It’s 8:24pm on 15 February 2017. This time last year I was lumbering up and down in the TV room. Stopping every few minutes to lean over the couch, breathe through the pain and occasionally vomit into my thoughtfully positioned bucket. The contractions were getting quite rough, but I could still manage them (with the help of my Doula and the support of Roger).
I’ve been doing this a lot today, thinking about ‘This time last year’. It was a monumental day in our lives, in my life. I would soon be meeting my baby boy. My second child. Our last child. I’ve felt so emotional today. Fragile even, thinking back. Perhaps because I still have unresolved feelings about the way Eli’s birth went – not quite the way I had hoped. I will always have feelings about it.
He is the most content, joyful, intrepid and adventurous little thing I’ve met. If he’s not climbing up onto the coffee table, he’s crawling head first down a huge step or eating dirt at the bottom of the garden. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s boofed his head… And I’ve lost count of the number of ways I’ve learnt to say ‘I love you’ to him.
Eli has an older sister, Holly, and when she was born I thought my heart would explode with the love and feelings it was meant to contain. Until I realised it didn’t need to, and shouldn’t, contain that love at all. The love in my heart needed to gush out and envelope my daughter and let her know a 100 times a day that she is the most loved little girl in the world.
When I was pregnant with Eli I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to love him as much as I love his sister. I needn’t have worried. Adding a child doesn’t mean love is halved. Rather it means your love doubles. In fact, it more than doubles. Sometimes one child needs more love than the other. Instead of taking from one to give to the other, there’s always extra to give the one who needs an extra serving. And then there’s still more to give to the children of your friends.
In the year that’s passed since Eli decided four weeks early to join us earthside, our lives have been tipped upside down, on their sides and right way up again, a little dented, bruised, scraped and showing signs of wear. But signs of wear, like a pair of hiking boots, that now hug your feet and have moulded themselves on the shape of your foot. Our lives have been irrevocably changed, but they finally feel like they fit.
We’re a family of four. A family. We fill a square table in a restaurant. We take up all the space available in an Uber. We’re a doubles game in tennis. But we’re more than that. We’re a family. And my children are more than just two little beings. They’ve moved themselves into my heart and taken up every free corner and space they could find. Just like what they’ve done in our house with their toys (and in my car with their crumbs).
In just over seven hours time, this time last year, Eli would be born. At 4:20am on Tuesday 16 February 2016. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I didn’t think I’d survive. I begged for mercy. I cried for Holly. I swore, using some choice words. I ‘lowed’ like a cow. I shouted. I moaned. I stopped breathing through the contractions and started swearing through them instead. I screamed like I was being tortured. But every single painful second of that labour was worth it. And I’d do it a thousand times over to have Eli again.