For the birth of my third child, I went back to the same hospital in Athens where I’d given birth to my second. With the difference that now I knew the system and so I was prepared for what was coming. I knew I wouldn’t get a cosy, intimate, relaxed birth and I knew I would be separated from my newborn baby, so I adjusted my expectations accordingly.
When I went over 41 weeks, I had to sign a book to confirm I didn’t want a C section. The doctor actually agreed with my decision, and told me to come back every two days for a check-up, or when I had contractions every 10 minutes. Duly, I went back three days later on a Friday night with contractions every 10 minutes, but as they weren’t very strong, the doctor sent me home again. He told me to come back between 10 and 12 the next morning.
We went home. My mother-in-law had already put the kids to bed, but I couldn’t sleep because of the contractions. My husband stayed up with me, rubbing my back when I was in pain, chatting to me and fixing us cups of tea. It was December and we had the Christmas tree up, the only light coming from the strings of fairy lights around it. It was perfect – apart from the excruciating pain, of course! – the way I’d always imagined my labour should be.
The next morning, I got the girls ready (in between crouching on all fours thinking I was going to be torn in half by pain!) and ate some breakfast. I was in the shower when I felt a little like I wanted to push, and I leapt out (as much as a 41 weeks’ pregnant woman can leap) and pulled on my clothes, yelling to my husband that we had to leave RIGHT NOW.
In the car, I only had three contractions on the whole 40 minute journey, and I thought they might send me home again. At the hospital, a nurse took me through The Doors and took my blood pressure. It was pretty low, which shows my state of mind – I had this in the bag. Then she did an examination and all hell broke loose – apparently I was about to pop. Everyone was rushing around – the clothes and boots went in the bag (I bought my own this time to avoid the bin bag treatment), I had a quick scan, but there was no time for them to do any of that stuff-up-the-bum nonsense, which was a bonus.
An orderly whisked me off to one of the little rooms where I’d spent all night alone last time, but this time as soon as he parked my bed, the doctor appeared. It was the skinny consultant who had helped deliver my second baby! I had really liked him and I greeted him like a long-lost friend, which surprised him a little, but I think he was quite chuffed when I explained.
But there was no time to chat – we were off to the delivery suite. God knows where my husband is, I thought. Oh well, let’s get on with it. I literally would not have made it through my first two births without him, but this time was different. We were chatting and joking with the doctors and nurses, I got the baby out in two pushes, and we carried on talking. It felt a bit understated – like we were out for brunch, not bringing a new life into the world – but that suited me fine. I hate to make a scene!
The baby had the cord around her head, so she was blue when she came out. “Why is she blue?” I asked, trying to sound calm and curious, because I knew the skinny consultant had everything under control, but failing miserably and coming off sounding just as panicked as I felt. “Don’t worry – she’s fine,” he said. And she was – I watched her turn from blue to baby-colour as they weighed and examined her.
Then I got my cuddle. But before they took her away, I collared a midwife and told her that I wanted them to bring me my baby as soon as possible so that I could feed her. To my surprise, she agreed. Then I had my stitches (without anaesthetic because I was allergic to it last time, and they apparently didn’t have an alternative – it was more painful than giving birth!) and they took me to the recovery room.
There was an African lady in there too, whose Greek was even worse than mine, but we managed to have a conversation. She had just given birth to her fifth daughter. I was ecstatic – I was grinning like a looney – and they even bought me my baby, as I’d asked, and I fed her. She was a little bruised from the cord, but she was perfect.
After I did a pee, they took me up to my room, where my husband resurfaced at last. Apparently, he’d gone to the car to get my bag, and when he got back and located me, the doctor told him there was no time to change into his scrubs – I was literally having the baby at that moment! Luckily, he is not the kind of guy to dwell on the fact that he missed his daughter’s birth – he was just overjoyed to meet her at last.
I’d spent the whole time I was in hospital with my second baby wanting to go home, feeling lonely and worrying about how my other child was without me. This time, I had talked myself into seeing those five days (which turned into six because she had jaundice) as a mini-break. Food would be brought to me, I had no chores to do, nowhere to go, just plenty of time to spend with my new baby, cuddling and feeding and watching her sleep. I read several books and had lots of visitors. When my husband’s uncle came to pick us up and take us home, my mindset was a million miles from what it had been the last time. I was absolutely, fabulously happy.