This particular Sunday, it was tough getting through the usual five services. I was well and truly exhausted. All day yesterday and through the night, our younger daughter Rachel was at home chez nous with John her husband, and she was in labour, finally producing Jasmine Aurora around dawn, on the Lord's day.
On Saturday, elder sister Kath and her daughter Rhiannon, now two and three quarters, came on a visit, to see Rachel with her giant tummy. It was a day of joyful expectation and family intimacy. A birthing pool replaced the coffee table in the lounge for the duration, and Rachel insisted the room should be adorned with aromatic oils, candles and fairy lights to create a happy atmosphere. She coped well with labour, but the two late shift midwives were tired out when they arrived and exhausted by three in the morning, so in the end, they called in an ambulance. The final stage of labour and birth happened in the Heath Hospital, ten minutes away from here.
It was quite a busy night. I was tired enough to sleep, anxious about getting going for the eight o'clock Eucharist, but excited, and easy to disturb, with all the noises off - Rachel managing each contraction with a loud resonant 'AOUM' - In dreams I was timing the minutes between them. Finally I must have conked out properly because I didn't realise she'd left by ambulance - you'd think the blue flashing lights outside the bedroom window would have registered something in my subconscious, but they didn't.
By one o'clock, Rachel had been discharged. She and John were back home again eating lunch and telling their story, after a difficult though normal birth, and we were all over the moon with delight that it had gone the way it had.
As a home delivery had been planned, the hospital Maternity Unit, in the wee small hours of Sunday, weren't quite on the ball, investing great energy in filling in routine forms and taking blood tests, as opposed to assisting a mother in her final birth pangs. Fortunately, John was there in her defence and aid, and fully participated in her moment of triumph.
We'll get used to more broken nights, with the new parents staying with us a fortnight more, then away for Christmas, with Rachel returning to us for a few weeks before she is able to fly home to Saint Martin (French West Indes), where they now live. Such a long way away. I guess Jasmine may well be walking by the time of her next UK visit. Such is family life in the jet age. Nevertheless there's nothing to match the experience of welcoming a new child into your home. And the children of your children ... an unmeasurable blessing, even the second time around.