Stretched out on the long rugged brown sofa I watch my unborn daughter move in my swollen belly, twisting and turning like she is trying to find that ‘just right’ spot. The room is dimly lit by the rays of sunshine that slip through the sheer curtain. I watch as people walk past breathing in that crisp afternoon air. The noise of children yelling fills my ears as they walk home from school. I rub my puku and close my eyes to imagine her in my arms.
Suddenly an indescribable pain pierces through my body like a lightning bolt that shoots through me. Forcing me to clench myself so to try and stop the agony. Again and again the pain gets worse every time. I don’t understand what is wrong with me, until I realise.
I am in labour.
“Aaarrrggghhh! Get her out! Get her out of me!” I scream at the top of my lungs. “I can’t hold her in any longer.”
“It’s ok just breathe slowly, in through your mouth and out through your nose,” my mum replies in a calm voice.
“You can do this,” whispers a small voice from the corner of the room.
I have been in hospital now for an hour hoofing on laughing gas as much as possible. Every time a haze comes over me, there is a sense of relaxation. My family huddle around me, watching, staring. Another hour and a half passes. The nurse has come in to check on me, “Portia, I need to check baby now could you please roll on your side?” she says.
“Ok, good, well you are fully dilated and baby is looking good so we can deliver this baby!”
I can’t process what she says to me, over and over I replay the words. Until it registers she is coming now.
The nurse rushes in as if she had just seen a ghost. “Your room is ready.”
She pushes me to the delivery room. Everything's a blur from then on. I push for what seems like hours on end. My eyes roll backwards. I have never felt this way before, so disconnected from my body. Pain runs through me but still it feels so unreal. Slowly I feel myself giving up, I can’t deliver this baby. Tears come to my eyes until...
“ You’ve done it!” yells my sister. “You’re a mum!”
I have done it. My tense body relaxes on the bed while I bawl my eyes out.
Finally in my arms, her soft baby skin rubs against mine, her scent reminds me of something sweet as it lingers in my nose.
I put my head on her chest and her heartbeat, her small heartbeat beats in synchronization with mine. A sense of accomplishment grows in myself for carrying her inside me for the past 9 months, feeding her and getting her ready to become a part of this world. But ultimately the feeling you get when you see them for the first time is this instant connection, something you can’t describe, something you can’t tell someone about. It is the love of a mother.
The Manaia is usually interpreted as having the head of a bird, the torso of a man and the tail of a serpent. It is mostly worn as a necklace or Taonga. It can also be described as being the messenger between the mortal world and the spirit world. It is the guardian against evil and is there to watch over you.
I stare out of the windows into the world around us and back into my baby’s big brown eyes. She fills this hospital room with such love and happiness, so much hope and faith. That is why she is my Manaia.