I had a wonderful few days with my partner trying to bring on labour. My waters broke on the Sunday and by the Wednesday still nothing had happened. We went for windy spring walks along the seafront in Hove where a ship load of wood had just been washed up on the beach. We had curry, pineapple, sex, jumping up and down and acupuncture. Nothing happened.
The flat was spotless. The sitting room was one large bed. A pool had been borrowed but not set up. I went into hospital for a checkup and the doctor reacted very strongly indeed to the fact that we had left it so long since the waters broke. He wanted me to stay in and be induced immediately. I was told I was risking the baby’s health by waiting a moment longer.
Greg drove anxiously home to get my stuff. I waited in an empty room for him to come back not knowing what would happen next. I didn't want to see the doctor again until Greg was safely there by my side. We had been wrapped up wonderfully in our little bubble for the last week.
Later, I remember the epidural wearing off because they had to take the line out for some reason and they forgot to put it back in – suddenly I was in the full blown pain of labour. The female doctor took a look and told me the baby's head was turned. I had an hour more, she said, to try and turn the head before they would try forceps or……
In the end I was taken in for an 'emergency caesarian'. I lay on my back, ‘please be gentle with me.’ I remember looking up at the female doctor at one point and she had my blood up to her elbows and spatterings of it on her protective goggles. My baby girl was pulled out of me and she was fine. I was over the moon – once you have your baby and she was healthy and everyone was fine – it doesn't really matter any more.
Crossing the seafront road we pass Henry Allingham – 1st World War survivor and the world’s oldest man – leaving in his funeral hearse. In 2 hours time she will arrive.
At the lowest most impossible point, when I absurdly, mulishly say ‘I can’t do it, I can’t’, the quiet watchful midwife with the beautiful cow-brown eyes speaks, ‘I see lots of dark hair. Feel’. I reach down into the pool and feel - between my legs the clotted tendrils of her hair float free. It feels the way seaweed feels, brushing my legs when I swim. Now, everything is certain.
I plunge and plunge and I’m the only one there until she is here and I grip her greasy duck-down body, her head above the water between my breasts, and look into an open howling mouth at some hardy gums.
Curiously, the first thought I have is: ‘That is where her teeth will be’. And I think what I meant was – in that shocked moment – ‘She will eat. She will speak. She will laugh. She will sing. She exists.’