I never expected Russell Brand to pop up more than once in my posts about pregnancy and birth, but here we are, he’s made it again!!
I’ve written before about the amazing resource ‘Tell me a good birth story‘, but it’s not often you hear such a positive story from a partner’s perspective.
Since being back at work, my passion for all things pregnancy and birth has been reignited, and making it as positive an experience as we can is SO important.. so this is one to share with the husbands, wives, partners, and birth partners of any amazing pregnant mamas out there. The strength of pregnant women really is astounding (whichever way they birth their babies) and getting to be a part of these new families being made or grown is a privilege I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of!
Over to Russell..
“Laura had been so pregnant for so long that any other state seemed inconceivable.
I watched the house fill with subtle signs of a new arrival, a pram, tiny clothes and I myself participated in the painting of the baby’s room but it all seemed like an abstract and ceremonial exercise.
I don’t know why the world persists with the idea that a pregnancy lasts nine months either when it plainly lasts for ten and by the end of the ninth the waddling goddess does little but beseech the tardy heavens for delivery of this inconceivable cargo.
Quietly I said my own prayer, I asked for preparedness knowing all was about to change but not knowing how. The change from not having a baby to having a baby is too radical to be taken in one almighty leap. It should be handled in instalments. The baby should arrive one foot at a time. An ankle independently issued, then a finger or an ear, the mouth last. If I can take care of this leg successfully, then I can take the rest of the infant in a few months.
Instead the whole incredible bounty arrives in one opera of glorious revelation.
The labour begins
3 a.m. Friday the 4th of November 2016. ‘Russell,’ says a voice through the silence and the stillness. ‘I think it’s started.’
Laura, my serene, kind and thoughtful girlfriend, who supports and takes care of me with such grace, is becoming a mammalian hulk. An animal, a goddess and very definitely the epicentre of this situation, and if I may be so bold, of life itself. Because ultimately, what else is there? I ‘call the midwife’ Karina.
It is 6.30 a.m. now, she grapples snoozily with the phone and I can hear pillows and half-light in her voice. ‘Laura is having contractions,’ I say. ‘Surges?’ she corrects. ‘How far apart are they?’ They are between four and six minutes apart. We are instructed to call later.
In our room the magical intimacy remains. Real specialness. Not like the Baftas or a department store advert, but a daunting sense of impending wonder. It is in the synthesis of the physical and divine that I find myself frozen in astonishment.
This is plainly about the body, about pain and muscle and groaning and blood and dilation. What though is this secondary element? This sense of being held, guided, carried, if not by a metaphysical grace then by the pathway already walked by all of our ancestors. This is the path in essence, from unlife, to life.
Going to the hospital
Karina says we should leave now or have the baby in our bedroom, which I am totally down with but Laura is the boss so off we go, her couched up in the back next to the currently vacant baby seat mooing and crowing and all sorts, in a beautifully unselfconscious way.
I sit up the front, chauffeuring us through the country lanes, sometimes having to go real slow when Laura surges.
We get to the hospital and go via the giant aluminium lift, pasted with posters of local events and activities for the staff to do while Laura leans and moans and different orderlies and nurses and other people who see this sort of stuff every day just go about their business. And I feel protective, like I want to wall her in.
Karina goes to the hospital shop and leaves Laura and me together. I am, I’ll admit, a little sulky at this point. I am desperately trying to wrench my head out of self-centred irritability and into my necessary role as supporter and protector but I just feel really pissed off that we’ve driven away from Eden to come to what feels like a kind of barren and inferior environment.
What I am evidently meant to be doing is coaching Laura through her breathing and keeping us connected and in the present.
I do this now and am soothed. Laura, through the groans and after an impromptu and again very animal shower (like when Greenpeace workers douse a beached dolphin), tells me to WhatsApp her friends and the prospective grandparents. I do this. I send pictures and succinct ‘social media’ style aphorisms. Laura is possessed. Not by an external entity but by her truer nature, she is possessed by the person she needs to become: a mother.
Into the birthing room
Once in the birthing room, with its pool, which is a big bath, its rolling purple, pink and blue lighting and cavernous, intimate solitude, things start to improve. I now have a few jobs.
I can fetch things, yes, but also I am monitoring the lighting. Turning off all but the psychedelic swirl. Laura, encouraged by the change of scene, goes into a new, more intense and focused mode.
I, the lone male, an innocent, prowl and wait and serve. I have been relieved of the self-centredness of the previous hours in the previous space and can now feel the rhythm of the drama. The beat behind the skin and voices is asserting itself. The pulse, the life, is seeking its dominion.
Laura moves into the water, lit like a Hendrix album. On all fours again she pushes and I watch aquatic roses of blood gently bloom behind her.
It is maybe 4 p.m. and the contractions are more frequent and one comes on now and I pass the gas and air and she falls into it. I watch enviously as Laura levitates. After the first blast she becomes yet more holy, inhibitions exhaled, a sense of immersion and self-realisation of which, along with the free buzz she is inhaling, I am quietly envious of.
‘These women know what they are doing,’ I think as I resume my job as an orderly.
A contraction duly arrives, Laura pushes and roars. Screams and contorts her face. Amazingly she doesn’t swear but uses Enid Blyton curse words like ‘golly!’ and ‘gosh!’, and a melodic and beautiful wailing, it is like siren song, here she is, in water, crying out in primal pain with harmony, harmony with herself, with the sound, with birth.
I am kind of at a spiritual and primal football match. I have none of Laura’s syntactic restraint and am vacillating between ‘FUCKING HELL! Go on Laura!’ and long and gut-felt ‘Aum’s’.
Laura wants to be in a different position. The contractions, surges, fuck, surges, are near constant now, she swishes about in the pool, on all-fours, on her back then finally squatting, like a frog on her toes, heels up, knees outward and we lock at the eyes and the forearms.
The pool is raised so I am able to see Laura’s vagina perfectly and my eyes dart between hers and the true focal point of the action and in this moment the midwives seem like corner men in a prize fight, hanging back, knowing now that coaching and strategy are over and only nature remains. I can see the mound of the head, round and burgeoning behind the vagina which is not yet open.
Laura somehow manages to be completely primal and well-bred simultaneously, finding a voice I’ve never heard before but still not swearing.
It is intense and an aperture emerges, heralded by an unfurling flume of blood, like a silent clarion call, and I see the head. A small circumference, a coin-sized revelation of the top of the baby’s head. How can it all be surprising? How is it so amazing? I mean this is what we are here for, why then is it so amazing? More surges, more roars, more PG swearing.
Then, our arms locked, another push and fifty per cent of a human head appears. It is beyond spectacular, so often spectacle is without substance. Another push, more roaring, both of us now, me effing and blinding and aum-ing, Laura screaming, a life-affirming, animal scream.
The baby Mabel
The baby looks like an effigy of a baby, a doll, a special effects baby, a model, the motion is provided only by the water. All is so quiet and still. Laura and I both reach down and she takes her. ‘It’s a girl’, the cord trails and tangles. Then, in her mother’s arms, with searing and sudden certainty, as if touched by the finger of creation, her eyes flash open and life possesses her and exudes from her.
Like seeing behind the curtain as she moves from life’s shadow to life. How different is inanimate flesh to a living being. I watched the life flow in and in this moment when she came online, when her consciousness ignited, I felt new life enter me.
I’ve heard new fathers say, ‘I never knew such love was in me,’ but I always knew, I just didn’t know what to do with it. When I saw her I knew. I knew her and I knew what to do.
I climbed into the pool. Laura talks to her daughter: ‘Hello. I’m your mummy. I’m your mummy and you’ve done so well.’ She doesn’t cry but we do. Not sobbing or weeping, tears run as if a newly acquired altitude is wringing them from our faces.”
This is an edited extract from RECOVERY: Freedom from our addictions by Russell Brand.