Twelve years ago today.
I was a couple of weeks shy of my thirtieth birthday. We were living in East St Kilda, which now is incomparably groovy. In those days it was daggy, and filled with people who couldn’t afford to buy in Proper St Kilda. People like us. (Oh and that reminds me, I should add People Like Us to my list of TV shows. Do you all know this programme? The fake interview programme? Where Roy the clutzy interviewer talks to ‘real ordinary’ people? Brilliant! Okay. Enough. Back to me and my baby story.)
I had not always known I would have children. I was going to be one of those career women! I was going to change the world!* Then I hit 28 and the biological clock suddenly gonged, deafeningly.
So there I was, ten days overdue with our very first child. Have you all been overdue? Yes? Those days stretch on forever, don’t they? The nursery is prepared, the bag has been packed and re-packed and packed again, the partner has already begun his leave, and every day you wake up, look at each other and say What shall we do today? Have a baby? This scenario is repeated over and over until you begin to believe that the baby doesn’t exist, and it’s all a strange dream. And so you go do other things, although those things are interrupted every eight minutes by visits to the loo.
This particular Sunday, the St Kilda Festival was on. It was also hot, as heatwave conditions are clearly a prerequisite in order for me to have a baby (see post dated 19th January). So we drove down to the sea, had to park the car miles away from the action (can you tell that I am going to go into labour now?), and wandered about, enjoying the sights. At one point late in the afternoon, I had had enough and sat down on a grassy hill beside Luna Park, to enjoy some jazz while Mr Soup went in search of food for us. He was gone for hours.
And my contractions began. Of course. Five minutes apart! Remembering the instructions in antenatal classes to go to the hospital when your contractions are five minutes apart, I thought, wonderful, my baby is going to be born on this lawn, in front of a bunch of black-clad, ever-so-hip jazz musicians, with the father of the child nowhere in sight, and the car god knows where. And I don't know what to do ... I wailed silently. I've never had a baby before ...
Mr Soup finally returned whereupon I informed him of the proceedings and berated him for thinking of food at a time like this.
We set off for the car. Me feeling more and more uncomfortable with every step. Somewhere in a field between the main festival and our car, a gay pride festival was taking place. The Midsumma Festival. These days it’s huge, but this was in its infant days, and it consisted of a few stalls, a drag show or two, lots of pink flags and bizarrely, several line dancing exhibitions. Mr Soup decided to stop and partake in the pleasure of watching a group of people wearing rainbow scarves and tight white tee-shirts, boot scooting and clapping. I berated him for thinking of line dancing at a time like this.
We finally made it to our car, endured a horrendous festival-induced traffic jammed journey home, and got back to our flat. I did all that stuff you do in your first labour ... lots of pacing, timing with watches, ordering Mr Soup about and berating him for thinking about anything that didn’t involve me and my needs, at a time like this.
After a couple of hours of this we rang the hospital and the midwife told us to come in when my contractions were five minutes apart. Uh ... they had been at five minute intervals from the START. Get in here, then! they said. We dutifully got in there. Whereupon my labour stopped entirely. Not to worry! they said cheerfully. That always happens! Great.
Now, at this point I must change my name in order to protect my midwife’s identity. Let’s pretend, gentle readers, that my first name, middle name and surname is/are, respectively, Abby Mildred Soup (this is of course my porn name, but let’s run with it for now). Oh yeah, we also must pretend my cat’s name was Pusskins. (Good thing she’s now dead as she would never respond to such a pedestrian moniker as Pusskins, but I’m going with the porn theme here). The midwife who had been assigned to us arrived, bringing with her warmth, sensitivity, motherly love and all things good. I have had a huge girl-crush on her ever since. She welcomed us, settled us in, went off to do some paperwork, and then when I was on all fours deep in the midst of a contraction, put her beautiful face right up to mine and said gently, This was obviously meant to be. I’m an Abby Mildred too! I smiled in that gosh-what-a-coincidence-you-are-clearly-meant-to-be-the-one-who-gets-to-see-my-nether-regions-up-really-really-close way, as there aren’t too many Mildreds about (as we all know there are a gazillion Sus ... uh, Abby’s about) and enquired as to her surname. I glanced at the namebadge pinned to her ample maternal bosom and saw it read ABBY MILDRED PUSSKINS and before she could answer I gasped My CAT is called Pusskins! She replied reassuringly See? Meant to be.
Anyway, that’s really about it for the interesting bits.
I laboured on.
And on a bit more, until finally when the clock had slipped past midnight and into Valentine’s Day, I turned to Mr Soup and said I need to take a break. You do it for ten minutes and then I’ll take over again. Either that or I need a mind altering substance to see me through the rest of whatever it is that we're doing here and exactly what is that cos I just can't remember ... The midwife and my husband exchanged knowing glances over my dishevelled head, and said in unison ... Transition!
And so began the forty minutes of pushing. That was fine, but tiring, until the final two pushes which were kind of different, and rather explosive, and I thought I had died.
I was just wondering why they weren’t all rushing around shouting FETCH THE SURGEON! BRING THE PADDLES WE’RE LOSING HER! when someone said quietly
Suse, your baby is here.
And I came out of the fog to realise that those two pushes had produced something rather amazing. And even more amazingly, my body had done that and I hadn’t died.
I turned around, sat down, and met Son #1 for the first time.**
7lbs 13oz (3550g), 52cm long, ten days late, apgar scores 7 and 10.
He looked like a squashed frog for the first twelve hours which was a bit of a challenge to my romantic notions of childbirth, but while I slept they exchanged the frog for a beautiful blue-eyed blonde prince.
Happy twelfth birthday, gorgeous boy.
*And indeed I have. I have added three more precious souls to the world’s population.
**The cord was cut as it was wrapped tightly around his neck, and this led to him becoming distressed and swallowing meconium, so he was whipped across the room for suctioning and I missed that initial skin to skin contact. He was returned to us wrapped in a towel about 90 seconds later however.
Happy birthday to Thomas and Alice too!