I was almost 39 weeks pregnant on number three, further than I had ever got before. On a sunny mild April day, I was visiting a friend in the country with my two girls in tow.
It was also the last peaceful day I was to enjoy for a long long time. The following night I woke at midnight after an hour of sleep with that now familiar feeling. Yep my waters had gone again. And I was happy. Finally I was going to meet the baby I had desperately wanted for the past four years.
The pregnancy had been closely monitored, but all had gone well. I'd given birth twice before, so I was pretty sure that I knew how to handle it. I even had a very simple birth plan : lots of walking around and pethidine.
Third baby = short labour. Right? I might even get back to sleep afterwards...
My MIL arrived, breathless, busy and excited and I left with my then husband for the short drive to the maternity hospital. The pains were steady and regular and easy enough to cope with. I was full of optimism, but as usual I hadn't read the small print. I met with the midwife and explained that the pains were in my back, which I hadn't experienced before. She told me that the baby could take a while to arrive, and suggested I take a nap on the maternity ward. Well I was wide awake and itching to get things moving so I said I would just walk up and down.
So I did just that.
I paced the quiet, dimly lit corridors. Up and down, up and down. It was just me and OH and the occasional check from the midwife.
By around 5am the pain was severe and I was shown to one of the labour rooms. Having previously given birth in a cubicle with curtains, I felt completely spoilt having a whole room with an ensuite all to myself. But I didn't get much enjoyment out of it.
OH slept on the bed for a while as I paced, but it wasn't long before I needed the bed myself.
I needed pain relief. And quickly.
You see I'm not keen on pain. I don't see the point of putting up with it when there are so many pills and potions available that will get rid of it. But childbirth is different. Not only do most of the methods of pain relief come with fairly scary side effects, but these days at least you're not expected to do your day job at the same time, so I was hoping to muddle through on pethidine, which helped me to focus and stay calm during the very premature birth of baby number two.
The midwife was called and I asked for pethidine. She wasn't keen and suggested gas and air.
"But I don't like like gas and air," I told the midwife, "it makes me feel sick and dizzy."
I was assured that it was different now. It wouldn't be the same as the gas and air that I had (not) enjoyed on baby number one. And you know when you get to that point in labour when the pain stops you thinking clearly or being able to argue your case? I'd got to that point.
I grabbed the gas and air as I needed something urgently. And I started to feel sick and dizzy, but I had to have something so I just kept sucking in great lungfuls. The only thing that kept me going was the midwife telling me that she thought the baby would be born shortly.
But by 8am I was exhausted, woozy, and barely aware of my surroundings, only the waves of pain registered. Then the midwife shift changed. I'd started to trust the woman who had helped me through the night, and when two new faces appeared, I began to lose hope that I could get through this. I told them I wanted an epidural. "Not now," they said.
Forty-five minutes later and I was begging for an epidural. It's too late now, they said. You need to push. How could I push? I couldn't cope with the pain now, how could I deliberately make it worse, with no help? So at that point my mind gave up, I couldn't take any more.. Nothing seemed real anyway. I forgot abut the baby, I forgot about everything and everyone. I remember very little of the next hour, except a feeling that I was floating up in the air watching this woman labouring below on the bed.
Finally the midwives realised that I wasn't going to do this on my own. They called the anaesthetist, who eventually managed to get the epidural in. And then they called the consultant in case an assisted birth was needed. But shortly after the anaesthetist worked her magic, the fog cleared and I was back on the bed and I remembered that there was a baby to give birth to, and I started tentatively to push.
And when the consultant arrived I started to feel more confident - hadn't I seen him almost every week for the past 4 months? He knew me, he would know what to do. "I think this baby will be born without any extra help," he said.
And then I knew I could do it.
Everyone sighed with relief as my baby boy slid out.
And I lifted up my tired woozy head to see what this had all been for. The next day the anaesthetist popped into the ward to see me. I nearly kissed her.
"You lost the plot, didn't you?" she said.
Got it in one, I guess.