As promised. It’s long, so I won’t be offended if you don’t read it. But I know there are other people like me who can’t read enough of these things.

We turned up at the hospital at 8am for my ‘induction of labour’ – the idea being that at fourteen days past the due date, it is no longer a good idea for the baby to stay inside, and by hook or by crook, they will get it out. (Or should that read by caesarean or forceps?) And you really aren’t allowed to go home until they’ve succeeded.

‘Can I walk around the hospital grounds to get things going?’ I asked the midwife who was looking after me.

‘No, that’s too risky,’ she said.

‘How about just up and down the stairs outside the ward?’

She shook her head.

‘What about food? We’ve only bought one set of sandwiches…’

‘Oh, we’ll feed you,’ she said. ‘You’re ours now.’


I was hooked up to a monitor for an hour and discovered that I was actually already in labour, with mild contractions at ten minute intervals. The midwife went off to ask a doctor whether or not they should take the first step of induction, which is giving a pessary of a hormone that promotes labour.

‘Let’s take her down to theatre and break her waters,’ said the doctor gleefully.

‘Is that really necessary?’ I asked. I think my body knew what it was doing and could get on with it all by itself.

‘Oh,’ said the doctor.

‘I think Babymother was hoping for a more natural birth,’ said the midwife apologetically.

‘Oh. Well, of course, we won’t do anything without telling you first. I mean asking you,’ said the doctor.

‘What about the pessary?’ said the midwife.

‘Yes, why not? No point hanging about,’ he said.

This was the moment where I should have politely declined to have anything inserted at all. All I knew about the pessary was that it contained prostaglandin, a hormone which also happens to be present in semen. It sounded like a gentle enough encouragement into labour, a bit like a passionate episode with babyfather only without any pleasure and good deal more rubber glove.

I was wrong.

After the midwife had finished doing me grievous bodily harm with the rubber glove, she said, ‘This could take six hours or three days. You never know.’

‘I’ll have six hours please,’ I said. Ha ha. How naïve I seem now looking back at it all! How laid back and unsuspecting! Anyway, on with the story.

I was told to ‘mobilise’, so I did laps of the day room table while babyfather read the paper. Things got steadily more uncomfortable, but not with contractions.

‘My perineum REALLY hurts,’ I said to the midwives who were chatting at the reception desk, while I hopped from one leg to another. (If you don’t know where your perineum is, you probably haven’t given birth, and you therefore don’t really need to know so I’m not going to tell you.)

‘Oh, that’s the pessary,’ said the midwife serenely. ‘The joys of induction, eh?’

The only way to relieve the pain was by lying down. I was not impressed.

‘It’s a plot,’ I said to babyfather. ‘They have ways of making you give birth on your back.’

I had the babe at a birth centre where I was on my feet most of the time I was in labour and she was delivered while I was standing up. I had hoped to be just as active despite being on a conventional labour ward, but this was not boding well…

Contractions gathered pace. Time for the TENS machine. This is a wonderful device which ‘silences the pain of labour’ by sending an electric current through pads stuck on either side of your spine. If you try it when you’re not in pain, mind you, it just feels like electrocution. Babyfather stuck the pads on and connected them to the machine.

‘OW!!!’ I shouted.

‘Oops,’ he said. He’d forgotten it was turned on and somewhere near the highest setting. Fortunately we both found this funny, not just babyfather.

Otherwise, he was the perfect birth partner. We stayed in our curtained-off cubicle together, and when a contraction started he would time it, telling me when 15…30…45 seconds were up so I knew when the pain would be subsiding. Then he made a note on his newspaper of the intervals between them. I practised my breathing – deep breath in, slow gentle breath out. Easy peasey. Nothing to it. In between we chatted and I pointed out the numbers he’d missed on his Sudoko.We even considered watching a film. Again – ha ha. The woman in the cubicle opposite started wailing and was removed. (She gave birth 30 minutes later.)

Things must have sped up because babyfather started writing timings on his Sudoku by mistake, and I found that the next setting up on the TENS machine felt less like a bee sting and more like a soothing back massage by a large muscular man. Every fifteen minutes the contractions moved up a gear. We called the midwife (a shift had changed and this was a large cheerful Caribbean lady) who declared the contractions strong but not strong enough, and pointed out that I could still talk to her between them. Another fifteen minutes and I was not capable of talking to anyone, other than to gasp, ‘Another one coming,’ in despair and turning my TENS machine to ‘Attack by whole hive of friendly hornets.’

She examined me and got very excited about the fact that not only was my cervix dilating fast and was ‘ripe’, but my membranes were bulging and that she’d nearly broken them by mistake.

‘Let’s get her down to the theatre and break her waters!’ she said.

This must be the most fun thing a midwife gets to do, judging by how keen everyone was to do it.

I was desperate for a wee, so I dashed to the toilet between contractions and sat there doing my version of the breathing. I’d decided that it was easier to focus on breathing out if I vocalised it, so I was saying ‘Vooooooooooooo’ like a tormented ghost. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wee – something was in the way. Babyfather hovered at the door discreetly – these were ladies’ loos after all – until I was overcome by a feeling I knew from three years ago (OK, three years ago and also the last time I did a number two) and shouted ‘I want to PUSH!’

Babyfather knew from the last birth that I meant it and sprinted out into the corridor.

‘She wants to PUSH!’ he shouted.

Then he came back to the toilet door. ‘That got them running around,’ he said smugly.

And on that cliff hanger, I will end this episode, leaving myself perched on the edge of the toilet seat. Will I have the baby in the loo? Come back and find out, same time next week. Or whenever I find time to write some more. If I get round to it at all that is.