A few of my close friends back in the UK have just had or are expecting their first child. Talking to them has taken me back to being pregnant and having the lad. We were living in London in Queen's Park at the time. I wanted to have a homebirth as the motorbike accident I had had all those years ago made it hard to be in hospitals. Unbidden, the minute I walked in the doors and entered the place I could feel a hollow, toxic darkness drift down and settle inside my brain. Some of the thoughts I had had after the accident would replay and I would always start thinking of my sweet, funny friend who had so sadly died along with the other person we crashed into. Although I was riding pillion I have often felt a crushing sense of guilt about my friend's death which is common with any kind of trauma. Guilt snuffs out confidence and happiness quickly. It is viral in its ability to steal into all aspects of your thoughts and suck positivity and hope into its dark and gaping mouth. So we planned a homebirth which was to take place in our little house in Queen's Park. I read Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery which is beautifully uplifting, very happy clappy (it's packed to the rafters with birth stories from God loving hippies living in buses in America during the seventies) and nearly all the births take place at home. It was great to read positive stories and pretty entertaining "I knew that Esther was ready to give birth because her aura glowed as we swam in the creek that morning." I love it!
The lad ended up arriving 17 days after my due date and the labour was long and slow. At one point I went into hospital to have them listen to the baby's heart rate on a monitor which I had been doing every morning for the preceding week and the midwives suggested I stay in hospital to have the baby as he was overdue. Very teary and upset I checked into hospital and the husband's brother who lives in London was sent to our house to pack a few things for me (he chose remarkably well actually). After a couple of hours of watching the lad's heart rate tick away perfectly well, I started to feel like the baby would not come if we stayed in hospital. At 6cm dilated and with the waters having been artificially ruptured (ostensibly to check for meconium which may signal distress in the baby) and been found to be clear I checked out of St Mary's in Paddington, went outside and hailed a black cab with the husband. The ride home over many bumps and potholes will forever stay etched in my memory as one of excruciating discomfort but a few hours later at 6.30pm the lad was born in our bedroom. Three hours after that both midwives left and my exhausted husband and his no longer pregnant wife began life as a family. I was completely and utterly fucked. Having had no sleep for 2 days and 2 nights and not much to eat for a long time there was just nothing left in the tank. The baby started to cry and we just looked at him in horror. Now what?
"What's wrong with him? Why is he crying?" the husband spluttered. I was clueless so the husband made me call the hospital.
hosp: Hello, maternity ward
me: Hi, erm, I've just had a baby and he's crying. What should I do?
hosp: What do you mean 'you have just had a baby?'
me: I had a homebirth
hosp: Well he is probably hungry you'll need to feed him
me: (rather chirpily) OK thanks, bye!
I attempted to breast feed him . The pain was shocking, I was way too tired and disinterested and just wanted to be left along. The first night of the lad's life was spent wrapped up in a blanket over his Daddy's shoulder being rocked on a rocking chair while I slept upstairs. The husband had played a starring role in his birth and immediately turned into the best Daddy in the world. Because he is self employed, 36 hours after the baby was born he was back to work. Those first few days were a blur of exhaustion, confusion and fear of the scarily new, tiny, screaming thing. When the lad was 10 days old my mum (who was staying with us to help) and husband suggested I go up to stay at my parents' house with the lad. A week of rest, help, love and support from my mum and dad and we were back on track. We were lucky that he necked bottles of milk easily and slept well but the adjustment to caring for a newborn is massive. It is such a unique time in your life as by the time you have another baby you are deeply ensconced in motherhood and it's not such a shock to the system. I loved the feeling of being bonded together with the husband as a family by our tiny baby.
The lad has converted masses of powdered formula and spaghetti bolognese into more lad and is now a happy, confident little boy. What a miracle it is to grow a baby in your tummy and watch the baby grow into a person. How cool to watch this miracle unfold before your very eyes each and every day. It's well lush innit?