Just another woman having a baby

Beeping numbers! What the beep do they all mean!


I give birth!

So what is childbirth really like?

Here goes… here is my own personal account. Sorry for too much detail included but I figured if I didn’t capture it all ‘at the moment’, then I probably never would!


Planned Birth: In state-of-the-art ‘Birthing Centre’ with iPod playing relaxing music, massage oils, rolling around on my birthing ball, squatting on an exercise mat on the floor. Planned Pain Relief: gas and air, progressing to anything else they’ll give me.

Actual Birth: Strapped to a bed on the labour ward (continuous monitoring).

Actual Pain Relief used: 2 x paracetamol.


I am 35 weeks pregnant – 35 weeks and 3 days to be precise. I wake up on the Wednesday morning at 6.15am and feel OK. A few hours later I notice some redness in the pant district and start to panic. Then my stomach starts to hurt, badly. It feels like bad period pains. I am worried. By 10.40am I have rung my community midwife to ask calmly for some reassurance. She says it is worth ringing Triage at the hospital’s Maternity Unit. I ring Triage. I describe symptoms. Receptionist tells me:


‘Yeah, well, it sounds like it’s probably just yer hormones. I’d probably just take a couple o’ paracetamol and see if the pain gets any worse.’

‘OK, bye then,’ I say, unreassured.


Mid-morning now, and the period pain-like cramps are getting worse. I pop the paracetamol and decide not to panic and see if things die down. Sure I’m only 35 weeks pregnant anyway. Far too early. It’s probably just a false alarm. You hear about these daft women panicking early all the time. And First Babies Are Always Late. So goes the mantra of about ten thousand midwives.


I crack on with my work: I am trying to finish off a stupid book I am writing, it is so nearly nearly nearly finished, and I have given myself the deadline of 30th November. I sit at my desk and toil away with finishing off the running order of the book, and it does distract me for a few hours, but in truth, I am a bit preoccupied with all the ‘what ifs’ running through my mind.

‘What if this is it?’

‘What if I start going into labour while sitting on the loo and have to deliver the baby on my own and I have to crawl to the door, pants round my ankles, calling on a kind neighbour to come and help?’


It is now 6pm. Husband David has arrived back home and we have an early cheat dinner of fish and chips because he has to head out for his Annual Basketball Night Out. I hate the Annual Basketball Night Out. Two years ago it resulted in husband going AWOL drinking gin and staggering aimlessly round the streets of Edinburgh and not coming home till 5 in the morning, and the following year I managed to schedule in an alternative diary event so that he couldn’t go. This year he is raring to go again. I must let him, otherwise there will be an ‘atmosphere’. But I am in agony. However I can’t really let it show because I don’t want him to miss his Annual Basketball Night Out, again.


He leaves. ‘Will you be OK? I’ll only stay out till around midnight this time, maybe one.’

‘Oh, OK,’ I say, ‘But don’t stay out tooo late. I don’t feel very well. I am in agony.’

‘Here, why don’t you watch a film to take your mind off it? What about Alien?’


He downloads me Alien to watch and I settle down lying on my camping mat on the floor to watch it. It is ridiculous, and it reminds me why I ‘just don’t get’ Sci-Fi. Halfway through Alien I take a break to have a bath.


It is about 9pm. Practicalities of my predicament now start to kick in. I decide that if I do end up in hospital in the next day or so I need to attend to some personal matters. Best to be prepared, eh?

‘Argh! I need to look half decent!’

I apply St Tropez fake tan to my face to try and make me look a little less ill, and figure if anyone is going to be ‘looking’ at me I had better get my garden in good order. I get my epilator out to trim the topiary (no mean feat when you have an enormous ‘overhang’ of a belly – I use a mirror to aid me.) ‘Why am I doing this again? – And why am I so VAIN?’

So, fake tan on, legs shaved, and, ahem, well-trimmed all over, I am now to be seen prancing naked round the flat with the Dyson, hoovering up the barber’s shop floor so to speak, and all the while, experiencing sporadic cramping pains in my lower back.


The cramps are coming every 10 or so minutes, and I writhe around on my camping mat on the floor. There is more frequent blood. At one point I see someone’s head getting blown off in the film and I actually LOL – it is so ridiculous. ‘That was utter SH***!’ I text David. ‘Never make me watch a Sci-Fi film EVER again!!’


Alien and Sigourney Beaver over, I now feel like I have a sudden burst of panicked energy.

‘Argh! I had better get a few things looked out – just in case!’ I think. So I start frantically flinging a few hospital bag essentials into my Non-Packed-Hospital Bag. It is still too early! I am only 35 weeks! I still have a month to go!


At 10pm I get into bed. Ten seconds later I am out of bed. No! – It is just too painful. There is no sleep to be had here tonight. The cramps are intensifying. I am actually moaning out loud now, and wondering what the neighbours are thinking. I cannot stand up when the cramps come. There is only one thing for it: Intercept The Annual Basketball Night Out. I make a judgement call, and decide that husband has had 3 or 4 hours of drinking already, which is better than none; and, on balance, I need him right now a lot more than his basketball team needs him in the local Wetherspoons drinking pints of real ale.


‘I’d quite like you to come home now. Sorry, but I am in agony. I need you!’ I text him.



‘OK, just got a pint, I’ll drink this, then I will jump in a taxi afterwards.’


‘F***ing hell! I am contracting here! Ditch the pint, or take it with you! I need you NOW!’



‘Oh OK, I will be home as soon as I can. 20 mins. x’


Meanwhile I phone Triage again. It is 10.40pm. I describe my pains coming every 8 or 9 minutes and I get a much more qualified-sounding person on the end of the line. They tell me: ‘OK, well it sounds like you had better come in to hospital. Come straight away. And bring your things with you.’

‘OK, I will do – but I have an errant husband on a night out in town!’

‘OK well as SOON as he gets home, come straight to the hospital.’

‘OK, thanks,’ I pant down the phone.


Just after 10.50pm I hear a taxi outside, the door opens and I am greeted by a great fug of man booze. It is Drunk Husband.

‘Urgh! You are pi**ed!’

‘No I’m not. I’m not too bad actually,’ he slurs, ‘I only had a few pints of real ale and a whisky chaser…’

‘Well, look, NEVER MIND! It’s too late now! Turn around. We are getting straight back into another taxi. We’re going to hospital.’


He downs a coffee and is speechless and looks completely discombobulated at what is going on. I meanwhile hastily throw a few last minute things into my ‘Hospital Bag’ and have no idea what is in there and what isn’t. I don’t care. Medical notes – check. Makeup – check. Toothbrush – check. That’s all that matters. F*** my 4-sides-of-A4 Excel spreadsheet checklist I had carefully prepared a few weeks ago. There is no time!


11pm and a taxi arrives. Phew, thank f***! I waddle down the three flights of stairs from my flat, contracting, and carrying my suitcase, and trying not to scream out loud so that I don’t disturb the neighbours. I can hardly walk. The Sikh taxi driver helps us in with the bags. He is very friendly but doesn’t have brilliant English. It is dark and in my dark duffle coat and hat and scarf I wonder if he is able to tell I am (a) great with child, and (b) contracting.

‘Oh yes, very good, ha ha ha. Where you going?’ he asks.

‘To the hospital, please. So I can have my BABY!’ I yell.

‘Ha ha ha, very good, oh yes!’ he laughs back.


I am deep breathing throughout the worst of the sporadic contractions in the back of his taxi. Over the cobbled streets and speed bumps I curse the driver as I try not to scream out loud in agony. Sikh taxi driver still appears blissfully unaware that his passenger is contracting every 8 mins in the back seat.

‘Where we go now?’ he asks, calmly, as we get to the vast road system of the hospital.

‘No, not this way. Maternity!’ we both yell at him.

‘Oh yes, very good. Ha ha ha.’

He drops us off calmly and with no sense of urgency at the door to Triage, Labour and Maternity and we wonder how to get in.

‘Here. You press the buzzer. I know where to come. This is where my son was born. Ha ha. Very good! Good night!’


We thank Sikh taxi driver for his help getting our bags out of the boot and we are buzzed into Triage. It is deadly quiet. A grumpy woman with, again, no sense of urgency asks me to pee in a pot and there is blood and I am then ushered into a room where I am plonked on a bed with baby heart rate monitors strapped onto my belly. It is cold outside – freezing – and I have started to go into shock I think: my legs are shaking. Drunk Husband chews on chewing gum to try to mask the whisky fug. Chewing gum’s effects are minimal. I have to keep apologising to the staff for the fake tan that I didn’t quite have time to wash off; in case they think I always look this much like an Oompa-Loompa. My face has now developed into a deep shade of burnt umber. It is truly ridiculous.

God what must they think?? I always thought I’d never be one of the ones who came to hospital reeking of booze and fake tan and swearing like you see in Casualty. And now here we are! 

The pains are intensifying and worrying. Every time I feel a horrific period-like pain I can hear the baby’s heart rate dipping down from 140 to 80. This is worrying.

‘God, your breath STINKS in here!’ I hiss at Drunk Husband.

‘Sorry,’ he whimpers, eyes rolling about in his head like he’s just come out of a deep sleep.


A few medical professionals come in to see me. I am told to wait for the doctor to come down and examine me. After about half an hour, I am told, ‘The doctor is really busy up on Labour ward so we are going to her instead!’

‘Oh, OK.’

I think this must mean that things are ‘progressing’ more than just being a false alarm.

‘You won’t be walking,’ the nurse tells me.

She wheels me along quickly in a wheelchair – backwards – and I feel distinctly nauseous. Very shortly we are in the Labour ward. We are wheeled into something that says: ‘Delivery Room’. There is a delivery table/bed thing and monitors and it all looks clinical and scary. Where are the pan pipe moods? Where is the iPod dock? Where are the soft mood lighting, pools and wafts of aromatherapy oils, like it said in the book?

Bloomin’ heck! It all seems to be happening too soon.


I am strapped onto another bed, and the baby heart monitoring machine is strapped onto my belly, as midwife after midwife comes in to check the peaks and spikes on my ‘chart’.

‘Mmm-hmm. This all looks very good,’ a chewing-gum-munching, garlic-breathed, makeup-clad nightshift midwife tells me. ‘A doctor will be along soon to examine you.’


Eventually a doctor comes in to examine me. It is about 1 o’clock in the morning. Cue that awkward moment when the doctor that comes in to ‘examine’ you happens to be: (a) male, and (b) cute. He is young-ish, approximately my age give or take, wearing glasses, and foreign.


This has gone from Casualty to E.R….

‘Hello, my name is Panos. I need to examine you. To check that your cervix is still intact.’

He smiles and I think he is actually quite cute. We shake hands. (May I just point out that that’s unnecessary.) He gloves up, then the torchlight goes on and I have considerably less dignity than previously.


He roots around with seemingly his entire FIST, and I go ‘Aaarghh!’ in agony. It is pretty uncomfortable having a doc stick his whole hand up your chuff. He has a good old howk around up there, and it feels like I am having a medieval disembowelling. There are some parts of your innards that have just never been touched! (And never should.) He says he just wants to make sure there is no kind of opening in the cervix already.


He looks at his colleague the midwife and smirks and exchanges a kind of private look with her.

‘Hmmmm…This is really surprising actually. Hmm! I should never speak too soon…’

‘What? – What?!’ I ask, trying to read his face.

‘Hmmmm, basically – you are actually fully dilated.’ He smiles.

AARGHH! So I have been sitting at home contracting all the while I have been working, pruning, bathing, naked hoovering, fake tanning, and watching Alien??! Arghhh! I am in Actual Labour! ARGH!

Dr Panos de-gloves and gets up to leave.

‘You will have your baby tonight,’ he tells me, before leaving the room.


The rest of the early hours of the morning are spent on the bed, strapped up to the baby heart monitor. Beep – beep – beep! Pulse – pulse – pulse – pulse… first 145bpm, then 180bpm, then 90bpm, all night. There is little sleep. We go through an entire ream of graph paper on the machine and it has to be restocked.

Drunk Husband meanwhile has passed out on the floor of the Delivery Room, using my black duffle coat as a mattress on the concrete floor.


8am, a new day, and new staff! Very sharply, Dr Panos comes back in to tell me his diagnosis. He says that I am fully dilated – 10cm – and that things could start happening very soon, or they might not happen for weeks, so they might as well not take the risk. They may as well get this baby out.

They are going to break my waters!


I don’t have much time to think about it. Cue crochet hook! Cue Dr Panos getting his glove back on and having a good old root around up there. Ow! Although they tell me it will not be as painful as the manual examination of the cervix, it is just as painful and uncomfortable. Well, who wants a knitting needle up their insides at breakfast time? Woooosh! The flood gates open and I feel violated. Everything feels warm and wet. OMG my waters have broken, there is literally no going back now, I am actually now going to be having this baby!


Two hours later and nothing much new is happening. Another doctor comes into my room and says that it is now time to ‘hurry things along’ – they are going to put me on a drip to induce me. They keep asking me if my contractions are getting stronger – but I say No, now that I actually KNOW that these are contractions I am experiencing, I can safely say they were worst when I was rolling around on the floor watching Alien. So I am next seen to by a cheeky chirpy young woman doctor of about my age who puts the cannula in my wrist. I think I am going to faint, as, out of the whole labour process, the bit I have least stomach for is anything involving needles and blood. ‘Just a scratch…NOW’ they always say. Aye right. Ow!


Then a new midwife turns up. She looks reassuring and fresh-faced and lovely. Not overly done up in makeup, not reeking of fags, not chewing gum, not full of bad chat – just soft, sweet and sensible. She is going to be my delivery midwife. Cripes! This far along already!, I think. She puts a plastic apron on and seems fidgety. She arranges things in the room like a cot and a blanket for in the cot and she lays out a little woolly hat in the cot. God, you’re keen!, I think. It still hasn’t quite caught up with me that I am actually having this baby – today – in the next hour or so. A dominatrix female consultant comes in and talks to the midwife about my inducement and is just about to leave the room when she suddenly has a thought: ‘In fact! Wait a minute! I’ve got a medical student – how about that then?’


I sit watching everything from my bed as a helpless bystander in this ‘process’ and think my medical situation is all going from bizarre to worse. The nice, meek midwife stutters and pulls a sort of face. ‘Welll…I don’t know…’ she says, put on the spot, and shrugs her shoulders and looks at me. ‘I’d need to check it is okay first with mum and dad.’

I am now put on the spot.

‘Yeah, sure, bring her in!’ I say. I’m all for giving the young ‘uns a chance. Everyone needs experience. ‘As long as she’s just watching and not actually doing anything…’ – I add as a caveat.


The forceful consultant doctor leaves. The midwife, I notice, rolls her eyes.

‘Ooh, that was a bit of a ‘Casualty’ moment!’ I point out.

‘Sorry about that,’ says the kindly midwife. ‘I know she kind of put you on the spot there.’

‘Tuh! Internal politics!’ I say.


Cue the entrance of Kayleigh – a nice young woman of about 23 years old with her scrubs on, exceptionally timid and quietly spoken, who looks and sounds more like a sweet little beautician than a medical student. She is sooooo quiet. I can barely hear her over the beeps of my unborn baby. Kayleigh has never witnessed a birth before, and I am about to provide her with this amusement! Oh God, no pressure then! It is a really bizarre ensuing 15 minutes as I, Drunk Husband and sweet little Kayleigh are left to get to know each other like new friends, making small talk about towns and pubs in Scotland we have visited and how her course is going, knowing full well that in a few moments time she is going to be staring me straight in the ***** with the aid of a 750MW medical examination lamp.


Suddenly I come out of my tired daze and something that’s been bothering me strikes the inner recesses of my long-term memory. ‘Julie Martin.’ I say, looking directly at the midwife’s name badge. ‘She was a character out of Neighbours.’

Midwife seems bemused, and chuckles. ‘Yes, I think you’re right, actually!’

‘Didn’t she live in Jim Robinson’s house?’ I ask. I’m just trying to keep the small talk going as long as possible. No one likes awkward silences. Especially not in a room where several people are all staring expectantly down at your lady bits.

‘Yes, I think so. Wasn’t she a bit of a complete cow though?’ asks the midwife.

‘Wasn’t she something to do with that one that married those two twins?’ pipes up Drunk Husband.

‘…Who? Paul Robinson, you mean?’ I ask.

‘Yes, was it Paul Robinson that married those two twins? Are you sure?’ asks Drunk Husband.

‘Yes, it was. Caroline and Christina,’ I say.

‘What was Julie Martin to do with them?’

‘Oh, never mind. Anyway, let’s get cracking with this labour shall we?’


Neighbours breaking-the-ice small chat over, we then get cracking with the pushing bit.

‘Bear down into your bottom!’ is all I hear – with eyes tightly screwed up – for the next hour as I manhandle the little one down my ‘birth canal’ (that’s a euphemism for *** by the way) and ’round the u-bend’ with only the aid of two paracetamol and the strength of my vaginal muscles.


‘THREE BIG PUSHES! COME ON COME ON COME ON!…’ yells Julie Martin not-off-of-Neighbours. I am sure I must look well ugly. I feel like a performing beast, still with my stupid St Tropezed brown face. My face feels like it is about to explode. It goes purple as I hold my breath during each of the ‘pushes’. There comes a point when Julie Martin rolls me over onto my knees so that I am sitting up leaning over the back of the bed (at which point the flaps of the NHS issue ‘bed gown’ which I haven’t been bothered to tie up at the back fall apart and I am inadvertently exposing the whole of my **** to poor Julie Martin and Kayleigh) and I am asked to PUSH!! and I feel the most horrific pain probably known to man and I think I don’t want to do this any more. From my limited knowledge of the female anatomy I know there are three orifices down there, and all three of them feel like they are about to rupture and explode. How can bearing a head down through the birth canal hurt this much? My mum said it would be like constipation but 100 times worse – she lied! It is off the scale of constipation! And that includes logarithms.


But there is worse to come. Flipped back on to my back, and with Julie Martin and Kayleigh now gripping me by one leg each, I hear the words: ‘This might actually sting a bit as the baby’s head crowns.’ I keep pushing in Three Big Pushes and jeez there is an almighty stinging sensation at the front end of my front bottom (NB: NOT the bit they always warn you about in labour manuals) and I think I must be tearing. A needle is stuck in somewhere down there and it stings like F***!


‘Big push! Big push! More! More! Even more pushing, MORE!’ urges on Julie Martin.



(NB: At this point Not-So-Drunk Husband tells me he motions over to the midwife and says, ‘Do you think we should give her some gas-and-air now?’ Midwife apparently shakes her head quietly and mouths, ‘No. She’s past that now. She’s doing it all on her own anyway.’


‘Push! Push! More pushing, Annie, more, and more, and EVEN MORE pushing you’re doing really well!’



‘I can see the head now…it’s coming!’



‘Here’s the baby’s head now! – Oh! And the baby’s out!’

I feel a sudden relief of all the pressure that was raging through my pelvis, front bottom and back bottom and I look down and realise that the head was immediately followed by all the rest of the baby all at once and that It Is OUT. PHEW!!!

‘And it’s a boy!’ says Julie Martin.

I knew it would be a boy!


I look down and see that it has ‘strawberry blonde’ hair. I roll my eyes. This much was predictable. A tinge of ginge.


I feel blood and warm slippery liquid and see entrails and purple body parts and other bits of innards that I have never seen before and they should make me feel queasy and unsettled but I feel overwhelmingly RELIEVED not to have to do any more pushing. There is a cord pulling upwards from my gaping, bleeding birth canal. Suddenly I have a baby placed on my chest! The baby opens its eyes and cries and I am actually surprised to see that it looks like me. I was expecting, I think, a generic baby – but this baby looks like ME!!


I don’t know what to do, so I just kind of grab the babe that is plonked in my hands and say a standard-issue ‘Awwww’ a few times and try to reassure him. I look at him. He is very skinny! So small, yet so alert. He has big feet! His cord is cut by Drunk Husband and I check his willy and balls. He is all there! He is so small, yet so amazing! I presume the staff will do the perfunctory ‘wash down and wipe’ and present me with the cleaned up version of my baby, all ready for cute photos. They don’t. They don’t seem concerned in the slightest with washing away the goo or birth lubrication in any way. His face is all covered in white bits and spots and red marks and he has a wrinkly forehead and the top of his head is cone-shaped like a wee gnome. He’s naked and warm. Oh my God. I have had a baby!


Then there is the Haggis. I deliberately wrote on my Birth Plan (the one that was chucked out the window) that under no circumstances did I want to see the afterbirth. I am squeamish, and think it sounds absolutely revolting. ‘Just hand me the baby and do not let me see the afterbirth’ I wrote. But in the midst of all the cutting, tying, rubbing, mopping and wiping I happen to look over at the wheeled trolley next my bed and go, ‘Urgh! What’s that? Is that the afterbirth?’ – I catch sight of the Haggis. ‘Yes – yes it is.’ It is rank, and I feel sick.


Stitching! Stitching is possibly the worst bit of all, as there is no ‘reward’ at the end of it, just an enormous amount of intense pain in one of the most sensitive parts of a lady’s anatomy. There is much serious chat and chin-stroking by all the medical professionals as they stare at the aftermath and decide what to do with all my grazes, cuts, tears and rips. I can’t help thinking, Yeah but if this is standard procedure, common occurrence, for ALL this damage to be done, then it cannie have been designed very well in the first place, can it? 

A feisty young consultant surgeon comes in to do the job – as my ‘war wounds’ are apparently beyond the expertise and sewing skills of Julie Martin the midwife not-off-of-Neighbours. The consultant doc tells me, ‘This anaesthetic might not actually work – the skin is very thin down there.’ She’s not wrong. A needle is first injected – AAAHHHH! – and, as I sit with my new baby in my arms, feet up in stirrups, drawing for the first time on gas and air, on my mobile phone to my mum congratulating her on becoming a granny, all I can feel is a distinct ‘sewing sensation’, of needle pulling long thread after long thread through semi-anaesthetised flesh. This is unpleasant and I think she is going at it like she is sewing up a stuffed turkey on Christmas Eve.

– ‘Hi Mum! Yes, yes, you’re a – aaahhhhHH!HHHHG!HH!H – Granny now! – Yes, it’s a – aaarrghhhHH! OWYA! – boy!’

– ‘What’s going on there? Why are you screaming?’

– ‘Because I’m being stitched up! – ooh! Ow!’

Cue the annoying young consultant: ‘PLEASE!! Can you hold still and try not to squirm on the phone there! I’m trying to SEW!’






By the end of a week on the postnatal ward with, amongst other things, a Bangladeshi woman on her Bollywood ringtoned mobile phone every night yakking away in fluent Bangladese, a Polish couple who offered to take pics of me and my baby and gave me a free bottle of water, a French couple, a Spanish couple, 46 midwives all taking turns to milk my t*ts, a German mitweif (‘Ralph? Zis iss German name, yah?’), a screaming 40-year-old ‘special case’ from EH26 with ‘ma mental problems – ye cannie keep me in here, I need tae get hame tae ma WEANS’, a tattooed sulky nut-job who uttered not a word and never smiled but who huffed on cue EVERY ten minutes until she was ‘let oot’, and a pair of loveable 18-year-old neds who’d just given birth via Caesarean to 10-pound ‘Logan’, I realise I am no better or worse than any of the other beasts on the planet.


And that is childbirth.

Ralph – born on 29 November 2012 at 12.02pm weighing 5 lbs 12 oz!


Annie xx


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