[Scintilla Day 02] All grown up

Baby's hand.

I went into labour at about half past midnight. I breathed through the contractions for a few hours, distracting myself by watching ABBA: The Movie on late night tv.  At a little after three I woke my dad. It took him a few moments to understand what was going on.

‘I need to go to the hospital. Now.’

The drive there was awful. Every chipping and  pothole on the road sent huge waves of pain up through my perineum towards the centre of my being. The only way I could cope was to squeeze my hands under my thighs and suspend my torso in an endless tricep dip. The hospital was locked up and dark when we arrived, and  it took the porter ages to answer the bell; he had a wheelchair with him, and insisted I sat in it, despite my protests that I was fully capable of walking, thankyou-very-much.

After that, it all becomes blurred. I know there was a deep, deep bath – long enough for me to lie down fully in, too – and an enormous plastic jug, like the one I had in my kitchen, and at the height of each contraction my son’s father poured jugful after jugful over my belly, and I surrendered myself to rhythms which were of me but not mine as my body took over, leaving me a mere passenger along for the ride.

Night became morning, and outside the frosted windows of the delivery room a pair of workmen listened to Radio One on their scaffolding, silhouetted against the glass. One was much taller than the other: funny how I can still see it so clearly. In a haze of endorphins and entonox I laughed to myself about two strangers – two men – being so close to me as I writhed and squatted and panted on the bed with my nightshirt hoiked up around my armpits. In the distance I could hear a fearsome, terrible noise. I once found myself outside an abattoir, and the sounds were reminiscent of that –  a long, keening wail punctuated by guttural grunts. As my head cleared briefly I realised it was me who was making those noises, and that I had no control at all over what was happening to me and that nature was at the helm, steering the great wreck of my body with its priceless cargo safely into harbour.

The second stage of labour was fast. Nineteen minutes from start to finish, although it felt like hours. And the baby was at least two weeks late – four, by my calculations –  and when he came he was huge and I tore and we spent our first minutes together with him propped on my chest, still covered with blood and mucous, while a student midwife practised for her handicrafts badge in my nether regions. They showed me the placenta; it was big and liverish and dotted with calcification.

We just stared at each other. He didn’t cry at all, just fixed his beady eyes on mine and kept looking. The front of his head was bald and his forehead was so stern and wrinkled. I don’t think the midwife could have been a Star Trek TNG fan like I was back then because she didn’t laugh when I said he looked like a Klingon; she scolded me and told me he was beautiful, and I think I started to cry a little then because it hit me like a slap round the head, he was infinitely beautiful and he was mine, and I was a mother: his mother.

I thought I knew it all. I was just twenty-one.

All grown up.


This post is in response to a prompt from The Scintilla Project: When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?
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