I felt overcrowded, but intimately connected to Anna. Simultaneously, I was alone, as if everything was only happening in my mind. Finally, a head appeared, but lifeless – tiny, limp, a bloody head facing down. With a sharp stab of despair, I remembered it wasn’t just Anna tackling something momentous and suffering physical trauma. There was this new human being – unknown, unknowing, fragile, my own flesh and blood – doing the same. A sudden cry burst the seemingly eternal silence of the stuffy room, which in hindsight had not been silent at all, and with that cry I was transported from the point of losing consciousness under the weight of fear and hopelessness to the greatest relief I have ever felt. Relief immediately gave birth to joy. “It’s a penis!” Came the very next thought, “… and a disproportionately large scrotum.”
This tiny, new human, covered in blood and vernix, was gently placed on his mother’s chest, his miniature eyes looking at her face for the first time. They stared at each other for a long time, as if some secret that had always existed for them both had finally been revealed. And with that, little Santiago entered the world – and the world, suddenly no larger than that room and that moment, immediately shrank in his honour.
Forty weeks earlier, to the day, Santiago had his first birth. His initial appearance came in two faint pink lines on a pregnancy test, intangible, unreal. I didn’t really believe those two lines until we went for a scan a few weeks later and somehow a couple of microscopic cells had already formed a beating heart. On seeing and hearing that tiny heart beat, a new kind of love and fondness began to grow within me, in symbiosis with the little creature developing inside Anna.
Without thinking, I began being protective, worrying about car accidents, fumes, dodgy food and Anna tripping over. Forever a pessimist when something good looks like happening – perhaps for reasons of perceived protection from disappointment or loss – I couldn’t quite allow myself to take it for granted we were going to have a child, let alone a healthy one. But as the weeks went by, everything seemed to be going as it should.
The 20 week scan revealed a clearly human-shaped growth inside Anna’s belly: arms, legs, feet, hands, nose, ears, eyes and mouth – facial characteristics imaginable. We had decided not to find out whether it was Sofia or Santiago. Anna had begun to feel movement and kicks, and some weeks later so did I. Gradually it was becoming more real, but for me at least, still far from being part of my reality.
It was difficult for Anna, as it is for all mothers, to have her body change so quickly and dramatically, but the increasing limitations seemed to be easily offset by the constant amazement that her body could actually create, cultivate and nurture a new being. During the second trimester it was as if the baby was giving Anna life rather than the other way around – she was glowing with an almost superhuman health. As Anna’s belly became larger and more round she received evermore frequent reminders she was carrying another life, as it moved around its ever more cramped aquatic home.
It is however, the birth that we assign the beginning of age – the second birth – that truly changes the world…
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