I don't think I have ever written the story of Joseph's birth fully, I've done the abbreviated version but not the whole story, so what better day than his 18th birthday. I had been over my due date with both of my first babies, 3 days with Jackson, almost 10 days with Paddy so the idea of having a baby arrive spot on it's due date was something I didn't even consider happening but for days before I had mild braxton hicks contractions and really felt my body was preparing, another thing I had not experienced with the others. We were living a block away from the beach at the time so one of my big sisters who lived nearby and Brendan both spent time walking on the beach with me. The end of a cool April in a coastal town isn't always high beach traffic time and the last thing I wanted was to be stranded in labour alone on a beach in the days before mobile phones. ANZAC day 1996 we went to bed a little later than usual, I felt restless, I guess that in itself should have been a warning.
I'll go back a few days earlier though, on the Saturday, mum had the kids for me while we went to the footy in Warrnambool to watch Brendan play, a rare luxury to have a few hours without having to chase toddlers with a large tummy. I think it was around the 3rd quarter when Brendan landed from a mark, and didn't get back up again, I could see agony on his face and he struggled to get up and couldn't stand, a knee, his whole knee cap had popped off. The rest of Saturday afternoon was spent waiting at the hospital for a very busy orthopaedic surgeon to see him. When he finally got to see him he was much more concerned that I had been left standing all that time waiting than he was about Brendan's knee, I guess joints damaged in football were a common occurrence whereas a heavily pregnant woman may have been a bit of a novelty in his profession. After fussing around making sure the nurses found me a chair and that I was comfy he finally tended to Brendan. Pregnancy had never been an excuse for me to get any special treatment so I was quite amused by the attention I was getting,lol.
After an examination and X-rays he decided he would need to be operated on and set the date for the following Wednesday. Now Brendan, the fast driving stock agent had had his third strike with speeding fines and had his licence cancelled for 6 weeks only days before so here I was, very pregnant, a husband with no licence for the next six weeks and now we had an operation to add to the mix.
Now is the time I will recount what was meant to happen. Several days earlier I had dropped my fully packed bag at my mum's place with the intention of dropping the two youngest off to her, picking it up and heading calmly to hospital to build up to a normal steady labour. With Brendan not driving I even thought I could probably drive us both the few blocks to mums before walking to the hospital, I had gone to the bank in the early stages of labour with my first so thought nothing of a quick 3 minute drive.
So back to that night, or early the next morning I was woken up by a really large, strong contraction, the type you generally get close to the birth of a child, not the sort you usually start with. I woke Brendan up thinking I would give him time to wake up properly before to get things ready to go to hospital, not really sure how he was going to get me there, he was in ankle to thigh plaster (how much difference the arthroscopes of today make) and this was not the gentle start to labour that I had expected. I made it to the bathroom thinking like the other boys I would have a nice warm shower before heading to hospital but soon realised this baby had other ideas as another strong knee buckling contraction hit.
Bren had rung my older sister Rhonda when i first woke him with the idea of waking her up to make her way over when she was ready to watch the two youngest boys instead of taking them to mums, she only lived a block away. Another whopper contraction later and I knew this was no regular labour, this was hard and as the pressure increased I realised it was going to be fast as well. Things were happening rapidly so my memory of the next few minutes was vague, after around the fourth or fifth contraction I was feeling the urge to push, Brendan was trying to hobble down the hall way to get the car ready and I was in intense pain against the wall, I recall him grabbing a fistful of my dressing gown, as much to support himself as to pull me down the hallway towards the door to try and get me out to the car but this baby was coming and it was coming now. Within seconds my older sister walked in the door (major relief) as i did a race back to the bedroom, pulled off my dressing gown and threw it on the bed, kind of did an awkward dive and commenced to give birth.
Brendan sat behind me so I could lean on him and my sister in her calm unflustered way delivered my baby boy. I will never forget the moment she held him in her arms and serenely looked down at him and said "hello Joseph" she looked up at me and said "it is Joseph isn't it?" We had never found out the sex of this baby so named were bandies around quite a bit, several girls names, not many boys though, we were starting to run out of idea for male names, but Joseph was the main name we were talking about if we had a boy, so right there and then he was her Joseph, even if we had decided on another name there was no way I would have ever ruined that perfect moment.
Once we had all calmed a little and while Joseph was tucking him for his first feed Brendan rang the doctor, she arrived with an ambulance right behind her. After doing a quick check and announcing us both fit and healthy Joseph was taken in her car to the hospital and I was bundled up in the ambulance and driven there also. It took around 4 layers of heated blankets to stop me shivering, I think my body had gone into shock after such a quick birth. The rest is all a blur, as I mentioned before I had left my hospital bag at mums so I didn't have anything with me, not even my camera so I didn't get to get any new born photos, not until the next day, no visual reminder of the event. Brendan and Rhonda did the clean up, as much as he could do anyway, and I still remember her having a great chuckle telling me that as she walked back into our room she found the cat up on the bed having a wonderful feed. He was awfully fat and shiny by the time I got home several days later.
I often think of how that moment must have been for Rhonda, to walk in the door expecting just to quietly sit with her nephews while we were at the hospital but instead was faced with a chaotic scene of a brother in law hobbling around still a little zoned out on the pain killers the doctor had given him and a sister about to give birth. I could not imagine there would be anyone who would have handled the situation with as much poise as she did, she never once seemed upset or flustered. She and Joseph shared a great bond for many years to come, she became his Godmother and even threw his first birthday party while we were at a wedding so this story is a much hers as it is his. Sadly we lost my beautiful sister to cancer a few years after we had moved to SA so she never got to see her Godson grow up but I'm sure she is up there keeping an eye on him.