I sigh, staring at you. “Sleep” they tell me, “Rest while you can”, but my mind is whirring at the same rate as your beautiful, perfect heartbeat. So I stare – you are so perfect, and I feel on top of the world.
It is this moment that I prayed for. Your arrival was perfect. I look upon the watercolour pictures I drew in an attempt to encourage my mind to relax earlier in our pregnancy. They line the walls, previously with hope of things to come, but now they are like a statement of victory. That woman sitting in the birthpool with her husband and midwife by her side, grinning at the infant in her arms...that is me! I did it. I really did it. Ecstasy rushes over me again – or is it yet another dose of oxytocin warming my veins – I don't know, but I smile regardless.
The story of your big brother was frightening. It took me past his first birthday to be able to share it with others. I was young, naive and too trusting in other people. But we survived. And I vowed that next time would be different. And it is. My little man, your story could not be more different.
Fear was not a part of this pregnancy, just an overwhelming sense of calm, a desire to prepare, a need to know myself and feel the love of those around me. I used art to say all the things that I couldn't verbalise. Paper filled with colours, blue in the calm days, red and black in the days where my insecurities were taking over. But each drawing came back to one thing, you, the centre of my universe, the being growing inside of me, the reason for my journey.
Your Daddy is the strongest, most amazing man you will probably ever meet. He stood by my side when others told me I was crazy to decide to welcome you at home instead of at a hospital. He learned what I needed from him, and he learned what you needed too.
On your journey to enter the world, your Daddy worked tirelessly. He rubbed my back, stroked my hair, held me as I stood leaning into him, moaned with me, filled my bath – and all while speaking to you and telling you how excited he was to meet you.
Although you don't have a grandma, little one, there were women there to support me too. A midwife and a doula – I think they are just other names for 'angels'. They arrived when you were getting closer. The excitement in the room was growing. The warmth and love in the room was evident. We were ready to welcome you. I sunk down into my birthing pool, shut my eyes and sung to you. I sung to God. I sung to remind myself to enjoy the experience. I felt so strong. So connected to you, my little one.
Just as it was nearly time for you to join us, I opened my eyes for a moment. I looked around. The candles were glowing, the room smelled of lavender oil, and the pictures I had painted in our pregnancy were all around me. I smiled, and those who were there with me all smiled back. I felt safe and calm in my little cocoon. I was watched and protected. It was time to meet you. I breathed deeply, felt the energy running through my body, and welcomed you into the world.
Your Daddy's hands were behind me, and they caught you ever so gently. I turned around, your Daddy moved you into my hands, and together we lifted you out of the water and into our world.
Welcome, little one. You are loved more than you know.
You don't cry, you simply look around. You are ready to suckle. You make your way across my chest to feed. We sit, staring at each other in amazement. Everyone is silent. I want your Daddy and I to be the only voices you hear. And so we talk to you. We tell you we love you. I tell you how proud I am that we did it, and how glad I am that you are here safely. You feed, you watch us.
Soon, we emerge from the warm, safe cocoon of the pool. I take you to our bed, and we sit, staring.
They may say, “Rest now”, but I am too in awe. You are perfect. And I did it. I did it all by myself, on my terms. I am a woman and I am strong and perfectly made. You have taught me so much already, little one. I feel invincible. I am a mother. This is what life is about. I will rest, because now I know my strength comes from peace. But I hope this elation lasts. Forever.
“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