Birth & Beyond

Anais Gschwind
6 min readNov 26, 2023

The Thursday I was finally admitted to hospital was the opening day of the new restaurant Cal works at. Cal and I just kept saying, timing hey, even though we always knew it would go that way. That was just the way things had been going.

By Sunday it was time for the baby to arrive. Cal came to hospital early in the morning and crawled into the tiny bed with me.

We were both strung out — a combination of stress and despair — the culmination of many months of worry that had been dialed up into one final frenzy.

People were saying, are you excited, are you excited and I would smile wryly, trying to convince people I wasn’t a sociopath, yes I’m excited (but tired, so tired, worried, so worried).

During those final days I mourned the pregnancy I thought I would have. I felt overwhelmed by the lack of time I had to process and confronted and uncooperative when others offered help.

I felt hard done by that my so-called maternity leave consisted of more hospital visits and no leisurely alone activities like going to the movies or sitting at the art gallery like the instagram women who were possessed with spitting idyllic pregnancy advice and inane tips for packing a hospital bag.

When the moment came for me to pack a bag, I came home got in the bath and blanked out. I wandered around the house popping things into a vessel and then sat on the couch waiting for Cal to come back from work to deliver me back to hospital.

A planned caesarean section takes 40 minutes from start to finish. There are maybe 14 people in the room. 14 people to deliver one tiny baby. 14 people and yet you are also entirely alone, surrounded by people.

As I sat on the table in the operating room, one of the 14 asked me what I wanted to listen to. I had spent my pregnancy joking that I wouldn’t be having a birth where we’d be lighting candles and listening to Enya in the delivery room so I was somewhat tickled at this invitation.

It was a tiny gesture of contribution and a comforting (yet false) sense of control that I had been largely denied.

I chose Tycho. I have fond memories of long nights of writing university papers at the last minute with Tycho streaming through headphones. There were also airplane trips sodden with sadness after saying goodbye. My nervous system responds immediately to these totally unremarkable ambient tunes and I felt bemused and safe as they trickled through the sterile room, like one connective vein from the past to the present moment.

The epidural was pumped into my back and the world went soft around the edges. I was splayed out in a crucifixion pose and felt like a 20 year old coming up in a fortitude valley nightclub on Saturday night — somebody hold my hand and tell me that you love me. Cal fortunately obliged.

I kept catching the reflection of my open stomach in the stainless steel on the ceiling. Seven different layers, they say. The anesthetist kept telling me not to look. I couldn’t feel anything but had this sensation of general activity in my insides.

When they held the baby up over the partition I could not believe my eyes. He was here. It was 10.51 am and Luca had arrived.

Once the pain meds wear off things aren’t so soft. They’re fuzzy yes, but pain seeps through. It’s sharp. I kept asking the midwives does everyone feel like this? Yes they said, it’s major surgery. I kept wondering why no one had told me it would hurt this much.

On the post-natal ward there are people pushing the door to the room open all the time. They bring drugs, food, information, they tell you stories of their boyfriend in Africa who is a tour guide or the renovations in their house or how their husband is a winemaker. It is 2 am, 6 am, anytime and there are people opening the door, sorry love, they say.

Do you need something stronger? Yes, yes, I am trying not to need something stronger but I do. I am bleeding and sore and Luca is downstairs on a different floor but I can’t get up so if I want to visit him they have to take me down on the hospital bed and I bump into the wall and want to cry. Not just because of the bumping but because of everything.

Can someone show me how to breastfeed? It hurts. My belly is sore. I’m bleeding still. I tried to shower, that hurts too. It’s a long way down to the toilet. I can’t get up. I can’t walk. I am crying all the time.

It always hurts they say. It’s meant to hurt.

I stayed three days in the hospital before he was born. Just waiting. I had already waited so long that it seemed fitting to end the wait with more waiting. After the birth we stayed three more.

We went home for one night and the next day the midwives came and they said the baby has jaundice and he has to come back. Cal and I slept at home one night and the next night I slept on a fold out couch on the neonatal ward so I could breastfeed Luca when he had a break from the disco lights.

There was another baby in the ward and his name was Luca too. I thought Luca was an unusual name, she said. The midwives called our Luca, Luca one and her Luca, Luca two.

In the daytime Cal would wheel me around the hospital and we looked at artwork we couldn’t afford and drank coffees and were just deliriously relieved that Luca was on the outside now and not the inside.

Luca has been outside for three weeks now. He was due to be born in two days time. So technically we’ve had three weeks and two days extra of Luca. And yet we have barely even begun.

We haven’t done much. Sometimes we take a walk. Usually we sit on the couch. We’ve been watching Rake and yesterday we started Sex and the City.

I wonder about my identity, who I will be, what will happen next. I wonder about all the other mums that have come before me. At some point I’ll cry — sometimes about something important, sometimes the steady weight of world, sometimes nothing.

Loving Luca seems to take up most of the day.

We have been wrapped up in the the warmest embrace of loved ones both near and far, new mates and forever friends, who have showered us with strength and affection. There are flowers and blankets and parcels and cards, late-night texts and love heart emojis pouring out of every corner of life.

I am still in awe we made it. In awe that baby Luca was also waiting all this time, just like me. For now, he is finally safe.

Lucky us. Lucky Luca. ❤

--

--