If you had sewn those contractions together into one long wave of up and down and given me a surfboard of Pethidine then I could’ve done it. But spread them over forty eight hours with pauses of five minutes, or twenty, and my own obstinate, controlling will as the only pain relief – do that and then tell me I was at three centimetres… Well, it wasn’t pretty. It was snotty and angry and involved a lot of swearing. I’m not good at failing. If I’d learned it early it would have been better all round. But I didn’t.
So the whole thing twisted into a maze of monitors and epidurals and eventual, brutal forceps that turned his body inside me and heaved him into the world. And still I wouldn’t be told. Fighting for control.
‘Get the catheter out and I’ll take him myself.’
‘You had a spinal. That means…’
‘I know what it means. I can feel my legs. I’m fine. I’ll take him.’
Barefoot with my baby in my arms. Dry-breasted, stitched. My punch-drunk baby and I – riding the lift to the very top. I looked for ‘through the roof’ but it wasn’t there. So I faced the consequences. That’s the only option when you’ve failed. I watched him screaming as they pumped the antibiotics into the cannula in his tiny hand. That’s all you can do. Still, I never stopped trying to succeed.
So when they told me he was gone I wouldn’t have that either. His lanky, adolescent body on the bed, under a sheet that blinded me in the sunlight. It rose and fell – too high his chest, too regular, the up and the down. The tubes in his nose. The bag catching his pee. I looked at it all and I refused. I stole him from under their noses. I ran through the corridor and I hit the lift button like the smack could start his reluctant heart. As the doors closed I saw them gaining on me. But this time, thank fuck, this time the button was there. So we took the roof off the damn hospital and now, now we’re flying free in Roald Dahl land.