So there I was gripping the toilet seat with all hell breaking loose around me. This was another shock after the low key atmosphere of the birth centre where I’d had the babe. There, my midwife calmly examined me when I said I wanted to push, announced that the baby was coming soon, and suggested I sit on the birth stool to help things along. The hospital was a different story. Although the toilet of the labour ward seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable place to give birth, for some reason a large number of people were very keen to get me to the delivery suite – which is two floors below.

The large Caribbean midwife came steaming in with a wheelchair and there was much cajoling to get me into it. I kicked off what remained of the lower half of my clothing – wouldn’t be needing those – and climbed in between contractions while they tried to ineptly wrap a sheet around me to preserve my modesty. I can faithfully report that had they wheeled me down the corridor stark naked I would not have cared a jot. Someone prised my fingers off the controls of the TENS machine and turned it up from ‘Aerial Bombardment by 1,000 African Killer Bees’ to ‘Accident in an Electricity Substation’ and I still couldn’t feel it.

My eyes were tightly shut from then on while I concentrated on my so-called breathing. I saw nothing of the journey from the labour ward to the delivery suite, but there seemed to be a lot of wind on my face, a fair number of swing doors, and the large midwife puffing away laughing her head off and shouting, ‘I’m too old for this, Babymother!’ Actually, there’s something reassuring about hearing someone splitting their sides when you are in complete agony. Maybe I was going to survive.

They piled me onto a bed in the labour suite. This was a room we’d seen on our tour of the hospital, and it’s about as medical as you can get (the birth centre room was basically a softly-lit bedroom with an en-suite bathroom). It was absolutely no different to that room in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life where all the men in white suits come to ignore a woman giving birth in order to admire a machine that goes ‘beep’. As I had my eyes tightly shut it hardly mattered what the room looked like, but I did have a problem with the bed.

I was being put on it in a semi-reclined position with all my weight on my backside, which I read somewhere is a position invented for the benefit of Victorian obstetricians, ending centuries of women giving birth sensibly by squatting, kneeling or on all fours. All I could see projected onto my closed lids was the plastic model of a pelvis they’d shown us in the Active Birth class. When you lie on your back, the coccyx is pointing inwards, closing the structure that the baby has to pass through by up to 30 percent. In this position, according to active birth gurus, you are working against both gravity and your own body.

I tried to remedy this by flipping over onto all fours between contractions. Babyfather said I looked like on of those toy frogs with a suction pad which suddenly spring into the air when the suction is gone.

All the midwives went ‘Ooooh!’

Then, ‘Sorry, Babymother, you can’t stay like that. We can’t monitor the baby.’

So, after more cajoling I was on my back again. That left me with one option (I did ask them to let me lie on my side but no-one seemed to know what I was talking about) – I gripped the sides of the bed and levered my backside off it for the rest of the proceedings. It took me a while to work out why my arms were so stiff and sore the next day.

It was quite hard to concentrate on this at the same time as giving my Oscar-worthy performance of a woman giving birth. After all, I don’t get to be the centre of attention very often. Pushing is the best for making great noises. My range went from ‘NNNGGGNG’ to basically an open-mouthed ROAR. I don’t know if it helped but I do know it was loud.

After a particularly loud and effortful push where I held my breath, there was a chorus about the baby being in distress. This was a classic scenario we were warned about in our class – if you hold your breath and push, the baby is deprived of oxygen and its heart rate drops, which in turn gets picked up on the monitor and everyone panics. You do not want medical people around you to panic while you are giving birth, because they are likely to do unpleasant things with forceps and scalpels*. So I did my best to stop pushing.

‘This often happens,’ I heard a midwife saying. ‘We get someone downstairs and then the contractions drop off. What we’ll have to do is…break her waters!’

There was much rejoicing.

(Midwife Muse tells me that it’s actually an unpleasant job which can leave you with squelchy shoes for the rest of the day, but that wasn’t dimming their enthusiasm.)

‘Watch out – here comes the Thames!’ somebody trumpeted. I didn’t really feel anything. Other than the ongoing pain, of course.

‘Uh oh. Baby’s done a poo on you,’ said someone else. In other words, meconium, which I seem to remember is quite common in overdue babies. It’s a concern because it can block the baby’s airways, although usually it doesn’t do any harm. The babe had meconium with no adverse affects so it didn’t seem like a big deal. Things may have looked different from the midwives’ point of view though – I apparently wasn’t progressing and the babeling was potentially in danger.

‘This is an emergency now,’ I heard a midwife say to babyfather and I also distinctly heard the word ‘theatre’ used.

Suddenly it seemed like a very, very good idea to end the excruciating pain, and the threat of surgical implements, by getting it all over and done with as soon as possible. So I pushed, like no-one in Hollywood has ever pushed before. I think they were impressed, and if not impressed, then at least slightly deafened.

I could feel the baby’s head crowning – babyfather said it looked like a slice of watermelon. I finally opened my eyes to try to see what was going on but could see nothing but my own belly. A better description of what I could feel was something like a red hot bowling ball trying to leave my body through an aperture roughly half its size. Quite obviously, if I carried on pushing, something was going to rip, but if I didn’t, something worse might happen, like the pain continuing. So I carried on pushing.

Babyfather was very helpfully reminding me to breathe. When he interrupted his own instructions to laugh, I knew it was nearly all over, and with a long wet slithery whoosh the pain vanished.

Funny how the memory of the pain recedes so quickly – I can just about remember that I remember that I thought, ‘I am never, ever, ever, ever going to do this again,’ although I can’t quite remember why. But seeing the babeling for the first time is a very clear memory, and I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry about it.

‘Thank you Jesus!’ I shouted – after all, let’s give the credit where it’s due – and held out my hands for this tiny baby who was wailing her heart out. It took them what seemed like three hours to clamp the cord and wipe off some of the gunge before they gave her to me.

I can’t describe this moment to you. It’s pure emotion. Ten months ago she did not exist. Now I’m holding her and she’s whole, perfect, and mine (for a while). She even has my nose. Where, seriously, but where, did she come from? All the biology in the world can’t explain her. She is a miracle.

Like I said, I can’t describe it.

* Sorry if I sound scathing. If there really was an emergency I would have been grateful for any medical intervention.

The story’s not over yet – come back at some unspecified time in the future to read about the indignities of post-natal care in what I could call ‘It’s a Stitch-Up.’ You probably get the picture. In the meantime, Babyfather has shamelessly posted some of the babeling’s first minutes on YouTube.

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