The two other expecting couples had already arrived at the hypnobirthing class. They were standing by the kettle, polite conversation and steam from their mugs between them. Victor and I hung up our coats, I could tell that Victor felt like a hero for even turning up to this thing. I was wearing pyjamas, something that had become normal since my bump had outgrown my wardrobe. I hovered mid-room for a while before nuzzling my way into the group to say, hello, because I felt I should.

The class began and we sat on mats like small children. All apart from George who insisted on sitting on a chair in the corner, like a grown-up, monitoring the tops of our heads.

I sat on a round cushion but failed to fold my limbs in the tidy and comfortable way everyone else had, instead I moved constantly like a baby giraffe.  

The class began and we sat on mats like small children. All apart from George who insisted on sitting on a chair in the corner, like a grown-up, monitoring the tops of our heads

The teacher discussed interventions and infections in birth, when things go wrong and worst case scenarios. I would happily have skipped this section, but instead sat through it silently as the sentences that left the teachers mouth swam through the air and landed on my “list of things to worry about”.

Next the men had to give their partners a hand massage. A tool so profoundly comforting, we were told, that it could help us glide painlessly through labour. I gave Victor my hand and he applied a little oil.

“I think you need more oil” I suggested but he ignore me and began roughly pulling up and down my wrist, my skin dragged under his fingers. I tried to give him some pointers but he just kind of laughed. So I told him that his massage was less relaxing than the cheap ones you get on the beach in India, from men with fingers that crept too far between your thighs.

We sat dumbly between the other two couples. The women with their eyes closed, doing some kind of intense labour breathing techniques, having reached their inner-selves

Soon though it did become relaxing and I told him that it felt good. He took this as evidence that he’d completed the task and stopped. We sat dumbly between the other two couples. The women with their eyes closed, doing some kind of intense labour breathing techniques, having reached their inner selves. The men doe-eyed and and attentive, caressing their partners hands with a tenderness that was palpable.

The teacher explained the second massage technique, which used a tennis ball, then left us to practice. Like a competitive teenager, Victor seemed especially happy to have finished this task in record timing. He sat cross legged tossing the ball in the air as I quietly asked him to continue the massage. But he was already gone, the glazed look in his eye told me that his mind was on greater things and as he tossed and caught the ball. It was not the birth of his child he was thinking of but work, or money, a man’s world.

I knew to stop asking him, so I turned to face front, the yellow tennis ball rising and falling in my peripheral vision. 

The writer Lily Gutierrez with her daughter

We settled back down and George took his place back on his umpire’s chair. The teacher began to speak again but was interrupted by George’s chair spontaneously snapping in half and we all watched as he fell on the floor hard. No-one moved and he laid for a while making the kind of sounds that indicated real pain. Then the teacher offered a smoothing remark which triggered George to just get up and grab another chair and for the rest of us to turn and face forward once again.

For the last task the women and men were separated. The men chatted near the coat-rack while the women were given felt tip pens and a sheet of paper and told to write or draw what came to mind when we thought of the words, “in birth”.

I took a few seconds to choose a blue felt tip pen. The woman to my left, the school teacher, started working on her paper in the form of a spider chart. It looked like something she planned to present to her class the following morning.

Victor and I walked home across the road and past the lost cat sign. Once home I started crying and Victor kissed me and asked what was wrong

I began my list with all of the most obvious words, but as I continued to think about “in birth” I started thinking about the people I had loved and lost. And just like that my mum and Peaches rose from the dead, suspended in the air, in front of me and unavoidable. Two ghosts I didn’t quite know what to do with.

Victor and I walked home across the road and past the lost cat sign. Once home I started crying and Victor kissed me and asked what was wrong. I thought about opening up to him about all the impossible thoughts and unexplainable feelings I was facing. But it was late and he had work in the morning, so I didn’t.

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