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Lewis’ birth story

The Shoemaker's Daughter. A memoir of days, both past and present, by Rhonda Mason.

Rick’s alarm goes off at six o’clock, and we both roll out of bed. Rick quickly changes into his clothes and gives me a big hug.

“I love you, Rick,” I whisper, pressing my face into his chest.

“Love you too, Ronnie,” he replies, before disappearing to go downstairs to unpack the dishwasher and to chat with Pa and Nan.

I change into the clothes I chose last night: my black long-sleeve maternity top, my blue knit top, and my grey maternity capri pants. I also wrap my black eternity scarf around my neck.

As I wash and powder my face and brush out my hair, I am somewhat in disbelief that today is the day.

Today, I will give birth to our last child.

Today, we will meet this little person.

Today, we will hold him in our arms and introduce him to the rest of the boys.

Yes, today, we get to tell the boys that they have another little brother—a special secret that Rick and I have been keeping for four months.

I finish packing bits and pieces into my hospital back and, as if on cue, Rick appears and asks if I am ready to go.

Yes, I tell him.

He grabs my bag, and I follow him down the stairs.

As soon as I appear on the landing, four little faces beam up at me.

“Good morning, mummy!” they exclaim. They are all in the middle of eating their Weet Bix. Pa and Nan are sitting with them at the table, both still in pyjamas. They all beam at me with their beautiful, big smiles.

As soon as I reach the bottom step, Nan immediately rushes over to give me a big bear hug. I hug her back.

“Oh Ronnie, we love you soooooo much.”

“Love you too, mum.”

Rick puts my bag into the Corolla then re-emerges to signal that it’s time for us to go.

I walk over to each of the boys and give them all a kiss and a hug.

“Love you Gus. Love you Pete. Love you Jamie. Love you Bear…”

Rick asks them all one last time whether they think the baby is a boy or girl.

“Girl!” Angus and James shout out loud.

“Boy!” exclaim Pete and Bear.

I grin back at all of them.

“Love you boys. We’ll see you later today. Make sure you listen to Pa and Nan, okay?”

“Okay, mummy!”

I kiss both Pa and Nan goodbye.

“Go well, Ronnie,” says Nan. “We’ll be praying for you!”

We pull up the driveway at half past six, and we arrive at the maternity ward at quarter past seven.

Our midwife’s name is Carmel. She has short red hair and a very efficient manner. She introduces us to a student midwife called Courtney, who has a very friendly face. She looks a lot younger than Carmel. Carmel asks me if it’s okay for Courtney to help look after me as part of her training.

Of course, I say.

Together, they show us to Birthing Suite 5. Rick sets down my bag, and I immediately begin to unpack my things.

I change out of my clothes and into my black t-shirt dress and Rick’s grey hoodie—the outfit that I wore yesterday at home. I also pull on Rick’s khaki woollen socks. I wore them for all the other boys’ births and today, for my last birth, I will wear them once more.

I remember that it was bright and sunny on the day of Edward’s birth, and I remember how much that had lifted my spirits. As I take a peek outside, I notice how dark and gloomy it is, and I find myself longing for a ray of sunshine.

I lay out my laptop and my phone on the table, and I try to get comfortable on the bed. Rick settles down onto the couch, and we both try to close our eyes for a short rest.

Dr Lynch appears around eight. She attempts to break my waters, but not much water comes out. She and Carmel agree that I’ll need to be prepped for the drip.

I look over at Rick, and he nods encouragingly. Out loud, I ask Carmel and Courtney whether I could possibly get an Emla patch before the canula. They are both happy to oblige.

At about half past nine, the canula goes in. In spite of the Emla patch, it is a painful one. I grimace and look away. Rick stands next to me and holds my other hand.

To pass the time, Rick and I play endless rounds of Big 2—me sitting on the bed, him on the fit ball. To my slight annoyance, I find myself losing more rounds than winning.

Two hours later, contractions have not progressed at all and I notice that my wrist has become puffy. We bring this to Carmel’s attention. She takes a look and immediately concludes that the drip has been going into my skin tissue instead of my vein. The canula will have to be removed and re-inserted.

My heart drops.

They bring in another midwife—a lady called Cindy who is supposedly an expert at canulas. Secretly, I wish that they brought her in for the first one.

As the second canula goes in, I look away like the first time. This one, however, hurts much less. I thank Cindy profusely for her great work.

Another hour passes. Contractions are still very far apart and don’t seem to hurt much at all.

Our hot lunch arrives. There’s beef casserole, rice, mashed potato, steamed vegies, chicken, bread rolls, jelly, custard, apple juice, orange juice, and tea. I am excited to eat (more excited than Rick). In between mouthfuls, the two of us chat and reminisce about all our other births. We are almost disbelieving that this will be our last.

My parents come into the birthing suite very briefly to see how we are going. We update them on the slow progress. Dad cannot stay, as he has students to tutor later in the afternoon. I give him a big hug before he leaves. Mum returns to the waiting room.

Rick and I continue to play Big 2. After a while, we download Mastermind on my iPad, and we find ourselves flicking between the two games.

Around 2pm, Dr Lynch returns to try and break my waters again. This time, the second layer is ruptured and water comes gushing out.

My contractions finally gather some pace. We stop playing games so that I can start breathing through the pain.

As I breathe, I look around the room, trying to take it all in. I am all too aware that this will be my last time labouring in this hospital. I can’t help but think how good this place has been to us. How it was here that the other four boys entered the world and into our lives.

As the contractions grow stronger, I move over to the fit ball and Rick moves over to the chair. Back and forth I roll, as I count myself through every single contraction.

Unlike all my previous births, I find myself labouring in silence. Instead of counting out loud and banging stress balls together, I close my eyes and internalise the pain.

For some irrational reason, I want to feel the pain, rather than distract myself from it. I want to feel it so that I can remember it.

For this too is precious. This pain. This labouring. These contractions. This is the the birth of our last baby, after all. Our last child. Each contraction is a gift. Never again will I experience this.

In between my contractions, I am overwhelmed with emotion.

In between my contractions, I cry.

In between my contractions, images of all the other births rush through my mind: Cameron’s birth. Angus’ birth. Pete’s birth. James’ birth. Edward’s birth. And now—Lewis’ birth.

In between my contractions, I am flooded with sadness and joy. Grief and gratitude.

In between my contractions, I tell myself that this is what I was created for: To birth these children. To bring forth life.

In between my contractions, I am overwhelmed with love for all our boys. From the first to the last. From the last back to the first. Even though the beginning seemed like the end, I see now that the end of Cameron’s life was only the beginning. This makes me cry even harder.

Around 3pm, I ask Carmel to check me before she leaves at half past.

I am dilated to five centimetres. A new midwife called Dayle joins Courtney. She brings a calming presence to the room.

Contractions are now very intense, and I can feel Lewis beginning to descend.

I ask Dayle to check me a couple more times because I don’t want to be left alone when I need to push!

Sometime after 4pm, I am dilated to seven centimetres. I climb onto the bed and breathe through each contraction with closed eyes.

Rick fetches me ice chips as there are no icy poles. Dayle contacts Dr Lynch—she has gone home! Dayle asks her to come back.

The next hour is a blur. My urge to push becomes increasingly stronger until I feel like I can’t hold it off any longer.

Thankfully, Dr Lynch appears around 5pm, and I’m given the all clear to start pushing.

In two contractions, Lewis’ head is out.

In another contraction, his body is out and he is placed on me.

I burst into tears—the first time I’ve cried after birth since Cameron—and my heart expands yet again.

It is 5.18pm. Lewis Cameron Mason is born weighing 3.57kg and measuring 51cm long.

Rick takes photos and contacts family.

My mum, who has been waiting in the downstairs cafe, is the first to arrive. She walks over to me, her own face overcome with emotion. She stares at the tiny bundle in my arms.

“It’s a boy!” I tell her, in Cantonese. “And his name is Lewis…”

She is speechless. All she does is look down at his tiny face.

Some time later, Pa and Nan arrive with the four older boys.

The moment of truth. Finally, we get to tell them.

Rick takes Lewis from my arms and walks over to the boys:

“Once, there were five brothers…”

Photo above: Our little Lewis in the present day…

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