THE GETTING OF JOSHUA
Thirty eight years ago today, on 2nd March, 1977, at 12.11 pm, at the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington the suburb where we lived, our son Joshua was born. My beloved laboured with me and my mother who had arrived from Africa four days before, paced the corridors.
We had been married for eight years when Joshua arrived and had already travelled through many troubled waters.
We started our married life in Zambia, and were separated for one year when I left my husband for 'another man', and for another six months when Gerald left Africa to come to Australia, when I made the decision to join him. In a new land, homesick and heart sore with no family and few friends, and what was considered a huge mortgage, we were grateful that Gerald was blessed with a good job at IBM, we started 'trying' for a baby with multiple tests and doctors visits, and an early miscarriage. Gerald was offered a promotion in New South Wales which we accepted, and in the frenzy of selling our first home in Brisbane and packing up a house to move to Sydney, our temperature taking and carefully timed 'most likely to get pregnant' acts of intercourse were thrown into chaos. On a cold June day on the two day drive to Sydney we stopped overnight at Coonabarabran at a somewhat seedy roadside motel. Gerald had a bad dose of flu and was coughing and sneezing and nose blowing as I did a quick calculation, and realised today was "The Day We Were Most Likely to Fall Pregnant". He says I "threw him on the bed and had my way with him". Whatever. As I recall, and despite his illness, he participated enthusiastically. The next morning, we scraped ice off the windscreen of our blue Mitsubishi Galant and continued on our way to our new life in Sydney.
IBM paid for us to stay in The Chevron Hotel in Kings Cross for a few weeks till we found a house, and towards the end of our stay, I was packing a suitcase, and found a box of unopened Tampax. Now, for someone who had been trying to get pregnant for a few years, you might think that this 'no period' oversight is impossible - but I simply had been too preoccupied house hunting and job hunting to think about getting pregnant. I stared at that box for the longest time, whilst my brain did calculations, and my heart quickened, and then started to beat, very very fast. I went to the local chemist and got a jar for urine, and instructions on how to take a pregnancy sample. I hid it from Gerald and was up before him the next morning, trying not to get my hopes up, weeing into a jar. I had to wait a few days for the test results - something to do with frogs dying, I think? The day the results were due, a friend Greg Howard arrived from Gladstone, and try as I may, I could not get away from these men to go get the results - every excuse I made to get away was countered with another suggestion from them. Finally, we were all in the car, going somewhere - and as we drove past the chemist, I shouted "Stop! I need tissues!" I ran in and the chemist who raised his eyebrows - I truly think he thought I was a local prostitute, as he said with heavy emphasis on the word "Mrs." - "Mrs. Groom? - I have bad news. It's positive."
Bad news. A quick heartbeat. Then I sprang into his arms and wrapped my arms and legs around that man and covered his face with kisses, and he laughed in embarrassment and gently disentangled himself. (About five years ago, I went back into that chemist, and he was still there, by then a very old man - and I asked if he remembered me, reminding him of the story. His face split into a beam of recognition - and this time, he hugged ME.) I don't remember a single thing about what we did or where we wen that day, my heart was doing leap frogs but I kept that beautiful secret to myself all day long. I wanted us to be alone when I told Gerald he was going to be a father, and I wanted that to be a 'moment' we always remembered.
That evening after Greg left, Gerald asked "Where should we go for dinner?" Not having a kitchen was hard for me. I suggested the Italian restaurant across the road from the hotel, and he was surprised, as it was quite formal and expensive for us, but he agreed. It was a perfect place for a 'moment' - with starched cloths, candle lit tables, shining glassware, and a trio of musicians moving from table to table, playing Italian love songs. Very romantic. I timed my announcement perfectly, just after the trio had sung to us. I reached across the table, took Gerald's hand, my eyes full of tears and said "Guess what?" and without waiting for him to reply, continued "I'm pregnant!" There was a long moment of silence, as he eyeballed me, digesting this information, I could see the wheels turning as he weighed it up. Then he burst out "BULLSHIT!". This was not quite the romantic result I had anticipated, but I rocked with laughter - his eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline and he was shaking his head, saying "Really? Really? REALLY???"
We were absolutely ecstatic to be pregnant. We were more in love than ever, excitedly making plans for our future, I kept a daily diary, and walked for miles, eating only the most nutritious of food, resting, working, and I emptied the library of every book on pregnancy and birth, I read so avidly I reckon I could have delivered a baby myself.
But I had fallen in love with our baby long before I was pregnant. I imagined him/her, dreamed of things the three of us would do together, gazed with naked jealousy at pregnant women and other mother's babies. This was for me, heaven on earth. My body loved being pregnant, it had waited for this experience all of my life, I could have done a dozen pregnancies, I was the Pregnancy Queen, I was destined for pregnancy. I bloomed with happiness and health, I worked until a month before our babe was born and stopped only because my arms could not reach around my medicine ball belly to the typewriter on my desk. Gerald and I created a nursery together, doing all the work ourselves (I was up a ladder painting ten days before he was born) - my beloved built shelves, laid carpet and painted, we saved up for a Dimplex heater (safe for babies and children), I sewed curtains, we hung up mobiles and stacked tiny clothes, we bought safety devices for wall plugs so our baby would never electrocute himself. We were very short of cash and given a cot, a pram, a change table, clothes, nappies, a bath and lots of advice by friends whose children were starting school. As my belly grew and our baby began to move our love deepened for the miracle we were creating and for each other. We were fascinated by the changes in my body, I had breasts for the first time in my life and another particularly enjoyable benefit for Gerald - and I - was that I wanted to make love most days. And nights.
Our labour was twelve hours from start to finish, just like the text books, it went exactly the way we had hoped for. We worked as a practiced team, and it is the way we have parented ever since. When I laid my eyes on my newborn son, I knew in a heartbeat that I would die for him. Gerald cradled our baby son in his arms, his paper surgical mask hanging in shreds wet with his happy tears, and then laid our son on my suddenly flat belly.
"Here is our little Joshua ...." he choked. And so he was. Joshua looked just like his name. (We had chosen names, Joel or Joshua if we had a boy, and Laura if we had a girl, after Gerald's Gran'ma Longhurst - this baby was her 21st great grandchild, and she said he or she would inherit her psychic powers.)
When my mother was finally released from the corridor, she held her grandson with reverence and her face crumpled with love and tears, as she cooed "An Old Soul ..." And then she gazed at me with such pride and profound gratitude for the gift of this grandchild that my heart changed shape.
Here is a letter Gerald gave to me the next day, written on white IBM letterhead, in his characteristically bold print. Only he and I know that the blob in the top right hand corner is the red rose which accompanied this love letter, preserved forever.
I have been blessed in so many ways in my life. I have been bathed in the love and stability of two devoted parents who not only loved each other for nearly seventy years of marriage, but loved all three of their children. I have been in love with and loved by my childhood sweetheart for over fifty years, a man of integrity, character, strength, and decency. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy who has grown into a hard working, talented, Good Man, a man I am so proud of, who always does his best.
Happy Birthday Joshua, my son. I love you.