I never would've guessed that one of the endless reruns of Top Gear on Dave would be the trigger that broke my waters. It turns out, however, that the episode featuring Helen Mirren as the star in a reasonably priced car can do exactly that. Pregnant ladies, you have been warned: beware of Jeremy Clarkson's face on your telly. Actually, that warning should probably apply to everyone.
I went to bed after phoning the hospital to let them know we'd be in sometime in the next twelve hours. Well, first we finished watching Top Gear & eating dinner (takeaway fish & chips, mmm). Then I had a paracetamol and a warm bath.
At 2 am, the contractions woke me. I began breathing through them. The bloke helped me time them as I walked up and down. They intensified, each one pushing my pain threshold to new & previously unexplored places. By the time we left for hospital 5.5 hours later, I was convinced I must be nearly ready for the birth.
Boy was I wrong.
The night shift midwives booked us into the pool room because I wanted to try labouring in water. (I never got to try it as my first wee had protein in it so I had to wear a foetal heartbeat monitor.) We waited for the day shift midwives as I walked up and down, leaning against walls to breathe through the ever-intensifying contractions. Two slim, efficient women came in while I was in the middle of one. One was young, blonde and had impossibly long eyelashes (they were real). The other, slightly older midwife had dark hair and very professional demeanour. Somehow they coaxed me onto the bed for an examination. 'You're 3 cm,' they said. 'Still in the first stage.'
I was in no state to contradict them, but I did wish I could have explained that this level of pain could not possibly be exceeded.
Boy was I wrong.
The bloke was absolutely brilliant throughout, telling me how well I was doing and only gently stroking my back when I was between contractions. I remember thinking I had to be absolutely clear about what I needed from everyone with what little energy I had to spare, and I'm rather proud to say I managed it. I didn't swear once or lash out at anyone.
My wordless screaming, on the other hand, was apparently pretty epic, even with the gas & air. I would have bitten through the mouthpiece if I could.
Around noon, the midwives coaxed me to turn over so they could see how far I'd progressed. 'Eight centimetres,' I heard one say quietly as I flipped onto my front again. 'Feel sick,' I said. A bowl appeared in front of me and I promptly filled it.
'This is quite common,' a midwife explained.
'That seems really unfair, considering everything else that's going on,' the bloke replied. I wanted to laugh, but I was too busy screaming.
A little later, a midwife said, 'I want you to take that energy you're putting into screaming and put it into pushing down as hard as you can. Can you do that for me?' I nodded into the pillow. When the next contraction came, I took a big gulp of gas & air and bore down. Over and over I did this while everyone said encouraging things. 'I'm so tired,'I said at one point. The midwives offered me further pain relief, but I shook my head. I'd given up on the gas and air for the pushing stage and just waited between contractions, almost falling asleep between them because I was so tired.
A third midwife came in to relieve the first two so they could have some very late lunch. The bloke tells me she was middle aged and business-like. I can't remember this at all, but I do remember her chatting to the bloke and telling me, 'Let's get this baby out, shall we?' I could feel Humuhumu's head pushing eagerly against my cervix and it seemed like she was so, so close to popping out. I flipped onto my back and really went for it. It took a few more goes, but the two younger midwives came hurrying back in just before Humuhumu popped out, covered in vernix and looking a bit weird and alien. They placed her on my chest and clamped the umbilical cord, which the bloke proudly cut. 'Hello,' I said to Humuhumu, who replied by diving for my left nipple as the midwives draped her in a towel.