I’m not aware of much at all – just my body and the being within me, straining, urging to get out.
And the pain.
It’s like nothing I’ve felt before; a relentless all consuming pain that has made me retreat into another world altogether. I’ve been here for a while – minutes, hours, I’ve no idea.
My sole line to the world is the hand I’m holding and squeezing my pain into, and the voice calmly repeating “breathe in, breathe out” and encouraging me to keep going. There have been points I didn’t want to keep going at all. “Please I can’t do this, it’s too much.”
Then the gas – and time distorted into a bizarre reality. Each contraction cresting slowly but surely, all the time me thinking it couldn’t possibly get worse.
Then the short break before the next, keep breathing the gas it might stop the next pain... but these waves are tsunamis, not to be stopped. I heard so much about embracing the pain: “it’s a positive pain, work with it, let your muscles do their work”. But it’s too much, I’m too tired and it’s been going on for too long.
I keep breathing in and out to the rhythm of the voice beside me, pain growing and subsiding for what seems like forever. Strange things seem to happen – screaming, so primal, so guttural – I think it’s me screaming, and ask “am I okay? Is the baby okay?” “Everything’s fine, you’re both fine.”
I continue breathing in, out, in, out.
More pain, more pushing, feeling futile, like I have been here forever, and still no end in sight. I scream, “I can’t do this! “It’s too painful!” Then they get a mirror. “Look you can see the head.”
I push but my eyes are closed and it’s too much to open them – I can’t concentrate on anything but the pain. I open my eyes briefly – I know I wanted to see this – and glimpse a mottled white, slimy, shiny oval between my legs. The pain overwhelms me and I close my eyes again and concentrate on pushing. A burning sensation intensifies with each push and then suddenly a release of the tension. Another push and a slithering, a slipping and the urge to push and the persistent pain is gone.
And then they pass him to me, this squalling, screaming, beautiful little being.
I hold him to my breast and offer his mouth the nipple. He opens and attaches beautifully and commences to suckle his first feed. Chris is there, has been there through this entire experience, my rock and support. Without him I’m not sure I could have done this, without intervention of some kind. But this moment is about us, our new family, our new child. We both cry with happiness, with tiredness, with love for each other, for this strange new being cuddled to my breast.
We stroke his head, marvel at his fingers, toes, ears – so tiny but so perfect. Then my world stops for a few seconds – he opens his eyes and looks up at me, huge deepest blue eyes I have ever seen, they seem to go on forever. I breathe in his smell, the softness of his skin, wrapped in the glow of warm content. Our world is complete.
Our lives forever changed, thrust into the daunting world of parenthood. The surreal feeling that had invaded our lives over the past couple of weeks has passed, that feeling that perhaps this baby would never come out to meet us. We seem ready but there’s still a quiet nervousness about embarking on a journey on which we don’t know the road or destination. Just love, an all encompassing love, that oozes from our pores when we hold this little person.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem