REAL FAMILIES | ‘The Birth of Elder’ Alyxandra Hammar

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I lie in the dark and listen to my newborn moan and squeak in his sleep. I listen intently, soaking up the noise that breaks the silence that the darkness brings. I giggle to myself as he squeaks once more, almost as if he was talking.

 

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Bringing Elder into the world was so different from the images that blissfully skipped through my mind when I first found out I was pregnant. I wanted to be at home, in Australia in my parents’ living room when I gave birth. I wanted to see the sun or the glistening stars and stroll through the garden as contractions came and went. I wanted my family nearby this time so I could share those first magical hours with them all. I was sad for a long time after we found out the birth I had wished for couldn’t happen, but failed plans opened doors to new plans and I was reminded of the uncertainty of what life provides, to let go of my need for control and welcome the things I couldn’t change. Bringing new life into the world can’t be any less wonderful and exceptional… and it wasn’t.

 

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The days leading to Elder’s birth were filled with an anxiety. I felt unprepared. I was already packed and had spent most of the day preparing healthy snacks for myself during labour. I was nervous about giving birth. I was tired before I had even begun and I doubted my strength.

 

As most days had been, the day of Elder’s due date was dull and gray. I didn’t expect him to arrive. For some reason that doesn’t matter now, Rasmus and I were angry at each other. We had gotten on each other’s nerves and we fought. That evening we were both in tears, exhausted by waiting, exhausted by our wild toddler, exhausted by how hard things had been and we stood in the snow with our frustrations and let them go with our tears and our apologies. Weariness weighed heavily on me but I was happy and Rasmus and I talked excitedly, late into the night. It was the early hours of the morning when we both gazed at my heavy belly in wonder. It seemed bigger than ever, bursting almost. My body yearned for rest so I curled myself around a sleeping August but before sleep reached me my first and very strong contraction came.

 

I panicked for a moment, not wanting to go into labour before I had slept. I was too tired and wouldn’t be able to do it. I told myself to trust my body and my strength and I calmed. Rasmus and I both lay awake waiting to see if more contractions came, to see if it was really time. More did come, strong and painful as I lay curled around August in the darkness but they were irregular, undecided. We got up, not able to sleep I started pacing through the house, my mama woke too and we waited. More pain came and I felt cold and sore. I dragged myself into the shower and let the water pour generously over my body. I swayed side to side, rolling my pelvis as if belly dancing. I never wanted to leave but when the contractions stopped coming I forced myself out only to be greeted by the next surge of pain.

 

We started preparing for the long night ahead. Rasmus carried our sleepy baby to the car and to his grandparents’ house nearby. My mind was distracted by the pain and by the enormous task of getting myself dressed but I remember the fleeting thought of seeing him as an only child for the last time, my tiny baby no more. It made me both excited and nervous and I sent all my love with him as he headed into the the cold, wrapped in blankets in his papa’s arms.

 

On the way to the hospital my contractions were intense and regular, coming only minutes apart. My body tightened and convulsed as the car hit each bump and I squeezed Rasmus’s hand as if passing on the pain. He didn’t flinch, no matter how hard I squeezed. I swayed my hips as best I could while sitting, moving through each surge. The pain from my contractions became so intense that I vomited into a towel several times. Thoughts of numbness crossed my mind then, as I stared blindly into the black countryside. I began to doubt my strength again. I had been in labour for such a short time and my contractions were so strong. I wondered how I would be able to labour so intensely for hours to come, maybe I will have to be numbed, drugged. The taxi took 45 minutes to reach the hospital, although it felt as through only minutes had passed. I was thankful.

 

Despite my pain and inverted concentration I smiled and shook the hands of the midwives waiting for me as I arrived at the hospital. The two kind strangers led me through brightly lit corridors as hospital lights glared down on me. I missed the darkness and the hypnotic motion of the car. It had been peaceful and private. The midwives waited patiently as I stopped when the next contraction came. My breath was deep and as it left my shaking body I let a long chant like hum escape my lips.

 

Self consciously and with an audience I undressed and put on a small white robe. The birthing room was cold but my body forgot as the next wave of pain washed through me. I felt unsettled, the initial check of my contractions and progress meant I had to sit in bed but I wanted to move, to dance again. My contractions were monitored for a short time and then they checked how far I had dilated. I didn’t expect it to be very far along having only been in labour for such a short time. The midwives looked at each other and nodded satisfactorily before telling me that I was already fully dilated. I laughed in shock. I thought I would be labouring for hours to come. Overjoyed and relieved, my whole body relaxed and on my next contraction the pushing urges came. I asked to go to the bathroom but worried that I would give birth while I went, they brought a toilet into the birthing room instead. I sat still on the cold plastic and for a moment I felt normal, my breath was calm and my body painless but without warning the most incredible urge to push charged through me. I had no power to control it and I pushed with all my strength. My skin stretched and burned as I was pulled from the toilet and rested over the bed, a small head was already entering the world. Rasmus kissed me excitedly, telling me how close our little one was and how much he loved me. After two more pushes, I looked behind me and saw our tiny boy for the first time. In shock at how fast everything had happened I just wanted him in my arms. I lifted myself onto the bed and they placed his soft, warm body on mine. I looked at him in awe. He was perfect. I was so aware, so awake and smiling. Weariness hadn’t reached me yet, just a calm euphoria as I traced his tiny features with my fingers.

 

With a concentrated tenderness, Rasmus severed the last link between us and as I held my sweet baby tight in my arms I birthed the healthy placenta. In disbelief I realised it was over. Elder was here.

 

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So recently it seemed, I was holding August in my arms for the first time. But this little boy, this tiny being was someone new at a very different time in our lives. After months of struggle and heartache, after disasters and trying to hold everything together; this tiny boy arrived a bundle of joy and love to rekindle us.

 

Each day his small cheeks grow a little rounder. His wide eyes stare at mine and slowly follow my movement. I stroke his fuzzy hair, it feels magic to touch, like velvet on my fingertips. August’s tenderness towards his brother warms my heart and I think of the future adventures they will have together and the love they will share.

 

Elder’s first moments were spent in my arms, his first months he will gaze into my smiling eyes. He will feel my warmth seep into his soft skin, my voice will calm him, my scent will reassure him and my milk will nourish him. I will be his world, his comfort and his protector. I am a mother renewed to two beautiful boys, from now until my dying day.

 

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For my mother and Rasmus and my family whose love I felt from the far side of the world, thank you. Thank you for your kind words, your trust, your well wishes, your forgiveness and understanding and mostly for your unconditional love. I will be forever grateful.

 

 

 

ALYXANDRA HAMMAR | North-South Menology

 

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