Every time I use my small milk pan, for porridge or sterilising my moon cup, I remember:
A late night, everyone asleep but me.
Contractions moving my body, unable to lie still.
A sudden jolt of energy, remembering the last on my to-do labour list.
Downstairs in the kitchen, bare feet on the cold lino. Cutting three lengths of red cotton string.
String which held the full moon's energy, which bound the wrists of many women for mother blessings.
Red, the colour of strength, blood, fertility.
Plaiting the string into a foot-long band.
Placing it in the milk pan, between contractions making me lean over and grab the nearest support.
Boiling it for 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 minutes just to be sure.
Drying it on paper towels, putting it in a sandwich bag in the freezer.
Last thing done, free to birth now.
Upstairs for a long lonely night, just me and my baby, my baby and me.
Refusing all offers of comfort and support, wanting to do this alone.
As alone as I could do it.
The next morning between contractions, telling the bemused midwife about the alternative cord clamp in the freezer.
Her saying she had never seen it before, but she was sure we could make it work.
A party then, in the house, lots of voices, people awake, no longer just me and my baby.
Her entry into the world, witnessed by 3 others.
Her precious cord milked, the last of the blood back into her, it shown to me milky white.
The plastic bag opened, string tied once, twice, knotted so tight.
Cord cut, we were separate at once and forever.
Her lying on me, no hard cold clamp between us, just this string of strength, allowing us the maximum skin-to-skin for days.
Photos of this magic cord as it shrivelled up and died, to be lost in the bed, almost eaten by mistake by a bleary-eyed raisin-searching mama in the early hours.
To be thrown in the bin, it's use over. Not a memento, just a memory.
Baby born. First daughter after two sons. A precious gift of more female energy just when I needed it.