When I was pregnant I was obsessed with birth stories. I’d devour the monthly columns and online forums – by the time it was my turn I thought I was well-versed in how to give birth. But then I soon discovered that nothing can truly prepare you.
I had my first in Switzerland. In the lead up I was mostly concerned with the fact my insurance didn’t cover me for one of the fancy pants private clinics my friends were all booked into. There was much talk of champagne brunches and personal flat screens. I was distraught. A serious case of FOMO. Meanwhile the husband was busy planning his month long paternity leave of learning French and daily cycle rides. Oh the naivety.
The nine months passed with only a couple of minor dramas involving me tripping over my Birkenstocks and landing on my bump next to a pile of dog poo, and being hospitalised for a stitch! Autumn arrived and I was all set, however the little monkey had other ideas and stubbornly refused to budge, leaving me waddling and cursing around the local vineyards.
After what felt like a century I was booked in to be induced. I’d get a call they said. Obviously it was when I was tucked up in bed having just drifted off. In we drove, excitement and trepidation in equal measure. Firstly, I was given tablets every two hours. I could have up to nine rounds but don’t worry I was reassured, nobody ever needed all nine. Of course I did. Apparently I’d had enough drugs to start a horse in labour and was just feeling some slight twinges (which hilariously I thought was labour!).
Then the dreaded drip was inserted and the real stuff began. Oh I see! I had practiced hypnobirthing techniques in the run up so initially I remained all zen. I’d also borrowed a tens machine which completely foxed the Swiss midwives. They nearly wrapped themselves up in wires then switched it on only for me to scream at them to remove it immediately. I continued to listen intently to my special soundtrack of mantras then dramatically tore out the earphones and demanded an epidural. ‘Are you sure?’ the other half asked sheepishly, having been briefed to ensure I didn’t make any rash decisions. Many expletives followed. ‘Hell yes!!!’.
Three years later number two was due. He was en retard too. I tried Reflexlogy, mainly because I love a foot massage, and walked and walked. Much to my relief things started naturally. The husband and eldest went off to bed leaving me bouncing on a Swiss ball like a loon, watching 10 solid hours of Desperate Housewives. Amazing how the body works though. Everything stayed calm until I heard the patter of my three year old’s feet at 7am. I’d let him have an undisturbed night’s sleep. We were ready.
This time I was in the UK and would have, to the horror of my Swiss friends, a baby with the NHS! I arrived expecting to be turned away and weeped on the midwife when I wasn’t. I opted for the birthing pool and after a few inhales of gas and air I was waxing lyrical about the incredible purple walls and how it was like a spa. Hardly! In the next breath I was dragging the midwife into the pool by her arm and refusing to let go of the drugs.
When number three was due I thought I had it sorted. Easy street. To confuse matters we were back in Switzerland. Again no plush clinic for me, but I found a welcoming little birth centre with pools as water-births are not common there. Like a cosy B&B, partners can stay over and you’re both served a delicious organic fare while you get to know your little one. Bliss. Plans were scuppered when I was told the third was going to be a BEAST. Over 4 kilos they predicted. Not what you want to hear when you know it’s got to get out one way or another. Just knock me out first please.
Another lazy boy I was to be induced again. This time I had the dramatic breaking waters when I laughed and cried simultaneously. Then he swiftly arrived after a hairy few minutes when the emergency doctors were summoned. I lay there in shock while everyone played guess the baby’s weight game. Charming. ‘Non, higher!!’ the midwife kept laughing. It was like taking part in Brucie’s higher and lower gameshow. After 20 years of midwifery mine was her biggest baby yet. Yikes. 4.6 kilos – a whopping 10 pounder. Too much Ben & Jerry’s she asked – err. As he was my last I felt rather cheated – where was the tiny newborn? I’d produced a three month old chubster. By the time I went into work to show him off Chinese whispers meant I had given birth to a 5 kilo baby! Without pain relief.
I was a veritable superhero.
So missing out the gory and gruesome bits this is how my three gorgeous gems arrived into this crazy world. Each one so different. Bizarrely, I quite enjoy replaying their arrivals in my head. The little dramas and highs and lows. Yes it hurt A LOT but we laughed a great deal too. Plus the euphoria that follows is unbeatable. Though not enough to revisit for a fourth that’s for certain. Imagine.
(the NHS was the best experience of the three. Turns out you don’t need a flat screen after all – I’m not bitter honest!)