The words kept circling around my head, and I finally got them out. "I haven't held my baby yet." My little girl had been born an hour before and it was a whirlwind that I couldn't catch up with...
The first of the contractions woke me at 2am. I'd been having braxton hicks pains for over a week, but these were different: sharper, and slowly becoming more so. Within half an hour I knew that this was the day.
It was 4.30am when Steve rang my parents, asking them to come over and stay with Abbey while we went to the hospital. I had just realised that I needed help; I was becoming increasingly nervous and finding the pain harder to deal with. I told Steve I was ready to go to the hospital, that I wanted an epidural. I just couldn't do this. Within the space of a few minutes the pain had gone from manageable to super strong.
I walked back to our bedroom with the intention of getting dressed and ready to head to hospital. The baby had other plans.
As I stood leaning over my bed in agony an incredible pressure hit and I screamed - my waters broke. Seconds later more pressure and I screamed again - and as Steve urged me to start walking towards the car, I stood glued to the spot and told him that wouldn't be happening.
Several things happened at once: Steve saw a head sticking out of me, he reached for the phone and dialled 000, and my parents walked in the door. He threw the phone to them, knelt down and saw the cord wrapped around the baby's neck. He looped it around and as my parents spoke to the operator and relayed instructions, it was too late to listen: I had already given a third and final push and felt the baby drop into its Dad's arms.
It was 4.42am.
I remember standing there, not daring to look, waiting to hear a cry. It took what Steve thinks was about 20 or 30 seconds, but to both of us seemed a matter of minutes at the time, but the cry came and I turned around to see my baby. I saw her little mouth forming another scream. She was okay.
We sat there in our bedroom, Steve and the baby and me, and he held her in front of me while we waited. I just stared at them.
The ambulance officers checked her over. They clamped the cord and Steve cut it. Someone wrapped the baby in towels. Steve stood back, holding her, as they moved to me. Abbey came in and I saw the look of sleepy confusion on her face.
I couldn't move. I sat there watching the whole scene like it was a weird movie. And my whole body started to shake.
There was talk of blood pressure, of making it to the hospital before the placenta came out, of keeping me warm, of whether Steve would come in the ambulance with me. He did, all the while cuddling our baby tight. In the ambulance, more talk of blood pressure. I heard the numbers being spoken and knew they were getting lower. I felt the heaters being turned up, felt more blankets being wrapped over me. Still I couldn't stop shaking. I knew Steve was there, knew he had the baby, but I didn't see them.
At the hospital people crowded around me. One stuck a needle there, another put one there, another one there. Someone was doing blood pressure, someone else was pushing on my stomach and I cried as the placenta dropped out. I heard talk of blood loss and one part of me lay there shaking while another watched from elsewhere waiting for the news to be bad.
And those words whirred around my head. They'd been there since the beginning. Here, I told someone that I wanted my baby.
"I haven't held my baby yet."
All the activity seemed to slow at that point. The midwife handed the baby to me and, as I lay staring at her in my arms, I felt all the parts of myself return to one. At the same time the talk around me changed. Blood pressure: normal. Blood loss: slowing, it all seems fine. She can leave emergency now.
It was as though holding her was the only thing I needed.
The shock of her birth was enormous. My amazement at her and the way she came into this world with such certainty and readiness to thrive was - and is - even greater.
Our little girl, Iris. Named for her great-grandmother who always lived life with grace and strength.