Most pregnant women and their partners await the birth with at least a little apprehension – and with good reason: my friends alone have provided me with enough childbirth horror stories to last a lifetime – failed epidurals, forceps and the nightmare that is otherwise known as ‘induction’. We weren’t worried about these things. After my long but calm and straightforward labour with little Luna, and after a good few months of reading books on ‘natural’ childbirth, we were confident that our home birth would be a smooth, gentle, pleasant affair.
I still had apprehensions though. Firstly, Luna. She would be approximately 13 months at Willow’s birth. She always co-slept with me; she was exclusively breastfed and still fed through the night; she was unused to other people looking after her and prone to separation anxiety. How could I both be a supportive birth partner and give Luna what she needed?
And secondly, how could I be a supportive birth partner? When I was giving birth, the midwife had praised Sal’s efforts, suggesting she could be a professional doula. Sal had planned every tiny detail of her forthcoming labour. I meanwhile, was working full time and spending every spare moment with Luna who would cling to me from the moment I stepped through the door. How could I possibly find time to learn the reflexology techniques, memorise the birth mantras and work out which homeopathy remedy should be used when?
We inflated the birth pool and had a practice run: all three of us bobbing about in a big hot tub in the steamy, humid living room. Then, 9 days before Sal’s due date, when Luna was exactly 13 months old, after weeks of pushing trolleys and holding hands, she finally walked unaided – she was ready to be big sister.
We had arranged for my brother and his partner to come and stay the weekends either side of the due date – Monday 16th June. They would look after Luna. Sal, knowing that the time was right because we had people to care for Luna, would go into labour on one of the two weekends. I thought it would be the second of the two weekends: surely most babies are late?
It was Sunday 15th June. “Lins,” Sal said. I opened my eyes. She was talking at normal volume at 7.30am in a room with a sleeping toddler – why would she do that?! “Lins, I think it’s starting!”