John had phoned often over the last few days and I knew [his aunt] Mimi would tell him I’d gone into the hospital when he called again, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he should be at the birth. Having fathers present for the birth just wasn’t the custom then. The person I wanted was my mum, but she was still in Canada, so I had to go through the birth alone.
The birth was far from painless, with Cynthia enduring more than 24 hours in labour. Julian was born at 6.40am (some sources say 7.45am), and weighed 6lb 11oz.
In the early hours of Monday morning, April 8, I was taken into the delivery room and told that I was ready to give birth. I was given gas and air, but it made me feel sick and I was exhausted from the long hours in labour with no food and only a few sips of water to keep me going.
It was an Afro-Caribbean midwife who told me firmly that if I didn’t get on with it my baby would die and so would I. Terrified, I rallied every last ounce of strength and pushed my baby into the world at six-fifty a.m. Our son arrived with the cord round his neck and yellow with jaundice, so the midwife whisked him away. I was cleaned up and moved back to a bed in the ward. A short while later he was put into my arms and I looked down at him for the first time. He was tiny, his small face scrunched up and bright red. I thought he was absolutely perfect. He was put into a cot beside me and we both slept, exhausted from the long hours of labour.