Reflections on a job well done.
April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last week, letterboxes belonging to the home birth community across Sydney and the world were filled with the Autumn 2014 issue of Birthings: the final issue over which I was Editor.
In late 2012 I rather impulsively responded to a call out for a new Editor for the magazine. Robin had been born that March, and throughout the year we had travelled through his illness, extended time in hospital and further recuperating time at home.
I felt turned inside out that year – after the absolute joy and euphoria of his birth came the crushing low of a seriously ill baby just weeks later. I completely let go of my own needs in order to stay with Robin in hospital on and off for five weeks – caring, advocating for, and feeding him. It was a daily hell with no privacy (our room had microphones so the nurses could hear when Robin began coughing), little freedom and constant fear, the only respite being the six hours each night where I slept in a separate room in the hospital, and the couple of hours I spent at home every second day, nurturing my other children.
Once we were released from hospital is was not the end of the ordeal. It was the beginning of a whole new ordeal, without the support of nurses and medical equipment. Robin continued to have coughing episodes and turn blue up until Christmas. Whooping cough is called the 100-day cough, but in Robin’s case, it came closer to 200 days. At home, he could not be left alone for one minute, or even one second, lest he begin coughing and turn blue. His cot had to be moved out into our living area as it took too many seconds to run to him in the bedroom – seconds in which he could struggle to breathe and turn blue.
By the end of the year, I had lost myself in some way. That whole year had been devoted to care of my baby: a job I took very seriously and fulfilled to the absolute utmost of my ability. I am brought to tears when I think back to the intimacy that Robin and I shared….I knew him so completely that I was aware a coughing episode was about to begin seconds before it would start. I knew the meaning of every breath he took.
As Robin began to grow stronger and heal, as he no longer needed to be watched so intently, I needed to come back to my self again. I’d had to let go of other commitments, work, and my own health to care for Robin, but magazine editing, which I could manage at home in my own time, seemed perfect. Furthermore it combined two of my passions: writing and birth. It would be something for me, a way for me to strengthen my own soul.
Having had no experience editing an entire magazine before, I turned to a good friend who worked as an Editor. I asked her if she thought I would sink or swim. Swim, came the swift reply, you can do it!
And I have done it, for five issues of Birthings over almost eighteen months.
I came to the role willing to learn and eager to share some of my own ideas and experiences of birth and home birth. Pulling a whole magazine together is a pretty big undertaking and a massive, intense learning curve. It has been both terrifying and exhilarating. And holding a copy of the finished product in my hand has been massively satisfying.
I’ve been humbled and awed at the birth stories women (often strangers) have submitted for publication. I’ve quailed at the responsibility I undertook as the custodian of these stories. I’ve loved getting involved with a group of fantastic women and making new friends. And my confidence in myself has gradually increased. I can finally recognise that as a woman who has given birth six times, and who is raising five children, that I just may have some wisdom to share.
I wanted to continue for longer. I feel I was just hitting my stride with this role. However my recent break in Bellingen brought with it many realisations, one of which was knowing that it is time to move on. I’ll be forever thankful for the focus and stimulation and inspiration that editing Birthings gave me. It helped to pull me out of a place of crisis before it could turn into serious depression or similar. But now that Robin is two, and healthy, it is time to focus on myself in other ways, as well as my family and other career goals.
I don’t think that I will have any more children, so letting go of this role mirrors my internal release of this phase of my life. Oh, what a turbulent ride the past fourteen years has been for me: breastfeeding for most of that time, a ride of joys and griefs, hormones and the primal power of birth.
I’m now birthing a new version of myself.