26 May, 2017


Francis was born in the early hours of the morning, making his way quickly. His birth was the most gruelling thing I have accomplished. Lasting 90 minutes, it was the fastest and hardest of all my labours, but the gentlest of all my births.


At 3am I wake to a strong contraction. I’m climbing the stairs to keep things moving. Wash dishes, transfer laundry, eat dates. Surely these things were meant to be on my birth plan. 

Half-hour later, I wake Peter in excited whispers, "It's baby day.” He shakes himself from a light sleep. Two hours. It’s all he’s been down; surely that’s enough rest to deliver a baby? 

Did I make a mistake? Was I wrong? I have no pain. He should sleep. I ask if I can make him coffee and he responds with a look that says, Are you crazy?! Is this even labour?!

4:30am. Downstairs together making that pot of coffee. My sister comes out of her room, unable to sleep but unsure of what woke her and my husband’s still trying to shake himself awake. There’s laughter in the dim kitchen, the smell of hot coffee hangs in the air, and water pours down my legs. 

As my waters break, immediately the game turns 180ยบ:  laughter turns to groaning; the pressure, once briefly subsided now makes itself known with a vengeance. Contractions drop me to the floor, coming every few seconds. I tell Peter he should “probably phone the midwife” because if I was ever unsure I’m not anymore, and my sister is surprised we’ve waited this long.

He is told all the midwives are tied up with another mother, the hospital is dealing with an emergency, and we need to carry on alone. I feel calm. I’ve done this before; my body knows what to do. This is completely natural, and I believe that. I tell him, "They are needed there. This is not an emergency.”


I can still move between pains; we should move upstairs. I hiss at Peter a breathy, Hellp mee, and catch stifled laughter between my sister and husband. I’ve watched dozens of homebirth videos to prepare my children and feed my excitement and each time I mock what we dubbed “the screamers” but today I’m one of them. This is not a silent labour. Three contractions cripple me, one after another, in the space of our twelve tiny stairs. I’m on the bed, Peter’s on the phone with the midwife again; I feel the urge to push. Call the paramedics, they say, if she begins pushing

I feel I may break. There is no space to breathe, no relief, and the pressure is at its peak. Contractions are strong and continuous. I curse Peter for not doing exactly what my mind was hoping him to be doing. I try to cry but my strength fails. 

My human self says it is impossible. And so I surrender self, because there is nothing else to continue the process. And here, I meet Christ crucified: aching, fragile, utterly undone. I lock eyes with my sister for confirmation that this baby is coming, and fast. She nods to Peter and he makes an excited call to 999.


The paramedic asks Peter to explain what he sees. They tell jokes, talk about children. The room is calm. Peace permeates. Here I whisper praise, because there’s no fear. There’s no pressure on the other end of the line. There’s no darkness or uncertainty or doubt. Every person involved in this story is a gift.

My two bests on either side, both carrying me through. There’s the surrender, then I feel an entire-body shift, the pain vanishes, the pressure disappears, and there’s a complete, supernatural relief. The pain is gone


5:30am. My body pushes strong and and I’m near laughter because peace reigns and doubt is slain. I throw my head back and smile as I push. This baby is going to be born unassisted. And I feel amazing; I'm so happy right now! 

In three pushes there is a head, a life between two lives. The body follows quickly, with ease. In four pushes I deliver my fourth child. I deliver him through smiles. I deliver him on my own bed. I deliver him to the cheers of my husband and sister. I deliver him into his Papa's eagerly awaiting arms.

He’s lifted to my chest. A boy! Our son. And there are tears because there are no words.

Pain is cast to oblivion and we’re overcome by love and an awe that extends to all— my husband, my sister, this tiny naked babe on my chest, and the paramedic on the other line.

New life springs from pain. There’s no greater love.

I hold my husband’s face and cry, "Peter! You just delivered our baby!" The paramedic cheers on the other line. The awe extends to all.

Then our baby cries. And there's nothing in the world like it, because love made that boy and life was breathed into those new lungs.  


Peter and I sit together to stare at his face. Who does he look like? What does he look like? Because neither of our planned names seem to fit. We rub his pointy chin and wonder where it came from and smell his baby scent a dozen times and unwrap him to study his tiny body. What do we call him?!

Then Peter says it: Francis. He’s suggested it for all of our other babies and I rule it out without pausing, like I did with all the others. But then I repeat it and glance from the baby in my arms to my husband beside, and it does just fit. Francis, free man. Peregrine, traveller. There are a lot of smiles because after a birth like that, it more than fits.

7:30am. The sound of little footsteps outside the door and I hear Peter, I have something to show you. Do you want to see? Our twins whisper to one another, I bet Mama had the baby.
They trail in cautiously. Philippa, no longer our littlest but her Papa’s arms are strong enough to carry her still, presses her sleepy bedhead into Peter’s shoulder. Sebastian asks, Is it a boy?? Katharina’s eyes fill with tears.

They’re confident, but they’re not fully prepared. Sebastian repeats, Is it a boy? Katharina's cries and her whole body shakes. She’s five years old and cries from happiness and I’ve never seen that before but it perfectly represents her character and I’ll never forget that moment. 

There are more whispers of, What is it?! And so we let Sebastian look because there were prayers for a brother from the very beginning. Tears fill my eyes because here, this moment, its everything. There’s wonder the first time and the fourth: how can love make something so beautiful? How can we suddenly not remember before? 

Francis Peregrine - 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 18 inches long - 5:31am, 26th February, 2017