I am on my hands and knees in bed, panting. The pain is still titillating. My husband is lying next to me, eyes half closed against the dim light from the table lamp.
‘I think this is it,’ I moaned.
‘I’m sure it isn’t,’ he responded.
Depending on what life stage you are at, you are reading this very differently. Put frankly, you are either thinking about how babies are made, or how babies come into the world. Let me assure you, that this particularly post is about how babies come into the world. (How many people just clicked away in disappointment?)
I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant with the Bombshell. I didn’t know she was the Bombshell, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. I was obviously in labour but still in denial. As was my husband, who at 10pm really just wanted to go to sleep, and not think about the fact that I was on my hands and knees asking him to strap a TENS machine on.
I was timing the contractions, and they were about seven minutes apart. I decided I had better call the hospital to see what they thought. ‘You had better come in,’ they told me.
The drive to the maternity hospital was blessedly quick at that time of night. I remember that Ben Lee was playing in the car. Gamble Everything for Love still reminds me of that night. We parked in the 5 minute bays out the front. It would be 12 hours before my husband was able to shift the car.
Typical for a first pregnancy I had packed everything the books suggested and more. I even brought my own CD player (I hadn’t joined the MP3 crowd yet in 2007). It was enormous.
I had packed food for my husband. Snacks for visitors. A diary. Two books. Enough baby clothes for triplets. I even had been to the bank and got a bag of gold coins for visitors who didn’t have change for parking.
The midwives showed us to a room and left us. In hindsight, we looked like one of the couples on ‘One Born Every Minute’, wandering, lost, playing with the equipment, pretending to suck the gas. Scared out of our minds at what comes next.
The physical exam at 10.30pm that night was a revelation. Considering how (surprisingly) un-physical pre-natal care is, the physicality of birth is a rude shock. I knew an entire baby was about to come out of that particular hole, still it felt quite unbelievable that an entire hand up to the wrist could go in it. I was 4cm and fully effaced.
I didn’t want to ask what effaced meant. I was probably meant to know.
We were left alone with our TENS machine for the next six hours. At 4am, another hand up to the wrist, and this time the expression on the midwife’s face was concern. I was still 4cm. They wanted to call the obstetrician, I wanted a second chance. They agreed to give me another two hours.
It is still dark at 6am in late May in Perth. But in a maternity hospital the lights are dazzling day and night. We hadn’t slept and the baby apparently had changed its mind. The Obstetrician was called and he wanted to break my waters. Another hand, this time with a claw. Suddenly I realised what real pain felt like, and those lolly-water contractions I had been having since midday were replaced with moonshine.
Skipping ahead through the cries for an epidural and the tears when an emergency caesarean was declared, you now find me shivering on a metal table, a blue screen shielding our eyes from what a nurse’s camera would capture anyway. A pause. A baby’s cries. More tears, this time of happiness.
This morning as I watched my now six year old get ready for school I began to tell her that last night, at 10pm I had looked at the clock and all these memories had flooded back. I had been lying in my bed, reliving the night I became a mother. I started to cry as I told her how the past six years had – literally – changed me as a person, and how being her mother was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
I wiped my eyes on a towel and apologised for crying. I was afraid she would think I was sad.
‘That’s okay Mum. I know that some people cry when they’re happy,’ she told me. ‘It’s a grown-up thing.’ She shrugged.
It was a very grown-up thing to say. And it made me cry some more.