A nomad mother in Singapore
Saturday, 10 January 2015
It seems at the same time a lifetime ago, and just yesterday when I wrote this piece. The flower in the photo is called 'winterjasmijn' in Dutch, winter jasmine, and it flowered on this day four years ago in our cold, bleak English garden. Something else flowered that day too:
Tijm is at preschool. Linde’s asleep. I lie on the sofa and contract. Again and again my eyes wander to the hands on the clock. I count the minutes till the next cramp. Ten minutes. Again and again, all day long. Never speeding up, never getting on. We won’t get there this way. I sigh. I look outside, at the dreary grey day. It’s not raining, but the branches are heavy with big fat drops. My eyes wander over the wet, barren plants, dull and dark. Then, suddenly, I see a flash of colour, a bright yellow star. Last summer I planted the bush. But it has struggled, in it’s arid, bleak corner under the fence. I didn’t water it enough. The rabbits munched on it. Only one stalk remained, it’s half dead buds drooping down. I had given up hope. But now, on this rainy January morning, a lonely star flowers in the winter jasmine. I rub my aching bump. This is a sign. It will be a girl. And she’s on her way.
But the contractions keep messing about. Slower, then quicker, sometimes painful, then less, it goes on and on, through the weekend. Until Tuesday morning, when I wake up with a jolt. Pain. Real pain. But not enough. Too slow, every ten minutes, again and again. Roel heads off to work, me to the order of the day. Play group, laundry. Tijm to preschool. Linde in bed for her nap. And then, suddenly, slow becomes fast. My brain and body barely keep up. I do. Tidy up. Call Roel. Set up birth pool. Call hospital. Line busy. Call again. And again. Roel arrives, takes Linde away. He is back and I won’t let him go. Rapids of hormones grip my body. The doorbell rings. I still won't let go but Roel frees his hand with a yank. I feel a plop. A gush. The midwife comes in while I stare at the puddle around my feet.
‘This baby is coming,’ I shout. ‘Now!’
The contraction eases down and so do I. ‘Do you need to check me, look, down there?’ I ask.
She looks into my eyes. ‘No,’ she says calmly. ‘Do what you have to do.’
I feel a new contraction welling up. I groan. ‘I won’t make it to the pool.’
She takes my hand. ‘Come,’ she smiles. ‘Let’s make a dash for it.’
I am in the pool and my body pushes. Not too fast, my brain thinks, I will tear. But it’s too late. She is already out.
I am back on the sofa. Outside it is getting dark but I don’t need to see the flower anymore. She is on my belly now. My daughter. My second daughter. Jasmijn.
Slow returns. We have a cup of tea with the midwifes. There’s no rush, they just got here. Jasmijn is weighed, measured, checked. Approved. She drinks. She drinks greedily. Leisurely Roel tidies up, empties the pool. We call grandparents, aunts, uncles. Then it’s time for Tijm’s pick up. I lie on the sofa and wait. I hear the door. High pitched voices in the hallway.
‘Mummy, mummy. Baby. Bath.’
I smile. We are all here.
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