Angel 44 (birth)
The midwife made sporadic visits over the weeks and months and she’d told Angel there was nothing to worry about, which was worrying itself.
Angel was lying in the top bunk, her back hurt and so did most other parts of her, and she couldn’t sleep. Hadn’t slept for about two days, but had dozed, on-and-off. What made it worse was Mickey in the lower bunk swore she had the flu and she snored her head off. The noise was like a dental drill in her head, grinding her down.
Angel felt wetness between her legs. She shifted over and felt to just to make sure her waters had broke.
‘Mickey,’ she called. ‘Waken up, I’m about to give birth.’
No response. She held on to the side of the bed and flung her legs over, gripping the ladders, she slid down on to the floor.
‘Mickey,’ she screamed. ‘Waken up! I’m having the fucking twins, ya muppet.’
Mickey sat up in bed, hair awry and eyes gummed together. ‘Whit? Whit?’
It took her a few seconds to tune in and then she was on the floor, beside Angel, cradling her head and whispering, ‘You’ll be alright. Alright!’
Then she was banging on the door shouting for staff, the noise louder than her snoring and echoing all through the block.
It was a bit of a blur after that for Angel. She’d imagined delivering the twins was like flipping peas from a pod, in a spotless gownie, one in each arm and the midwife squeezing her hand and telling her how well she’d done. Tony, holding roses, looking over the midwife’s shoulder and greeting and Bruno hamming it up. Perhaps her mum, skulking in the background, sober enough to be allowed to hold the babies without supervision.
The ambulance took her straight to the delivery suite. A midwife she didn’t know was telling a tousled House Officer in medical scrubs, natty pyjamas as if he too had just got out of bed, she was a primp and dilated six centimetres. She slapped on gloves and had a feel about and talked right over her head about breech birth, and the need for a caesarean, or the birth would be ‘compromised’.
And he talked about ‘waiting and seeing’, a forceps delivery, having to phone the Registrar, delivery packs and suture sets. With all the bright lights, Angel felt she was on stage and was both the star performer and the audience.
Angel screamed, ‘Fucking get me something for the pain, ya cow’. Angel’s body bucked, it didn’t feel so much that she was pushing out twins but a double-decker bus was stuck inside her and couldn’t reverse out. She’d have happily ripped them out of her body herself.
The midwife let her have air and gas, which helped a little, but not much. The House Officer sneaked out of the room.
Time passed through a blender and there was a scurry of feet. Angel was counting backwards as she was wheeled into surgery for an elective caesarean. She remembered thinking she didn’t elect for it, but she didn’t elect for dying either and she stunk of shit and had shat herself.
Church was sitting in the chair by her bed, when she came to. A beaker of water with the lid and half-filled glass beside it on top of the bedside unit. She was reading the Bible, which worried Angel and she squeezed a breast.
Angel tried sitting up, but her body was spiked with pain. ‘Am I deid?’
A yawn turned into a smile. Church used the ribbon to mark the page she was reading in the Bible. ‘Not that I was aware of.’
She stretched and sat up, despite the pain. ‘And my babies?...My twins. Are they alright?’
Then she spotted them at the side of the bed and heard the toilet flush and Ruth her midwife was smiling at her and Angela cried tears of joy.
‘A boy and a girl,’ Ruth lifted a swaddled baby from the cot and handed it to her. ‘This is your baby girl,’ she cooed. ‘She’s bigger than her brother, but both are quite well. Lift your slip and hold her to your breast.’
Ruth watched as the baby seemed to squint and pugged its face. ‘Guide it. That’s right. Cradle its head. That’s it. Babies can’t see quite yet, but they’ve got an amazing sense of smell.’ She stroked the back of the neonate’s head as the baby suckled. ‘She’ll know you now. You’re her mum.’
The scar on her stomach was stapled shut, but was sore. Angel glanced sideways and old Church was crying too.
Ruth lifted the baby boy, planting a smacker of a kiss on his forehead before handing him over.
Angel balanced the boy on her other breast and felt her boy and girl tugging on her breast and nipple. Her heart seemed to grow bigger and expand and she knew what love was, total love and adoration and contentment, watching them feed, feeling them feed and their little mouths suckling.
‘They’re beautiful.’ Ruth watched them feed with critical eyes. ‘I’ll need to go off shift soon. Then I’ve got a couple of day’s holiday. But I’m sure my colleagues will take good care of you.’ She looked at Church, quizzically. ‘It’s just a pity, nobody’s came.’
‘I’m not sure anybody knows yet,’ Church stood up and poured water into the glass and sipped it. ‘I’m sure we’ll get something organised. She’ll have an escort, twenty-four-seven. And she’d got everything she needs here. Jesus was born in a stable, remember. And it never did Him any harm.’
‘Well, they did crucify Him,’ Angel kidded old Church on. ‘I’m no wanting that happening to my babies.’ She cuddled and kissed the crown of each child’s head and winced with pain.
Lost in thought she whispered to the babies in a high-pitched voice. ‘Whit am I going to call you?’ She stroked the girl’s head. ‘I’m going to call you Lisa.’
‘I’m not sure,’ she kissed the boy’s head. ‘Adam?’
She looked at Church, who’d sat down again and then at Ruth, leaning over the side of the bed. ‘Is that a good name for a boy?’
‘Very nice,’ declared Church. ‘First born, Adam.’
‘I like it.’ The midwife patted the twins on the back, her hands sliding down their bodies. ‘How are they feeding? Are they getting enough?’
‘No sure.’ A panicked note in Angel’s voice as Adam puckered and her milky nipple slipped out of his mouth. ‘Am I doing it right?’
‘Fine,’ the midwife stroked the side of Adam’s cheek and nudged him back to toward the nipple. ‘You’re doing great, just great.’
Angel wasn’t sure if she was speaking to the baby, her, or both of them.