- I woke up at 1.13 am with a pain no that's too strong a word a discomfort
in my middle. Then I realised that this discomfort was recurring about every 20 minutes.
Excited, I realised it must be labour! I hadn't had any of those Braxton-Hicks
contractions they tell you about, so I wasn't sure this was the real thing.
- I got out my notebook and watch and started recording the length of the contractions and
the time between them. They were very slowly getting closer together. This was it. I ran
over the contents of my labour bag in my head. Everything was ready had been for
weeks even though this baby looked as if it were going to be early.
- When the contractions were ten minutes apart I woke Leo. I couldn't keep it to myself
any longer. It was about 4.30 am. He ran me a bath. I spent ages in it. Leo had to keep
boiling kettles and pans of water, because at that time in the morning there wasn't much
hot water in the tank. I don't think I felt the contractions while I was in there. It was
- When I got out, labour returned in earnest. For the first time I was feeling pain. I
phoned the hospital in a good moment, and they said don't rush in, take your time, wait
till they're less than 5 minutes apart. We practised our breathing, together, which seemed
to calm us both.
- At 7.30 am Leo began to worry about the rush hour. He wanted us to go to the hospital.
By 8 am I was ready to oblige. I was beginning to feel the need for some help. He dropped
me off at the door, and went to park the car.
- I faced a long blank corridor. Which way? I leaned against the wall. A porter said
"You look as though you're in the right place, love!" and pushed me gently into
a wheelchair, for which I was grateful, being in the throes of a contraction at the time.
- The rooms were pleasant, the midwives friendly, introducing themselves and reading my
birth plan with approval. I sank down onto a bean bag. Leo returned as they were examining
me. Only 8.5 cm dilated. I wanted to get a second opinion! Surely I must be further along
than that? They brought some welcome gas and air wonderful stuff with that
and the breathing, the pain was kept nicely in check.
- By the time the gas cylinder ran out, it was 3 pm. Leo had eaten the sandwiches we had
carefully packed. He had read me poetry out of the carefully chosen books, played our
selection of "labour music" on the tape recorder we'd brought. I hadn't felt
much like playing Travel Scrabble, although wed remembered to bring it. He'd
massaged my back, and I had tried every possible comfortable position on bean bag, chair,
floor and bed, and I was still only 6 cm dilated.
The doctors wanted to break my waters to get things moving. I had specifically ruled this
out on my birth plan. The midwives suggested pethidine as pain relief, because I was
getting exhausted. It was all going wrong. It was too painfully slow, the contractions
still coming every minute or so, and I was very tired: I'd been up nearly all night.
- I gave in, and staggered to the loo one last time before they got out the hook... And my
waters broke in the nick of time. The pethidine put me in a hazy, sleepy world. Leo held
my hand and mopped my brow, but I just wanted to go to sleep.
- I felt the pain, through a haze, but I didn't feel the need to push, so they had to keep
telling me to do it.
"It's time for this baby to be born," they said.
- In the end, he got stuck, and they had to rip him from me with forceps. I turned my face
away as Jamie was born. It was 8.04 pm, I'd had a labour of 19 hours. I just wanted to go
- Leo was the first to cuddle him. But once Jamie and I had both slept off the pethidine,
we spent the next five days just gazing at one another. I couldn't stop touching the soft
down on the top of his head, and gazing into his big blue eyes. Truly, madly, deeply, I
loved that boy.
Last amended on 9th August 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead