Top Image

Top Image

Having a Baby - Part I

Posted on: Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Because another birth story is just what the internet needs, yeah?


It’s 11:15pm when Adam calls the taxi. The taxi driver looks from our bags to my belly. “C’est un cas d’urgence?” Oui. St Elisabeth, s’il vous plait. Vite. I knew it would happen at night.

It’s taken three hours of puffing, panting, standing up, sitting down, a phone call to the labour ward (“Maybee ‘av a bath, no?” Maybe feck off with your fecking bath), burying my face in the duvet and a TENS machine ribbitting away uselessly on my back for me to concede that This Is It. But as the driver hits what feels like every speed bump and red light between Woluwe St Pierre and Uccle, fear rises. What if it isn’t? What if they laugh in my face? Go home, little girl. And when real labour hits it’s going to hunt you down like a DAWG. 

We arrive at the emergency exit, the normal entrance for women in labour arriving after 8pm, which is pretty grim despite St Elisabeth’s fancy private hospital credentials. Plastic chairs, scuffed walls, a mother hushing a toddler wrapped in a blanket, two policemen and a German Shepherd, a vending machine. My panting and gurning gets us to the front of the queue and we’re directed to the second floor. The midwife - the one I’ve spoken to, the one who suggested a bath - is younger than me, has beautiful cheekbones and smells faintly of cigarettes. I want to say this to Adam - ‘She smells of fags!’ - but can’t - a contraction gets in the way. I’m instructed to pee and strip in that order; then she straps me to a monitoring device and leaves the room. The machine tracks the baby’s heart rate but as a contraction rises I have to - categorically MUST DO THIS RIGHT NOW - get up and move around. An alarm sounds and the midwife reappears, panicked. I try to say sorry (not sorry) but find I can’t speak. In fact, I can’t do very much at all; I can’t focus on anything other than squaring up to the wave of pain heading my way. And yet it isn’t frightening or even, strictly speaking, painful - it’s intense, I suppose, and absorbing rather than simply ‘painful’, which suggests something trivial and day-to-day like, oo, stepping on an upturned plug.  Adam tries to talk to me but I can only put my finger to my lips. Ssh, stop, don’t you know that my head is FULL OF CONTRACTION? I live inside it for a full minute; then it ebbs and I spend the next four or so preparing myself to meet it again. I bury my face in the mattress and my knees tremble. The pain is the only thing in the room; it's the only thing that matters. 

Somehow, despite my cavorting, the midwife manages to examine me. “Seven centimetres,” she announces, smiling. “I suppose we’ll let you stay.” A stab of triumph: this IS it. Oh yes. Oh Jesus. 

And so there is a decision to be made. “Would you like an epidural?”* Yes, I say, and afterwards I’ll laugh at the decision made just like that after all the antenatal hours (mis?)spent reading and researching and discussing. I’m not desperate, mind, but I think a shot in the spine right now would be very nice, very nice indeed. I’m just starting to feel a bit mad, a bit like I’m losing control, and that is not a happy place to be. Again afterwards, I’ll describe it as feeling like an animal, although I’m not exactly sure why - maybe because I couldn't talk, was reduced to mute desperation? Or maybe because the pacing up and down reminded me of when our family dog went old and senile and wandered around the house shaking and staring at skirting boards? 

When a midwife asked my friend how she felt as she approached delivery she replied, 'Like I've got a wardrobe between my legs.' It was the biggest thing she could think of, she said. And that’s how I felt - like an old, senile Jack Russell. Does that make sense? Probably not. Childbirth brings about some interesting analogies is my point. 

And then comes the crushing blow, just as I’m envisaging a seamless transition from pre-epidural on-the-edgeness to post-epidural serenity and I’m mentally patting myself on the back for having this giving birth thing totally sussed, the midwife speaks. “OK,” she says, still smelling of fags, still young and beautifully-cheekboned. “I’ll call the anaesthetist. She’ll be half an hour.”

Oh. OK. I had visions of her sitting in the corridor, masked up, needle in hand, awaiting my feverish call. How stupid, I think, of course she isn’t, it’s after midnight, it’s a tiny maternity unit and I’m the only woman giving birth tonight. Half an hour, right. 

I do the maths. Seven contractions? Eight? Oh God.  

And so this was the part of labour which really wasn’t All That Pleasant. HoooEeeee. Hoo hoo hoo eeeeee. Everything's gone a bit blurry. Please live nearby, I think, and please hurry. Please, please, please don’t have a cup of tea before you leave home. Please don’t have a car accident and please let the lift be on the ground floor when you arrive.

In the end, she only takes 20 minutes, although I’ve been acutely aware of every single one. She breezes into the room, smelling of the cold. She speaks in French to the midwives but she’s too quick and accented for me to understand. A blue paper screen is stuck to my back and I hold Adam’s hands. He looks anxious but I’m not worried; I just want it done before the next contraction hits. HURRY UP. There’s fumbling and some comment about my skin. Another attempt to get it in, then another. Adam says afterwards that there’s a lot of blood but thinking about it, it was probably iodine, wasn’t it? Then she speaks in English, leaning over my shoulder. “Do you ‘av a special feeling in your leg?” she asks. Eh? Special feeling? “Do you ‘AV a special FEELING in your leg?” What are you talking about? I feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation when the escort commands him to “lip" her stocking. Lip? Special feeling? And then it hits, third time lucky, the ahhh Bisto moment, and my legs fizz (special feeling!) and I watch the numbers rise on the monitor. Contraction coming. I brace myself. Can’t feel a thing.


* in Belgium, there is no gas and air. No pethidine. It's all - epidural - or nothing. Hardcore. 


  1. Jesus, this took me back. I'm sorry you didn't get any pethidine though, in fact I'm sorry for all of the Beligian women who don't ever get pethidine, pethidine is amazing.

    1. I think it would have eased me nicely through the senile Jack Russell stage.


Thoughts/comments/craic? Go for your life, as my father would say.

Soz about the word verification. The spammers are driving me nuts.

Parliament Of Owls All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger