Then suddenly I feel it, that uncontrollable urge to push Ive heard so much about, and Marg is telling me to reach down and feel for my baby. Hes just inside me, the hardness of his little skull now only a finger length away. I shift to a squatting position. More pushing, more moaning. This is by far the most incredible thing Ive ever experienced. Is Daniel coming soon, I hear Gabe ask as he peers over the side of the pool. About another two or three pushes, Marg tells him before warning me Ill soon feel a burning or stinging sensation. For a moment Im aware only of something rock-hard pressing down inside me, then Im pushing again, as hard and for as long as I can. I hear myself scream and wonder for a moment if Ill be torn in half and whether its really possible for Daniel to be born without major lasting damage to my vagina. Then I hear Marg tell Gabe to come and look at Daniels head. On the next push, ease your baby out, she tells me. I think she must be mad??all I want to do is push like hell and cant imagine that easing is an option. But my body knows what to do and I find, to my utter amazement, that I can control the urge. I feel a small tear and hear Mo, who has just arrived, telling Gabe that the shoulders will come next. Then Marg is asking me to sit back on my haunches, bring Daniel up between my legs and hold him to me. For a second Im disoriented, but then I reach down and pull this tiny slippery form onto my chest. And there is my Daniel. Hes chubby-cheeked and pink and coated in vernix. He is absolutely perfect. It is 6.50 pm. Still connecting Daniel to my placenta, the umbilical cord floats in front of us continuing to pulsate. Daniel, I am saying softly, come on Daniel, Mummys here. Paul too is calling Daniels name and tugging gently on his tiny foot. He is very pink now, his heartbeat strong, but when after some time he still has not breathed on his own, Marg uses the bag and mask to resuscitate him. After a few anxious moments there is a grimace. Then a gasp and a sputter. Finally his two little hands fly into the air and Daniel takes his first breath. I pull him closer and stroke his face as he lets out a soft cat-like cry. Not compatible with life, they told us. But our little boy is here. And he is very much alive.?
Minutes after breathing his first, Daniel is wrapped and cradled in his big brothers arms while I await the contractions that will expel my placenta. Perched cross-legged in a bundle of cushions and blankets beside the pool, Gabe gazes down at the squirming bundle on his lap and, rocking him gently, sings Morning Town Ride. I know already that the image of their first moments together will remain with me forever. When I too am settled in the little nest Marg has prepared for us, I remove Daniels swaddling and lay him against my bare breast. I touch his face, kiss his head, inhale his newborn smell. Gabe is now snuggled on the pillow beside me, still staring at his brother, while crouched on my other side Paul studies his new sons face, occasionally bending to kiss his cheek or stroke his skin. In these first moments it is so easy to believe that the amniocentesis returned a false positive and that Daniel is a completely healthy baby. Only when I kiss the top of his head for the third or fourth time do I notice the gap in his skull. The size of a fifty-cent piece, it is covered by a thick membrane and is clean and dry. Aplasia, I will later recall??another common symptom of trisomy 13. Examining Daniel more closely we discover a previously undetected cleft palate but no other outward signs of his condition. Even the expected extra digit turns out to be just a tiny bubble of skin adjoining his left pinky. When I am ready to relinquish my hold for a while, Daniel is weighed and measured. The scales are just inches from where I lay, but the moment I let go of him I want him back. My longing for him is acute. When Mo returns him to me he is dressed and snuggly wrapped in a pale blue bunny rug, his head now covered in a little yellow beanie Paul has dug from a box of Gabes old baby clothes. It is one my mum knitted and is way too big but perfect for covering the aplasia without rubbing or snagging. When Marg finally leaves us it is sometime after ten. The temperature has dropped to fourteen degrees??practically sub-arctic for us northerners??and Gabe is tucked up in our bed in his warmest PJs. Paul and I snuggle together on the lounge and prepare for our first night with Daniel. My decision to remain awake is not a conscious one, though perhaps on some level I am scared to waste a single moment. Or maybe I am just too elated to sleep. Paul dozes on and off, waking for the frequent nappy changes and to hold Daniel while I express milk into the small syringe for his feeds. Then sometime after midnight Daniel opens his eyes and looks directly into mine. How to describe what I see in the newborn eyes of this child we were never supposed to meet How to explain that for a few precious moments, undoubtedly the most profound and intimate of my life, the roles of my son and I are reversed, and that I am not the parent, but the child In Daniels eyes there is knowledge, wisdom and acceptance beyond anything I have ever known. More than that, there is reassurance. Lowering my lips to his ear and speaking so softly that even Paul cannot hear, I reciprocate in the only way I can. I tell my son that I am here, that he will never be alone and that if he has to go he will be in my arms when he does. I kiss his mouth and brush my tears from his cheek. Then Daniel turns his head to look at his dad.