‘I’m pregnant…again’ My sister whispered to me while we were sitting on the couch one day in September 2015. I twirled my head round so fast that I almost gave myself whiplash. This would be my sister’s sixth baby. Now this isn’t olden times when this was the norm; round here it’s 3 kids max, any more than that then everyone starts questioning if you have a TV in your bedroom to keep you occupied. I stared at her in disbelief, how could she be so irresponsible? She had five other mouths to feed plus her own and she was a single parent. The baby’s father would remain nameless and faceless so how would she cope with six children on her own?
‘Are you insane?!’ I almost screamed at her, waking the youngest child at the time, Ryan up. He was 18 months old. Still a baby himself. I picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I couldn’t believe that this baby was going to be a big brother in a matter of months. My sister stared at me in shock, did she believe I’d be happy? Or excited? No. I thought this baby will quite literally break my sister. She was tiny; been through hell and back with her other pregnancies and her labours were getting worse and worse. What if something happened this time? Who will watch the kids while she’s giving birth? I just couldn’t comprehend it.
‘I thought you of all people would be supportive,’ She said with a tear in her eye. She’s right. If I were her I’d think that too. I’m the most open-minded one in the family and I’ve had an internal struggle with my own desire for children too. A man can sneeze in my sister’s direction and she falls pregnant, surely mum can’t have two daughters with the same luck in fertility? It’s my destiny that I have problems having kids when it’s time, if it ever will be time. Maybe I was jealous. Carina had two children and was pregnant with her third by the time she was my age and me? I can’t even get a man to stick around for more than a few months. The green-eyed monster was always out in force when it came to my sister; she was beautiful, hilarious, caring and hilariously dumb. She once asked me to explain why her daughter’s cot coming from Germany had a shipping charge when there’s no sea between Germany and Scotland. I know, she’s comedy gold all on her own!
‘I’m sorry Carina but I can’t support this pregnancy. Are you mad? You just started a new job, you’ll ruin that for yourself,’ With this, she kicked me out. She had to claw a screaming Ryan from my arms as he had dug his little fingernails into my shoulders and swiftly slammed the door in my face.
As the months rolled by, things didn’t get any easier between Carina and I. We fought like cat and dog. I would stay away from her house at all costs which meant limited time with my other nieces and nephews, this broke my heart. Those little people are my whole world. Anytime I would drive past her house during the day I would see little Ryan at the window watching the cars, or at least trying to he’s tiny you could only see his forehead and a pair of eyes from the window. I would see her scan pictures on social media and it felt like a rock had fallen in my stomach. This fight is stupid, babies are a blessing. I should go around there and make amends, right? Wrong.
‘My kids and I don’t need you and your half-assed shit Claire,’ She yelled so loud that I thought the vein in her neck was going to pop. Clearly, I’d let this simmer for too long or she was just hormonal that day. With another swift flick of the door to my face it was another month of fighting until the night of 15th April 2016. I heard my mother talking to Carina on the phone just after midnight, I was in bed but mum almost screams down the phone so naturally, I can hear everything.
‘YOU THINK YOU’RE IN LABOUR? HOW CAN YOU THINK? DON’T YOU KNOW?’ This is my mum’s inside voice, you should hear her outside voice. For a woman of 5 foot she’s loud.
‘YOU’RE IN THE BATH AND YOU’RE WATERS BROKE? HOW DO YOU KNOW?’ Now this was a very good question. How do you know if your waters have broken while lying in the tub? Apparently, one does not know and it’s all guess work from here. Suddenly, my bedroom door was thrown open and light was streaming in from the living room. I pulled the covers up over my head. This cannot be happening, I start work at 8 in the morning tomorrow I don’t have time for false alarms.
‘Claire, you need to take your sister to the hospital,’ Mum said flicking on my bedroom light blinding me in the process. I opened my mouth to argue but mum shut me up immediately.
‘This isn’t the time for daft fights. I will watch the kids while you take her and see if she’s actually in labour then we’ll switch over so I’ll be there for the birth okay?’ And with that I pulled on my clothes and Doc Martens and off I went. I parked outside her house and I could hear her screaming from the car. I’d never heard anything like this before. Anytime Carina was in labour, she’d seem cool and collected like this was a walk in the park. Not this time. She screaming from her front door step to help her get down the path and into the car. We had to stop from time to time while she took some breaths and squeezed my hand.
‘Just because you’re helping me doesn’t make you any less of a bitch,’ She said in between sharp intakes of breath and small screams. I drove as quickly and safely as I could to the hospital, helped her out of the car and took her to the maternity ward. The halls of the hospital were extremely quiet and eerie, almost creepy. You’d expect some movement or sound in a hospital being as it was only a little past midnight but there was nothing. Just the rustle of our bag and Carina’s slippers on the highly-polished floor as we made our way into a room to be examined. We sat in silence as Carina undressed for the exam, the midwife came in and made polite conversation but I could tell she just wanted to do her job and go.
‘Understandable’ I thought, ‘What conversations can you have to make this process less awkward? Lovely day, isn’t it? Excuse me while I stick my entire hand up your vagina’. Carina winced in pain then howled so loudly I thought the room shook a little while the midwife decided to admit her or not. The midwife just stared at Carina, she must see this daily but for a woman who’s had so many babies this shocked her at the state Carina was in.
‘Well love, you’re 3 centimetres dilated so you have a long way to go yet but you’re definitely on your way to having the baby soon,’ The midwife said in a cheery voice as if this was amazing news and we should congratulate her.
‘NO I NEED THIS BABY OUT NOW!’ Carina screamed, the midwife again just stared at her. I wasn’t sure if she was new to the role or not but she didn’t seem confident. We were then asked to make our way to our delivery room which was all set up and ready to go for the big moment. I led Carina to the bed and helped her up. It looked like the most uncomfortable bed one could ever imagine. Piss resistant mattress, basically made of plastic and sheets that God knows how many people have slept on. As soon as she got herself into position, she signalled for the machine in the corner. Gas and air. I ran out the room as fast as my chicken legs could carry me to the maternity ward reception to get a midwife, as soon as I arrived back with help Carina yelled at the top of her lungs,
‘I NEED TO PUSH,’ The midwife yelled and two other midwives came running in. I stood back. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was supposed to be watching the kids. Mum was supposed to be here. I wasn’t supposed to see this. What do I do? What do I say? I might faint, or throw up.
‘Okay Carina, the baby is coming out face first you need to push a little harder now,’ I heard a midwife say,
I heard a scream and someone yell ‘PUSHHHHH!’
‘UGH WHY ISN’T THIS KID OUT YET?’ I heard Carina say. This made me laugh. This kid wasn’t even here yet and it was already getting on her nerves. I held her hand and the midwife told me to look down. I looked at Carina and she nodded. I looked down and saw it. This little face was coming out and it looked like someone putting on a turtle neck with squished features. I could make out the nose and eyes, it had huge lips like me. One big last push and the shoulders, stomach, legs and feet were here. There it was. There he was. He looked exactly like his big brother Ryan, the same crying face too. I got the very first photo of him when he was fresh from the womb, still covered in my sister’s insides.
‘Would you like to cut the cord?’ The midwife asked me, automatically handing me scissors.
‘Yes, she would,’ Carina answered for me, ‘Just make sure you give him a good belly button,’ Such a Carina thing to say! I did as I was told and cut his cord connecting him to his mother, freeing him from 9 months on the inside. After the midwives cleaned and checked over the baby boy, we were left alone to dress him and feed him. He was like a little doll. I was scared in case I would break him if I held him. He was so precious. I could not believe that I ever thought for a second that this little human coming into the world to be a bad thing. It was a glorious thing. He was perfect. And he was all ours. Some people say that a baby can test a relationship, maybe this is true. This baby brought my sister and I together. We were never the closest but watching my sister give birth gave me a new-found respect for her. She is amazing and I love her. I held the baby in my arms while Carina got some rest, he held my finger in his tiny hand for the first time and my heart melted. I have a bond with him that is so special that nothing could ever break it. My sister and I left the hospital with the baby the following day, arm in arm like we did when we were little.
Rhys Gerald Lilley 16/4/16 – One of the best days of my life.