I am still shaking. It's intensified now and is very obvious beneath the blankets they've thrown over us. I can't lift the Possum, I am shaking too much. I try to talk to Bingley and my voice trembles a lot. I'm not shivery, but I am cold. Shock, they would have called it once upon a time.
Bingley fetches me the chocolate that he bought this afternoon specifically because of this. I suck on it because chewing is too hard. The new nurse fetches me a cup of tea, tries to forcefeed me sweet biscuits. After about half an hour of chocolate and sweet milky tea I am shaking less. But the high need for sugar will persist for days.
I stand in the shower at about 11pm, watching Bingley cradle his son. Elated and tearful at the same time. It is such a beautiful sight watching the man I love meet the child he helped me create. It is one of my most important memories, the expression on his face as he begins to know them. He always looks older after birth. I know it has been hard for him too, the helplessness of watching someone you love in pain. The combination of pride, worry, fear, pain, love all entwined majestically in his expression. But there is something new this time too, a maturity and less tentativeness. No awkward arms for this confident Dad who's held a newborn head many times now.
My body feels so deflated in the shower, all soft and shapeless, a blob where that shining beautiful belly had been a few hours earlier. As I lap up the unlimited hot water I'm a little embarrassed by how sad it makes me. But I still wish I had my beautiful belly. This silent one feels very inept.
I get dressed in my new pyjamas and cuddle the Possum until I'm ushered to my wheelchair and he is placed in his perspex trolley. Bingley pushes the Possum and I strain to watch him through the plastic as I am wheeled. Originally I planned to walk but my legs were too shaky, so for once I gave in. And we are back in our room, the one with the sweeping views and the single bed. Yet another midwife greets us, congratulates us, and murmurs affirmations about the beauty of the Possum. I am given the new baby items (nappies, wipes, Family Assistance pack) with a ceremony that seems a little odd for nearly midnight. And then, finally, we are alone. The Possum, Bingley and I. Bingley has to go and then it is just the two of us, the two that were once just hours before. It blows my mind how time can warp like that, how so much can happen, when some people have barely watched a movie.
I feed him again. A long, beautiful feed. I feel the love well up inside me and trickle out down my cheeks as I watch him. Then something else wells up, and causes tears as well, but this time it is pain. Excrutiating pain. At first I leave it be, but when a nurse checks on me I take the paracetamol without hesitation. And later, when it doesn't go away I take the oxycodone. And even then it doesn't really touch it. Afterpains sound so innocuous but these are as bad as labour pains and there's nothing to work for, and for some stupid reason I ration the pain relief.
It's after midnight now, technically not even the Possum's birthday any more and he is asleep at the breast. Cosleeping is not allowed in the hospital so I wrap him up and put him in his bassinet, and change the bed height so that we are face to face. And I try to sleep but cannot. Can do nothing but watch his little face. The hours stop ticking by and no matter what I do I can't sleep. I know I should, but part of me is afraid to and part of me is yet too full of endorphins and adrenaline to even lie still.
For hours I lie in bed, reliving the birth, reliving the trauma but also the awesomeness as I watch him. Even now the pain has faded. I know how much pain I was in, but I can't remember it, I can't manufacture the fear, the need to scream, the certainty of being on the brink of something between life and beyond. And he sleeps on.
Dawn eventually breaks outside. The first time sunlight has ever kissed the Possum's cheeks. He has slept for 6 hours now, snuffling occasionally in his slumber, mumbling a little as if in dream, and his face in the new light is even more beautiful than the night before. I can't wait for him to meet his sisters and I wish they were with me now, wishing I was waking in my own bed with the cheerful shouts of joy as my little goddesses worship our new addition. Instead he sleeps on peacefully and I take photos, because I want to remember how in love I felt right then, so punch drunk on it that I felt that my body was filled with The Gleam.
It is then, at about 6am that I finally can succumb to sleep. I get maybe an hour before breakfast and then the girls arrive. If there is such thing as perfection it was sitting in bed, watching my family meet each other. The joy on their faces. The way the Elfling confidently held her arms out to hold him. The way the Monkey tentatively held him and kissed his fingers.
The day is filled with those who have come to worship at the altar of newborn life and it is after 10pm when the last visitor leaves. I want to be home then, but revel in this, these last few hours where it is just the Possum and I, cuddled together.