In those far-off days of the 1990’s, there was no Internet, and I only had a couple of baby books, so life just went on. I got bigger, and occasionally I visited the maternity hospital. I worked, partied, lost my job, got another, had an operation at 5 months, ran the Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon at 6 months, and attended a school reunion at 7 months. At 8 months my Granny died, shortly after my final visit to see her, and that was hard to handle with the stew of pregnancy hormones to contend with as well.
And like a classic cinematic drama, it all started with a very large puddle.
But the nine months ended eventually and I finished work one sunny Friday in mid-September. I was almost 38 weeks pregnant, and still quite neat. Scans showed that my baby was not growing well, but no-one seemed very concerned and in those blissful pre-Internet days, neither was I!
Considerate as always, my baby decided that 8am on the following Tuesday was a good time to announce her imminent arrival. And like a classic cinematic drama, it all started with a very large puddle. Oh the excitement! I didn’t know what to do, but the hospital said there was no urgency when I rang them, so I just pottered around for a few hours and checked and rechecked my hospital bag.
I *knew* that first babies meant a long labour, so when we finally headed to the hospital I didn’t even bother to bring all my stuff, as I expected to be sent home again. But because my waters had gone, that did not happen. Neither did much else. I lolled on the bed in the pre-labour ward, listening to Nirvana, flicking through magazines and counting the minutes between the little ripples that happened from time to time. Was this labour? What was all the fuss about?
Of course I found out later. By about 4pm the staff were getting twitchy. It was approximately 40 weeks since New Year’s Eve and the busiest day of the year on the maternity ward. Forty-three babies were eventually delivered that day… They wanted mine to be one of them. So an induction was proposed. I remembered reading somewhere that I should question interventions like this. So I did, but I didn’t know what to do with the answer they gave, so I let them go ahead anyway. And my then husband was despatched home to get the BAG. Meantime I was moved to the labour ward. In those days it was like a down-market fitting room. You got a curtained cubicle with a bed and not much else. And it was next to lots of other cubicles occupied by other labouring women. Outside the room was a corridor for pacing and pausing, as you do to catch yourself when the real contractions start to kick in. And boy did they kick in! By the time my husband returned at about five – with one of my (worried) friends – I was begging for an epidural. They gave me gas and air at first, but that made me feel sick and I asked them to take it away. So the anaethesist was called and the epidural set up. And I waited for it to work.
“This doesn’t seem to be helping,” I told the midwife. So they topped it up. And topped it up again. Still I seemed to be in pain. Everyone describes the epidural as the ultimate in pain relief but clearly I hadn’t read the small print. I was expecting a pain-free delivery and was quite shocked when I realised that it wasn’t going to be like that. But I didn’t have time to get upset. Baby was on the way, and in a hurry. By about 6pm I was in the cubicle and the pains were coming very fast. I sat up, lay down, breathed, grumbled, grunted, swore and pushed, and at around 8.15pm my little girl was born. Just 5lbs and skinny with a mop of black hair. She was instantly whisked away to be checked and weighed.
“I want my baby back!” was the panicked cry of this new mother. But we were reunited within minutes and quickly wheeled out of the delivery room as there was a queue of women waiting to get in…
My friend was sitting patiently in the corridor.
I smiled and waved and held up my little Angel.
There was nothing to see. I was fine, and so was she.
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