SOPHIE & WOODY
This birth was going to go without a hitch. One hundred per cent. I’d read the books, done the yoga, hired the birthing pool, made the perfect soundtrack and a bouquet of overpriced scented candles was lined up ready to go. What could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing, except my baby didn’t want to come out. With hindsight, I realise how sensible this was. With the innate wisdom of the unborn, he’d probably already realised that with such a lot of neurotic control-freakery going on, he was better off staying in utero but at the time, I thought maybe he just wasn’t properly engaged and did some more omming.
Even as we sailed past the due date, I wasn’t worried – despite having spent the best part of a decade and multiple ops and IVF treatments trying to get pregnant in the first place – but as I got larger and larger, I couldn’t help wish he’d get a move on. I dusted the still-empty baby’s room again and again. Once I was a fortnight late, I knew our chances of a candlelit pool-birth at home were scuppered for good and suddenly, I felt very glad to be living up the road from a great hospital. As a woman in my late thirties and now two weeks overdue, I was told I had to be admitted to hospital as they didn’t want to take any chances and that if the baby didn’t come the following day, I’d need to be induced. Still clutching on to my hopes of a natural birth, I walked up and down flights of hospital stairs like a woman possessed trying to get something to happen. Eventually, convinced I was going in to labour, we were ushered into a birthing room and rigged up to a machine that would monitor the baby’s heart-rate. Was I in labour? I had no idea, I’d never done it before, but it felt like maybe I was (despite being barely dilated) so I kept quiet and did everything I was told and just prayed my pelvic floor exercises would come up trumps and my baby would soon be shot forth like a pea from a yogically honed pea-shooter. It didn’t happen. What happened instead was that the baby’s heart-rate suddenly went crazy, the emergency cord was pulled, the room filled with people and before I knew it, I was on a trolley on my way to theatre, signing forms and trying to remember if I was allergic to anything while my partner ran behind frantically pulling on scrubs.
Cannulas were inserted on the hoof, grown men were running beside my trolley with an air of barely contained panic and suddenly and very urgently, all I wanted was for my baby to be alright. Over the years, I’ve heard women talk about the ‘neatness’ of their scar and if wearing low cut bikini briefs is a priority then you probably want to shop around for a surgeon with impeccable stitch work. However, when it comes to an emergency caesarean, trust me, you don’t care what they use or what you’ll look like afterwards – all you want is a healthy baby. I was completely conscious when they opened me up but my abdomen was shielded by a screen so I couldn’t see anything of the birth and I didn’t allow myself to feel anything either, I just concentrated on my breathing and focusing on the lights above me. I didn’t know what to expect but I just had to believe it would all be okay. And in the end, it was. After all the checks, I was finally able to hold my baby and it was the most magical, frightening, wonderful moment of my life. He’d been a facial presentation which meant he’d got stuck and it was this that had prevented me from going into proper labour but here he was: curious, angry and very hungry. Because the hospital was so full, there was no room for us on a ward and so we were wheeled into a medicine cupboard where a brilliant midwife suggested we have a quiet moment to bond. I held and fed my baby for the first time while my partner shoved chunks of toblerone into my mouth – never has sitting in a cupboard been so much fun!
The whole experience was an emotional rollercoaster – slightly less mellow than I’d imagined and without a scented candle in sight. Despite that, I wouldn’t have had it any other way and if motherhood has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected (something I’m continually reminded of seven years on) and what better place to start learning that lesson than with birth itself!