When my twin asked me to be attendant at the birth of her first child, I think I responded cautiously, possibly even negatively. Given she flew interstate to be beside me for my first, and was at the hospital within hours of my second, it's not like I had much choice. She had no time for my reservations. Whatever they were her response was, Get Over It. Now that we are on the other side, I can't quite remember the basis for my reluctance to take on doula responsibilities. I'm not squemish. It wasn't that. When it comes down to it, I think I was afraid of letting her down. What if the labour was really long and I wanted to sleep?
Eight months later, with Merezmo 41weeks + 3 days pregnant I found myself in an entirely different frame of mind wholly impatient and past my limit for tolerating such an extended period of uncertainty. My travel bag had been in the boot of the car for so long I had begun to fret about the effectiveness of my unrefrigerated medication. The pack made it clear not to store it above 4 degrees for more than three weeks. I was taking myself out for expensive brunches at fancy restaurants every other day in what I could only describe as a freaky stress response. I silently recited entire passages from Dr Seuss's Oh the Places You'll Go, specifically the pages about The Waiting Place.
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Then on Friday night, checking in with the twin at the tail end of a long day, nay a long week, when I uttered the words "I am just so happy to be home" I heard a pause and Merezmo's slightly awed reply "I think I've gone into labour". Of course when it actually happened I was plain dumbfounded. When I had examined my doula fears, top of the list – aside from worrying I might fall asleep – was missing the birth through a travel mishap. Merezmo was, after all, 840 km away. But readers, I made it. There was no time to put socks on my feet in the scramble to get out the door and to the airport but it didn't matter. Adelaide was balmy.
And the labour? The lady made it look easy. We took a light night stroll around the block, occasionally pausing for contractions. In the hospital she asked for privacy. Her instructions? "I don't want to hear you breathe". While Merezmo laboured in the bath, I retreated to the couch and made myself invisible with a stack of magazines and a cup of tea. Between documenting the labour I read Who (Half Their Size!), Grazia (Steal Their Look Now!), OK!(K-Fed At Home) and Women's Day (Tom & Nicole War Over Bella). In truth it was incongruous being in the presence of this elemental human experience – birth itself – with my head in trash like it was afternoon tea time. Occasionally, defying orders I mimicked the midwife offering a "Good work" and "Deep breaths". Did time pass quickly or slowly? A little of both. An hour out I was at the business end, crouching on the floor totally transfixed by the baby and his slow entry into the world. Half in, half out, baby's mouth open then a cry, strong and clear. I am here.