We were in last chance saloon. When I say “we”, sure, I was fulfilling the role of the hand-squeezer while also in charge of the delivery-room music, but “we” was really quite clearly just my wife Aimee and her midwife Annie.
As for “last chance saloon” though, that was more clear cut: there would be one more round of pushing and if our baby daughter didn’t present herself to the world, then things were about to get a whole lot more complicated. Without going into all the details, let’s just put it out there that the line, “without going into all the details,” should hopefully paint enough of a picture.
And if it doesn’t, well, I’ll only go so far as to say that enough hours had passed that it would now be necessary for doctors to be summoned and for the squeemish among us to look elsewhere. But enough of that! All you need to know is that there was substantial incentive for Aimee to give it everything.
It was at this moment that I made a seemingly alarming call: I suggested – out loud – that we change the music. How could this possibly be important at a time like this? Well, for three hours we’d enjoyed/endured a playlist we’d been given of hypno-birthing instrumentals. Theoretically, these quasi new age jams were meant to be so relaxing that you can just ease your baby out with barely a yelp. And if they don’t quite do that, they’ll still be assisting in calming the atmosphere with their mysterious de-stressing melodies and soothing chimes.
Or not. Because three hours of soothing chimes and aural textures that recall sleepy resort spa treatments can start to grate, somewhat. Especially when it’s the same 10 instrumentals rotating over, and over, and over.
My tentative, “Does anyone mind if I change the music?” was met with an unexpectedly urgent chorus of, “Please do!” from Aimee as well as my sister-in-law Tiria, my mother-in-law Kathy, and if memory serves me correctly, even Annie the midwife. Everyone was sick of the instrumentals and was too nervous to say anything, but it was as if our baby was like, “I’m not entering the world to that nonsense!”
I had to act fast. The next contraction was due any moment and we needed a song to so inspire both mother and child that we’d sneak out of last chance saloon. Once again, “without going into all the details”, there was a lot to play for.
In that moment; sweat dripping as I frantically scrolled through my 2009 iPod that I still insist on lugging around, by chance I came across Magnificent by U2. How could I have forgotten this song? This was it.
Not just a good song, not just a good song with a pulsing beat, not just a good song with a pulsing beat and one of The Edge’s best late-period riffs, but a great song with a pulsing beat, one of The Edge’s best late-period riffs and a Bono lyric and vocal that directly references child birth. And more than that, a song that paraphrases Psalm 40 and nods to a higher power. All in the one song!
So I put it on, turned it up and with about minute left of its 5:24 running time, Riley Kathryn Roxborogh arrived. It was 4:45am on July 5, 2019.
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify, oh-oh
Such a meaningful piece of music. Up there with the most underrated U2 songs. And we’ll never, ever forget that it was the song Riley entered the world too. Magic. Profound. Perfect. And so much better than those ghastly hypno-birthing instrumentals!
That moment when I first saw my own flesh and blood come into existence was the closest I’ve had to an out-of-body experience. In days gone by, people would’ve said it was like you’re floating above yourself or that you somehow magically have a bird’s-eye view from on high, even though you’re standing on the ground.
A couple of decades deep into the 21st century and I liken it to feeling like you’re watching drone footage from a movie. All the editing was so perfect too. There was the shot of Riley, squirming with life, in the hands of our midwife, Annie, for whom we’ll always feel indebted. Then the camera cut away to my wife, Aimee, exhausted beyond any comprehension I’ll ever know, but with joyful tears. Next the camera spun across, swooping down to catch the expression – also of tears – of my mother-in-law, Kathy, before turning around for similarly teary close-ups of my sister-in-law, Tiria and finally me. Then the drone flew upwards again to capture a final frozen-in-time snapshot of the entire emotion-filled room.
Happy birthday Riley, we could’ve never dreamed of such a beautiful, smiling, hilarious little character. Love Mum and Dad. X