And then. Precisely. Nothing. Happened.
“Anything?” someone would occasionally pop into the birthing suite to ask.
“Nope,” I’d say. “Not a thing.”
My obstetrician wasn’t due until later in the day, so once it became clear there was no movement at the station, we were relocated to Maternity so someone who was actually, you know, giving birth could use the suite instead. Cooling our heels in Maternity meant amusing ourselves with regularly arriving trays of food, snacks, post-snack snacks, the drinks trolley and more trays, until the tedium was broken by the arrival in our share suite of another couple, A and N. N was being induced at the 41-week mark, so they were playing the waiting game too, just from the opposite side of the ‘due date’ spectrum. The staff thoughtfully drew the curtain between us, but the four of us were soon exchanging snippets of conversation and commiseration. I was fascinated to learn that induction takes hours; I’d always imagined a powerful injection leading to immediate delivery – fire in the hall! – but that wasn’t what happened at all. N’s limbo was exactly like my own – we were just sitting it out for hours and hours and hours, kind of like being trapped on Platform Zero waiting for a perpetually cancelled train.
Then I got Class A Cabin Fever, and I had to get out. First, I thought N and A might appreciate some privacy, but I also thought if I didn’t breathe some fresh air some time soon, I was going to go ape-shit. I found out a few things about myself over the course of this experience, and one is that I really, really, really dislike air-conditioning. I know it’s not exactly fake air, more like reconstituted air, but as with reconstituted juice, I am not a fan. I like my air fresh, the sort that comes of being outside, and even though by this stage I was walking like an unsteady toddler with a full nappy, I just about ran to the lifts as Llew and I made a break for the hospital doors.
Outside, it was a hot, sunny day. The sky was that cloudless, blazing blue that is so distinctly Sydney’s, and the heat swarmed over my skin like something alive. We strolled up to Crows Nest and decided – perhaps this betrays a measure of our delirium – that now might be a good time to purchase something for Baby J to wear home from the hospital. We hadn’t gotten that far beforehand, you see. Llew hadn’t even finished the bassinet, let alone the painting… so a coming home outfit? Not a chance. A muslin wrap? Nary a one in sight. A nappy? Um, no. Baby wipes? I don’t think so. We were caught spectacularly unprepared – even the car seat wasn’t yet fitted. So I squelched along beside Llew while he fielded calls from his increasingly alarmed parents, still feeling nothing but the fluid draining out of me at irregular intervals, keeping my eyes peeled for a baby store.
Eventually we found one, and enlisted the shopgirl’s assistance. We would have bought just about anything she suggested, I realise now, but she missed the sales opportunity of a lifetime, because she didn’t realise we were out of our minds, and it wasn’t until we were at the checkout that she said, “So when are you due?”
I waved my hospital tags at her and said, “Any minute now. We went over the wall.”
Her eyes bugged and her jaw hit the floor. Her colleague stared uneasily at us and then looked meaningfully at the door.
“Yep,” I continued, glancing around appreciatively, “theoretically, I could give birth right here.”
She laughed nervously while I patted my stomach.
“Oh,” she said. “Please don’t do that.”
“My waters broke this morning,” I continued, feeling quite cheerful all of a sudden, “so it’s coming early, ready or not.”
“Here you go.” She pressed our bags on us and practically shooed us away. “Good luck with that.”
“All the best,” smiled her colleague. “You’d best be getting back to the hospital now, I suppose.”
“I feel fine!” I said. “Really! Top o’ the morning!”
They exchanged looks of relief as Llew and I crossed the threshold and started moving away from them and their spotless floor. We wandered into another couple of stores on the return leg, buying Llew a golf magazine to help pass the time, and a nightie for yours truly (another thing I didn’t own until this day arrived) before reluctantly returning to the hospital. N and A were gone – moved to Delivery, no doubt – so when Llew left to make a couple more phone calls and get something else to eat from the surprisingly good café downstairs, I was left alone with my thoughts.
I pulled out what began life as my IVF diary and tried writing down the day’s story so far, but then I recalled something Llew had said as we sat out that hour at home. He had crawled back into bed with me and said quietly “I’m going to miss it being just us.” We held each other tightly as my first tears of the day came, and I whispered back, “Me too.”
It makes me cry every time I think of it. Then as now, the sheer enormity of what we were doing, what we had done in choosing to bring this new life into the world, and its effect on our lives, came on me like that cancelled train suddenly tearing down the line wiping out all comers. Reality bore down on me at warp speed, and in those long seconds alone in the share suite, everything that had been abstract became painfully, instantly actual. After this day, we would no longer be as we were, as we have always been. That time was ending.
Llew and I have been together 14 years. Nearly a decade and a half of just being the two of us, a pair of unsupervised kids linking arms, skipping along, and entirely pleasing ourselves. We are gaining immeasurably by entering this new phase of life – I knew that then and I absolutely know it now – but I couldn’t keep writing at the hospital after that, because I recognised that while we had so much to look forward to, we were undoubtedly embarked upon the loss of something too. The sum of ‘us’ was about to change for all time, and a part of me mourned. Alone in that room down the end of the hall, I wept.
But this was a hospital, after all, a place where there is no howling in private. I had fled into the bathroom, fearing Llew or the return of N and A, but instead it was my obstetrician’s Scottish brogue that came through the door.
“Are you in there, Di?”
A near inaudible croak of assent…
“What’s the matter, Di?”
I stumbled out as what felt like a cast of thousands stumbled in – Dr F was already there waiting by the bathroom door, then Llew returned and K, the trainee midwife, all gathered round as I hurriedly dried my eyes and mumbled something about being caught out. They made a few jokes about Llew leaving me unattended, then Dr F confirmed my waters had broken. He said they would not be sending me home because I was only at 36 weeks, and that they would wait and see what happened next. And then he and K were gone, and Llew and I were left on Platform Zero, waiting if not for the train, then for the next tray of food to arrive.