Our first boy was born at 42 weeks by an emergency caesarean half way through an induced labour. He was an 'undiagnosed breech' only revealed when one of the more experienced midwives called in a doctor to do a scan when she realised there was lots of meconium present – a baby's first stools – and guessed something was amiss.
Given that our boy was a whopping 9lbs 13ounces with a head size that was, frankly, off the scale I was so glad we'd had that midwife and that my wife didn't have to go through what would surely have been a very painful and probably dangerous 'natural' delivery.
Earlier, having been ordered home and told there was no chance of my wife giving birth that night I had rushed back just in time for the C-section. I watched as my wife was given an epidural, while still having contractions before the operation that seemed to happen in a blur.
Happily, in the end, the caesarean was perfectly straightforward, my wife was fine and today we have a perfectly healthy two and a half year old.
But in the ensuing months we had months of worry about the shape of our son's head which had been, basically, squashed because he was so big and the birth was so late. Consultants thought he might have had a condition called craniosynostosis, where the skull becomes fused too early.
Six months later after a series of consultations, X-rays and a CT scan, it turned out he was fine.
In retrospect we realised that, rightly or wrongly, we had not been hugely impressed by the failure of a string of midwives to realise he was breech in those last weeks of pregnancy.
I'm sure it's hard to diagnose and, of course, he could have moved very late on. But what's certain is that a late scan could have revealed this and saved both my wife and son from a good deal of distress.
Of course, being British, we didn't ever complain.
But now, second time around, all our energies seems to be directed to making sure that we don't end up in the same situation again. Last week my wife thought our new son might also be in a breech position. And, after our subsequent visit to the midwife and a bit of the usual poking around this seemed to be confirmed - she agreed that he seemed to be breech.
"Don't worry," she said they can often manipulate the baby into the right position "or even use moxibustion!"
"What on earth is that?" I asked.
She explained that it's a remedy from Chinese medicine that involves the burning of a cigar shaped herb at the toe and is clinically proven to help turn breech babies. Some NHS hospitals now use it routinely.
All I could think, a bit sceptically, was that in the coming weeks my wife might be better off with a large Havana cigar, applied to the mouth, to help manage her stress levels. They aren't, of course, part of recommended NHS pregnancy procedure or Chinese for that matter.
Anyway, we were dispatched up to the hospital for a scan to see if the baby was, indeed, breech. It turns out he isn't.
This confusion, and what happened before, has not left my wife or I any more reassured. Given her history she could of course decide now to have a planned C-section and be done with it.
But that, of course, is not without risks. It usually has a longer recovery period than a natural birth, can make successful breast feeding harder and still comes with a certain type of stigma, all that rubbish about 'being too posh to push' put around, surely, by people who have never had a tricky birth, watched their loved one go through one, or have never been a parent at all.
And of course there is no right decision. Whatever you decide, it's still a lottery. In our modern world it's difficult to accept that essentially, to some extent, you're going to have to go with the flow and let fate take its course.
However much you plan for it, a birth is an unknown quantity. It doesn't necessarily help that at the same hospital where our first child was born and where this one will come into the world too they are now doing twice the number of births, according to one midwife. I can't be sure, but somehow I don't think they have twice the staff on hand.
The last time around I've never felt so useless or unable to help during the birth. All I could do right throughout the process was hold my wife's hand and tell her it would all be OK.
So with a due date of May 23rd, we're getting tense. My wife is very tense.
As my mother said: "She knows this birth is going to happen one way or another and there's no way of stopping it now – who wouldn't be nervous!"
All we can really do is cross our fingers - and hope for the best.
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