It had been nearly three years since my wife, Claire, gave birth to our son, Arlo, at home. As we looked into modern day parenting techniques, home birthing fitted perfectly into our way of thinking.
The Wife’s teenage daughter, Rebecca, thought we were crazy to consider it and when we took it further and considered encapsulating the placenta, it nearly blew her mind! Rebecca had slept through Arlo’s birth but she wanted to be present this time — amazing to hear, considering we see the postman more than we currently have the pleasure of her company.
Case loading midwifery, hypnobirthing techniques, positive affirmations and a birth pool, we had it all covered. Whilst planning our second homebirth, we decided to add another element by including a Doula called Elle. A financial outlay we had to consider, but she genuinely brought warm support for Claire and me.
At 11:52am, Claire tapped me on the shoulder and told me things had started. Don’t judge me — she had said this quite a few times leading up to that thirty ninth week of pregnancy and I couldn’t stop my eye balls from dramatically rolling in their sockets.
But something was different that night; the deep breathing, her complexion, the way she looked at me.
During the pregnancy she had developed a selection of facial expressions that informed me what she was thinking. Raised eyebrows and stretched cheekbones meant she’d forgotten something downstairs (you don’t need to get it immediately but don’t bother getting into bed until you do). A scrunched-up nose and tight lips meant she was hungry and wanted food (you don’t need to get it immediately but don’t bother getting into bed until you do).
Her expression that night was different. She was calm and excited, aware and determined, her eyes sparkled with anticipation.
My feelings were quite different; I was scared. We had prepared for this moment, but it didn’t take away the fact the person I loved was about to undertake one of the most physically challenging experiences in nature. The reality was that all I could do was rub her shoulders and whisper gentle words of love and encouragement into her ear. As it turned out, that was all she needed. I have never been so in awe of the power of womanhood as I watched Claire birth our second child.
After I had been thoroughly roused from my sleep, I went into list mode and made the first call to our midwife — she would be with us within the hour. I made the second call to Elle, the Doula — she would be with us sooner. The rest of my list consisted of sheets and towel preparation, lights, music, food and drink.
Possibly my most important task was to inflate the birthing pool and fill it with water at just the right temperature. This was something I had done before so why oh why did the hosepipe adaptor suddenly not fit on the tap? I wasn’t scared anymore; I was stressed and sweating nervously. The pool was a fundamental part of the plan and it was my job to sort it.
Two things happened simultaneously while I was trying to weld rubber to metal with nothing more than a stern look; Claire became extremely vocal and Arlo woke up. I dropped the hosepipe adaptor and ran up the stairs to find my little boy on the landing, looking worried. Claire leant against the wall — his baby was coming, now! The energy in the room was magnetic.
Rebecca appeared from her fortress of solitude and, like a complete hero, spoke softly to Arlo and took him into his bedroom to watch a film. There was no way he was going back to sleep. Without the need for the birthing pool, the pressure was off. Everything else was in place and I was able to be by my wife’s side.
And wow, she swore. A lot! She ragged me around by the scruff of the neck so powerfully, I had to physically grip the arm of the chair in the bedroom to make sure she didn’t throw us both across the room. Her heightened sense of primal strength was so present, she could have ripped the doors off a car. I was amazed. For the first time, I felt like I could relinquish any notion of control and be truly present in the moment.
Elle unobtrusively entered the bedroom and sat, cross legged, in the corner. I smiled. Claire barely registered her presence, she was so focused. I planted a knee and a foot to the floor and gripped the arm of the chair, while Claire’s arms hung around my neck in a boxer’s clinch. Our sweat and heat mixed together as I whispered into her ear, ‘I love you. You’re doing amazingly.’
There was no sense of time. Had it been an hour? Where was the midwife? Nothing mattered because Claire placed a hand between her legs then released a primal scream and splosh … the baby hit the bedroom floor. I couldn’t believe it! I put my hands behind my head and looked around at Elle so she could confirm it had really happened.
Claire took a pause then gathered our new baby into her arms and sat against the wall. I wrapped them both in towels and there was a knock at the bedroom door. The midwife popped her head in and suggested coming back in half an hour to check everything was okay. The door opened a little wider and Rebecca and Arlo stepped into the room.
“Is it a girl?” Rebecca asked. We had all predicted a girl. Claire peeped underneath the towel, “Say hello to your baby brother.”
BY ADAM GLENNON