Early morning waters and the next hours we were on the floor in the bathroom. In this half awakeness on a pile of towels, breathing like waves heaving onto the shore, it became clear that ‘something was happening’. The more Mr Dhim tried to make breakfast and cancel work between ‘surges’ the shorter the betweens became.
At eight: the obstacle of obstetric triage. I said ‘girlfriend’ not ‘wife’ and ‘surges’ not ‘contractions’ and the woman wanted to speak to Dr. P personally. Reluctantly I passed the phone to my prone partner who was clearly otherwise engaged. What was this woman thinking asking this list of questions of a girl who could barely speak? I took back the phone. When she said to me ‘did she not do obs and gynae?’ (i.e. are Dr. P’s medical skills lacking in the natal department) in response to my not knowing what a TENS machine is (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation device which you can hire and plug into your back on such occasions) I am afraid I hung up the phone. I am still annoyed with this woman, even though she called back and eventually booked us in to the birthing centre, though not before making me time the contractions, coming every 2 and a half minutes now, with a stopwatch.
The staircase was a struggle and the car journey, rain through the window on a crumpled singing ball in the back, one hand on the wheel and the other, between gear shifts, on her shoulder from the front, was horrible. Reception wouldn’t give me a wheelchair because we had parked in the wrong car park – the one that the obstetric triage woman had told us to park in. We tried walking and made it as far as the floor at which point a well dressed Indian couple, surprised to find us there, offered to help. The wheelchair came with medics who thought we were idiots but nevertheless took five minutes to find a glass of water for a parched Dr. P who was in another world, blind to everything but the birthing bed, which reminded her of the erstwhile comfort of the bathroom floor. Something was definitely happening.
The next hours were frankly extraordinary. At one point I wanted to take a picture of Tanya and Aimee, angel midwives in hospital scrubs, staring, encouraging, ecstatic, at Dr. P on all fours from behind. Imploring Dr. P to relax I realised how absurd this was. ‘I am trying! I am trying!’ were some of very few intelligible words to leave her mouth for some time. Similar noises from next door – sound insulation lost out to wide screen TV, birthing pool, ambient lighting etc. in the plans for this building – gave me confidence that this animal body song, loud, gutteral, voice of womb was at least normal. But oh my. Waves of increasing power and frequency so that there was barely time to catch breath. Blood and poo and a face, surreal, blue and unbreathing sticking out of the wrong end, etched into my brain. No need to take a picture of that. When Jotul flopped out it was Dr. P who saw a penis and swollen red ball sack. Squashed head, butter in his ears. 12.55. Everything stopped. A boy.
Having achieved the gates of life the singularity dissolved into myriad details. Measuring and weighing and boob and vitamin K and paperwork. Belatedly we all got into the birthing pool and the midwives went to get us tea and toast. ‘He has your toenails’ said the mother of my son. Not once throughout did this doctor take, or even mention medication. Can you believe it?