A Friday evening above the rooftops of the North Inner City. My son is being born. Rushing into the world, surprising us all with his haste.
His head born as the midwife rushes in the door and is at my side.
Calm, firm instruction. “Place your foot flat on the floor”.
With that, our baby boy. Here. On the bedroom floor. While his brother watches cartoons in the other bedroom.
I wake on a Friday morning to mild fluttering in my belly; a welcome indication that baby is on his way. Welcome because we are a full week past the due date. I am ready to have baby in my arms instead of in my belly. Yesterday I made an appointment with an acupuncturist in the hope it would get baby moving. Turns out only the mention of needles was enough.
The surges are mild and Bob and I agree that he should go to rehearsals and toddler to crèche. Bob’s show opens in just two weeks and he will need to take some days out from rehearsals after baby arrives, so better to get rehearsal time in while he can). Lucky for us baby that your arrival is not planned for a show night!
The first half of the day I mostly rest on the couch and binge on ‘Orange is the new black’. I time the contractions; irregular and still very mild. I let my midwife and my sister (on call to mind the 2 year old), know that there are rumblings and I promise to keep them updated during the day.
Bob is also checking in regularly. Around 1pm he suggests coming home before they do an afternoon run of the show, but it doesn’t feel like things are going to get serious any time soon (plus I’m quite enjoying lazing about the flat on my own) so he stays at rehearsals. I make some lunch of scrambled eggs on toast. Afterwards I walk the 10 minutes to the local centra on North King Street to get some air and to buy some loo roll and kiwis for my labour-aid drink. There’s a slight thrill of walking about in the bustle knowing that inside me a baby is getting ready to be born, to join us all.
In the afternoon, it’s time for my labour project. Some zentangle art- a design loosely inspired by the purple asters in the vase on the dining table. I’ve been buying different flowers most days in the nearby fruit market, hoping baby will recognise his and decide to make his appearance.
I call my sister and ask her to pick toddler up from crèche on her way over. She calls to the apartment block to pick up the buggy on her way to get him. Our 7 year old neighbour is downstairs in the courtyard when I bring the buggy down. She quizzes me about the baby’s arrival, as she has done every time she has seen me since my bump became obvious. She stares wide-eyed, disbelieving, when I tell her I think it will be tonight. I can hardly believe it myself.
The surges are stronger when I’m standing or moving about; when I lie down, the contractions reduce in intensity and frequency. The trusted internet tells me this is a sign of ‘false labour’. Maybe I should be moving about to get things going? I text my even-more-trusted midwife to ask her advice. She rings me just after 6pm and we chat for a few minutes. I have a contraction during the conversation but so mild enough that I don’t know she would even notice it. She advises me to have a normal (!) evening, to eat dinner, go to bed early and try to rest. My sister and toddler arrive in the door while I’m finishing up the call.
Bob comes home about 6.30 and we chat about whether my sister should stay, or whether we should call her later in the night when things kick off. We don’t have a guest room, so it would mean her sleeping on the couch, but she suggests she stay the night anyway, so we decide to have dinner together and see how things go.
I go into the bedroom to lie down and time some more contractions while Bob bustles about with a pasta dinner. He brings me a plate in the bedroom, at which point I’ve realised the contractions are getting stronger even while I’m lying down. I’m hungry but only manage a few bites before one very strong contraction, followed by another even stronger- that signals to me that things are changing.
I move onto all fours on the bed and am rocking forward and back with the contractions. Each one seems stronger than the next and I feel the need to make noise through them. Low groans; ‘hums’ and ‘hahs’ to relieve the tension taking over my body.
19:26. Bob calls our midwife, giving her the timing of the contractions.
“She’ll be here in about an hour”
“WHAT? I can’t do this for an hour”.
The contractions now seem stronger than any of the strongest ones I recall from my first labour. Looking back it’s possible I was already in transition at that point, things were moving so fast.
Things are rapidly becoming more intense. Bob calls the midwife again to let her know and now she is on her way.
A force within me and outside me is now taking over my body and all I can do is to try to keep up with it, to ride it. I’m not thinking of any of my visualisations or hypnoborthing- I can only focus on the breath and noise; releasing these primal noises keeps me there- present. Bob begins to get the pool ready and he and my sister are taking it in turns to apply pressure on my hips to help with the contractions.
I have disappeared way off into labour land but I’m still wearing my regular clothes. I’ve broken into a sweat and need these clothes off. Bob helps me take off my jeans and I throw two pillows from the bed onto the floor so I can kneel on them and lean into the bed.
Everything is moving so fast, but I am now aware that the energy is moving down, and I’m starting to feel a pressure on my bum. But I keep thinking- this can’t be the pushing – could it?
But instinct tells me it might be, and I think it’s probably time to take off my underwear- you can’t birth a baby in your knickers.. can you? Another couple of contractions and the waters break – a satisfying splash across the floor (just like in the movies) all over the pillows. I ask my sister- are they clear? “yes.- that’s good isn’t it?”. Phew.
Bob has now stopped filling the pool. I am only dimly aware that Alex is in the next room watching ‘Winnie the pooh’.
I am experiencing these powerful downward surges and I feel certain the head is on its way. I feel I need to bring Bob up to speed, to warn him.
“I think the head is coming”
(Softly, calmly) “No, love, we have a while to go yet”.
Almost as soon as he says this he realises the head is almost there and I hear him calling for my sister, once, twice, an urgency in his voice that I’ve never heard before.
And now I’m pushing, or allowing my body to push, stepping aside and letting go, letting my muscles do their thing and using the breath to allow all of that to happen. I feel the perineum stretching and let out a louder, higher pitched shout and the head is out and baby is moving his head, half in, half out and it feels as though Bob is pulling on him but he isn’t- it’s just the movement of the baby.
And there is another contraction maybe, but I really don’t know at this point.
(20:06- Midwife arriving as head is born)
And then my midwife is rushing in the door, telling me calmly but firmly to lift my left foot and to place it flat on the ground so I am in a kind of a lunge, my right knee still on the ground.
And a contraction, and baby is out (20:09) and the midwife is sucking fluid from his nose and I think I can feel the cord moving, pulsating and I am relieved and overjoyed and overcome.
And then I have my baby on my chest, in my arms. The midwives get me to sit on the bed and it is there the placenta is born, bigger than I expected (and now, still, sitting in my freezer.)
Suddenly all is a different kind of action. By 9pm the midwives (my midwife, plus the second midwife and a student midwife who seems quite in awe of the whole thing) are cleaning up and I get into the pool with my baby.
Just an hour after baby entering the world, there is tea and toast and the comfortable sound of women chatting around the table. We eat the chocolate banana cake I baked two days ago, telling the toddler that this is the baby’s birthday cake. Finally something that makes sense to him. A birthday cake! He sings happy birthday to the baby and we light some candles on the shelf and he blows them out.
Bob and the midwives organise new sheets for the bed and baby and I get in, skin to skin and oh so cosy in our own home, our own bed. Bob puts toddler to bed, reading stories from the next room, and baby’s eyes widen at the sound of his Daddy’s voice.
Afterwards Bob is too wound up to sleep, but my sister goes to sleep on the couch and all feels peaceful, cosy and family-like. Our little retreat above the rooftops of the inner city, full of love and the embers of excitement,