During the drive home from Loch (with a background of constant screaming from Small DB until we hit Tooradin) I had a message from E. Her labour had begun. I called her at about 12.30pm as we drove and she assured me that all was fine. We agreed that I should go over later in the afternoon and that I’d call again before I left.
I had to dissuade M from driving straight there, and explain that E’s labours had previously been lengthy. Once we were home I made some bolognaise and potato salad to take with me. At 4pm, ready-to-leave, I called again. “Ah,” said DJ (E’s partner), “I think she’s pretty optimistic. I don’t think it’s going to happen today. But – we don’t have any food and I need to go shopping, so come!”
I neglected to ask if I could talk to E at that point – in hindsight, a tactical error. I got in the car, stopped to get petrol, stopped to check my map, drove for an hour – got to their street – did a U-turn to park the car, moved the car again, gathered all my bags, wandered down the steps to the house, opened the front door…and became vaguely aware that something odd was happening.
The bathroom is near the front door. I walked in and, although it is all confused in my head now, I saw DJ holding a newborn baby, E with her back to me supporting herself on the side of the bath and a mobile phone squawking on the floor “is-everything-alright-you-need-to-let-me-know-what’s-happening-where-is-the-baby?”
Something clicked in my head. I am not sure what happened but I think I must have taken the baby from DJ. I was conscious that the baby just needed to be on E’s chest. I remember saying, “E, you need to lift your leg.” She lifted her leg and I was able to move the umbilical cord out of the way and give her the very beautiful, but very blue, tiny baby…
I was laughing and a little teary. Beautiful brave E was aglow and calm. I blew on the baby, who was quiet but coughed a few times. DJ was behind us – the operator had barked at him to GET ME OFF SPEAKERPHONE – he was worrying that the baby wasn’t breathing and that it was too blue. I told him a few times that the baby was divine and totally fine…just perfect. I had referred to the baby as both a ‘he’ and a ‘she’ in quick succession in the two minutes since I had arrived, and had then apologised giddily…
E bent to look and said, “It’s a little girl!!” We wrapped the outside of her in a towel, keeping her snug against her mama.
“CLEAN TOWELS!” shrieked the person on the end of the phone.
“This isn’t clean….” said E.
“Oh no!” said DJ, who leapt into frantic motion, desperate to find a clean towel.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, having recently appointed myself oracle of newborn babies in bathrooms, “She just needs to be warm and on her mum.”
I went and found a few baby blankets. Paramedics arrived. We dissuaded them from cutting the umbilical cord, and they acted like we’d deprived them of doing their job. They were, however, reassuringly calm, and just chatted a while, getting information about the labour and what had happened.
DJ and I ran about, finding dressing gowns, misplacing car keys, and then helped E get to the ambulance. Their block of land is steep and there was no way to get a wheelchair up and down, so E, clutching her gorgeous tiny babe, walked slowly up the hill to the ambulance in her dressing gown. There were last minute requests for a numerology book and DJ asked me to hang out the washing. I didn’t know whether to take him seriously or not, but nodded and smiled…
After they left I dashed about and put all the towels into the washing machine, hung out wet clothes on a clothes horse to dry (because maybe he’d been serious…?) and tried to think of anything I should take them – I was to meet them at the birth centre. I took DJ a jumper and E her boots, as she’d had nothing on her feet. Then I primed my Google Maps app, prayed that it was accurate, and followed it all the way to Ferntree Gully where the birth centre was. Driving their car.
I had NO idea where I was going and went along a few unmade roads. Nevertheless, GoogleMaps did not let me down. I arrived at the birth centre and E was still in the third stage. The placenta had not appeared and the midwife was getting jiggy about administering syntocin. She was thwarted in this by a medical query from DJ and while she dashed out to check old medical records I suggested that E put her baby back on the breast to see if that would encourage any contractions. It took about fifteen minutes from that time, and she was done. I could feel her relief like it was mine – the struggle to birth a baby is huge, and to then not be able to relax because you have something else to expel is just an extra layer on the cake of exhaustion and exhilaration.
E, who was used to marathon-length labours, finally got to sit up in bed and have nothing to do but cuddle her new one. We got her water, potato salad, cups of tea – she was so thrilled to have had such a short labour and be able to feel relatively un-annihilated! We spent an hour or so kicking back, figuring out the timeline of everything that had happened, taking pictures, and E and DJ let their families know that the baby had arrived. I had been afraid I might be in the way during such an amazing situation – but we were all relaxed and so thankful that everything was fine
One of the most amazing afternoons of my life. Congratulations E & DJ! Welcome to the world, Lucinda Rae!!