READY OR NOT
Columnist Greg Bruce on the speedy arrival of his third child
The first text came from the bed of our three-and-a-half-year old daughter at 7.15pm, and read, “I think my waters might have broken.” The next one, a couple of minutes later read, “Can you get a towel?” Our daughter, who was on the verge of sleep, was no doubt baffled by the fact that she was, for the first time in her life, not responsible for the soaking of her bedsheets. There wasn’t really time to explain. She was her grandmother’s problem now. It was 7.45pm by the time we left the house. We didn’t know it then – if we had known we would have panicked – but in one hour and 20 minutes we would have a baby. Ahead of us was a half-hour drive, a late change of venue, a frustrating parking incident, some vomit, a few mean words from Zanna, and a lot of silence from me. I thought back to the birth of Clara, our second child, 20 months before. Zanna had gone into labour at about 2am and we had driven to Birthcare in the calm, quiet early morning, up through the lovely dark of the Domain, chatting easily and fondly about the wonders of the family we already had and that which was still to come. It is one of my favourite memories, and I had been looking forward to much the same thing this time. The drive would take between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on traffic, and would allow us to carry on that conversation as if it hadn’t been 20 months since it finished. “We’re not going to chit chat,” Zanna said, not long after we left. The rest of the trip was silent except for one point on the motorway where she told me to slow down and I replied, saying I wasn’t speeding, and she told me I was going 95 in an 80 zone, and I started to suggest that I wasn’t, then I realised I was wrong and that now was not the time anyway. At Birthcare, our midwife was waiting for us in one of the lovely warm, soothingly lit birthing suites but there had been meconium in the waters, so we were redirected to Auckland Hospital. Zanna’s contractions were close and angry by this point. She chundered in the Birthcare carpark. There was no time to clean it up. At Auckland Hospital, in the parking area reserved for people in emergency situations, we had to wait for someone who was waiting for someone to come out of the one free carpark, then we had to wait while they painstakingly learned how to parallel-park, then we had to illegally park somewhere else. As we walked to the hospital, Zanna had another contraction. I thought about what tasks I might have to fulfil if she had our baby right there in the hospital carpark. I had known before our first child was born that I would be overwhelmed by it. I had not known before our second daughter was born whether I would feel the same way. If anything, though, I had been even more affected by it. I have always assumed that was at least partly the lack of expectation. We knew that this baby, barring some absolutely catastrophic future birth control failure, would be our last baby, and I knew for a fact that the emergence of his body from Zanna would facilitate my nearcomplete emotional breakdown We got into our room in the hospital, Zanna got up on the bed, had a couple of contractions, then said, “I think he’s coming.” A couple of minutes later, there was his head. I was not ready for it. Of course I wasn’t. It could have happened five weeks from now, or five months, or 20 years, and I would not have been ready for it. He was our third and final child, but it would have made no difference were he our tenth, and there were 20 still to come. There he was, all of a sudden, and I fell to pieces as he lay there on Zanna, our first and only son, the fifth and final member of our family, the completion and the beginning of the most important and ambitious project I will ever undertake. I did not know what to do. Because I already have two children, I knew that didn’t matter.