Chair's Encouragement Award - Open Age
The Bush Baby
by Samantha White
Kate hangs the washing on the line, her belly taught and tight,
She sweeps the paths and checks the chooks, while pondering her plight.
The kicks within have given way to flutters here and there-
Her baby’s birth is near and she has so much to prepare.
The hospital had been shut down so many years before,
No friendly midwives left to come round knocking at your door,
The old GP and his nurse wife were not allowed to stay,
All fallen prey to budget cuts five hundred miles away.
So now the country women birth in cities strange and bland,
Away from friends and family, from their own familiar land,
In concrete buildings packed with strangers, sick and sad and sore,
Where nurses, cleaners, doctors hurry in and out the door.
The first time Kate had given birth, they’d driven into town,
Contracting in her seatbelt with her husband’s foot pressed down,
They made it as the baby crowned, the hard work all but done,
As soon as he was swaddled tight, they went home with their son.
Kate’s second time she was prepared and went with weeks to spare,
A rented unit and bored toddler was her cross to bear.
And when the time approached, Kate called her husband to her side;
He missed his daughter’s birth, poor man, though God knows how he tried.
Kate cooks up meals to freeze for when she’s called away to birth,
She thinks of what the future holds, how little she seems worth -
She’ll leave her children here for school, her husband on the farm,
She’ll birth alone and unsupported, needles in her arm.
And then Kate thinks of grandmother and what she chose to do -
Stayed with the ones who needed her, the ones she needed too;
Stayed with her farm and family and birthed her firstborn son,
At home she birthed him gently, as all women had once done.
That night Kate tucks her children in, her husband by her side,
She wanders the verandah, her eyes filled with tears uncried.
She can’t abide to leave her loves, ‘They’ tell her she can’t stay,
She looks up to the clear night sky and prays to find a way.
Kate’s belly tightens firmly, sharp pain pulls her from her bed,
She doesn’t wake her husband but goes out the back instead.
The Grey Gums keep a peaceful watch, the dog stays by her feet,
Kate breathes and moans across the yard in waning summer heat.
The moon is full, it lights her way, unfolding through the night,
Kate labours in her garden, knowing that her choice was right.
And in the predawn silence, her new baby rushes forth,
Light streaming from the East and autumn breezes from the North.
Kate climbs in bed, in blissful awe, the baby to her breast,
She settles down to fall in love and get some hard-earned rest.
Her husband cries, her children coo, she feels a joyous rush-
She birthed her baby peacefully, at home, here in the bush.