I had two strong contractions on our scoot back home and upon arriving, immediately assumed my preferred labouring position - on all fours leaning into the couch in my living room. My sister Vanessa, who had flown in from the States precisely to help support me in labour, sprang into action and began the rehearsed coaching techniques we had discussed in the days prior. My contractions were four minutes apart.
As the doctor and midwifery staff at the hospital seemed to think I might give birth later that afternoon, I bunkered down and tried to mentally prepare for what I had assumed to be at least another five or six hours of labour. My two year-old son was still toddling around the living room, watching me curiously as I breathed forcefully through the contractions. "Mommy's OK," I would explain in as normal a tone I could muster. "All I'm doing is breathing the baby out." But the contractions were intensifying - they were now three minutes apart - and my calm, meditative labour technique which had worked wonders through the night had done its dash and was rapidly losing its effectiveness. It was time to pull out the big guns: I called it my "get louder than the pain" method.
Before I could make full use of my vocalisation strategy however, we needed to get my son out of the house. Even he recognised this and looked at his Dad and said, "I think I need to go to my friend's house now." So off they went. "Make sure you spend a little time with him there," I uttered to Ian on his way out the door. "You know, settle him in a bit." Now it was time to get serious. My sister was ready.
Almost as soon as the door closed, I got loud; vocalising the images and key phrases that I had practiced for so many months. OPEN. Healthy muscle working hard. Open. Baby down. Opening wide. Move. Wow. Baby coming. Open. Breathe yourself open. Breathe into the baby. Open. Open. OPEN. Vanessa moved and vocalised in perfect harmony with me, matching my words, matching my volume; allowing me the freedom and confidence to do and say whatever I needed to get me through. She was brilliant.
My mind's eye continuously scanned my body; breathing into my muscles, visualising my hips opening wide to allow the baby through. I meditated with precision focus; intensively relaxing some muscles, shifting awareness to others to allow them to do their very important jobs. The contractions came hard and fast; 90 seconds long, 30 seconds rest in between.
Ian had been gone for about 40 minutes and it was obvious now that my labour was progressing more quickly than we had expected, so I asked my sister to ring and tell him we needed to get to the hospital. He was in his car, 5 minutes away. I carried on, getting louder and louder, exhorting my cervix to open, open wide, OPEN UP! With one massive contraction, I entered transition and felt the baby pass through the cervix and into the birth canal. Without any intention or voluntary action on my part, my body pushed. A primal scream escaped my lungs just as Ian burst through the front door. "Right!" he sang, swinging duffel bags over his shoulder. "Let's ring the hospital to tell them we're on our way!"
"We're not going!" I barked. "Ring triple-zero because this baby is coming now!" My voice was raw. Choked. Guttural. "What!? Don't be ridiculous," he retorted. "We're only five minutes away. We're going to the hospital!" It was more of a plea than an order, one he soon realised was in vain. "We're not going anywhere." End of conversation. It was all I could manage, but it was enough. We were going to have a baby. Right here, right now.
"What?! Oh my god!" I heard Vanessa scream. The cool, calm and confident birth coach had left the building. Ian dialled emergency and started answering questions. "Yes, my partner is having a baby! Yes, we're at home. No, she's not on the toilet! Can you see the baby?" he crowed at my sister. I was still on all fours hunched over the couch, so my sister grabbed the waistband of my tracksuit pants, pulled them down and bent over to look. "Yes!!" she wailed before whipping my pants back up and putting a firm palm on the baby's head as if to stuff it back in. The moment will live forever in my memory for the intensity of emotion that was washing over me. It wasn't fear, it wasn't worry, it was pure relief. I knew that I had done it. The moment I had dreaded for three years and had meticulously prepared for for nine months was here. This was my Everest and I was about to step onto the summit. I could not have been happier.
"Vanessa, you will be delivering the baby!" commanded Ian. "What?! No!!" she cried. "You have to," he rationalised, "I'm on the phone! Now get her onto her back!" After begging me to turn over, which I felt incapable of doing, Vanessa used both hands to shove my hips down onto the ground. She then grabbed my legs and flipped me over. Job done. I looked down between my legs to see the baby's head pop out. Ian started shrieking into the phone about the baby being blue and my sister looked at me helplessly with a "What now?" look strewn across her face. I looked intently into her eyes and instructed her to make sure the umbilical cord wasn't wrapped around the baby's neck. It wasn't. One final push and the baby was delivered into her aunt's trembling hands.
Vanessa sat there for a moment cradling her niece until I reached out and asked for her. I held my baby girl to my naked chest and took her in. The most beautiful, tiny little face was gazing back up at me, eyes locked on mine, blowing bubbles with her lips. She was healthy, perfect. A poignant calmness melted through me; my whole aura radiating warmth, love, utter elation. As terrified as she was during the birth, my sister later told me that the moment she looked at my face, she knew that everything was fine. I smiled. Fine, indeed.