. She is made of stardust and connected to the bees who pollinated the apple tree, the apple genetic fanatics who developed Cripps Red (aka Pink Lady) and Welland varieties and the people who picked the apples. She was formed by cake from my favourite cafe and bread baked by one of my best friends and nurtured by another friend who worked shiatsu caring on my body. She is primarily clothed in pre-loved, thrifted and hand me down clothes, wheeled in a passed down stroller, clad in nappies of organic cotton and wrapped in wool covers handknitted from bonafide permaculture wool. 

We are all connected, we are reliant on a multitude of human and non-human others even though often their influence, the food webs and supply chains are unseen.

Tilia, all 39 weeks gestation and 11 days since birth is in relationship with so much and so many.

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