The present was wrapped, and sat on my table, beside that a card and box of nappies. It was one of the things I always took. Babies went through so many nappies in the first few days, and no one was really prepared for the amount one tiny baby used.
I was not the first to arrive; two cars already were parked outside the two bed house that belonged to Natalie and her husband, Michael. Charlie and Annie were both there. I was surprised that Annie was still driving with her due date so close. I knew she could barely get behind the wheel, but she did not want to rely on others, not now, and not later on once her baby was born.
Michael opened the door and showed me into the living room where the others were. He soon disappeared, and said he was going to take a nap.
“A nap, Michael,” I teased.
“Oh come on, I was up all night, and I let Natalie sleep earlier. It’s my turn.”
“I was kidding and besides, you will be up all night, while Natalie sleeps.”
“He will and all,” Natalie said, as he kissed her on the forehead.
“I will, I’ll leave you guys to it.”
The door closed and we were left to what we came for, cooing over the new arrival. I watched my best friends as they took it in turns to cuddle Lewis. He was perfect. Annie balanced him on her swollen tummy, and I could imagine her thinking in a few weeks this would be her, holding her own baby in her arms.
I perched on the red leather sofa watching, and listening to them. It did really seem all my friends were settling down and having babies. Annie was single, and due soon, if her baby arrived on time. She would be a mum in less than two weeks. I could not imagine Annie could get any bigger, she seemed to grow every time I saw her.
Babies were cute, but in my mind they grew up into horrible teenagers, I should know, I had been one. At least that was what my mother told me. I surely could not have been as bad as she made out. Until I recalled a few things from my younger days, which brought a smile to my face.
I was just not ready to be a mum, I was still young. I had plenty of time to settle down have a family. When I was ready.
Of course, first of all I would have to find a man. I did not mind being single, and if I did not find a man I always do what Annie did, not that she was that kind of girl. She did not sleep around to get pregnant. Annie would never admit that she had meant to get pregnant; it was an accident she said. I knew better than to voice my opinion. Anyway, if you wanted a baby, wouldn’t you do anything to get one? I knew many people did whatever it took.
I was only twenty-four years old, and had been single for the past year. Not one single guy had been interested in me, the only guys that hit on me were all married. There was no way I would lower myself to be a mistress.
Annie stood, and placed her hand on her rounded belly and began to rub it. I had always wondered why pregnant woman did that. I wondered how it would feel to have a tiny person growing inside me, not for the first time. I always wondered how they fitted inside a person. I imagined twins and how they would cope being scrunched up together in the same amount of space as one baby took up. These were things I did not want to think about, things like the birth. That thought had me think babies were the last thing on my agenda.
"Are you okay, Annie?" Natalie asked.
"Just a few twinges that's all. I'm okay, I’m just going to use the loo, you remember that feeling don't you?"
I knew all about it too, they talked about pregnancy in great detail, enough to put me off. They told me it would be different when I was carrying my own child. I highly doubted it. I knew more about being pregnant than most. We had watched many videos on birth that had once put me of the snacks they provided. It was my own fault; I was the last to settle down. It was not my fault I only seemed to attract married men.
I watched Annie waddle from the room. Then the focus was on me, I knew it would come, each time a new edition arrived I was asked the same question.
"Jules, when are you going to settle down, honey," Natalie asked.
"I guess when I find a man!" I replied.
"Yes, I guess that would be a good place to start, or you could do what Annie did."
I had wandered what Annie did, and had my own ideas, but could be wrong. I knew my friend was single, and not really interested in men, but we had never talked about the father, or the how. And it really didn’t matter, she was happy, and I was happy for her.
"I don’t know if that option is for me," I said.
"You’re not getting any younger," Charlie said.
The other's all nodded.
"I'm only twenty-four," I declared.
"Yes, we know, we’re all twenty-four. You know a one night stand is all you need."
I had been right in my thoughts. I was not sure a one night stand was for me, not to just get pregnant. I had only ever had one in my life and that wasn’t what I wanted to do again. I did want to settle down, when I found the right man. Wherever I would meet him.
"I don’t think I can do that. It’s not like I would get pregnant first time and I don’t know if I could do the whole single mum thing. Besides I’m not sure I want a baby, yet.”
“What do you mean, you don’t want a baby, come on, you have to want one.”
“Why do I?”
“Because, I think deep down you want a baby, but are far too scared to do it alone.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” I said. “And yes, I am not Annie, I couldn’t do it all alone.”
“You could, we could all help you. Like we are going to help and support Annie. We would be there guide you.”
“I don’t know, guys.”
"We could set you up on a blind date," Natalie said.
"No thanks, guys, really, I will find the right guy, he has to be out there, and single."
"Well there is one other option, you could do what my cousin did," Natalie said.
"Okay, what did she do?" I had to ask.
"She doesn’t like men, if you know what I mean."
"She wanted a baby and chose the father of her child, number 238920 or something, you can read his file and match him to what you like."
"A sperm bank!" Charlie gasped.
"I don't think I could do that, I am not that desperate, at least not yet."
The room fell silent.
“I wouldn’t call it being desperate, just another option.”
“Okay, you’re right. It is.”
“And if you want to do it I can get the details from her.
"Thanks, I’ll let you know.”
“Annie's been some time. You don’t think she's fallen down the toilet do you?" Charlie asked.
"I'll go check on her, be right back." I scuttled out of the room, escaping the questions of the other mothers.
I walked past the kitchen to the bathroom at the back of the house. I knocked lightly on the door and heard grunting from the other side.
"Sorry, just wanted to make sure you were okay," Julie said.
"Jules, help me," Annie grunted again.
Oh god, please don't tell me the baby’s coming now. I opened the door, and found Annie on all fours.
"Honey, okay, I am just going to check how dilated you are and--" I began to say. "Right, Annie, I know you wanted this baby in a hospital, but it's not going to happen, this baby is coming right now.” I stood up and washed my hands. “I'll be right back. Don’t push."
"Don't go," Annie called.
"I need to get girls to call an ambulance; you'll need to go in after the birth, okay."
I raced to the front room, explained the situation and before they could ask questions, I raced back to Annie. I knew she was scared this was her first delivery. She was in the same position as I left her.
"Annie, on your next contraction, I want you to push, into you bottom, remember what they taught you at the classes."
Annie remained did as she was instructed.
"Okay one big push, okay."
"And again, that's it, good girl. Right don't push for a second, the cords around the neck, I'm going to remove it."
Julie unwrapped the cord from the baby’s neck.
"You feel the next contraction?"
The others were now at the door watching. Charlie came to her aid and sat beside her and rubbed Annie's back.
"Now this time I want you to count to three and push hard," I instructed.
Annie did as she was told.
I guided the baby out, and held the tiny bundle in my arms, checking the baby over, removing the stuff from her nose and mouth.
"The ambulance men are here," Natalie announced. "She's in here, but you’re too late to deliver the baby."
"What is it?" Annie asked as Charlie helped to sit on her bottom, and covered her a towel over her exposed body..
"A girl," I announced.
The ambulance crew cut the cord and prepared Annie to deliver the after-birth.
I stood back and watched them as I held the tiny bundle in my arms. She was now wrapped in a pink soft blanket, and I had placed a nappy on her, one from Natalie’s stash.
"She is beautiful, Annie," I said.
"We need to take them to the hospital now," the dark haired man said, with dimples when he smiled, turned to look at me.
I smiled back at him, forgetting I was covered in blood and mucus.
"You did a great job delivering the baby."
"Of course she did," Natalie remarked. "She's a midwife."
I turned red, I was a midwife, and had been for a little while, but this was my first unplanned homebirth. Anything could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. Annie did well, no gas and air, no epidural. Not that there had been time for any of that.
“Why did you need us then?” the other ambulance man asked.
“This was not planned, I just happened to be here. I don’t need to explain to you why we called you.”
“Sorry, forgive my colleague, maybe you should come to the hospital with us," the one who had smiled at her said.
“He should be the one apologising, but I accept your apology on his behalf.”
“Thank you, ” he said, flashing me another one of those stunning smiles. He had nice eyes too. This was not the time for flirting. I did glance down to see if he had a wedding ring, it was a habit. Many doctors had hit on me over the years, and they were married. Thinking I would sleep with them because I was a silly little girl, and all they wanted was the sex. I declined every offer. I was there to learn and did. Passing my course first time. I had already delivered the required amount of babies to pass. I turned to face Annie who was being carried out on a chair to the ambulance.
"Annie, would you like me to come?"
"It's your day off, but I would like you to come, do you mind?"
I shook my head. "No, I don’t mind, of course I don’t. Then it's decided."
I climbed in the ambulance, carrying the baby. Once inside I handed the baby to Annie.
"I suggest you feed her as soon as you feel ready," I said.
"Julie, I don't know how?" she said looking at the ambulance man.
"I think that would be your field, Julie."
"I think you are right, Ben," I said, reading his name on his uniform. I was thankful that the other guy was driving. He was not happy I had tagged along, but Ben did not seem to mind. I was sure he was flirting, but I didn’t have time for that, or interested. At least not much interested. He was gorgeous. Who was I kidding, if it had been any other time than this, I would have been very interested.
I assisted my friend in feeding the baby. We soon reached the hospital and were taken up to the maternity ward. A place I knew very well.
As the ambulance man, Ben was about to leave he turned to the two of us.
"Good luck, and thank you, Julie," he said as he handed me a piece of card.
"Thanks," I said, holding the card in my hand, not daring to look at it until he disappeared through the door.