Snow Baby

‘At your age, a home birth it’s not advisable,’ he said, shaking his head.

Prepared for resistance, I said, ‘I’m only 31. And back in Holland it’s normal for women to birth at home unless the pregnancy is problematic. Mine isn’t.’

Too polite to frown, he contemplated his next move.

My fitness, as I saw it, came from daily climbing three stories of straight and narrow stairs to where we had lived for months, in the house of friends, overlooking Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. And all throughout that hot summer before moving to England I’d been addicted to Sauerkrautsaft – cabbage juice – a divinely refreshing, healthy drink. My arguments were sound. And my Dutch husband, sitting next to me, nodded sagely.

Flicking through my brief medical notes, the doctor tried a different tack. ‘In two months it could be snowing in the Quantock Hills.’

‘What’s wrong with a little snow?’ I said. ‘And isn’t Somerset known for mild winters?’

The dear man sighed and then played another card. ‘Our midwife’s retiring. I can’t promise she’ll be replaced in time.’

My attitude towards hospitals was based on an early experience wrapped in fear and anger, which is why I vowed not to become stubbornly antagonistic to any emerging process, and to surrender if necessary. That moment had not yet come. As we walked into the hall of the surgery a portly woman emerged from another room, beaming. She seemed to know of our plans. Sister Ann proved my match in determination. Home births had been discouraged for years. My baby offered her a crowning exit before her retirement. She was going to be there. She was our trump.

Extraordinarily, on Epiphany Day, rain turned to snow, and the steep lanes to our hamlet were lined with sheets of ice. Ann was escorted uphill in a police Land Rover. The driver mistakenly knocked at the door of a neighbouring cottage. Poignantly, it was the home of a couple whose wish for children had been repeatedly frustrated. They, together with another couple, equally childless, looked forward to the birth of a baby in their midst as a miracle, showering us with blessings.

During long hours, Ann regaled me with humorous stories of the donkey sanctuary she supported. To appease my impatience, she said, ‘Let the child choose its time. If it takes beyond two days we beam in a helicopter.’ She gently guided my breathing, made me relax in a bubble bath, calmed my husband, who struggled with our erratic heating system, and between my shortening, agonising spasms, we gazed together at the swathes of snowflakes whirling across the field opposite. Late afternoon the sun came out.

Our son spiralled into the light and instantly opened his eyes, gifting us his world, and beholding mine, and his father’s, whom Ann had encouraged to support my back.

‘He’s been around before,’ she said. ‘He’s perfect.’ To this day, irrespective of her advanced age, this wonderful midwife is sending birthday cards to her “Snow Baby.”

-by Ashen Venma

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