Iris is now 11 whole days old and as the dust begins to settle, I thought it best to commit to blog form the story of that blustery day back in mid-october.
An elbow awoke me shortly after 7am. 'Inflate the pool' came a calm voice next to me. 'Just in case'.
Perhaps I should start earlier. Catherine was due to drop on the 8th of October. We were completely unaware as to what gender our child was to be. The 8th came and went. Cath still journeyed out to run her choir. The joys of being self-employed! Cath had been late with Martha by a week and a frustrating 8 days with Ben. We knew that this time would be no different. But it's the third one! It's supposed to drop faster. Muscles have stretched. Surely an early baby? No. Unlike with Martha when we were patiently sitting on the due date cursing our misfortune at having an unpunctual child. The level of grump on Martha's due date (18th September 2011, for those date fiends amongst you) was astronomical. Not so come the 8th of October 2017. A small sigh and we prepared for the next day's school run.
Soon started the inevitable well wishes and queries from friends at the school gates. I hope they were always met with smiles. I'd like to think I'd be capable of that, but as the days drew on a pace, the grump settled in. And that was just me. Cath hadn't slept properly for pretty much two months by this point. Her eyes welled up once as she mewed 'I just want to sleep on my stomach'.
We'd made a friendly bet list from just over 100 people. Friends and family. What gender, how heavy and WHEN!!!??? It was an even split for girls and boys, most people thought the baby would be huge (3rd child guesses). We had an 11lb 2oz guess (pounds and ounces I'm afraid). Most dates were shared among 8-10 people. Only Cath guessed later than she actually dropped.
It wasn't as if we hadn't tried to shift the baby out of the comfortable position she had clearly been enjoying. Pineapple, spicy food, bouncing up and down on a trampoline (terrible idea, we know), bumpy roads, one that can't be talked about in polite company and someone even suggested doing all our bedsheets by hand. We did not. It's easy to be philosophical now, as she's been born, but despite my desire to create that sense of inevitability that comes with babies being born, it felt like it was literally never going to happen. I had really gotten used to Me, pregnant Cath and two lively, shouty children. Imagining a third rarely happened. After a lengthy chat one evening, we decided to blame the children. Their energy was not at one with Cath's desire to 'nest'. So we kicked the small little chicks out of the nest for the night and sent them to Cath's Mum and Dad's (thanks). We had an evening in, just the two (and bump) of us. It only went and worked didn't it. I felt like a genius.
Iris made her move in the late dawn hours of Thursday the 19th of October. Which brings me back to the elbow.
We'd always intended to have a home birth. Ben had been born at home (rented house in Chesham, Buckinghamshire). Catherine had loved the experience. I say loved but...you know what I mean. Baby number three was also to be born at home. This time, it was our home. Not someone else's dining room with nice parquet flooring we were petrified of ruining. So, elbow planted firmly in my ribs, up I got. Straight to the pool (via the kettle) and I set about inflating it. I was a little sluggish out of bed though. What happens when the children are away is I stay up too late doing what I want to do like I'm 24 all over again. With the pool complete and the tea delivered to the lady upstairs, I got myself ready for, I don't know what really. I still felt this sense of detachment from the impending situation. I shrugged off my pondering mood and fixed the hose to the downstairs bathroom tap and started filling the pool with lovely warm water. Think of it as an industrial size inflatable bath that could store hundreds if not thousands of cold beers in the summer.
And then came the knock at the door. You see, we ordered some shutters in August. They were ready to be fitted on the 19th. Apparently Cath, in her infinite pregnant wisdom had agreed to let them be installed upon this very day. The two burly gentlemen edged into the study, all too aware of the situation. My eyes rolled ever so slowly back as these two very polite gents slipped past me, ripping the hose out of the downstairs tap as they passed. They weren't to know really.
Time ticked by. Catherine started pacing upstairs, pausing every 6 minutes or so to breathe into the start of the contractions. Cath's Mum dropped by to check everything was OK and to give us the lowdown on how Martha and Ben had been the night before. Three contractions later and Catherine politely suggested she beat a retreat. Not before some of our washing had been taken for ironing! We'd be lost without those two! Almost simultaneously, Catherine said I'm not giving birth until the shutter fitters had gone. Literally five minutes later, they left. With a polite smile and a good luck and the sort of thank God I didn't see a person give birth at work today that you'd expect. They did a great job too. All credit to them. Fast, efficient, courteous and scared to death about what they might hear happening in the next room.
Cath ventured downstairs. Contractions had taken on a pace. Every three minutes now. The intensity picked up as soon as the shutter fitters left. Lisa, our midwife arrived shortly after 11am. A nice coffee, a chat and an effective 30 minutes watching what was going on, was all she needed to call the other midwife and offer the gas and air. Catherine refused. Hard as nails is Cath. She did complain of a back pain. Martha had been born back to back. Without being too graphic, Catherine said it was like being stabbed in the arse with a machete. I was dispatched to the kitchen to find some paracetamol. Standard household fare. Alas no. We were paracetemoless. Not a word but looks good on the screen.
I brought back the only pain meds we had in the house. Calpol. Three syringes (the ones the kids use) of that and she'd had enough. It tasted vile apparently. So, armed with 15mls of Calpol in her system and finding herself 2-3cms dilated upon inspection by the midwife, Catherine slipped into the pool just after midday.
It might seem like I skip a bit here. Because I do. For the next hour, all you need to know is that Catherine laboured like a hero in the water for just under 60 minutes and at 13:02, Iris Matilda Last came into this world weighing 8lbs 8oz. Some details need not to be shared. And I love details.
It had been a real team effort with one person doing the real work. Our midwives had been awesome, my in-laws had been incredibly understanding and helpful, our friends, family and acquaintances had shown true love and compassion and Catherine had grown our next tiny human. Born exactly a year after we found out about last year's miscarriage. Iris is another rainbow baby just like Benjamin. In fact Iris, a name I was not keen on at all at first, upon researching is the Greek god of the rainbow. Or rather, the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods as well as an asteroid out towards Jupiter. And she had arrived. Happily squawking into her mummy's awaiting arms and later onto my chest. She's asleep right now upstairs in her little basket. The same basket both Martha and Benji have slept in. Ben tried again a few days ago. It's a bit snug for him now.
I guess, the standard concern for me when it comes to putting offspring into the world has always been, will they be like me. I've always vocalised that question at some point in the lead up to their births. I mean it as a positive and negative really. On one hand, I'm scared they'll be disadvantaged in some way, on the other, I'm not scared at all, because they'll be loved and they'll contribute to the world however they can manage to. I will spend my every day trying to facilitate their dreams and hopes. There's so much more to talk about on this subject, that I'll save it for another blog. I'll leave you with this.
I believe that there is nothing more personal and intimate than supporting your partner bear the product of your love. Helping create Iris, welcoming her into this world, was yet another thing I'm so proud to have shared with my love. My Catherine. I could write this whole blog again and put the focus all on Iris. They'd be no writing it in the first place without her being a featured role obviously. But, there'd be no Iris (or Martha and Benjamin) without Catherine. My partner and dearest friend for so many years has brought new life, new promises, new potential into this world. To have shared that with her, to have witnessed that moment on three separate occasions has truly been other worldly. More than me. Thank you.