One year ago today, my waters broke.
And on the eve of our baby boy’s first birthday, I am ready to tell the story. It is a story that is full of wonder and joy – it’s a birth story after all – and yet it is so much more than that. It is sad, emotional and at times unbelievable. It is, in my mind, a perfect demonstration of the circle of life.
I am sure you know the expression “when one door closes, another opens”, but for us that is not just an expression. It is a sad and bitter-sweet reality.
I have touched upon our story in previous posts, most notably ‘Empty Chairs’, and I know that our story has touched many hearts, so I hope that some people will want to read more. Perhaps our story can help others see the open doors in life.
It was 9pm on a Sunday evening, following a crazy-mad weekend. My husband was away that night. He had been away since Thursday, sitting at his mum’s bedside in a hospice in Nottinghamshire, awaiting the sad, inevitable and devastating goodbye that he would have to say to her. She had been fighting cancer. And whilst she had won many battles along the way, in her refusal to let the bugger beat her, the war was coming to an end.
I was eight months pregnant. And I was tired. Having two older boys, and with it being halfway through the summer holidays, we hadn’t stopped for weeks. The day my husband left to go up north, was the day before Boy 2’s 7th birthday. So not only was I dealing with my own emotions about the news of my mother-in-law, but I was dealing with the emotions of my son in the absence of his Daddy on his birthday weekend. It was important that everything ran smoothly – that we maintained some normality – to protect the feelings of our children. And I worked really hard to make it so. I managed the obligatory birthday breakfast of pancakes, banana and obscene amounts of chocolate spread, whilst face-timing Daddy. I successfully got ten children to a bowling alley the following day for a birthday party. And on the Sunday, I took the boys for a long walk around a local park, to expend some of the built-up energy from a weekend of excitement and sugar! All the time being 36 weeks pregnant.
And so at 9pm on that Sunday evening, exactly one year ago, my body decided enough was enough. I had overdone it, physically and emotionally, and our baby had decided it was his time for some attention.
I felt the need for a wee and so off I went to the toilet. Conveniently, I was sitting on the toilet, when I felt a small pop, and water splashed out of the toilet bowl! Now in all my 38 years of going to the toilet, I have never splashed in this way (nor I am sure have you!), even in the most drunken moments of my youth, so there had to be more to it. As luck would have it (or perhaps because I seem to always be attached to it!) I had my phone with me and so I called my husband. I told him I thought my waters had broken. There was silence on the other end of the phone. And then he questioned if this was a joke. Admittedly, it wouldn’t have been a particularly funny joke, to call your husband while he sat at his mum’s bedside in a hospice and fake labour, but that was his initial reaction. Until he realised I wasn’t joking.
And then the craziness began. I was sitting on a toilet, unable to move for waters constantly leaking from my body. My husband was 200 miles away, in a hospice, madly gesturing through a window to his family, to inform them of my situation. Some of the friends that I had on emergency stand-by for babysitting and to drive me to the hospital, weren’t even in the country! How could this be happening now? What would we do?
My husband told me to wait there and that he would call me back soon.
So I waited. Sitting on the toilet. Contemplating how this would all play out. Would I make it in time to the hospital, a mere 40 minute drive away? (All plans of delivering at the more local birth centre now out of the window, since I was only 36 weeks pregnant.) Would anyone be free to drive me there? Would my husband be at the birth?
10 minutes later he called back. He had a plan. A friend was coming over to take me to hospital, while another friend and neighbour was coming round to sit with the older boys.
But my husband made no mention of his plans…
How do you choose between your mum’s last moments or your son’s first moments?
And so I asked him, ”What are you going to do?”
Perhaps he sensed the fear in my voice. Perhaps he remembered what an important role he had played in the births of our other two sons. Perhaps he just acted on instinct.
“I am on my way,” he replied.
15 minutes later, my friends arrived. I went upstairs to tell my almost-sleeping sons that the baby was coming. They jumped out of bed and rushed downstairs full of excitement. (Any excuse for a late night!) In the absence of any contractions, I decided to take a shower, we packed my hospital bag and then set off for the hospital.
Luckily the roads were empty on a Sunday night, and doubly lucky, I had chosen to sit on towels and thus managed to save my friend’s car upholstery, as my waters continue to leak out everywhere!
On arrival at the hospital, we were shown to an assessment room, and there we remained for what seemed like forever. My contractions started, and slowly built, and three hours later, just as they started to really hurt, my husband arrived, exhausted from a long drive, yet slightly hyper from too much caffeine! My friend (regretfully?!) left us and the labour really got underway. Quickly. Painfully. Despite incredibly regular and lengthy contractions, a doctor finally examined me and told me there was no dilation of the cervix.
You have to be kidding me!
At this point I claimed it was ridiculous and insisted on an epidural. There was no way I was waiting for 10cm of dilation in this amount of pain. My husband called for the midwife to pass on my drugs request, but thankfully she took a step back and looked at the whole picture. Third baby. Strong contractions. My slightly crazed state! She examined me again and said I was fully dilated.
Now I am no midwife or doctor, but I like to think that part of the training package includes learning the difference between no dilation and fully dilated. Apparently not! In this case, a new doctor had just called it wrong. And our baby was coming. Right then! He was not interested in waiting for me to be transferred to the delivery suite. He was quite content arrive on a trolley running down the corridor! And he almost did.
In the small hours of the morning, seconds into the delivery room, following unimaginable choices and a comedy of errors, our beautiful baby boy was born.
A few hours later, in a hospice up north, his wonderfully brave Nana stirred from her sleep, to look at a photograph of her third grandson. She had waited for him. And then she slipped away peacefully to join his Grandad in the sky.
I am not a spiritual person but nobody can argue that there wasn’t something or someone else at work that day. Something, someone, somewhere, orchestrating this. The circle of life.
Alexander Graham Bell is quoted as saying “When one door closes, another opens” but for us, it is the lesser-known remainder of the quote that we need to guide us now:
“but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
For us, of course we see the open door. We see his beautiful, smiling face every day. Our gorgeous Boy 3. But we also look sadly upon the closed door and I wonder if now is the time to move on from that. Not to forget, never to forget, but to see the open door for all it has to offer. For what our future has to offer.
To celebrate a birthday.
And to be happy.