Last Saturday was Stella’s first birthday, so in celebration I thought I would tell you the story of how she came into the world. Buckle up, this is a long one. Bring snacks. If you make it the end there might be a prize.
As with Jet, I was very overdue. The kind of overdue where you want to kill every one of your well meaning friends who dare to enquire whether or not you’ve had that baby yet. I knew I would be late again. I had done my best to bluff the baby into coming early by not packing my hospital bag until I was 38 weeks, but it didn’t get the memo.
I had originally booked in at North Middlesex, which had a newly opened maternity unit. We went to look around and the midwife led rooms were so nice, I was really hoping that this time I would make it in there after Jet went so late I had to be induced. When that happens, you have to have doctors, so you end up on the much more clinical labour ward. I had my fingers crossed that this time would be different and my body might actually go into labour all by itself, without so much as a whiff of a pessary.
North Mid had added appeal for me in that I knew where it was. The other alternative, Barnet, I had no idea of how to get there (not that I’d be driving!) although I’m sure it’s just as nice. The traffic, I had heard, could be bad, even up against the location of North Mid (handy for the North Circular. Like, really handy).
However, the antenatal care offered by North Mid was inconvenient where it wasn’t non-existent. I don’t know if it was because it wasn’t my first pregnancy, but they really didn’t seem that interested in giving me any appointments, and those I was given were either relocated at the last minute or cancelled completely – usually whilst I was already en route. Barring the bizarrely episodical booking in appointment that saw me having two appointments one week apart to complete paperwork that could easily have been completed in one visit (my boss LOVED that!), I never saw the same midwife twice, although those I did see were lovely. I was left with the impression of a hugely overstretched service (thanks, Condems) So, I decided to transfer to Barnet; I could now book my own midwife appointments at my GP surgery, and I figured that when the time came I could still turn up to have the baby at North Mid – they wouldn’t turn me away so long as they had a bed.
This plan backfired somewhat when, at 38 weeks, my midwife booked me in for my induction on the date I reached 12 days overdue, as she had to do this at Barnet. Already extremely grumpy, given my hugeness and the fact I was now resigned to being induced again which I really didn’t want, I nonetheless refused a sweep and went home to eat pineapples, drink raspberry leaf tea, take scaldingly hot baths, fornicate wildly and all the other things you do for fun when you’re really late. None of these things make the slightest bit of difference, by the way, but you gotta have a hobby! I was determined that I WOULD GO INTO LABOUR.
By the time I saw her again a week later, I had all but given up, and allowed her to give me a sweep. All midwives will tell you that they do a mean sweep that will have you fully dilated before you can say “dustpan and brush”. But having had three that did not have this effect at all when I was overdue with Jet, I can tell you that this is definitely not the case! However, this woman was brutal. I cried. Still, when she told me I was already 2 cm dilated and my cervix was good to go I could have had her likeness tattooed on my body.
I don’t know if it was her savage fingers or the positive vibes she gave me, but I woke up at 1am that night in labour. I was chuffed to bits, but decided to try to conserve my energy for what I thought would be a long haul (Jet took roughly 24 hours, start to finish). So, I went back to sleep for an hour. By 2 o’clock, the pains were more intense, so I got up and went downstairs to watch tv. Chris had only got home from work at about 12, so I let him get some kip. I opened the iBirth app on the iPad that I had used to record my contractions when I had Jet, found to my amusement that it had been 19,721 hours since my last contraction, and set about timing my contractions again. I was quite comfortable, in fact with a crossword on the go and a great documentary on BBC4 about fungi I was pretty much in my element, barring the odd agonising cramp. At about half three I got it into my head that a bath was a good idea, so I walked gingerly upstairs, praying my waters didn’t break on our newly laid carpet.
I ran myself a bath and went to wake Chris to help me get into it. The pains were coming thick and fast now – I was having trouble telling where one ended and the next began. He called the maternity unit at North Mid for advice, and they said we should come in, so he called our local neighbourhood babysitting service (my parents) to come and look after Jet. The 20 minutes it took for them to put on some clothes and get to our house were hard to bear. I kept starting to panic – home birth had never been part of the plan – but told myself to relax my tensed shoulders and just breathe. This definitely made the contractions less painful, but I never did manage to get into the bath. Between contractions I was trying to take off my pyjamas and lay on the bathroom floor, declaring that I would have the baby here, but Chris made me pull them back up and managed to get me into the car.
We waited there, car precariously parked on the pavement as there was nowhere to park. I was trying desperately not to push, but didn’t think I could help it. Chris ran inside to get Jet, thinking we would have to just take him with us, but just in time we saw my parents’ headlights approaching and he was able to bundle the confused, scared little boy into their arms and jump behind the wheel.
Luckily, it was about half past four in the morning, so the traffic on the A10 was minimal. That said, we still seemed to catch every light on red. I couldn’t actually sit in the car as the baby’s head was crowning, and adopted a sort of diagonal hover, suspended between the door and driver’s seat. At last we made it to the hospital. Here’s where the real fun began! The newly opened maternity unit didn’t seem to be very well signposted, as we couldn’t find the entrance to the car park. Chris drove frantically round and round, stopping to ask a clueless paramedic with no sense of urgency. Frustratingly, the elusive unit was visible across a pedestrianised walkway. He eventually mounted the kerb for the second time that day and took us cross country, skidding to a halt in the “no parking” area and running in to the reception desk.
Now, I imagine a stressed out dad proclaiming “My wife’s having a baby” is a fairly commonplace sight to your average midwife. The one who sauntered out to assess me as I hovered in the car was certainly unflustered by it. But no sooner had she taken a look and I had asked “Can I push?” Stella come into the world. She was born in the car at 5.03 am on Friday 25th April, all 7lbs of her, just one day before my planned induction. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind when they installed the sign marked ‘drop off zone’.
My Dad and Jet at Stella’s birthplace
A lot of other stuff happened afterwards that was pretty traumatic. One of the highlights was an epidural – goddammit I just had a freaking baby with not even a sniff of gas and air! That was annoying! People say “Wow! You had your baby in the car! That must have been terrifying.” But it really wasn’t. Every birth story is bizarre and wonderful in its own way, but the result of a healthy baby is all anyone really hopes for. I will just have to try and make it into the lovely midwife led unit for the next baby 😀
You made it the end? Yay! Here are your prizes.