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Posts Tagged ‘birth’

the best day of my life

There are a lot of people who say that the best day of their lives were entire twenty-four hour periods in which something big happened. A wedding is one – I haven’t done that and don’t intend to, though, don’t get me wrong, Teach and I have been together for some thirteen love-soaked years and intend to stay together for thirteen hundred more – and then, of course, there is the birth of a child. The greatest day of my life! people will proclaim. The closed-eyes, grit-teeth of labour, then pushing them out: beautiful, wrinkled little babies with confused, new movements in their limbs and eyes that are searching only for you, the parents whose voices it has heard for all these months in its tiny squashed nest inside a belly.

Am I a bad person for saying that it was not, by any account, the best day of my life?

It was so painful: I have never felt anything like it. Twelve hours of a shuddering, all-consuming wall of pain that took up every part of my body and my thoughts. Usually, I’m an insufferable joker – just ask my coworkers or customers. Usually, I can’t shut up. For that twelve hours I was speechless. If the midwives or Teach asked me questions, I could just nod. Sometimes. The only words I remember saying were around hour eleven, something like, I can’t do this, or maybe it was this will never end. It did, of course, thanks to a pair of silver forceps that I looked at, when the doctor held them up to me apologetically, like they were held up by glowing cherubs to a chorus of heavenly voices. I looked at them and thought: they will get this baby out. And they did.

There she was, on my chest, a little pickled baby with wide-open eyes and the pinkest skin in the world. I thought all along that this was the moment I would cry. I didn’t, though. I was just relieved the pain was over. But then, of course, it’s not over; I wasn’t shrouded in a post-birth glow for the rest of what happens. More pushing to get out that enormous goddamn placenta. Stitches to knit me together again. There’s more, but maybe you’re eating your lunch, so I won’t tell you about all of it. Suffice to say it was another indeterminate time before the painkillers took any effect and I started to feel like maybe one day I could walk again.

It’s scary, that first day. You don’t know what you’re doing, and they sure as hell don’t know what they’re doing. They are warm and small and all yours, and then maybe you have to try and breastfeed but it’s not working, and maybe they don’t sleep (not at all, for three days), and doctors prick their little feet with immunisations and tests are performed. It’s gentle – this is not an accusation at the health system, no sir – but it’s bewildering. It all is. While everyone should have the opportunity to have the birth they want, I don’t think a home birth would have done anything but made me panic as soon as the pain hit. I had wanted to stay home for hours, until close to the end, but when labour actually happened all I wanted was to be somewhere I felt safe. And me, I felt safe in a hospital. They served us well.

But it was not the best day of my life.

I think the best day of my life was last Monday. We went to a community garden in Kew with some friends, and the Rocket held hands with her little pal Will and then she got all muddy making pies in the cubby house. Back home, she napped, and I wrote. I can’t remember what we did in the afternoon, but we probably went to the park and watched the trains together. She says “Toot toot!” when she sees them, and waves them off with an elongated “Byeeeeee!” She has all these words now, like Mummy, Daddy, More, Please, Ta, (and an aggressive MORE PLEASE TA when she desperately wants something), Book, Dog, Bed, Guitar, Birdy, Bag. There are more, but these get us through the day quite well. Later, we picked Teach up from work and drove straight to the pool for a splash around in the final warmth of the day. She was adorable in her cousin’s old pink bathers, and she ran happily straight into the water. She’s so brave, she walks until the water goes over her shoulders and she loves to jump (well, step) off the sides into her dad’s outstretched hands. Then she reaches out for me, and then in my arms she wiggles in glee and I say, “Who’s a wiggly-woo?” and she laughs, so loud and with complete all-encompassing happiness. Her face says that she is in her favourite place with her favourite people and that nothing could be better and just, oh, you know, it really couldn’t.

That was my best day. And while it’s much sappier than I tend to be to say it, the thing I love most is that I know it’s not going to be my best day for long. Because there’s always next week, and while that godawful day of her birth was not the best day of my life, I will always cherish it for bringing me the days that were.

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You’ve probably heard that there’s been a birth in England. I mean, some 730,000 babies are born there each year, but they can’t all make the news. This one has: a waving little baby boy, currently unnamed, who will one day be the head of the monarchy that rules (loosely) both his own own country and, amongst others, this fair country in which I find myself today. He’s been the source of unending media frenzy since years before he was born, and now it’s reached whatever is more overexcited than a frenzy. A Diana of frenzy, let us say. And I don’t want to use those key words that are all over the internet, because I don’t really want to feed into said frenzy, though I want to talk about it. Let’s call his parents Bill and Cathy; he is the monarchy baby.

 

I’m interested in the monarchy baby. I am interested in ALL THE BABIES. Pre-Rocket, I couldn’t care less about any of them unless I was directly related to/pals with their parents. Post-Rocket, I am enthralled by everyone’s babies. You should hear me at work – I am insufferable, and I will always try and shoehorn a conversation about children out of anyone who’s carrying around one younger than, say, three. Why? I don’t know. I guess I am happy for them. Maybe they will offer one of those tidbits of information you can successfully use on your own kid. They are certainly all cuter than they were before I had one of my own, when I thought they all looked a bit gross. Maybe you want to hear that there’s someone out there with the same problems you’re having.

 

It’s tricky, because I’ve wanted to, just a little bit, keep up with the monarchy baby. Bill and I go way back – the last time there was this level of frenzy for a birth, it coincided with my own, though I was born the day before him. (My mother claims if you were born on the same day you got some kind of commemorative memorabilia. At 5 o’clock the day before Bill’s birth, I ruined the carefully maintained empty spot in our glass cabinet waiting for such an item.) I had always assumed that we would meet up some day, just because we were the same age – that when he did a stretch at a Victorian boarding school, we would meet at a party. My parents pointed out that we wouldn’t exactly be in the same circles – but I was convinced that a bogan from Croydon and a prince currently in Geelong would meet, and fall in love. Anyway, time proved them correct, and I’ve probably missed my chance. (I’ve come to terms with it.) This sounds like I am some giggly fangirl over him, and I’m not – it’s just that this day-off-a-coincidence of birth means I feel less cynical about him than I may otherwise.

 

There is a lot of vitriol out there directed at people who show interest in the monarchy baby. Fair enough, and it is sickening to think of mountains of people obsessing over your life like that, and news outlets with goddamn ridiculous stories like “when is baby number two?” and a CNN headline proclaiming that the baby had been born vaginally. Are you fucking kidding? That is NEWS? But I guess that points towards one of the reasons people are interested. When you don’t have one, kids are all over the place. When you do, you want to know more. No, I didn’t need to hear from anyone but Cathy herself how she birthed her kid, because it’s not important. But people don’t really talk about these things. How many conversations have you had about birth? Before I was pregnant, I knew nothing about the disgusting things ahead. Hell, before I tried conceiving, I didn’t even realise you can only get pregnant within a small window of time, so convinced I’d been by stories of teenagers having sex once and getting knocked up. (Still though, wear a condom, kids.) It seems like it’s everywhere, but it’s still taboo. And okay, it’s gross. Super gross, even. But when you don’t hear what happens to other people, you don’t know whether you did a good job or not. I want to make it clear that everyone has done a good job, no matter what the outcome: you do what you can with what you have. And even if you have an outcome like mine (healthy baby), you still second guess everything you did. When I looked over my paperwork after I was discharged, and saw the reason she was yanked out with forceps listed as maternal exhaustion, I wept. I read it as you’re lazy, and you gave up. Time heals thoughts like this. I saw Cathy outside the hospital with her cute bundle of baby and thought, Look how straight she stands. All that pushing ruined everything of mine and I couldn’t stand up properly for weeks.

 

It is not fair for me, however, to have this glimpse into someone else’s birth at the expense of their privacy. Sure, they are wealthy and that kid will want for nothing; I’ve read many a good article about abolishing the monarchy and it’s clear we don’t need it. But while it’s there, I’m glad they seem nice, and it is unfair that they never have anything to themselves – not even the birth of their child. I’m glad I didn’t have to put on a brave face the day after the Rocket was born; I stayed in the hospital and freaked out and had to relearn from a physiotherapist how to poop. I didn’t have to put on makeup and heels and greet the people; I lay in bed breastfeeding clumsily in front of all of my relatives and friends. (There are pictures, but New Idea didn’t seem interested in buying them.) I’m lucky, in this respect.

 

Far be it for me to know the motivations behind all the people who are thrilled for the arrival of a monarchy baby. Maybe they’re monarchists, maybe they feed off celebrity, maybe they love a big community party. It is nice, anyway, for crowds to gather for celebration instead of protest. Maybe if the media could back the hell off and calm down, and let the parents give out the news themselves instead of stealing it through gaps in security, I wouldn’t feel so dirty for being happy for them, for seeing news stories about them. But those who are interested aren’t mean-spirited. There’s a chance, possibly, that they’re just looking for something relatable in a world that is otherwise far out of their reach.

 

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