It's no exaggeration to say that I was terrified of giving birth, third time round.
After two previous quick, natural births you'd think that I'd have faced the arrival of my third baby with a cool, 'been there, done that' sense of aplomb. But you would be very much mistaken.
From the moment I realised that one glass of champagne on New Year's Eve does not explain your sudden and overwhelming urge to pray to the porcelain god the following day, I was dreading giving birth again.
Maybe my anxiety stemmed from being over the hill this time round. They say that with age comes wisdom, but surely no wise woman would submit herself to childbirth, knowing what's in store. Or perhaps I'd lost my nerve due to the fact that almost seven years had passed since the last time my body birthed a baby.
But whatever the cause of my pre-labour jitters, they drove me to seek help in the form of Hypnobirthing. And so it was that for about three months before my due date I listened to a CD every night of mesmerising 'affirmations for an easy birth'.Stop laughing.
I'd lie there in bed whispering my mantras hopefully into the darkness. 'My baby is the perfect size for my body, we birth easily...' I'd croon, all the while trying to resist mental pictures of delivery room scenes worthy of a horror film.
But here's the curious thing: that CD put me to sleep every single time I listened to it, without fail. Which worried me at first, and prompted me to wail to my Hypnobirthing teacher that it wasn't working on me. But she assured me that falling asleep was proof of Hypnobirthing's power: it was putting me into the perfect zen-like state.So when the unmistakable onset of contractions - or surges as the Hypnobirthers call them - woke me up at 4am on my due date, I decided to give the CD one more shot.
I spent an hour or so bouncing on my birthing ball - in between retrieving the kids' sopping wet school uniforms from the washing machine and making packed lunches, as one does when in labour.
And then, at 5am, I got back into bed and listened to the Hypnobirthing CD, convinced that if I was truly in established labour then no amount of happy mantras would send me back to sleep.
So imagine my surprise when my six-year-old suddenly clambered into bed beside me, declaring that it was 7am and time we all got up. "Pfft, it must be a false alarm if I've just slept through a couple of hours of it," I muttered to myself, as my son moved in for his usual early morning cuddle.
But then his knee burrowed into the small of my back at the very same moment that an almighty contraction (sorry, surge) washed over me. Given the severity of my reaction - let's just say I momentarily contemplated the kind of violence that I do not in real life condone - I suddenly had no doubts that I was, indeed, in active labour.
Buoyed by the realisation that Hypnobirthing might actually have something going for it after all, I started swanning around the house is a strangely zen-like state. My surges were seven minutes apart by now and the Hypnobirthing breathing techniques I'd learned were keeping me surprisingly calm and focussed.
My husband heroically packed our two elder children off to school, and such was my peaceful state that the kids had no clue I was in labour - to all intents and purposes the day started like any other for them. Heck, it was probably less fraught than the average school morning in our house.
For some reason (blame the zen) I then decided to take a shower, which seems laughably absurd now, given that my sons had both made such speedy arrivals that I'd spent nervous weeks towards the end of this pregnancy polishing the bathroom floor just in case it ended up playing host to a burly team of paramedics.
Eventually my husband persuaded me to leave the safe, soothing confines of the shower. As I started deliberating over whether it was definitely labour, my husband began quietly insisting that I get in the car. Evidently I go straight into a deep state of denial when faced with imminent birth; his face turned grey when I mentioned that my 'surges' were four minutes apart by now.
Just after 8am we left the house to make the 35 minute drive to hospital. Sufficeto say that my husband didn't have the same 'manana' approach to the whole experience, since we arrived 20 minutes later, at 8.22am. And by 8.59am we were proud (if slightly discombobulated) parents all over again.
Upon examination in the assessment room (where I quickly discovered the wonders of gas and air) it transpired that I was 6cm dilated. To applause from the midwives we were ushered straight towards the delivery suite.
Alas, the gas and air supply from the assessment room couldn't accompany me on the short walk to the delivery suite - they offered me a wheelchair but let's just say that sitting wasn't all that appealing by this point.
And while it's true that you forget the precise agony of childbirth, I will remember that seemingly endless walk as the single most agonising experience of my entire life. The only thing more awful than full-blown contractions without pain relief is full-blown contractions without pain relief immediately after you've just discovered how glorious said pain relief is.
Once inside the delivery suite I clamped my jaws around the gas and air and pushed as if my life depended on it. My waters broke moments later, prompting the midwife - panicked at the speed with which things were suddenly progressing - to shriek: "I'll shoot you if you have this baby before I get my gloves on." I remember thinking, in my woozy state, that giving birth in Northern Ireland is indeed nothing like doing it in London.
And then - less than 30 minutes after we set foot in the maternity unit and in a blur of mind-bendingly intense surges (contractions, dammit) - our baby was born.
I reached down to lift the baby into my arms and was floored by the realisation that we had... a baby girl. Our first daughter and a sister for our sons.
I cried great big hulking sobs of joy mixed with relief that it was over and all seemed well.
And then we hunkered down for an unforgettable day of quiet, heartfelt wonder.
You can read previous Outnumbered and Over the Hill columns here.