While pregnancy sickness was, quite frankly, horrific, giving birth was okay really. It went on a bit, and there was certainly a fair amount of discomfort, but I felt like I had it reasonably well under control.
Sal gave birth at home, in the birthing pool under the supervision of Susan, our midwife who had provided most of her antenatal care. No hospital, no doctors, no intervention. We had hypnobirthing and relaxing music on the I-pod, candles and lamps, a birthing ball, the pool – padded underneath with a duvet, aromatherapy oils and homeopathic remedies and reflexology techniques and yoga positions and mantras and refreshing, energising smoothies in bottles with straws.
But somehow, the contractions were just a bit much: frequent and intense and six or seven hours in – by late morning – Sal had lost the control she’d been so determined to keep. And, like a dog after a rabbit, labour sprinted on, dragging poor Sal along behind though a muddy haze of pain. Meanwhile I fussed and fretted over muddled mounds and lists of remedies and techniques, and wondered how little Luna (still only thirteen months old herself) was getting along downstairs with my brother and his partner. Susan, unperturbed by what must have presented to her as a straightforward labour, hovered calmly in the background.
Then sometime late in the afternoon – around twelve hours in – I noticed a change. The grunts and groans had a new edge. An edge of effort. Pushing. Suddenly there was more to this than supporting my wife through grim pain – we were going to have a baby, a new baby!
Little Willow (his womb name) was born at 7.25pm. He was healthy and strong and Sal was able finally (but not before a lengthy wait for the placenta) to relax on the sofa with the baby at her breast. Luna came back in and met her brother and I suddenly realised how big she’d grown over the last year. We turned the lights on and all sat around – Susan as well – eating lasagne, and despite the pool and the piles of towels and canister of Entonox, it was our living room again. And all was back to normal, except that we had another baby. A little baby.
By 11pm everyone else had gone home while the now four of us were tucked up together in our family bed. Two mummies and two babies. Two sleeping babies. And I wondered how long the peace would last.