Written by Silvia Pellegrino,
Illustrated by Simona De Leo
Home birth chronicles
I am sitting under a maritime pine that has torn the road surface with its mighty roots. They would like to cut down all these maritime pines, but I wouldn’t. For I drip sweat from the first to the last step of the day, so I bless these beloved trees that shelter me from the scorching sun.
I would embrace them one by one, if only I could close my arms around them.
In fact, with this pregnancy I believe I have reached Pluto’s circumference and specific weight. I have swollen, weighted legs, sparkling varicose veins, a giant belly, balloon-shaped boobs, and I’m sure my feet are bad too, but I can’t see them.
Also, I have devastating mood swings: I cry in front of the 8 a.m. local news about a cow fleeing to Wales, and a moment later I can’t stand any living thing. Let’s take yesterday, for example. While I was there sombrely boiling some very sad courgettes, among the steam of the pots, the atrocious heat and the continuous banging of the fucking ‘Call of the Angels’ pendant, I tore off the necklace with the brutality of Undertaker and threw it down the corridor. A great present for my cat Misery, who had been looking at it for some time.
You are my second child — not really ‘planned’, to be honest.
Your conception was imbued with urgent passion, at least at the beginning. Then after about nine minutes Andrea, your dad, achieved orgasm while I was in doggy style.
‘Sorry love, I couldn’t resist.’
‘It’s fine, but get off now and please don’t throw the condom on the floor so I promptly step on it with my bare feet — I shudder at the very thought!’
‘But . . . I didn’t put a condom on. I thought you were taking the pill again.’
‘Excuse me? How come you weren’t wearing a condom? You’re such an asshole! And what made you think that I’d started taking the pill again??’
‘The box on the fridge.’
‘That, you big imbecile, is red-vine-leaf extract in soft capsules.’
‘Oh . . .’
‘Ah . . .’
‘And now we’ll see what happens, but taking into account that fertilising me is the best and quickest thing you’ve managed to do so far I really think that you’ll have to do those extra shifts at the conservatory.’
‘Sweet Mother of God . . .’
‘Oh yes, she too got pregnant thanks to a small misjudgement.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Nothing, I’m going to wash myself'.’
Yes, pumpkin, that’s exactly how it happened, but when you have the ability to understand I’ll tell you a lie and romanticise the whole doggy-style story. I’ll turn it into the sweetest love gesture in history. Forgive me, but also try to understand.
There are exactly two weeks left until your arrival, and when I think about all the things that have happened during this pregnancy I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or eat a slice of casatiello.
In the afternoon of your conception day, while I was at the park for my hour of fresh air, I was thinking about my grandmother Cara. About her life completely dedicated to others — sacrificed, if you will; and about her big, rough hands, always ready to lavish gestures of kindness. In that moment of pure nostalgia I was moved, and while I was crying another kind hand offered me a tissue. I started talking to that stranger, and — call it chance, luck, or synchronicity — the fact is that she was a midwife. The good-eyed midwife called Luna.
Luna is a tiny little woman, very badass, passionate about her profession and, long story short, I decided to let her take care of me, of us, and to give birth at home. Yes, go on, go on, call me crazy, you too, like so many have done. It pisses me off so much!
You’ll have to excuse me, Mum has no intention of being passive-aggressive but really, every time I say ‘Yes, I’m going to give birth at home’ it sounds like ‘Ah yes, I’m going to give birth in a brothel and sell the baby to the highest bidder’.
Now, it’s not that I want to be a doctor, also because if it hadn’t been for Luna I would still have been mired in scepticism, but we have everything planned. Even your father seems to be getting involved. After all, it’s like experiencing a well-organised journey from the start. There is a stage for everything: nutrition, pelvic floor, labour, childbirth, donation of the umbilical-cord blood, lotus birth*, bath, contractions, etc. etc. Of course, there was no lack of embarrassing moments, such as a very nice muff puff during the perineum-exercise session. By the way, vaginal farts will have to be normalised sooner or later!
I’m also remembering when I gave birth to your brother Tommaso, and to be honest it left me with a mixture of emotions that was difficult to decipher. When I arrived at the hospital, I was completely unaware of what was going to happen. I remember the shaving of the pubis, the nauseating smell of the disinfectant, those strange crooked scissors, the pressure on my belly, the excruciating pain and then the calm. I felt that little body on me, its skin soft and velvety like the skin of a peach against mine, his breath. Over the following days, with the other mums, we each shared our experiences, and it was very intense.
What did you say? If I’m afraid, you ask me? Of course I am. I’m afraid for you but you don’t have to worry. If something goes wrong, there’ll be an ambulance outside and the closest hospital is just fifteen minutes away from here. Your father may pass out but we’ll take the piss out of him and promptly record everything on camera.
Also, Luna and her colleague Ilaria will be there with us, we’re gonna be just fine.
This morning I woke up strangely perky and in a good mood. It could be the daisies born between the cracks in the pavement, the light refreshing breeze, the salary, the phone call from aunty Nora from Japan, or maybe . . . Yes, that’s what it is: the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is on tonight! One day I’ll show you your dad made up like Bianca Del Rio . . . a real cutie pie!
The problem is that all this excitement got out of hand and I indulged in some obsessive-compulsive shopping, but I swear I only bought useful things. Including the potato-peeler in the shape of a little man doing push-ups: a precious, finely designed object. So, are you ready to watch and judge with your mama??
We have just settled on the sofa, dad is over there cooking, the projector is already on and we’re off . . . and no, no, we’re not going anywhere . . .
‘Andrea, I just had a contraction.’
Andrea, who on the journey of exactly ten steps between the kitchen and the sofa dropped two pots and the coat hanger, has begun to inflate the pool to fill it with water. I sit back while RuPaul’s queens get ready for their show.
‘Breathe, Rosaria, breathe’, I keep repeating to myself.
Meanwhile the contractions increase and I don’t know why but I asked Andrea to put on Simone’s Liza Jane. I need music.
Luna told me to call her as soon as the contractions get intense and regular. I wait placidly, eating grapes and commenting on the makeup and style of the queens on the catwalk.
After a couple of hours the contractions come on a regular basis, I alert Andrea who promptly calls Luna, who is coming with Ilaria, probably on the back of a winged horse.
With her magical power she has already managed to transport me to a different astral plane where fear does not exist and finest-quality chocolate flows from the public fountains. They are massaging me and recommending the best positions to feel less pain. I try to do my best but still, let’s not forget I’m in the middle of a birth. Only this time, inside me, I have a very distinct feeling: I feel at home, we are at home. And this room, where you will soon be coming into the world, will be yours and you can furnish it as you like. You will be the one to free me from the frustration of having lived all my childhood and adolescence in a room full of porcelain dolls. What horror, my son, what restlessness . . . Oh my god, what pain!
Luna wets my forehead with a cloth, Ilaria continues to massage me and dad, dad is as white as the wall. Scented candles have been lit in the room, which have created a lucid-dream atmosphere. Misery the chubby cat watches me from the windowsill. And Tommaso, with his golden and sticky fingers, braids my hair to make me feel more comfortable.
They are all around me, we breathe together, at the same pace. Their hands caress me like Grandma Cara’s. It seems that with every breath a part of the pain leaves my body and moves into theirs. We are one. We are at home. I observe Andrea for a second. His bright eyes and his dreamy expression. I think I just fell in love with him for the third time.
When my waters break, my two guardian angels indulge my every movement or request, telling me I should be in doggy style to facilitate the process and feel less pain.
And here I am again in doggy style, just like the day when fate, your father’s carelessness and my sex appeal came together to make you a part of our lives.
The doorbell rings.
It’s my mum, your future grandmother, she has arrived. Her hawk eyes have immediately spotted the pile of dirty dishes soaking in the sink. Her cryogenized gaze is one of pure disappointment. Icy, like that of the legendary Annie Wilkes and her penguin in the movie Misery. Hence the name of my immortal cat.
The chorus of synchronised, deep breaths warms the atmosphere even more, as enchanting as a hymn to life. I breathe and push, push and breathe. Surrounded by gentle hands, delicate perfumes and all that is dearest to me. Are we or are we not the most successful and theatrical welcoming committee in history? Dad is playing the guitar there, can you hear it?
And here it is — the first wailing, to the notes of Rhythm in the Night by Theo Bard.
As I hold you in my arms, I realise that you are the thing I most wanted in the world, even without knowing it. Still united by the cord, tired and happy, I lift you up to the sky, as Rafiki does with Simba, and looking gently into your eyes I whisper: Shantay, You Stay.