The first time that I held my son in my arms isn’t clear. I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘He’s not breathing’, and instead of welcoming him into the world with a blessing my first words after giving birth were, ‘Can someone take him and sort him out, please?’ I had never anticipated that the first thing that I would want was for him to be taken somewhere else by someone else. When babies get taken to the room with resuscitation equipment you listen. You wait to see if the cold air in the corridor prompts the baby into a loud complaint. You learn to be tuned in to what is happening outside the room and relax when you hear the baby crying. I remember hearing Sam starting to cry, several rooms away, down the corridor.
The first photograph of me holding Sam isn’t for sharing here. I look confused, dazed and shocked. I was passed my baby back and my midwife, Janet, asked if I wanted to feed him. I can remember looking at the baby, who didn’t look particularly interested, and my modest nightshirt. I really didn’t want to start getting undressed to feed him, and to be quite honest I wasn’t too sure what to do. Nine years of being a midwife hadn’t prepared me for anything.
I knew all the rules. I knew the mechanisms of Labour, the pelvic diameters, and had just experienced every commonly available form of pain relief. I pretend it was in the name of research, but to be honest I had just decided that I didn’t want to be in pain. I was scared of childbirth, and having failed to convince anyone to give me a caesarean had Gas and Air, Pethidine, and a very nice Epidural. I remember feeling very safe when I was in labour. Loved and cared for. By the end I knew that if I had ever had another baby I wouldn’t have been scared of giving birth normally. I was induced and was delivered just under twenty hours later, but I was probably only ‘in labour’ for two or three hours. I still wonder how I would have coped with a second delivery.
Printing the first draft of my novel was a different sort of creative birth. I remember it far better. Possibly because it was far more recent, but the lack of drugs gave a greater clarity. I remember holding it in my hands, like I held my baby. The weight in my hands. The cover that I bound it with. The joy. The need to share that it was ‘out’. The story had bypassed my procrastination, self doubt, and anxieties and was a story that other people could read too. In the same way my baby had suddenly become separate and open to interactions with other people, my novel became separate. So I wrapped it up, and gave it to my mother for her birthday. The novel that is, not the baby. With instructions not to share it with anyone. I was like that with the baby too. I couldn’t believe that anyone was mad enough to trust me with a baby, and after five years of infertility I found it very hard to let anyone close, apart from my husband.
With both baby and novel it was just a beginning. I have moved on. The baby is eighteen. He is planning for University, and he has a car of his own. The novel on the other hand is still a work in progress. It is at the toddling and bashing into things stage. Still very much mine, and not quite ready to go out into the world just yet.