Having It All: Faking It

Confessions of @A_WorkingMum

The Accidental Home Birth

I had never desired nor intended to have a home birth.

The background to this tale is explained in the previous post “Birth Number One (a.k.a. The Slowest Birth Of All Time)

http://havingitall.family/uncategorised/birth-number-one-a-k-a-the-slowest-birth-of-all-time/

I could not possibly share the story of the Accidental Home Birth without first putting it into context with the story of Birth Number One.

Unfortunately the telling of that tale turned out to be surprisingly long – much like the labour itself.

Birth Number One is an amusing enough story in its own right, although significantly less dramatic.

Therefore for the benefit of anyone who wants to cut straight to the chase and get down to the blue flashing lights, the reluctant paramedic and the baby falling out on the bedroom floor, I have removed the introductory tale of Birth Number One and placed it in a separate post.

Do click the on the link above and read it before continuing if you, like me, prefer the full story.

If not, let’s proceed directly onwards.

(But don’t blame me if you cheat and enjoy it less without doing your background reading first)

In summary: If nothing else, Birth Number One (a.k.a. The Slowest Birth Of All Time) had left me feeling extremely relaxed about having plenty of time get to the hospital.

My prime concern as I approached the due date for Baby Number Two had been what I was going to do with Baby Number One.

I made multiple impractical contingency plans for who would look after him if I went into labour, then breathed a sigh of relief when I made it to 39 weeks and my Mother arrived to stay.

Saturday: Due Date

My mother was helping with toddler childcare and long-suffering husband had the weekend off work. In the evening a few gentle contractions started.

I thought it would be wise to get an early night in case things progressed.

I went to bed at 9pm, handed over the baby monitor, and managed to sleep for more than twelve hours. That has certainly not happened in the two years since.

Sunday: Due Date plus One

I woke up late morning time with no contractions.

I felt incredible after all that sleep.

Life was good.

3pm:

I was entertaining my son in the kitchen whilst helping my husband cook a roast dinner. I felt a sudden sharp twinge.

I sloped off quietly to hide in our en suite bathroom, timing the contractions on my phone. I was surprised to see they were only two minutes apart.

They must be Braxton-Hicks.

Real contractions surely start slowly and build up,…they don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere at that speed?

Long-suffering husband popped his head around the door looking annoyed.

“I am trying to cook this roast dinner and you have just walked off and left me with a child. Are you coming back?”

Pause.

“Are you having contractions?”

He had spotted me deep breathing.

“Yes.”

“I think I will just run a bath.”

I ran a bath and got in.

I was surprised by how painful these contractions were, given that they had only just begun. I took two paracetamol.

At this rate I would be needing an epidural in about an hour, never mind in five days’ time.

I kept timing the contractions:

  • Still very regular
  • Still two minutes apart

I was confused.

Long-suffering husband returned to check in on me.

“I wonder….maybe we should go to the hospital? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time when it’s so early on, and they must be fake contractions as they started two minutes apart, but…”

He frowned.

“You don’t look like you’re having fake contractions. The look like they hurt.”

I considered this observation.

“Yes you’re right. They do.”

Silence for a minute.

“Okay, let’s go to the hospital. Do you mind taking my bag to the car?”

He sprang into action and ran to the car.

3.30pm

I had a reassuring talk to myself.

  • Stay calm.
  • This is perfect timing.
  • It is 3.30pm on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Your husband is at home and can drive you to the hospital, and your Mother is here to look after the toddler.
  • You could not have planned this any better.

Despite my pep talk I felt quite uneasy at the speed with which things were progressing.

I managed to get out of the bath onto the bathroom floor, feeling quite out of breath as I crawled towards the toilet.

Strangely there was fluid pouring out of me.

Aha. My waters had broken.

I looked at the clock. 3.35pm.

Surely this couldn’t be right?

At 3pm I had been helping to cook a roast dinner, contraction-free.

I dried myself repeatedly with a towel and discovered that I could not get dry. I realised it was because sweat was pouring off my body.

I managed to put a tee-shirt on.

Long-suffering husband reappeared.

“Okay the bag is in the car. Are you ready to….”

He stopped, catching sight of me sprawled on the bathroom floor, pouring with sweat and wearing nothing but a tee-shirt.

“Why aren’t you dressed?”

I tried to explain.

“I keep trying to get dressed. Then I get another contraction and I have to stop, and then I am wet again…”

“I think you should call an ambulance.”

He looked confused.

“Really?”

I was quite certain I was not going to make it to the car.

“Yes.”

“I really need to push.”

This was a new sensation to me.

Thanks to the lovely epidural put in by that talented twelve-year-old masquerading as an anaesthetist in Birth Number One, I had never felt this urge to push before.

How to describe it…

Like having the worst case of diarrhoea of your life with all-consuming abdominal cramps, feeling tempted to walk away from the toilet but knowing that if you do, you will definitely poo your pants.

I REALLY wanted to walk away from the bathroom and go to the hospital.

However, my body was telling me that there was something inside that was going to be pushed out very soon and I would have no ability to stop it.

I was going nowhere.

Long-suffering husband dialled 999.

I could only hear his end of the conversation.

“What can I see?”

He bent down to inspect.

By this point I was kneeling, leaning onto a blanket box at the bottom of our bed.

“I can see a head.”

Right then.

A few instructions were passed onwards to me via my husband.

  • Try not to push until the paramedics arrive
  • Stay calm
  • Could my husband put his hand on the baby’s head to support it to stop it coming any further out?

He could and he did.

It was an odd manoeuvre but felt strangely comforting.

The hardest part at this point was trying not to push. It was like trying to hold in an enormous bout of explosive diarrhoea.

NOT pushing was actually very painful.

So… this would be fine, right?

People have babies every day and an ambulance was on the way.

Luckily I had extensive experience of hypnobirthing techniques.

(See earlier post – My Vagina Is a Rosebud).

http://havingitall.family/uncategorised/my-vagina-is-a-rosebud/

I am afraid I jest.

Visualising my vagina as a rosebud did not come into its own here after all.

Strangely, however, a wave of incredible calm did wash over me.

I had driven myself mad in pregnancy number one with my neurotic compulsion to read everything I could about labour in a desire to be well informed and make the best choices for my baby and I.

Despite this proving to be an utterly futile exercise, I still worried about what choices to make in Birth Number Two.

  • What if I made a wrong decision?
  • What if a bad choice of mine affected my baby’s health?
  • How would I ever live with myself?

And so on.

The usual maternal guilt-trip thoughts would dance merrily around in my head.

(For a great description of this phenomenon, see “The Shitty Guilt Fairy” by Hurrah For Gin at the link below)

http://hurrahforgin.com/2016/07/07/the-shitty-guilt-fairy/

Strangely, at that moment of finding myself panting half-naked in my bedroom, I felt the blissful release of being absolved of all maternal guilt.

I was squatting on my bedroom floor with a head popping out of my vagina whilst waiting for an ambulance, yet feeling blissfully serene because there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I COULD DO ABOUT IT and there was NO WAY THAT THIS COULD BE MY FAULT.

  • At 3pm I had been helping to cook a roast dinner.
  • It was not yet 4pm and a baby was falling out of me.
  • Even The Shitty Guilt Fairy had to concede that I could not have seen this coming.

That Shitty Little Guilt fairy could basically piss right off.

I felt positively chipper.

  • No facts to consider
  • No pros and cons to weigh up
  • No difficult decisions to make
  • Absolved of all responsibility if anything went wrong

In fact, there was absolutely nothing I could do other than just get on with it and have a baby.

Guilt-Free Bliss.

4pm

The doorbell rang.

It was an unfortunate man known as a first responder. His job was to make sure things were okay until the ambulance with the two paramedics arrived.

He took one look at me and promptly retreated to the other side of our bedroom, averted his gaze, and embarked upon a spot of light banter with my husband.

Something along the lines of why wasn’t I screaming? Surely I should be shouting or swearing at him like his wife did. Why was I so quiet?

He also casually mentioned not having delivered any babies before and expressed his intention to stay well away from me.

Excellent.

Between contractions I enquired had he thought to bring any drugs?

No.

4.10pm

The ambulance arrived along with two paramedics.

The first, a man, joined the first responder in the jovial banter.

The second paramedic appeared to be a Blonde Angel sent straight from heaven in a dark green uniform.

She strode purposefully across our bedroom and squatted down next to me to introduce herself.

“Am I alright to use these towels?”

Towels?

Sure enough, there stood a tall pile of freshly laundered towels on the blanket box.

In a strange fit of middle-aged OCD, my father had decided he wanted all the towels in their house to be white. My mother had arrived home one day to discover every other colour of towel piled up for throwing out. Tutting at such wastefulness, she bagged them all up and handed them over to me in case I could make use of them. I was certain I could.

On getting them home I discovered that I had very little storage space for this giant pile of thick fluffy towels. Uncertain where to put them, I had left them in a pile at the bottom of my bed where they had remained ever since.

The Blonde Angel Paramedic was still inexplicably pointing at the towels.

“Yes, of course.”

She promptly laid them down on the (cream-coloured) carpet all around me and looked at her two male colleagues.

“Shall I go and get the stretcher?”

One of them asked helpfully.

“No,”

she said firmly.

“We are not going anywhere. She is having the baby right now.”

“Do you want to push?”

OH. MY. GOD. YES.

It was such a relief to be allowed to push.

4.20pm

Baby Number Two’s head shot out.

Blonde Angel Paramedic’s voice could be heard somewhere above my head talking calmly to Long-Suffering Husband about how she was just unwrapping the cord from around my baby’s neck.

I looked at the two male paramedics who were having a pleasant chat.

“Where are the drugs?”

They looked guilty.

“In the ambulance.”

Really?

They were sitting there watching me push out a baby in my bedroom with an ambulance full of drugs outside and they still hadn’t thought to bring me any in?

“I want some!”

One  ran off to find some gas and air.

4.25pm

Another contraction, another giant push.

WHOOSH.

Such a strange, unfamiliar sensation.

This incredibly slippery wriggling object shot out of me speed and whooshed off towards the (well-protected with towels) bedroom floor.

Blonde Angel Paramedic caught the baby and Long-Suffering Husband was saying something about it being a boy.

I could barely hear them.

The sound of their voices was being drowned out by the soundtrack suddenly blaring in my head – Born Slippy By Underworld.

“Drive Boy Dog Boy Dirty Numb Angel Boy…”

I was as high as a kite, kneeling there, feeling as though I had experienced some great epiphany, understanding the true meaning of that strange song being named “Born Slippy.”

“Aaaaah…” I thought, “Because we really ARE born slippy. So, SO slippy.”

The paramedic returned triumphantly clutching the Gas and Air.

“Too late…she’s had the baby already.”

Oh God.

I had just had a baby in my bedroom with nothing more than two paracetamol taken an hour ago.

“I’ll have the gas and air thanks.”

I snatched it from him.

Yes, the baby was already out, but it couldn’t possibly hurt to have some of the good stuff.

Blonde Angel Paramedic gave me some scissors so I could cut his umbilical cord.

“What now?”

Apparently an on-call Midwife had been contacted and the paramedics had to stay with me until she arrived.

4.45pm

Blonde Angel Paramedic suggested we may as well deliver the placenta. She pulled gently and out it came.

No sign of the midwife.

I asked if it was okay to get back in my abandoned bath from 45 minutes and a lifetime earlier.

No-one objected.

I shut the door on the strange scene in my bedroom and relaxed for ten minutes before getting dressed.

5pm

The midwife turned up and found me dressed and eating a roast dinner. She pronounced all was well – nothing had torn and there was no need to go to hospital.

So that was it.

Two hours after my first contraction, we bode farewell to our paramedic visitors and carried on with our evening as though nothing had ever happened.

And thanks to the quick thinking of Blonde Angel Paramedic, even the cream-coloured bedroom carpet remained unblemished.

Birth Number One (a.k.a. The Slowest Birth Of All Time)

This long post (sorry) about an even longer labour is written for context.

I really only decided to tell the tale of The Slowest Birth Of All Time (Baby Number One) in order to paint the picture of why I was so shocked to have a speedy Accidental Home Birth (Baby Number Two).

The Accidental Home Birth was quite the shock and by far the more dramatic story. If you are bored and want to get straight to the gory details, forget the rest of this tale and skip to the link below!

(It isn’t as good though if you cheat and miss out the context 🙂 )

The Accidental Home Birth

Prior to The Slowest Birth Of All Time, I had read everything possible about labour.

I don’t mean that I read advice in the manner of a well-adjusted human being.

I mean that I spent my spare time devouring information in a neurotic fashion as though the more time I devoted to my research, the more it proved my love for my unborn child.

Even that is probably an understatement.

More accurately, as I had no spare time, I lay awake at night after my husband had gone to sleep, obsessively researching by the glow of my mobile phone under the duvet in the early hours of the morning.

The onset or labour, what to expect, options for pain relief, national guidelines, evidence-based practice… you name it, I read it.

With hindsight I think I believed that it was possible to approach the “Having A Baby” project in the same way as any other challenge I had faced up until that point.

My plan was roughly equivalent to my general approach to succeeding in life thus far:

  • Do a large amount of background reading
  • Review the available evidence (be it bona fide research, expert opinion, case reports, personal review or anecdotal evidence)
  • Review the source of the evidence and assess it for reliability
  • Make reasoned rational decisions based on mine (and others) review of the available evidence
  • Expect a successful outcome – if achieved, share this information for the benefit of anyone repeating this process
  • If outcome not as desired, submit feedback/reviews to add to the available evidence

Therefore this account is an attempt on my part to share my own experience for general information.

I make no attempt to advise.

My research-based approach to life (or variations thereof) had served me well in passing exams, gaining degrees, succeeding at work projects, career planning, running marathons, buying houses, buying cars, fixing things, planning a wedding, organising large events, planning holidays, planning a pregnancy … for me, this was a winning formula.

I saw no reason to expect labour to be any different.

Towards the end of my pregnancy I even had an hour-long meeting with a consultant midwife – a job description previously unknown to me.

The meeting occurred after I read the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) Guidelines and discovered that I could request a planned caesarean section on the National Health Service provided I fully understood the pros and cons of caesarean and vaginal deliveries.

Unfortunately after enough research for a thesis, there seemed to be no obviously compelling superior option.

I took the information to long-suffering husband and asked what he thought.

“I trust you to make the right decision.”

Very occasionally I think that my husband may actually be a genius.

Back to the reading.

I languished over World Health Organisation documents condemning the world-wide rise in caesarean sections rates. I read the reasons why they were higher in some countries than others. I read the arguments for and against.

I eventually concluded that I thought my baby and my pelvic floor would both be safest with a planned caesarean section.

By that point, I was frankly sick of reading about it and was relieved to have made any decision at all.

When I explained my reasoning to my community midwife, she referred me straight onwards.

I fully expected my referral letter to read something along the lines of:

“Dear …., please see this woman who is a giant pain in my arse. She will not stop obsessively reading things and I would appreciate you taking her off my hands. I wish you the best of luck with her.”

(I have never seen my referral letter but if that is what she wrote, I would agree wholeheartedly)

Long-suffering husband and I therefore turned up to meet the gatekeeper of the caesarean section booking list – the consultant midwife.

I took an instant liking to him after he introduced himself and said:

“If you are sure that you want a caesarean section then you will walk out of here today with a date for one.”

I liked him a lot.

This sounded a little too good to be true and my suspicion showed.

He clarified.

“We are in the middle of a deprived area in a city centre.”

Silence from me.

“We are not overrun with women who spend their time reading the NICE guidelines.”

I could see his point.

He then asked exactly what my concerns were.

My concerns were based around a cheerful scenario involving an escalation of interventions.

My vivid imaginings took me to a long labour with a struggling baby, followed by emergency forceps, large episiotomies carving up my pelvic floor, then a stuck baby requiring an emergency caesarean section and being left with both an abdominal wound and a lifetime of incontinence, prolapse, perhaps an incisional hernia thrown in for good measure, if not a bowel injury, a stoma, and a brain damaged baby.

It was all very optimistic.

I decided that if I must be in any way sliced and diced, I liked the idea of everything happening in a planned, orderly fashion in the cold light of day, with our baby being closely monitored at all times.

He nodded empathetically and summarised that I was worried about all complications of all emergency interventions.

This seemed about right.

“You know, there is another option which avoids all of those interventions.”

I was all ears.

“Stay away from obstetricians.”

I was momentarily confused.

How could I have a planned caesarean section without an obstetrician?

“You are healthy, slim, very physically fit, you have a very low risk pregnancy and an excellent chance of having an uncomplicated labour requiring no interventions at all. I would recommend that you consider labouring on the midwife-led unit.”

That idea threw me for a minute.

I had done so much reading to prepare myself for every possible worst-case scenario that I had almost forgotten about the option that the baby could potentially make its way out of my body without leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

“Don’t get me wrong – if anything out of the ordinary happens, you absolutely want an obstetrician. But in a straightforward labour with no complications, you have a much higher rate of intervention on the obstetric-led unit compared to if you remain on the midwife-led unit.”

My sceptical face re-appeared.

“They are right next door to each other, you know, the midwife-led unit and the obstetric-led unit. If anything went wrong they would just wheel you straight next door.”

Still not convinced.

“Would you like to see for yourself?”

Yes, I did want to see.

He took us for a walk and sure enough there was one calm, casual unit run entirely by midwives right next door to the obstetric-led unit with the lovely shiny monitoring machines, the good drugs, the epidurals and the operating theatre.

I gave it some thought.

I did so like the scientifically reassuring idea of every twitch being monitored and explained. I wanted charts, graphs, reassuring beeping sounds and a lovely planned delivery where I felt in control.

“Another thought…”

He looked at me cautiously as though expecting a punch in the face.

“You will probably want to move around during labour as you are used to exercising a lot. I don’t think you would like being restrained to a bed. A very good form of pain control for you would be to consider going in the water.”

For a moment I thought my head would explode.

Surely this man was not seriously suggesting I consider a WATERBIRTH?

I had come to meet him to arrange my dream of a planned, scientific, safe caesarean section, and he wanted me to hide from the obstetricians and have my baby in a bath? Possibly with dimmed lights, music, probably throwing in some chanting and whalesong for good measure?

I thought that he may well have lost his mind.

And then, out of nowhere, this man worked his magic.

He reeled off the most incredible back catalogue of statistics.

This man REALLY knew his stuff.

Years’ worth of departmental audits. Studies. Reviews of their hospital data.

He soothed me with cold hard numbers and they were like music to my ears.

Numbers that no amount of 2am reading would ever have given me access to.

Percentages of women who had tears in all settings, episiotomies in all settings, complications of all kinds…this man knew it all. There was no question I could ask him that he did not know the numbers for.

And all the numbers boiled down to the same concept.

If you have a problem during labour – you want an obstetrician ASAP.

If you have a perfectly normal labour, DO NOT GO NEAR AN OBSTETRICIAN. They will intervene early because that is what they are trained to do.

So there I was, unexpectedly agreeing with this man that in order to try to avoid all complications I would try a waterbirth in a midwife-led unit. The whole idea just seemed so … uncontrolled and unpredictable.

I could never have imagined me agreeing to such a plan.

I was deeply suspicious that he might have played some kind of Jedi mind trick on me.

  • Perhaps he had reassured me that I could have a caesarean section just to relax me, to then sell me this idea of a waterbirth?
  • Did he have a sales quota on waterbirths?
  • Maybe shares in the company who made the bath?
  • Perhaps he had no intention of ever booking me in for a caesarean section?
  • Perhaps I should call his bluff and make sure it wasn’t just reverse psychology?

I could not help but concede that the ideal solution to my fears would be my baby emerging in a healthy condition whilst my body remained intact without any interference from anyone.

I tested the water, so to speak.

“Okay, if I agree to the waterbirth, I don’t want to be induced when I get to 10 days overdue.”

He smiled.

“No problem.”

He remained polite and cheerful.

“Would you prefer a planned caesarean section if you are overdue?”

Yes, I thought I would.

He whipped out the diary and wrote my name in, booking me in for my caesarean section at ten days after the due date.

And so, our unusual birth plan was agreed upon.

Plan A) A hippy waterbirth with no interference from obstetricians

Plan B) A planned caesarean section if anything deviated from the norm or if I were ten days overdue.

Fast forward to Birth Number One.

Day 1 – Thursday (Due Date minus 2)

Contractions started.

I painted my toenails in preparation.

I then had a sudden moment of madness and went to the beautician for a last minute leg and bikini line wax, realising that I may not have time to do this for months to come.

(N.B. IN CASE IT IS NOT OBVIOUS – I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYONE EVER DO THIS)

My beautician does take satisfaction in inflicting pain. It makes her eyes light up.

Her eyes were truly sparkling that day as she observed that “everything was just soooo swollen down there” and that it was really going to hurt. She was right.

Given that under normal circumstances I am not an idiot, I am not entirely sure how I made the decision to spend an hour of pre-labour having hairs ripped mercilessly out of a part of my body being compressed by a tiny human being beginning its descent.

Nevertheless, I did make that decision and underwent one hour of torture followed by an evening of increasingly strong contractions.

I stayed up through the night, calmly pacing, deep breathing, and feeling quite proud of how well I was managing my labour.

Day 2 – Friday (Due Date minus 1)

Regular, painful contractions. Three every ten minutes according to the App on my phone.

Long-suffering husband and I made our way to the hospital exactly when the guidelines told us we should.

A midwife examined me.

Verdict: 2cm dilated.

“Oh yes, things have definitely started. You are 2 cm dilated. We don’t admit you to hospital until you are 4cm dilated so here is some codeine.

Go home, take the codeine, and come back tomorrow.”

We went home.

For twelve hours I paced slowly around the living room timing my contractions – still three every ten minutes.

I lay awake in the bath all night timing the contractions – still three every ten minutes. Long-suffering husband boiled kettles as I used up all our hot water.

Day 3 – Saturday (Due Date)

Back to the hospital in the morning.

Examined by a midwife.

Verdict – 3cm dilated.

The advice – here is some codeine, go home, come back in 24 hours.

Really?

24 hours of regular contractions had managed to produce nothing more impressive than a 1cm increase in the size of the opening in the middle of my cervix?

“Is there any chance you could just admit me now? I’ve been in labour for two days with no sleep, we must be nearly there. I am getting pretty tired.”

She smiled cheerfully at me.

“Actually, you are not in labour.”

I stared blankly at her.

I had been having regular contractions for 48 hours and there was a 3cm hole in the middle of my cervix.

How exactly was I not in labour?

I enquired. (Probably not very politely)

“Oh, everything up until 4cm dilated is called pre-labour. Active labour is from 4cm – 10cm.”

I was aware of this terminology from my obsessive reading but failed to see how it was in any way relevant.

“Yes,” I said through gritted teeth, “but it doesn’t actually FEEL any different, does it?”

She looked confused.

“The rest of my body doesn’t know if my cervix is 3 cm or 4 cm dilated. My uterus has been contracting for 48 hours and I would still like to stay in hospital to have this baby.”

She looked even more confused.

I clarified through gritted teeth.

“I. Don’t. WANT. To. Go. Home. Unless it is with a baby!”

Suddenly she understood where I was coming from.

“Oh no, you don’t want to stay here! Research has shown that Mums are far more comfortable labouring in their own homes than in the hospital.”

I sighed.

It is very difficult to explain your point of view when every two minutes you have to stop to deep breathe your way through a contraction.

Whoever these well-adjusted women were who were far more comfortable in their own homes, I was not one of them.

I wanted to be here, in the hospital, close to the experts.

I was convinced I might be doing something wrong and that perhaps I would miss something vital that I had failed to properly research. I wanted to stay there near the people who actually knew what they were doing.

I sat there, unmovingly.

The midwife took pity on me.

“Why don’t we keep you here until this afternoon. I will find you a room, you can have a membrane sweep if you want, and then we can re-examine you later and see if you have reached 4cm.”

YES.

I think I loved her.

Right up until the membrane sweep that is.

Now, for anyone who has not come across a membrane sweep, I will not enter into detail here lest I put you off.

You will not be surprised to learn that I had already read the (unconvincing) explanation of how this technique was supposed to work to bring on labour more quickly and the (poor quality) evidence supporting it, but by this point, I did not care.

I would have agreed to anything at all that stood the slightest chance of speeding things up.

One membrane sweep and six hours of pacing later (I was doing shuttle runs – I really wanted to make sure I was doing it properly), I was re-examined.

Verdict: 3 AND A HALF centimetres dilated.

I very nearly shouted in the midwife’s face…

“What the actual FUCK?? Your fingers do HALF CENTIMETRE sizes now? Three and a fucking HALF? Round up, you miserable woman, ROUND YOUR MEASUREMENT UP! How the fuck is that not FOUR? JUST ADMIT ME TO THE HOSPITAL!”

She smiled sympathetically at me and I knew what was coming.

“Here is some codeine…”

“Yes, yes, I know. Take the 24 hours’ worth of codeine with me and go home.”

We left, with me muttering darkly about how they must be REALLY short of beds.

Another night with no sleep, three contractions every ten minutes.

All. Night. Long.

By now I was so tired that I slept through a few hours of them on the sofa with a hot water bottle.

Day 4 – Sunday (Due Date Plus One)

I woke up on the sofa, unsurprised to discover that I was still having three contractions every ten minutes.

Convinced that I had the world’s slowest cervix, perhaps totally unresponsive to hormones, I decided it might be another week before I met my baby and started mooching about the house doing normal activities in between contractions.

Every now and again I would lean on a chair, deep breathe for a minute, and then carry on.

Long-suffering husband was watching me with a strange expression on his face – a mixture of exhaustion and curiousity.

“So…are they the same as yesterday, or any stronger?”

“What?”

“The contractions, are they any worse?”

I had lost the ability to make comparisons.

“I don’t know.”

He continued.

“Do you think you will have the baby today?”

“What? How am I supposed to know that?”

“Well….I technically can’t start my paternity leave until the baby is born. So if you are not going to have the baby today, I will have to go into work tomorrow morning.”

His observation was not particularly welcome.

I decided that it was not helping the situation so ignored it.

At 4pm nothing had changed.

I was still in pain and my 24 hour supply of codeine had run out.

I phoned the labour ward.

“Hi, I have been in every day. I am always in pre-labour and always get the “have some codeine and come back” advice. Can I please come in and pick up some more?”

Silence.

“Well….describe the pain to me.”

My patience was wearing thin but I tried to answer as honestly as possible.

“Constant pain in my lower back with regular contractions.”

She hesitated.

“That doesn’t sound like labour pain to me … so I wouldn’t be happy to just give you codeine. Maybe you are suffering from pubic symphysis discomfort.”

IT DIDN’T SOUND LIKE LABOUR PAIN TO HER?

I had been having contractions for four days, had been examined three times where the dilatation of my cervix had been 2 cm, then 3 cm, then 3.5 cm, and now 24 hours later, she thought my pain may be due to some other totally unrelated condition and NOT LABOUR?

“I suggest you come in and get assessed.”

We returned to the hospital.

By now I was pretty pissed off with whichever genius had designed the entrance to this hospital.

It is a WOMEN’S hospital, full of women in labour.

Who the FUCK designed the entrance so that the only way for cars to drive to the front door was over a succession of speed bumps?

A man, no doubt.

A man who has never and will never have to suffer the pain of driving for the FOURTH time over the collection of speed bumps whilst sitting on top of a head trying to (very slowly) force its way out of his vagina.

I screamed at long-suffering husband to slow down and to stop racing over the speed bumps, when I suspect he was driving at the speed of a snail.

I began pacing the waiting room.

After an eternity or two, a midwife took me into a bay and hooked me up to a monitoring machine to see if I were actually having contractions.

Her eyebrows shot up.

“Those are enormous contractions!” She proclaimed.

Long-suffering husband looked suddenly very interested.

She showed him how big to expect them to be on the graph. She assured him that mine were as big as they got and that I was definitely in labour.

He looked thrilled.

“Ooooh, look at that one, it’s enormous!”

I glared at him.

“I know.”

“Well it was hard to tell what was going on before. Now I can see it all.”

The midwife left for a moment and then my waters broke, flooding the assessment bay.

The midwife returned and examined me.

“Seven centimetres dilated,” she pronounced.

I was ecstatic, as was long-suffering husband.

He because he could message his colleagues and inform them that yes I was actually in labour and he would not be going in the morning.

Me, because I was FINALLY being admitted to hospital and would be going home with a baby.

The relief was overwhelming.

Something was actually happening. No more limbo.

We were admitted to a room where I paced for an hour until the room with the birth pool became available.

I then found myself floating around in an enormous tub like a giant whale.

It was INCREDIBLE.

It was by far the best pain relief of everything else I had tried, floating around gently in the warm water. There were twinkly fairy lights on the ceiling. No whalesong or chanting.

Long-suffering husband leapt into action, mopping my brow and feeding me an iced fruit smoothie through a straw like a pro.

Bliss.

We were assigned a very young midwife.

She showed me the chart where she had to write down the baby’s heart rate every so often and explained the protocol.

She asked if I would like to try some gas and air.

Why not?

10 minutes later I was floating around the water, as high as a kite, giggling.

I couldn’t even feel the contractions any more. In fact, they seemed to have faded into the background and almost disappeared altogether.

The midwife checked the baby’s heart rate – still completely normal.

She re-examined me and prounounced me FULLY DILATED.

I couldn’t believe it.

“Any minute now, your baby will float to the surface of the water.”

Alarm bells rang.

FLOAT TO THE SURFACE OF THE WATER?

I had read about waterbirths, watched videos of waterbirths, and had never come across the idea that the baby would simply “float” out of me.

I looked at the midwife more closely.

  • She really was very young.
  • How young, exactly?
  • How many babies could she possibly have delivered?
  • Was she in fact a student?
  • Did she actually know what she was doing, though?

I applied some willpower and had a few stern words with myself.

  • Do NOT ask this woman if she is sufficiently qualified.
  • Remember that she is following an evidence-based protocol written down on a piece of paper in front of her.
  • It is irrelevant how young she is or how many babies she has delivered.
  • If anything deviates from the norm on her protocol, she will call someone and all will be well.

An hour passed.

The midwife informed me that I could now try some gentle pushing. Nothing happened.

Perhaps I was superwoman. I was so in the zone that I was totally pain-free and the baby would just float out of me after all.

The baby’s heart rate was remained perfectly normal.

The protocol told her that if nothing had happened after two hours from being fully dilated, she should call an obstetrician who she duly called around 2am.

The obstetric registrar arrived and unceremoniously kicked me out of my swimming pool.

All of a sudden the bright lights were on, the music was off and I was shivering on an examination couch, dripping water all over the floor. The magical spell was most definitely broken.

She, looked at my chart, sighed and called the midwife over. She explained:

“She is not fully dilated at all. She is still 7 cm. The same as when she was admitted seven hours ago. She has failure to progress.”

Ah. Perhaps I was not superwoman after all.

Perhaps my contractions were pain-free not because of my incredible pain threshold, but because they had in fact stopped when I got into the very relaxing water.

The midwife looked embarrassed.

“I’m so sorry,” she said to me, “I made a mistake.”

She looked like she might cry.

I smiled reassuringly at her.

“These things happen,” I said.

I was most surprised to hear those words coming out of my mouth, but discovered that I really didn’t care. She was only human. These things do indeed happen, no harm had been done, and she was clearly mortified.

“What’s the plan?”

“We transfer you to the obstetric-lead ward and start a syntocinon drip to re-start the contractions.”

I felt very calm.

I had read all about this and had received a recommendation from an obstetrician friend in case this situation arose.

“The induced contractions are the really painful ones, aren’t they? If the baby is stable I would like an epidural before the drip.”

“Fine.”

I was actually a bit sad to leave my hippy water-dwelling with the twinkly fairy lights. I had enjoyed my time there… free from contractions, being pampered, and getting high on totally unnecessary gas and air.

It had been a significant improvement on the four days of pacing around the house like a caged animal.

I smiled and waved encouragingly at the despondant-looking midwife.

“A few more vaginal examinations to practice for me then,” she said forlornly on my way out.

“Don’t worry, you will be fine!” I said.

It didn’t seem in the slightest bit strange at the time to find myself offering words of encouragement to the young midwife.

The next step – the obstetric-led unit.

As I had originally envisaged I found myself surrounded by medical equipment and beeping monitors. It was just as soothing as the hippy water-room in its own way.

We were told that everything being monitored appeared completely normal so we should await an anaesthetist for my epidural.

An indeterminate amount of time later the anaesthetist arrived. She was very cheerful and appeared somewhere in the region of twelve years old.

“Hello!” she said, “I’m here to do your epidural.”

I had another stern word with myself.

  • Do NOT ask this woman how many epidurals she has done.
  • Do NOT ask her if she is sure she knows what she is doing.
  • Do NOT ask her if there is someone more senior nearby, supervising her.
  • She is going to be doing this epidural anyway so shut up and don’t put her off.

My talk to myself worked.

I managed to keep my mouth shut, smile, agree, sign the consent form without asking any awkward questions, and say nothing during her ministrations to my spine.

Her epidural worked beautifully.

Now pain-free, I slept peacefully until the morning despite the ferocious syntocin-induced contractions displayed on the monitor.

Day 5 – Monday (Due date plus 2)

9am

I awoke to find a crowd in my room – the Monday morning ward round.

I was re-examined and found to be still 7cm dilated despite good contractions.

A brief discussion followed.

Apparently my baby’s head had fully descended but could not get out because my cervix was stubbornly refusing to finish dilating.

The consultant advised a caesarean section that morning.

I signed the consent form.

As they were leaving the room I woke up enough to ask some questions:

  • “Is the baby okay?”

  • ”Does the monitoring show any sign of distress?”

  • “Is there any alternative to the plan for a caesarean section and what are the risks?”

One of the registrars stayed back to answer my questions. She started speaking when out of earshot of her boss.

“The baby seems fine. There are no signs of any distress at all. Yes, there is an alternative, you could continue waiting for your cervix to dilate and there is no risk to doing that at this stage. There is a risk to doing the caesarean section though. Because your baby’s is so low down, we are going to have to pull the baby back up again to get it out. There is a risk of damaging your baby’s neck by doing that. The decision of whether to do the C-section or wait is yours. The consultant is only advising the C-section because this has been going on for some time, not because there is any evidence of risk to the baby yet.”

Oh crap.

I wished I had never asked.

I looked at exhausted, long-suffering husband.

Whilst I had finally managed a few blissful hours of epidural-induced sleep, he had been sitting bolt upright in the straight-backed wooden, chair, starving.

“What should I do?”

I can’t actually remember what he said.

We decided to wait.

I heard the registrar go outside and tell the consultant that I didn’t want the caesarean section after all and that I would like to wait.

He was annoyed and said very loudly that if I didn’t want to take his advice I didn’t have to.

“Re-examine her in two hours’ time,” he proclaimed from outside the door. “If she is not fully dilated, do a caesarean section.”

I went back to sleep.

11 am

2 hours later I was re-examined.

Verdict: 9 centimeters dilated.

The registrar was quite excited at the progress. Contrary to the previous plan, she reassured me that there was still no sign at all of any distress from my baby and if I wanted to wait another two hours I could.

I went back to sleep.

1pm

2 hours later I was re-examined.

Verdict: fully dilated.

It was a minor miracle, but I was so tired I didn’t really care any more.

I asked what happened next.

“It’s best if we wait for two hours before you push.”

I went back to sleep.

3pm

The midwives woke me up.

It was time to push.

I couldn’t really feel anything thanks to the magical epidural and had to put my hands on my stomach to feel the contractions to know when to push.

The two midwives spent five minutes explaining that I would have to work hard at the pushing because I wouldn’t be able to feel much. They were very cheerful and chatty.

“Who painted your toenails?”

“What?”

It was the middle of the afternoon, the sun was shining brightly through the window, I had had about 8 hours sleep in the last five days, and I thought I was hallucinating.

“Your toenails. Your nail varnish looks nice. Who painted them?”

Silence.

“Did your husband do them for you?”

My husband with the aversion to feet? You must be joking.

“No. I painted them myself after my contractions started. It seemed important at the time.”

“Oh well… you will be absolutely fine then.”

Had I missed something?

“What?”

They nodded wisely at each other.

“If you managed to bend down and paint your own toenails then you will have no problem pushing out this baby.”

“Right, let’s wait for the next contraction. Here it comes. PUSH!”

I pushed obligingly.

They started having a discussion with long-suffering husband about my baby not having much hair and all three of them went to have a look at its head between my legs. Surreal.

“PUSH!”

I pushed for a second time and out he flew at 3.10pm.

Five days of waiting then two pushes and it was all over.

Surprised that I was seemingly no longer required, I picked up my camera from the bedside table and took some photos of this baby who was still attached to me.

It seemed the obvious thing to do at the time.

 

He was placed on my chest for some skin-to-skin time, weighed, admired, and we were left alone.

I slept.

Some time later I opened my eyes to find the consultant midwife standing next to me. Apparently he liked to follow-up on the women he had met with to discuss their experience.

  • He reminded me that my plan had been to go for a caesarean section immediately if anything abnormal happened.

Oh yes.

  • However after signing a consent form to do exactly that, I had then changed my mind and did not want the caesarean section.

Oh yes.

I couldn’t really remember why I had decided any of the things I had decided over the past five days to be honest.

I was too tired.

“So,” he said curiously, “overall, were you satisfied with the experience?”

Absolutely YES, I assured him.

  • Healthy Baby.
  • Healthy Mum.
  • Did anything else really matter?

He smiled and left.

To continue to Baby Number Two – The Accidental Home Birth, click on the link below:

The Accidental Home Birth

My Vagina Is A Rosebud

“My Vagina Is A Rosebud.”

I can still hear those words now, echoing round my head.

Four years have done nothing to dim the recollection of hearing that unearthly voice with its slow, deliberate pronunciation, booming out insistently over the sound of the motorway traffic, rendering my husband and I speechless.

“My….Vagina….Is…..A………ROSEBUD,”

the voice repeated, slowly and insistently.

It all started when I met up with a school friend during pregnancy number one.

I had recently started sharing my good news.

“Now, I know how cynical you are, but give this suggestion a chance,”

she said.

This friend is no passing acquaintance.

She is one of those friends you can call after a year, catch up on life and find it as easy to talk as if we were still sixteen years old and bored between lessons. She had her first baby earlier that year and was keen to pass on some wisdom on how to manage labour.

I was all ears.

“I am going to lend you a book. You will hate it, but I want you to read it anyway. All of it. And at least TRY not to judge. I think it will help you with labour.”

This was a strong recommendation indeed.

True, this friend is far more into the hippy things in life than I am, but she is extremely intelligent, well-read and knows her way around psychology.

I gave her my word.

I would read this mystery book, cover to cover, and do my best to combat whatever scorn she seemed certain it would provoke.

The book was duly handed over.

By this point I was curious to see what could merit such an introduction.

“HYPNOBIRTHING,”

the title announced.

I nearly choked.

Clocking her eyeballing me very closely and remembering my heartfelt promise of thirty seconds earlier that I would not judge, I tried to rearrange my scornful expression into something more open-minded.

“Anything that helps can only be a good thing, right?”

I tried for a chirpy tone.

She looked unconvinced.

The book duly travelled across the country back home with me. I sat down one weekend as promised and read it from cover to cover.

I don’t recall many of the details, although I do remember rolling my eyes guiltily as though my friend might be able to see me.

To give the book credit where it’s due, it introduced one useful concept that stayed with me. The idea that fear works against the process of labour and therefore in order to progress, it is wise to have strategies for staying calm.

That made sense to me physiologically.

The adrenaline of the fight or flight response would not help the contractions of my uterus, so I needed to make sure I did not feel scared.

I’m not sure that any of the methods suggested in the book sounded reassuring to me, but I did at least like the theory.

Having promised this knowledgeable friend that I would be open-minded, I enthusiastically seized upon the CD that was included with the book. I triumphantly waved it under long-suffering husband’s nose as we started a drive across the country to someone’s wedding.

“So, I know you will think this sounds ridiculous, but apparently listening to this CD is going to give me some helpful coping strategies for labour,”

I informed him as we set off.

“Mmmmm,”

he said, or something equally non-committal.

“So since you are going to be the birth partner, I thought we should listen to it together.”

I took his silence as his happy agreement that this was a fabulous idea.

We had already been to antenatal classes and learnt various relaxation techniques for labour.

He had listened as he was informed that I may scream, shout and swear at him, hurt him, and require feeding/watering/massage for many, many hours. He had assumed the practice positions to best provide effective massage as demonstrated by our instructor, and participated in group discussions  about our expectations.

He was a well-trained birth partner-to-be.

How bad could a hypnobirthing CD be?

I left it an hour or so into the journey and then turned off the radio. We waited expectantly in the eerie silence left by the absence of the loud music.

Eventually this odd, other-worldly voice started reciting things quietly but firmly.

I turned the volume up.

I confess I cannot remember the first few phrases she repeated. They did not leave quite the same impression.

(For the sake of accuracy in my story-telling, I did try to find this out. However the book has been long since returned, complete with CD, and a quick Google search did not readily reveal the transcript of said CD. I am afraid the other incantations may have to remain lost in the sands of time)

It didn’t take long until the creepy voice began reciting that unforgettable phrase.

“My….Vagina….Is…..A………ROSEBUD.”

Silence.

A looooong, awkward silence, other than the sounds of the traffic.

“My….Vagina….Is…..A………ROSEBUD.”

Long-suffering husband kept his eyes on the road ahead, his face remaining a mask.

I kept my eyes on the road also.

Neither of us said a word.

I was aware that he was waiting to see how I would react.

My husband and I were effectively involved in a game of chicken, each waiting for the other to cave and speak.

I KNEW with utter certainty that he wanted to laugh, but was trying to avoid the accusation of being unsupportive if I was taking it seriously.

I was doing my best to relax and give in to the power of suggestion.

I fervently wished I could imagine it being in any way useful to visualise my rosebud vagina.

I was literally clamping my mouth shut and willing myself to believe.

I was desperately earnest in my desire to benefit from my friend’s advice.

“My….Vagina….Is…..A………ROSEBUD….”

“When the time comes, my cervix will open gently, one petal at a time.”

I couldn’t take any more.

My vagina is a fricking WHAT?

 “My….Vagina….Is…..A………ROSEBUD.”

I lost it.

I shouted at it the CD, called it names, asked it what it was on, laughed at it, and finally admitted that with all the best intentions in the world, this CD was not going to help me.

Long-suffering husband finally dropped the poker face, laughed, and confessed to being monumentally relieved that there would be no chanting those words with me on the big day.

Apologies to anyone who has used that technique and found it effective – that particular visualisation was not for me.

I do confess that I DID feel very calm throughout three very different labours (two of them at home) and as a bonus, I discovered a magical phrase guaranteed to take the stress out of any situation.

Honestly, ANY situation.

“My vagina is a rosebud.”

Try it.

(And do let me know how you get on)

Killing Katy: The Birth of a Blog

The inner crazy will always find a way out.

She is always there… lurking under surface like lava bubbling underneath a quiet volcano.

No matter how many deep breaths, how many times you compose yourself and say something reasonable, no matter how sane and together you may appear on the outside, that inner screaming voice always threatens to break free.

As each maternity leave/period of sleep deprivation torture progresses I feel chunks of my self-control falling away. The sane, rested version of me fades away like a distant memory as I progress toward the inevitable day that the crazy escapes.

I’m getting used to it now.

Having been through this twice before, I realise the sleep-deprived me isn’t permanent.

Around the time the baby can eat/isn’t attached to me for 2-3 hourly feeds/has some alternative childcare/learns to sleep, the fog lifts and I am almost able to see the funny side.

The day I can skip gaily out of the house, ALONE, minus the children and their gear, I gain some perspective and my ability to be rational (mostly) returns.

I have friends who say they prefer sleep-deprived me because I am more entertaining.

I imagine they mean this in the same way that some people find it enjoyable to slow down on a motorway to have a good look at the wreckage of a crash on the other side.

Unfortunately for those who prefer me sane (i.e. long-suffering husband), over the last four years the only outcome of the fog lifting has been a return to full-time work followed by the swift discovery that I am once again pregnant.

Jovial remarks along the lines of “time for number 4 soon then, eh?” are met with a prompt “not a chance” from long-suffering husband, who is scared to stand too close to me just in case. He occasionally mutters darkly about making an appointment for a vasectomy.

I digress.

I intended to describe how the escape of my inner crazy led to the unfortunate demise of a member of staff at our leisure centre and the birth of this blog.

It was all because of 3-year-old Boy’s swimming lessons.

3-year-old Boy was enjoying his lovely village preschool and had taken a liking to a boy there called Jude.* They shared a mutual love of screaming, roaring, running and climbing. Happily they ended up in the same swimming lesson at the local leisure centre.

Ah, those 3-year-old swimming lessons were a joyous milestone well worth the long waiting list. The magical day where a swimming lesson involved simply handing over your child to an instructor and then sitting in a spectator area, fully clothed and absolved of all responsibility for half an hour.

This following years of Waterbabies/Puddleducks, persuading babies/toddlers in and out of the water in the depths of winter (when the LAST thing you wanted to do was submerge yourself to watch your little angel swim, but did so anyway because the other mothers seemed to care enough about their cherubs to do it week in, week out) and then spending ALL DAY rushing around with wet hair in the freezing cold (because who has time to wash their hair?).

(To be strictly honest on two points, firstly I no longer go underwater to watch Baby Girl swim. Instead I smile at the instructor and explain that I will watch from the surface as I have no time to wash my hair. One instructor did kindly suggest I purchase a swimming cap, a suggestion I continue to ignore. Second point of honesty – I only managed one Puddleducks lesson before running screaming and kicking back to Waterbabies. I digress again- that is another story for another day)

I started talking to Jude’s Mum at these swimming lessons.

In my head she will always be “Social Media Mum.”

She has one of the many jobs I had never heard of until maternity leave when I encountered all the momtrepreneurs- she is a “social media consultant.” I still don’t really understand it.

Social Media Mum had that funny, witty, AWAKE air about her of someone who has left the sleep-deprivation years far behind her and never looked back. She has a sparkle in her eye in as though she actually sees the world around her, as opposed to stumbling bleary-eyed through the day.

Most enviably she had the casual, relaxed attitude of someone whose youngest child is the same age as my eldest and therefore following the morning pre-school drop off, she is totally, utterly, deliciously FREE for the day.

Sometimes I fantasize about what this freedom might involve.

Dropping children off at Government-funded facilities and then casually walking away without dealing with any of the following:

  • A clingy/crying baby
  • A toddler attached to your leg/running away from you/refusing to walk
  • The guilty panicked pressure of how best to fit 100 hours’ worth of ambitious plans into a few stolen hours of freedom provided by childcare at the expense of:
    • an hourly rate and hence your meagre bank balance, or
    • the (waning) goodwill of your relatives

I daresay that Social Media Mum probably just drops her children off, goes to work, then picks them up again.

However, on the mornings I glimpse her walk casually away in her unfettered fashion, I prefer to think of her as gliding away to recline in a meadow, undisturbed, reading an interesting book and making witty observations. Perhaps she follows this up with a Prosecco lunch with interesting literary colleagues and a quick nap before picking up the kids.

I digress yet again.

As I began maternity leave number three last summer at around 36 weeks’ pregnant, Social Media Mum and her Tall Helpful Husband gradually came more and more to my aid with managing these swimming lessons.

It was a hot summer, even outside the sauna-like swimming pool changing rooms.

I would waddle in every Thursday evening, short of breath, dragging excitable 3-year-old Boy and then-1-old-Boy behind me. I would attempt to get elder son ready for his swimming lesson whilst chasing younger son around the changing rooms, where he liked to hide from me inside the lockers.

I would then collapse in the spectator’s chairs and pretend to watch my son’s lesson whilst soaking up the half hour of adult conversation with Social Media Mum.

Tall Helpful Husband would come to my aid when 1-year-old got bored of whatever electronic device I exhaustedly provided him with. At the end of the lesson he and Social Media Mum would form a practiced crack team, shepherding their two boys into the shower, out, into clothes and then off to football practice like an enviably well-oiled machine.

The fatter I got, the more they stepped in and basically did the same for my son.

When I confessed that my husband would NEVER be joining me at these swimming lessons as he worked late on Thursdays, Social Media Mum looked at me in wonder.

“However will you manage this with THREE?”

She asked in horror/wonderment.

How indeed.

I had not given it much thought but assumed it had been done before and would somehow be okay.

Fast forward two months and not much had actually changed.

I would huff and puff into the changing rooms, no longer due to being fat, but due to lugging a car seat containing Baby Girl. The two Boys would run away. I would put down the car seat and ignore Baby Girl whilst shouting instructions at two sets of deaf ears.

Cue the Social Media Mum and her Tall Helpful Husband duo.

They would assist and somehow all would be well, followed by a half an hour chat in the spectator area whilst they helped me look after the other two.

Social Media Mum would ask to hold Baby Girl and look at her admiringly, making all the right noises, cuddling her, telling me how beautiful she was…and then hand her back at the end of the lesson with a knowing look.

“Lovely to play with…but I do like to hand them back and get some sleep.”

Wise words from a wise woman.

It was a beautiful arrangement on my part and left me with the illusion that I was managing three children terribly well.

Then came that fateful Thursday.

It began well. I had a wonderful day planned.

A well-trusted babysitter was coming to look after Baby Girl and energetic one-year-old Boy for the morning so that I could go for an actual SWIM, alone, then go to the doctors for a child-free 6 week postnatal check.

Two hours away from children was unheard of.

I. COULD. NOT. WAIT.

I arrived at the Leisure Centre and decided to be extra efficient. I would renew my membership and pay for the next block of 3-year-old Boy’s swimming lessons on my way in. I think there were birds singing and I may actually have been humming to myself.

My daydream about how terribly well I was managing was rudely interrupted by words coming out of the receptionist’s mouth.

Something about me having missed the deadline to renew the swimming lessons, and something about my son having therefore LOST HIS PLACE IN HIS 4.30PM SWIMMING CLASS which had now been GIVEN TO SOMEONE ELSE.

I was vaguely aware of alarm bells going off in my head.

Lost his place in the class with his BEST FRIEND from preschool?

The friend with the parents who basically took care of my children and allowed me to believe I was coping?

Things became a bit of a blur as I finally gave up on trying to restrain the inner crazy.

She flew out in full, ferocious force.

There were tears – just a few at first.

Followed by deep wracking sobs with my head thrown dramatically down upon my arms on the desk.

Then possibly some shouting along the lines of “how could this possibly have been allowed to happen?”

The exact details of what happened next are very vague to me in hindsight, but I did manage to get myself to the GP, get through the 6 week postnatal check, demand the contraceptive pill to avoid ever feeling like this again, and found myself an hour or two later sitting calmly in a chair at the chemists, awaiting my prescription.

I decided to write a quick WhatsApp message to Social Media Mum, just to update her that we would no longer be at the same swimming lesson.

The message I sent her reads as follows:

07.50 this morning: kids all ready & eating breakfast, Baby Girl fed, feeling a bit smug at how well I am managing on so little sleep.

8am: Babysitter arrives, set off to have a swim before doctor’s appointment for 6 wk postnatal check. Singing at 3yo son on the way out the door about how we will go swimming later, with Babysitter cheerfully adding “yay, Jude* will be there!”

8.10: renewing my membership for the Leisure centre feeling virtuously healthy on this beautiful autumn day, chatting to Katy at reception

8.11: I notice a sign at reception saying we are on swimming week 2, which I mention to Katy is a but weird as we haven’t had a badge or a renewal slip, but I had better pay for 3yo’s lesson at the same time. Katy informs me cheerfully that I have missed the deadline, that 3yo has been removed from his lesson, and that his class is now full.

8.12: Head in hands, hearing this is terrible news, I start weeping. Childless Katy gives me a pitying look. Slightly patronisingly says “now there is no need to get upset…didyou not see the big Nemo signs about re-booking? He could fit into the 5pm class with the same instructor so that would be okay?”

8.13: I leap over the counter, grab Katy by the throat and scream at her “FFS you utter moron, of COURSE I saw the giant Nemo signs. I come here every f*cking week on my own with THREE children & the only way I get the boys to move down the corridor is to tell them to race to see who gets to Nemo first. You think I also have time to read what it says on the f*cking sign? And NO, the 5pm class is not okay. Do you not understand that Jude is not in the 5pm class and that Jude is his FAVOURITE person? And how do you think I will get three children home, fed dinner, bathed and in bed by 7 after a FIVE o clock lesson when I am alone because my husband finishes work at 9pm on Thursdays? Do you not understand that this is an ABSOLUTE F*CKING DISASTER? Don’t give me that patronising face, do you not think I can recognise a disaster of epic proportions when I see one? Incidentally there must be some way that this is your fault, not mine, why the F*ck don’t you send out renewal Emails like everyone else, FFS? YOU try going to my house and telling my child that he is no longer in the same swimming lesson as Jude*!”

8.15: I bludgeon smug childless Katy to death and go for a satisfying swim

9.10: GP appointment: “yes feeling fine, emotionally everything okay, no unexpected weeping or rage or cases of murder or anything.” Prescription for the pill obtained to prevent ever having to go through this again.

9.30: Sitting in Lloyds pharmacy waiting for prescription reflecting that I really am managing terribly well, & it is a shame 3yo has changed swimming lesson but I will just type a quick (totally sane) WhatsApp message to Jude’s Mum to let her know we have changed time.

#havingitall!

P.S. Katy still alive and well but otherwise mostly accurate account of events

After sending the message I felt suddenly much lighter, as though the weight of the world had fallen off my shoulders.

A problem shared is a problem halved and all. I carried on happily with my day.

As 5pm approached I felt a little uneasy. I didn’t actually know Social Media Mum very well, for all I had taken advantage of her generous assistance in controlling my children.

Perhaps I had been a LITTLE hasty in sharing the inner crazy contents of my head?

There was of course the chance she would have found my message amusing, or perhaps, she would actually be fearful for her life in case I were clinically insane.

I arrived in the changing room in time for our new later lesson, bumping into Social Media Mum. I gave her a brief smile and my best impression of a sane person.

Social Media Mum: “You know,” she said, “I’ve been thinking. I have an idea.”

Me: “Oh yes?”

(Oh God, what is she going to suggest. Counselling? Psychiatric institution? Staying further away from her and her children?)

She smiled.

Social Media Mum: “I loved that message about Katy.”

Me: “Really?”

Social Media Mum: “Yes.”

Pause.

“You know, you should really start a blog.”

*Names changed

Katy appears alive, well, and seems to be a perfectly pleasant human being.