In June 


When I was pregnant I read a lot of positive birth stories and it helped me feel prepared. Our baby is nearly a year old and finally I feel ready to write about birth! This isn’t exactly a positive birth story – though I did have a planned homebirth with no complications, it was long and I found it very painful. So if you are pregnant it might be a bit too warts-and-all to read right now!

At our 20 week scan the Spanish radiographer looked hard at the screen and said “yes, yes you are having a little princess.” Adam said “how, exactly, do you know it’s a girl?”, and she pointed and said “the labia”, and we felt a bit silly.

We were so happy. I am all right-on about gender but I desperately wanted a girl. Of course I would have ended up loving a boy just as much, but I was too nauseous from morning sickness to challenge my deep desire. Perhaps it was something about me being a girl. Something about me and my mum. About how I would be able to relate to the child we were having. I went into the toilet after the scan and I sank to my knees and wept in total joy. The baby was ok. I was having a girl. I will never forget the moment. It was the purest happiness I think I have ever experienced.

IMG_7699.jpgThe rose I had planted in our garden started to bloom a few days before she was born, like something that would happen in a rom-com. I can still feel the oddness of the time, the weight of anticipation, the last bit of “freedom” but not really because you can’t go anywhere or do anything. You wait. You wait. We walked in parks and gardens. Went out for lunches. Tried not to worry too much or think the worst.

My contractions started in the middle of the Wednesday night, 20 minutes, then 7 minutes, then 5 minutes apart. Here we go, I thought. Finally. This is fucking it. It hurt, a lot. It was so intense that I remember thinking: this baby will be here tomorrow morning. But the next morning the contractions had slowed to every 15 or 20 minutes and stayed that way all day. I remember lying in our bed about 6pm watching Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May on the iPad, feeling exhausted and at sea. It was that in-between time of day when you’re tired but it’s too early for bed, and anyway, sleep would only come in snatches, a minute or two before the next contraction woke me again. And when the baby was here I would be up all night: me and sleep were over. We were on a long-term break.

The contractions came more frequently through the night but slowed again the next morning. It was now Friday. My parents were at my sister’s house in North London and I suddenly desperately wanted to see them all (and what the fuck else would we do for another long day?) They all arrived very excited and emotional with a lot of SANDWICHES. I walked around the green with my mum and sister, holding onto them and puffing my way through contractions.

Around 4pm the contractions started coming much more frequently. Flooded with oxytocin, I smiled my way through the pain and kept telling my sister “you look sooooo beautiful”. I found myself on the floor, wedged between a sofa and a table in a dark, cool spot. I must have crawled there. I remember Adam giving me peanut butter on a spoon. The midwife arrived. The hours went by and I was really starting to feel the exhaustion and thinking that this pain wasn’t funny anymore. I was making a lot of noise. I howled NOOOOOO a lot through contractions and kept insisting I could not do this. Sometimes I thought I was on the crest of the pain, that it could not get any worse, but then it did, and it lasted for maybe 30 seconds and it was just unbearable, unbearable. But we must bear the unbearable, mustn’t we.

At around 5pm I had been 5cm dilated. When she checked again about 6 hours later I was … 5cm dilated. I wanted to scream. I asked about going to the hospital, about an epidural, but the idea of calling an ambulance and having to get in it, when moving an inch made me want to vomit, was even worse than the promise of pain relief. Also I had got this far. I kept saying to the midwife, how long, how much longer, and she would say firmly “you’re nearly there. You’re doing really well. Stay positive.” But the second midwife arrived and she was more honest, saying “I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take. I’m so sorry.” I was so crushed. I wished she’d lied to me.

I lay on the floor in the bathroom in the pitch black. I sent my family away, who had been drinking wine in the conservatory and listening to my screams of agony. I could sense them nearby and wondered if my body was holding back from letting go so as to spare them the full volume of the experience.

The midwife ended up breaking my waters while I lay on the sofa: painless, strange, the warm  water rushing out and down my legs. Things finally started to happen. The contractions were coming with barely any gaps in between and the pain got even worse. Nothing I had learned or practiced had prepared me for it. It was ten million times stronger than any mindfulness technique. I couldn’t reframe it at all, I kept trying to tell myself it’s your choice whether you experience this as pain and all sorts of other nonsense which had no effect whatsoever. I know women who didn’t feel the pain as pain, more of an extremely intense sensation, but this wasn’t the case for me. With each one I gripped so tightly onto Adam’s arms that I thought I would pull them off. I remember it felt like we were one joined body in the same strange dream. He appeared so calm, even if he didn’t feel it. There wasn’t a second where he was anything other than exactly what I wanted him to be.

The birth pool in our living room, the gas and air I guzzled, nothing touched the edge of the pain. It was a feeble distraction from something huge and strong. When she finally started to move down the birth canal, I was pushing for about an hour. There is that moment where the baby crowns: we can see the head, that is the only part like the movies! The utter relief that it was nearly over. And the pop – I heard it – of the moment she came out, the sting of the tear. Is she alright is she alright is she alright. So slithery and slippery and so much dark hair! It was 1am on Saturday morning, 72 hours after it had all started. Adam wept, wept, wept on my shoulder behind me. I was too stunned and exhausted to cry. I felt intense relief and  disbelief about the bizarreness of birth, that I now had a live baby on my chest. Oh my god, I kept saying. Oh my god.

I lost a lot of blood and felt very faint. I heard panic in the midwive’s voice as she tried to keep me conscious, and I began to get extremely paranoid that I was going to die in childbirth and leave Adam alone with the new baby. “It’s not going to go all Jack and Sarah”, he reassured me, and fed me Coke from a can.

I breastfed her on the sofa for hours and the midwives left us, terrified, alone together. Somehow Adam managed to get the baby in a nappy and a sleepsuit. Somehow he helped me crawl to the bed while he held her. And we put her in the crib beside our bed and didn’t sleep until my parents got there and held her for us.

I couldn’t stop looking at her and I was so frightened by the scale of my responsibility for her. Another thing I couldn’t imagine until I felt it, not the true nature of it anyway. I liked her a lot right away but wasn’t sure how much I loved her because I didn’t know her yet. I didn’t know who I was dealing with. But I felt protective of her, that I would do anything if it would make her life good. In a way that made me feel like my life as I knew it was over. It used to be a thing for me, an instrument of my desires, and now it was sort of for her. I wondered what her life would hold. I wondered what she would like and be like. I wanted her to be extremely happy. I wanted everything for her.


I had a homebirth via the Brierly midwife team at Kings College Hospital. They, and the care they provided, were nothing short of amazing. If you’re thinking of a homebirth in south London I can’t recommend them highly enough.


One Response to “In June ”

  1. 1 kiracook



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