After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, bar daily sickness and serious Pinot Grigio withdrawal, I went for a routine midwife appointment two days before my due date. On arriving, I laid on the table while the midwife asked if I was sick of being pregnant yet and told me she didn’t envy me in this heat -Cheers Shirley, feel loads better now.
Following lots of (what I now appreciate to be completely non-intrusive) prodding and poking of my bump, she started asking me about movements and then quietly picked up her phone and rang the hospital to make me an emergency appointment. I remained quite calm (so I thought anyway) as she explained to me that I shouldn’t worry but it seemed that the baby hadn’t grown since my last appointment.
I waddled down to the bus stop in silence and got on the first of two buses to hospital. There were no seats and no one offered me the chance to sit down, but I really couldn’t give a shit. I had a sudden realisation, that much as I didn’t want to, I should probably call my boyfriend at work to let him know what was going on. I played it down massively, and told him there was no need to come along because everything was fine. Fortunately he must have seen through my hysteric tone because he arrived at the hospital about five minutes after me.
Next came about 84 hours of waiting. I love a bit of people watching and I’ve got to say, that day was particularly good. There was a woman, who was not even five feet tall, carrying at least quadruplets (in our game anyway) who waddled in to the waiting area ten minutes after her husband, who had clearly grown weary of waiting around for her and walked at a reasonable pace, while she stopped for several ‘comfort breaks’ from the car up to the correct department.
Once we were called through, the good news was a healthy heartbeat. The bad news was an unannounced stretch and sweep. After I had put my pants back on and recovered from an apparently entirely legal sexual assault, I was told to come in on Friday morning to have my baby… “Sorry, MY WHAT?” For some reason, the end result of my pregnancy being a baby was a complete shock to me, especially from the mouth of a healthcare professional. We were sent home to prepare and generally be terrified.
The next couple of days were uneventful really, other than the joy that was ‘The Show’- thank you stretch and sweep. Despite repeatedly being told that ‘when it happens, you know’, I wasn’t sure so made the mistake of Googling it. I found that firstly, my suspicions were founded and secondly, I got off lightly.
On Friday morning, we both woke up so bloody early, like, still dark in summer early. We were told to phone the Labour Ward as early as we could to check that a bed was available so we rang at 7.00am. They confirmed we could go straight down so we called our designated driver- my cousin. She is late for everything, including our wedding we have since discovered, so by the time we got there, it was 9.00am.
We got to our bed and I downloaded Spider Solitaire on my phone, while the boyfriend bought some reading material from the gift shop and complained about “bloody hospital prices”. After a short while, we were introduced to the lady who was inducing me. She looked familiar but it wasn’t until she was almost elbow deep wedging a surprisingly sharp pessary up my foof that I realised her daughter is a friend of mine. “How’s Sarah?” I asked, through gritted teeth, while the other half awkwardly smirked.
Next came hours and hours of waiting, throughout which I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed unless to use the loo. I was doing incredibly well on Spider Solitaire until I noticed a… damp feeling. Unsure of what had happened, I called for help. A lady doctor came and promptly asked me to take off my knickers. What happened next shocked me to my very core… SHE SMELLED THE GUSSET OF MY PANTS. She had a few really good sniffs then advised that my waters had broken. Thank Christ she didn’t have to tell me I pissed myself.
I assumed that once that happened, I’d put on my headband, spread my legs and out baby would come. But no. Next, I started getting a bit of tummyache, but being the idiot I am, I was unsure it was contractions, or food poisoning from hospital stew and mash. It was contractions, which still didn’t mean I could start pushing (Eastenders is way off the bloody mark).
For a reason unbeknownst to me, I was hooked up to a machine which monitored my contractions. After forgetting about me for over an hour, a midwife came to check the results and told me there was a problem. Essentially, every time I had a contraction, the baby’s heartbeat slowed down. So it could be checked, I was given a drip to slow down the labour while I was monitored. It’s thanks really to the continued period of monitoring that I became accustomed to dropping my pants, spreading my legs and gritting my teeth as soon as someone with an upside-down clock pinned to their shirt walked behind the curtain.
At about 7.00pm, Daddy was told to go home as nothing would happen til morning and he would be more use to both of us if he was well rested. He took that to mean that he should go to his brother’s house to watch England in the Euros. Of course, within an hour, my contractions were coming thick and fast so he was called back… that’ll teach him. When he returned, I was in a private room and he took great pleasure in taking the piss out of my leopard-print nightie and complaining that my pain-induced groaning sounded like a cow mooing. (I must admit, I’m kind of wondering why the hell I married him in hindsight.)
Because of all the difficulties, I was given more drugs to slow things down, and eventually an epidural. I had decided I wanted one all along if I’m honest. I’ve never been to the dentist and said, “I’m alright for pain relief thanks, I want to feel this. You know, really feel like I’ve earned it.” So I didn’t fancy going through the worst pain of my life without feeling numb from the waist down. Unfortunately, I ended up having two epidurals, as the first only worked down one side, which bizarrely I was forced to prove.
Frustratingly, we were told to get comfortable as I wouldn’t be giving birth until the following morning. This led to the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard from a fellow human being. As I laid in bed with half an epidural, five needles in my hands and a bag of piss strapped to my knee, my now-husband turned to me in his armchair and said, “Urgh, there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a chair when someone else has a bed.” I can’t remember my exact response but apparently it was a brief moment of stunned silence followed by a foul-mouthed tirade.
After some ‘rest’, it was time to get cracking. The actual pushing bit was all very quick and a bit of a blur. I remember that there were umpteen doctors and nurses huddled round a resuscitation table, which genuinely didn’t register with me as being out of the ordinary at the time. I remember having to tell my birthing partners- my boyfriend and my Dad- to try some words of encouragement while I pushed as they were like rabbits in bloody headlights. I remember being told it was necessary to make a small incision (small to the measure of twenty six stitches) to get the baby out because he was in distress. Then I remember the Salad Spoons coming out, and being told that at 6.55am, our boy was born weighing 6lbs 9oz. His cord was wrapped round his neck so he was taken straight to the hoard of medical professionals. I shouted through tears, “Is he OK?” My Dad burst out laughing, which immediately reassured me, and he said “Of course he is, just listen to him bloody screaming!”
Once he was checked over, I was told to whip off my bra (and got told off for wearing one with underwire) and we supposedly bonded by him sucking the hell out of my sore and tired boobs. Me and the baby then had a sleep while Daddy made the necessary phone calls and told the Bounty photographers to go away. Later the same day (after being stitched up and someone checking I knew how to have a wee), we were given the all clear to go home.
Then it was pretty much up to us to figure out how to be parents without a certified medical professional stood over us telling us what to do. So there we were, a couple in the first year of our relationship, jointly responsible for a brand new human. What could go wrong?