I am walking Milk to school a few days before the arrival of our third baby.
‘How does the baby come out?’ he asks staring at my bump with wide eyes.
I have explained this to him a few times but he looks at me as if I am telling him a highly improbable story.
‘Well you have two choices. You can either get the baby out between your legs or the doctors cut open your tummy and take out the baby.’
‘I don’t want you to be cut open,’ he says.
‘Neither do I really,’ I reply taking his hand. ‘But the baby has to come out somehow.’
‘Can’t you do it the other way?’ he asks.
It is such an innocent question. And such a simple one. A question which has kept me awake at night for most of my pregnancy.
The answer is yes, I could do it the other way. I have done it the other way.
I look at Milk walking beside me. He is unaware that when I pushed him out ‘the other way’ I was nearly made incontinent at the age of 35.
Mayhem was a C-section because of that experience, but somehow in the foggy five-and-a-half-years since Milk was born, I have wondered if I should try the ‘natural’ way again.
I’m not sure why they call pushing a baby out of a tiny hole natural. Maybe it’s because in reality that is the only hole babies can really aim for in their endeavour to join the world. Birth would be even more of a sci-fi show if the baby decided to escape via a different orifice.
My husband says I talk too much, but I don’t think my mouth is as stretchy as a birth canal. And it would be dangerous, and a little unnerving, if you burped your baby out while having a chat – think how far it would fall.
The other hole makes a lot more sense. Better to feel like you need to do a massive poo and are then rewarded with a child.
Knowing there was a real possibility I could give birth ‘naturally’ and then have to be within 10 meters of a toilet for the rest of my life, I opted for the other ‘choice’.
I decided to be cut open on an operating table and sent home the next day in my anti-DVT stockings, and the advice to continue managing my pain with paracetamol and ibuprofen. As if I might have a little headache, or a sore toe.
Maybe they think the euphoria you feel when you meet your baby will be enough to take the pain away. And to some extent this is true – there is nothing like the moment you hold your baby for the first time, and I did ride on that wave for a while. But there is also nothing like the shock of being sliced open and then having to look after a new life immediately, even as you are being stitched back up.
There is a scene at the end of Jaws where the tough fisherman Quint is being eaten by the shark as he slides down the deck of his sinking boat. He is desperately trying to get his feet out of the shark’s mouth. He is spitting blood.
I look like that man every time I try and sit up in bed to feed the baby.
Since the arrival of our third son, I could win the SAS Survival programme where normal people are tortured with sleep deprivation, screamed at, and made to complete repetitive and pointless tasks.
One week in and we are the parents who walk in the sunshine and the shadows of the new born regime. We love the warm cuddles. We fear the waking nights. I dread the cracked nipples.
We argue about who is more tired than who.
I say the words ‘Major Abdominal Surgery’ so much I don’t think it has any meaning anymore, until I turn too quickly and there is an instant burning pain, like a hot poker being rammed into my core.
And yet we are all in awe of this new person experiencing everything for the first time.
‘Can I be alone with the baby?’ Asks Mayhem stroking his brother’s head with a strange look in his eye.
‘No. The baby always has to be with me or daddy.’ I say.
‘But can I eat him?’ Asks Mayhem.
‘Err, No.’ I say and wonder how I will ever go to the toilet again.
Milk is less interested in eating the baby but he enjoys watching my husband making the little creature dance across the living room floor, and he squeals with laughter when a golden arch of wee projects itself into my husband’s face as he changes another nappy.
We have been in new born land twice before but it doesn’t get any easier. We have to learn a new language and make sure the whole family understands it.
We are no longer explaining the world to just Milk and Mayhem. We have another little person to guide, and soon it won’t matter how he arrived. Just that he is here.