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Six years ago

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

Monday morning. Six years ago.

Rick and I leave our little terrace house in Newtown at 6am in the morning.

I am wearing a white tank top, a black skirt, and my teal green cardigan with the thin white stripes. Rick is wearing the blue t-shirt his parents had bought for him from Boston, and khaki pants.

I buckle myself into the passenger seat while Rick puts my bags into the boot of our green Corolla.

We pull out of Little Queen Street and onto King Street. We turn right at Broadway, cross the Harbour Bridge, and less than twenty minutes later, we enter the car park at North Shore Private hospital.

We make our way up to the maternity ward. It is quiet, and dark. There are no windows in the foyer.

We sit side by side. We wait – apprehensively. I am slightly unnerved by the lack of sound.

My mind is blank, as I try to remain calm and focused on the task ahead.

All of a sudden, I realise that we are missing one of our hospital bags – the one which I’d filled with drinks and snacks for sustenance. I stare at Rick, in disbelief. Realisation dawns on him, and he is both apologetic and slightly amused. He reassures me it will be okay.

We have a lovely midwife. Her name is Jenny. She is tall, with dark blonde hair, and her smile is warm and friendly. I immediately feel at ease with her.

She straps the fetal monitoring unit to my belly. I lie back on the hospital bed, and Rick takes a photo of me. I do the cheesy victory sign with my fingers, as all good Honkie Asians do.

I am still dressed in the same clothes, but I am also wearing Rick’s khaki socks – the same socks I wore when I gave birth to Cameron. They feel rough on my feet, but their familiarity brings me comfort.

It is only 7am, and I am desperate for some extra sleep before labour begins. I move over to the couch and put my feet up. Rick covers me with my dress robe.

I manage to drift in and out of sleep.

By 10am, I am back on the hospital bed. Professor Morris has already been in to see me with a promise to check back around noon. The induction gel is in, and labour is under way.

Rick has received messages from both sets of parents. All four of them are in the cafeteria at the public hospital. Waiting together for what they hope to be celebratory news. My Aunty Eight, mum’s closest sister, is also there.

By midday, my waters have been broken, I am wearing Rick’s high school jersey, and contractions are almost a minute long.

Rick and I count through each of my contractions together, him with a stop watch and me banging stress balls together.

Now and again, he attempts to count in Cantonese but after missing a couple of numbers during one of the contractions, I demand (loudly) that he stop doing so. “Just do it it English!” I yell as the contraction finally subsides.

In between contractions, I stare at the stress balls in my hands. I can still see the nail marks from a year ago when I was labouring through Cameron’s birth.

The contractions grow stronger and longer and the breaks between each one grow increasingly shorter. I can feel myself losing control, but Rick is my rock – over and over again, he tells me that I can do it and that we’ll get to meet Angus soon.

Ready Steady Cook comes on television at 3.00pm. I start sucking on a lemon icy pole to keep myself hydrated. Rick has one as well.

All of a sudden, the contractions begin to blur into each other. I am loud with moans and groans, and I have almost given up counting as I can’t tell when one contractions ends and the next begins.

Panting, I ask Rick to make the bath, as I have a desperate urge to immerse myself in warm water.

Our midwife runs the bath, and Rick helps me over to it. The contractions are thick and fast, and it is all I can do to swing my legs over the tub and lie down in the water.

The warmth brings immediate comfort, but not for long.

Before I know it, I have an incredible urge to bear down.

Panicking, I look at Rick. “I need to use the toilet!”

Within a split second, it seems, the midwife is by our side.

“Get her back onto the bed – it’s time to push!”

I’m completely confused. I’m convinced I need to use the toilet, but the midwife thinks otherwise.

Around me, everything becomes a blur. The one thing I focus on is Rick’s face. He tells me to push, and I push. He tells me to pant, and I pant. He tells me to breathe, and I breathe. He keeps his face close to mine, and I do exactly as he says.

With less than five pushes, Angus’ head is out. With another push, his entire body is out.

Relief overwhelms me. I look over at Rick, and his eyes are moist with tears.

The midwives look like they are holding back tears as well.

Professor Morris arrives just in time for the last stage of labour.

Over at the cafeteria, our parents receive news of Angus’ safe arrival, and my mum breaks into tears.

Rick places Angus in my arms. I gather his little body as close to me as possible. He is all warm and slippery.

He opens one eye and looks at me. I offer him a finger and he takes hold of it.

My son.

Cameron’s hair was black. Angus’ hair is lighter.

Angus Peter Mason.

Born 3.55pm at 37 weeks with ten little fingers and ten little toes.

Our second son. Our treasure.

Thank you, God.

  • Kathy said:

    Beautiful Ronnie....I remember when James (my first) was placed on me (I had a c-section) he was so close to my face I was trying to focus on him and he had one eye open as well....it made me giggle as I could relate to that bit. All the pushing and panting I can't relate to and to be honest....do not feel the slightest bit of envy. For you at 37 weeks and your second son, it would have been a huge weight of everyone's shoulders to deliver a beautiful healthy baby boy by all those around you. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      That one-eye open thing is the cutest, isn't it!?
      Ronnie xo

  • Lucy said:

    Despite working out at the beginning of the post that this was Angus' birth story, I held my breath the entire post. My sister-in-law and husband's best friend both lost their firstborns to stillbirth and I've never wanted a baby to be born healthy more than when they birthed their second children. This was a beautiful post, I'm always amazed at how your writing encompasses every detail without ever losing its emotional resonance.

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      Thank you Lucy, your words mean a lot. I'm so sorry for your family and friend's losses...
      Ronnie xo

  • Rick said:

    Hey darling, thanks for writing about this :)
    The paragraph about my forgetting the bag doesn't quite do justice to how grumpy you were!
    All forgiven now I take it?

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      I'm glad you remember how grumpy I was!!! Love you. xo

  • Tori said:

    Your beautiful storytelling, Ronnie, always makes the breath catch in my throat, and tears appear in my eyes.

    I have followed your journey, your stories, for so long, but I'm not sure I've ever told you how much they have touched my life. How your words give me hope, offer strength, make me grateful.

    Here's to you and your boys, Ronnie. Thank you for sharing, always.

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      Thank you, Tori, I'm so touched by your words. I had no idea you'd been reading along.
      Thank you so much for being here.
      Ronnie xo

  • Kate said:

    I held my breath reading this...

    Beautiful.

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      Thank you Kate, it's so wonderful to have you here.
      Ronnie xo

  • Oh Ronnie... a wonderful wonderful story - so simply and truly put. I don't think my eyes blinked while I read this!

    p.s. I know Little Queen Street well (and have visited many a college student family over the years) xx

    • Rhonda Mason said:

      What a small world, EmilyClare!
      Those two years living on Little Queen Street were very special...
      Ronnie xo

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