It started on Tuesday evening (that's Tues 6th Oct), shooting out of bed at 4am, at the mercy of a rather violent stomach cramp. Nuts, I thought. It would happen when I'm tired. Of course, that was only the beginning - they escalated slowly through Wednesday, and by the evening I was variously puking, cranking up the currents on my Tens machine, cursing the imbecile who decided it was a good idea to advise me to try and sleep between contractions - er, only if you enjoy waking up from a pleasant doze into a screaming nightmare - and pacing up and down the lounge, grim look plastered to face, pillow tucked under arm (I have no idea why) to soundtrack of reggae courtesy of Augustus Pablo (again, I have no idea why), just daring J to laugh. When I could handle no more (about 1.30am, showing me to be a remarkable model of reticence), we somehow manouevred me and my belly into the car (seatbelts not an option at this juncture and, indeed, junction) and J drove like the proverbial clappers to St Mary's Birth Centre, Paddington. As I lurched down the road, clutching my stomach and weaving, I was given an aggrieved look by a staggering drunk, who clearly thought I was busting his style (and I suppose I was).
You may remember me waxing rather descriptive about the joys of the birth centre, and indeed you'd be right - there are white fluffy towels in abundance, soft and beauteous to the touch, large birthing pools which scream 'heeled mules or Moscow Mules' and the fabled purple glitter disco birthing chair. However, it is only in the heady throes of labour that the real nature of the birth centre becomes apparent. Apparently I thought it a good idea to book into a place where pain relief consists of sucking on gas & air - to clarify, this only gets you high when you are not, in fact, in agony - staffed by midwives who are qualified to assist in the pushing/dragging business, but not to insert morphine into your jacksie, unfortunately. And only when firmly ensconced in the second stage of labour (thats where it really really REALLY hurts, as opposed to merely really really hurts) did the colossal stupidity of this commitment hit home. I was now going to have to endure one of life's most painful gifts armed with nothing stronger than a full set of fingernails and a gimp-esque mouthpiece worthy of an S&M bash. And as for the purple disco birthing chair - this, I can report from grim experience, would not look out of place in the dungeons of the Marquis de Sade, or possibly Bluebeard; Donna Summer wouldn't touch it with a purple disco bargepole.
Towards the end of the night, when I had thoroughly exhausted the midwives on duty whose shifts were due to end at 7am, I realised there may not be a coward's way out of the whole situation. Until then I had been holding on to a faint hope of salvation - that baby would fall out, or compress itself into a tiny being capable of squeezing through a keyhole, a la mice. But sadly we were dealing with humans, and as I settled in to the agonising business of pushing babs out, one excrutiating half inch at a time, I realised that this was what all the fuss was about, that this was it. No 'whoosh plop' for me, no sirree - more of a 'go on, that's brilliant, well done, well done!' 'is it nearly out yet?' 'er no, but you're doing just great'. Whoopeedoo, pass me the party hats, grrlfriend!
Growing weary of such snail-like progress, I hopped off the iron maiden, sorry birthing chair, and dived bumpfirst back into the birthing pool - hold the front page, this delivery was CANCELLED. It hurt TOO DAMN MUCH, so sayonara to that. If they wanted the baby out, they could flipping well cut it out, sod the stomach muscles and slow recovery. Or tempt it out with a bit of cheese, as a male friend helpfully suggested a couple of weeks back. I had already lost my dignity (turns out that when you push, other substances may emit prior to babies, and may possibly be caught in a net by your erstwhile, modern partner, and that you will barely even notice; similarly, that gas & air may make you puke heartily all over said fluffy white towels without a hint of regret), I sure as hell wasn't going to lose my mind to boot. Boot? You see, time to stop the madness, right now.
Luckily, the exhausted midwives' shifts had finished, and two other midwives, bright-eyed and bushy-barneted, rocked up. They weren't standing for any of my nonsense (currently, this consisted of attempting to get dressed and walk my way up to the labour ward to find the good stuff even though, as people kept telling me, it was Too Late). So they nasty-copped me into sitting back down in the (burning) hot seat and giving things another whirl. With the result that, at 8.47am on the 8th October, my baby slithered (the best way I can think to describe it) out, was placed on my chest, and stared at me noiselessly with huge dark eyes. So this was the person I'd been carrying around, this was the strong heartbeat which had comforted me throughout the entire pregnancy, boom-boody-boom-boody-BOOMBOOMBOOM, this was.....my son? Yes, it was a boy, and J leapt into the air with shining eyes, I looked at his willy to make sure, and I lay back, insensible with relief, to savour this moment that I'd sweated, screeched, and pushed for. I don't think I'll ever forget it...