It was the Thursday before Good Friday and I was well and truly fed up with being pregnant, sick of receiving “any news yet” texts, and feeling pressure to produce a baby before Shane had a rare four days off work. I’d been noticing rhythmical tightenings all that day, but when I saw my midwife that afternoon, she seemed rather ambivalent about what they could mean seeing as they weren’t accompanied by pain, so I tried not to get my hopes up.
You and I went to collect Shane from work, and as we watched the bats fly out from Centennial Park, we both made wishes on the evening star. You told me yours (something about fairies – needless to say, it didn’t come true), but I kept my wish to birth my baby that night to myself. (Now knowing now that my wish came true and yours didn’t, you never tell me your wishes anymore.) We went out to dinner just the three of us, and all through dinner, I kept noticing the tightenings coming and going. We mused that it could be the last time we ate dinner as a family of three, and for that reason it felt like a momentous occasion, something worthy of a celebration. Although at the time, it seemed such a remote concept; that we would soon be four. We put you to bed after we got home, and Shane and I watched an episode of Game of Thrones. (Which, in hindsight, was the most ridiculously gory episode – the red wedding – hardly a gentle, relaxing lead into labour!)
I had two contractions during that hour that made me sit up and take notice, and at the end of the episode, I turned to Shane and told him the baby was coming that night. He didn’t really believe me, and thought we should try to sleep, but instead we busied ourselves with packing bags (Shane) and downloading a contraction timer app (me). It felt exciting, but at the same time, the idea of labouring all through the night felt like a bit of a drag. Plus, the contractions were already a little painful and I knew they were going to get a lot worse!
In the next hour or so I knew it was really happening, and I started to feel stressed out about what we’d do with you – the couple of local friends we’d organised to have you had all gone away for Easter. Shane kept insisting that we’d just bring you, but you’d become so emphatic that you didn’t want to be there, and once my labour started I felt a really strong urge to not have you there, either. In the end, we called my brother, who came and collected you about 11:30. It felt like an emotional moment, waking you up and telling you the baby was coming that night. You cried, possibly with the enormity of the situation, but most likely because you’d wet the bed. Either way, we changed you, cuddled you, and you happily went off with Uncle Hayes in the dark of the night.
I think my body let go once I waved you off, and my contractions started coming stronger, about four or five minutes apart. A bit after midnight, I called my midwife and told her I was in labour, and she suggested I stay at home for another hour. Shane put the plug in the bath, turned on the shower, and I hopped in. The water felt amazing, but I must admit, a part of me wanted to run away from what I was going through. In the dark room, I swayed and moaned and gripped the side of the bath. Over and over like a mantra I repeated what a friend had texted me … loose lips, open mouth, fall into it. I realised I was carrying some fear; the contractions were hurting, even inbetween them I could feel pain radiating in my back and down my legs, and I was scared that perhaps my body couldn’t do it on my own (after being induced after 15 hours of not progressing in labour with you), and I was frightened of what was still to come, too. I kept acknowledging the fear I was feeling, and consciously tried to let it go, willing my body to relax between contractions, breathing it out. A bit after 1, and with an overflowing bath, I told Shane I wanted to go to hospital.
We only live about 10 minutes drive away, and I started to feel a bit nervous after I rang my midwife and she said she’d meet us there in half an hour. “Wait… what time can you get there?” I asked her, staring at our kitchen clock. She said she’d meet me there at quarter to two. That felt like an impossibly long time to me, I’d started to feel pressure building up in my bottom, and I tried not to panic. Shane said we could head straight up if I wanted to, but the time passed quickly, and we headed to the car. There was something so isolating about contracting in the dark of the night in the driveway. I kept my eyes closed for the car ride and gripped the back of the seat and it felt like it took a really long time to get there – in the short trip I had three contractions.
We arrived at hospital and after the hilariously elongated check in with the hospital clerk equivalent of Basil Fawlty (are you sure you weren’t born in England, Kellie?), we headed up to the birth centre. It was closed, but one of the midwifes from the delivery suite found us and let us in. She led us first into one room, but then changed her mind and took us through the same door that I laboured in with you; exactly the room I was hoping for. It felt like a fortuitous stroke of luck, getting this room again, but one that Shane and I acknowledged without talking. Shane immediately began running the bath and tried to cuddle me, to which I politely told him “not too much touching”. (We laughed about that the next day.) Sandra our very lovely midwife arrived, apologising for being late. She checked my cervix, and when she did, my waters broke. She apologised again, knowing that I had really wanted to just let things run its course this time (after having my waters broken with you), but it didn’t bother me at the time. She told me I was about eight centimetres dilated and as I hopped into the bath, she turned to me as she left the room and said “It really won’t be long, Kellie love”.
In my mind, I thought but how long is not long! The contractions were so powerful, that between each one, all I could do was rest my head on the side of the bath. In the corner of my eye I saw Shane lingering around, not knowing how to help. I pointed to the chair in the corner, and he dragged it over and sat next to me. It wasn’t very long before my body started pushing. I told Shane to get Sandra, because I was worried that I was still only eight centimetres. My body’s pushing I told Sandra when she came in – even though it was pointless to worry because I could already feel the baby moving down. That’s great! She said.
So with her blessing, I pushed. And goodness, the feeling of that baby moving down was INTENSE. I looked at Shane in between a contraction, and said fuck this really hurts. It was not a sensation I remember feeling with you, in fact the whole labour was a huge deal more painful than what I remember feeling with you. But the pushing part, aside from the pain from the stretching, feels so powerful, and I thought of all the women who had gone before me, and how strong we are.
I reached down and touched my babys head; it was the softest, loveliest thing I’ve every felt. It can only have been two or three contractions later when Sandra told me to look between my legs after the next one. I still at this point had no idea how long it would be until the baby was born, which seems strange to me now, seeing that I could feel the baby coming down. But all of a sudden, Sandra pushed the baby through my legs, and he came swimming up to me. I scooped him up out of the water and sat down. My labour had ended and sheer relief washed over me. It was immediately obvious that we had a son; I looked at Shane and he had tears in his eyes as he kissed me. Our boy was red and chubby and divine. And he was screaming!
After a while, the cord was cut and the bath water, which had now turned red, was let out. Sandra helped me birth the placenta (I’d by this stage forgotten how to push!), and I got out of the bath and walked over to the bed. Shane and I cuddled our baby, and he fed for a long time. I had a tear which Sandra didn’t feel confident stitching, so after about an hour, I threw on some clothes, and walked myself and my baby around to the delivery suite to be seen by a doctor. The labour had been swift and intense, but I felt amazing and almost completely normal. We were clapped and congratulated as we passed the midwives at the delivery suite desk.
While we waited to be discharged, I ate an egg sandwich Sandra found for me in the nurses fridge and read aloud Clancy of the Overflow; marvelling at the absurd possibility that this teeny baby boy in my arms could, one day, be a man.
We walked out of the hospital with our new son (who was screaming again!) four hours after he entered the world. (And yes, we were those hopeless parents in the car park, battling to remember how to install the baby capsule!)
When you woke up that same morning at my brothers, you told them you’d had a dream the baby was a boy, even though you’d wanted a girl, and that even though you were disappointed, you loved him all the same.
Shane picked you up from my brothers after we’d had a quick sleep, and you ran through our door, yelling “Where’s Clancy?”. You kissed him and cuddled him, and I looked at you together and thought how blessed I am to have the two of you, and how amazing it is that the two of you now have each other.
Welcome to your family, Clancy Cash. We’re so lucky that you belong with us.