Mid way through my pregnancy, I sat opposite my midwife, the first and only time I saw her, and whilst nibbling my organic carrot sticks and sipping herbal tea, stated that under no circumstances did I want drugs or intervention, I wanted my birth to be as 'natural' as possible, resulting in less trauma for both myself and my baby. She had smirked a little and nodded through her stifled giggle. I'll show her I thought, I shall recite poetry and play Vivaldi. I had it all planned.
I remembered that encounter while lying on a trolley, wearing a paper gown and with an elasticated jay cloth on my head, a drip thing in my arm, a needle in the back of my hand and surgical stockings clamped around each swollen ankle. It was fourteen hours since I had arrived at the maternity unit as a paragon of serenity, clean, smiling and coherent, keen to spew forth my eagerly awaited first child.
I had avoided birth classes and had nodded sagely at those who offered advice without really tuning in, as I was sure that I had it all under control. After all, I wasn't ill, just having a baby and hundreds of women did that every minute of every day. Besides, I had seen enough births on TV and in the movies to know that apart from an intense bout of screaming and gurning whilst wringing the bed post, I would soon be sitting up among a vivid display of bouquets, while my new born slept in my arms, I re-applied my lip gloss and patted my newly flattened tummy. Doddle.
They lied. I thought I was strong, but transpires that after two hours of trying to rid my body of this wriggly little human, I would have pumped my own veins with any drug going from Diazepam to crystal meth and I wanted it NOW! I was given gas and air. In hindsight, the best use of which, is to pick up the tank and throw it at anyone that tells you that 'you are doing really well,' in a tone that is usually reserved for complimenting a toddler on accurate potty use.
'Hello! Im Doctor Fnafnughfnarhhhfff!' my hearing had gone, well not exactly gone, but I was busy concentrating on not shouting and leaping from my trolley to punch someone that my audio skills were a little dampened. The doctor was positively chirpy; I wanted to punch him too. I should point out that I have never, would never punch anyone in my whole life, but this wasn't me, it was a birthing monster that occupied my body for 24 hours.
Doctor Fnafnughfnarhhhfff, rolled up his sleeves and began ferreting around in my nether regions, don't gasp, all quite standard, before declaring less chirpily that my baby's heart beat was a bit erratic and we had to get it out NOW! To say he was panicking would be an exaggeration, but the fact that he tried to wheel me to an operating theatre while still hooked up to several plugged in machines that beeped, pinged and fell on the floor, spoke volumes.
I was prepped for an emergency caesarian and knocked out, at last, the serenity I had craved! When I came to, I was a mother and there, nestling next to me was a perfect little bundle, sleeping soundly. I felt elated and yet cheated, how had my natural birth turned into an operation? It was still the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I watched him in wonder and thought I couldn't love anything more and seventeen years later, I still watch him in wonder and the sentiment remains just as strong. The only difference now, is that instead of a cute gurgle or smile by way of response, he is likely to say 'what?' in a tone closer to foghorn or to flick the V at me. I guess my advice to anyone pregnant is; plan to change your plans.
The birth, like his whole life, was an adventure, sometimes painful, never dull and the thing that most validates my time here on this planet. I didn't actually get one single bouquet and I'm still waiting to pat my flattened tum...