When I stepped into the birthing pool, I could not have thought in a million years that there was only a little while to go before my baby was born. Even without a birth plan there is a level of expectation in your mind that divides labour into manageable chunks of time, a coping mechanism perhaps when faced with the unknown. My waters had been broken and the ever increasing contractions seemed relentless after a while. Medical staff had agreed to only monitor me intermittently despite a previous caesarean section, so I was able to move around. Ironically I came to a stop each time I passed the “perineum repair workshop” poster, which despite the pain I thought was comical. At that stage I still saw managing the pain without pain relief as a heroic challenge. No way was I going to miss a second of this wonder. Little was said between my husband and I. Somehow he was right there with me every second, hiding well the helplessness I knew he felt.
Subconsciously I must have anticipated a certain section of time in the birthing pool. Moments flash by in my memory –as nature kindly edited the whole process for me and transported me to a different place- and despite the obvious of being in pain and losing near enough all dignity, I remember the miracle and intimacy of the whole event. But the overwhelming mixture of pain, the speed at which it progressed and the vulnerability of it all, got the better of me. Just as I confessed to my husband that there was no way I could do this and begged for the midwife not to leave me, our baby was starting to make an appearance. It was quite an effort for my husband to resist my grip, as apparently I almost pulled him into the pool with me. I remember thinking “don’t look down”, and as I heard my husband’s sniffs of tearfulness in my ear, our beautiful baby boy slid into the water. My husband picked him out of the water and put him onto my chest. I was in shock. Together we cried, laughed, whilst desperately soaking up every single emotion that this amazing experience brought us. Then we had tea and toast in the middle of that incredible night. Who would have thought this a year ago? Having a baby at 41; it had been an unbelievable blessing.
I arrived at the ward in a wheelchair and stared at my baby for the remainder of the night, until a nurse offered me a delicious cup of tea. My body was shaken, bruised and I felt I had been run over by a truck. I had already struggled throughout the pregnancy with the lack of fitness and independence as my body had dedicated itself to supporting the baby leaving me out of breath and tired. Now I was unable to get in or out of bed by myself and every movement was painful. Looking at my tummy it was impossible to imagine that my body would ever recover from the birth. Perhaps you are not supposed to be worrying about those kinds of things when you have just been given a healthy baby, maybe it is almost spoilt and verging on being paranoid, but my deflated tummy not to mention the other affected and injured parts, filled me with worry of how on earth I would ever recover. Yet every time I looked at my baby boy those fears evaporated but returned at every move.
Nevertheless I allowed myself to fall in love. Actually no, I just fell in love simply because it was impossible not to. And this blanket of motherly love fell over me bringing endless patience, endless protection and an ability to cope with little to no sleep. I felt complete; I had been handed a second opportunity to be a mum again, this time within a loving relationship in a new world of integrity. I cried when my other 2 boys came to greet their brother because never had I felt such joy.
I am nothing but a home, a house, a shelter, a supply stream of nutrients, an internal bath, a sack for survival. It takes my breath away (not in the awe-inspiring sense of the word, but literally, I am very short of breath!), I puff and sigh with most moves, I get kicked and punched from the inside (this is supposed to be reassuring) and I am too uncomfortable, too tired and too “invaded” to properly enjoy some private time! I am not alone. Quite literally. This temporary occupation is due to come to an end quite soon and in the same way that I can’t wait to hold the little bundle of love, I am looking forward to inhabit my body all by myself again. Really, I am nothing but a home; the baby count down has begun.
It is a count down that sometimes moves in seconds, sometimes in hours and sometimes in lightyears. Many little warning signs are nothing but a string of false alarms, little teasers that make you sit up and sharpen your senses to then only relax again as it was nothing (much). Whereas during the 2nd trimester I used to feel shocked and occasionally taken aback by some of the changes my body seemed to be capable of, towards the end of the 3rd trimester it seems hardly worth mentioning it. Surrender is the order of the day, not because of choice but because of an intricate mixture of tiredness and the imminent loss of all available dignity. Nevertheless it is reassuring talking to other mothers who remember the internal worry of being “whale-like” and the self declared status of unattractiveness that comes with it, the realisation that it might never be the same again after birth and the insistent practise-runs of the body in preparation for birth. But after nine months you are all too aware that complaining about it is hardly going to erase those feelings. “It is all part of it”, people say happily, and they are right, but that doesn’t make it easier to cope with the bits that look so alien, the bits that are a different colour, leak or that you simply can’t see any longer.
I am nothing but a home, a house, a shelter, a supply stream of nutrients, an internal bath, a sack for survival. Right now that is my job and I need to get on with it. Or better: it needs to get on with it and I need to shut up. Any moment now or in the next 2 weeks of the baby count down, my perspective will get shifted and I will find myself on the other side of the bridge, caring about nothing else but the new baby life, whilst the house I have represented and a few leaking body parts will pale into insignificance. Daily anticipation is the order of the day: when, how and in what way will it all happen? The final unanswered questions that remain outside my control. It is not for me to know, but -like anything to do with the miracle of life- it runs all very smoothly entirely without my input. I am better off just listening for the hints.