My Bundle Of joy: Part Nineteen

This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 800 words.

While Leah was calm, I managed to feed her. The doctor came back when it was already light outside. “You can take her home now. It might have been that she was too hot, as we can’t see anything that concerns us right now. She has taken a feed you say? Good. Keep an eye on her, and get some rest. If you are still worried later on, perhaps take her to see your family doctor”.

There was no chance Olly was going to go into work that day. As soon as it was a reasonable time to ring anyone, he phoned his boss to tell her about what had happened, and agreed to take the day as holiday. Leah had gone to sleep in the car on the way back, and I decided to break my own rules by taking her into bed with us that morning.

After that scare, things calmed down, and I got into a routine as soon as I was no longer feeling the pain. I had told Doreen about the hospital trip, and she tried to reassure me not to worry too much. Then she was more or less finished with her checks, but gave me a number to call if I thought I needed a visit. Remembering what the doctor had said about seeing a GP, I decided to change doctors. Up to that point I had stayed with the one in the city, but that was no longer going to be practical, having to take Leah with me everywhere.

I found one about fifteen minutes walk from us, and they said they would register us if I went in. The place was packed out with people waiting to see doctors when I arrived, but an elderly receptionist was happy enough to get us registered. Olly was going to stay with his old one, as he was in the city most days anyway. I made an appointment for having myself checked over, and they offered me one seven days later.

Trying to get some order into my day was very difficult at first. Leah had no more screaming fits, but she had stopped crying at all, and that preyed on my mind. At least she was feeding, and sleeping. That allowed me some rest between feeds, and I stopped Olly getting up to bottle feed, so he could go to work feeling fresh. My Mum had been miffed at my asking her to leave, so to build bridges there, we suggested that we visit them every Sunday. At least that way we could decide what time to leave, and not have any showdowns.

The first Sunday visit went well. Mum had prepared a lovely roast lamb dinner, and it was nice to be able to sit and stuff myself without worrying about who was cooking, or having to wash up afterwards. I had to laugh at my dad and brother. When it came time to feed Leah, as soon as I reached under my top for my boob, they both made themselves scarce. Ronnie remembered he had a borrowed DVD to watch in his room, and dad had something he needed to attend to in his garden shed. Leah’s head had changed shape too, even though her forehead looked unusually large, the cone shape above had almost disappeared. That stopped my mum trapping on about her head at least.

Going anywhere with a baby was such a mission. There was the baby bag containing anything I thought I might need, as well as many things I would probably never need. Then the folding wheels for the portable cot, in case I had to wheel Leah around. The carry cot/car seat itself, which looked tiny, but was surprisingly heavy. All that without my own huge shoulder bag, which I still hadn’t got around to sorting through, and emptying out.

On the way home that Sunday, it seemed like Olly was reading my mind. “This car isn’t going to work, Ang. I reckon we need something much bigger, preferably with a sliding door. I will investigate what’s available, and sort it out”.

Late the following Saturday afternoon, he returned home driving a bright red Japanese people carrier that looked more like a minibus than an actual car. It had sliding doors at the back, and a huge hatch that opened up to reveal a space that I could easily lie down in. It had a high roof too, so no bending and stretching. The gears were funny, fully automatic, with a lever on the dashboard next to the steering wheel. In front, the driver’s seat looked like an armchair, and the seat next to it was a double one. After showing me around it, Olly asked, “What do you think then, Ang?”

I told him it was never going to fit in the garage.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Eighteen

This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

When the screaming came over the baby intercom, it took me a moment to come round, and realise it was Leah. I was out of bed in a flash, overwhelmed by a feeling of joy that my baby was finally crying. She shouldn’t have needed a feed yet, so I checked her nappy, which was dry. Holding her close, the noise was incredible. Her face was red, and her back arched in a shape like a banana. I moved her round into the feeding position, but she would not take my nipple, no matter how many times I tried.

And no amount of cuddling or rocking would console her, as the screams continued to increase in intensity.

Eventually, Olly could stand it no longer, and walked into the room, bleary eyed. He was smiling though, as just like me, he was overjoyed that she was crying. He reached out to take her, holding her high up against his shoulder, and patting her back gently as he walked in small circles. He asked the obvious. Was her nappy wet? Did she need a feed? I could hardly hear him above the noise. It didn’t seem possible that such a tiny baby could generate that volume. After a while, Olly furrowed his brow, and gave me a serious look.

“Should she be stiff like this? She is rigid.”

I was so tired, I couldn’t think straight. And I still had a lot of pain down below, as well as occasional cramps as my insides were shrinking. I wanted to go back to bed and sleep. It didn’t hurt once I was asleep. And as much as I loved to hear her cry, it had gone on too long, and was uncontollable. Then Olly made a decision.

“Get dressed, Ang. I think we should take her in”.

Alhough I had visions of being thought of as a panicky time-waster again, I knew Olly had made up his mind. We both threw on some casual clothes, wrapped up the still-screaming Leah, and headed out into the quiet night, probably waking up half the street as we struggled to get her into the car seat. No time to brush my hair, or my teeth. I felt dirty and horrible as we headed for the hospital.

The Casualty Department staff took it all very seriously, no doubt prompted in part by the ear-splitting noise of my baby’s screaming. We were taken through to a children’s area, and told a paediatric doctor had been called down as a matter of urgency. A tiny young woman appeared, dressed in green scrubs that looked too big. She must have been well under five feet tall, and had the body size of a child. But she seemed to know her stuff, and there were soon some nurses around Leah, later joined by another doctor who looked as if he had just been woken up. We sat on the hard plastic chairs in the corner and watched as they did tests, and attached monitors.

One of the nurses appeared to be in charge, and every now and then would turn to me with a question. Has Leah had a rash? Has she been taking milk? How long as she been crying? How long as she been arching her back? I gave her my best estimates, and then sat worrying about whether or not we should have brought her in sooner.

The crying suddenly stopped.

The tiny female doctor turned and smiled. “We have given her some rectal medication to calm her down. She will relax now”. They carried on working on whatever they were doing for another few minutes, and then they all left, except the tired-looking male doctor. He came over and stood in front of us.

“We want to keep an eye on Leah for a couple of hours. No need to admit her to a ward, but I want to see her reaction when the sedation wears off. This may have something to do with the difficult birth. I am not considering meningitis, or anything sinister”. I should have been relieved, but my first thought was to kick myself for not thinking anything like he had mentioned. Olly thanked him, and walked over to look at Leah.

I was feeling achey and sore, so stayed sitting. Yearning for sleep.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Seventeen

This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 738 words.

The next morning, Rosa arrived at the same time as the health visitor. She got on with tidying and cleaning after a brief look at Leah. “I hold her later, yes?”

Doreen was a smart looking nurse who told me she was originally from Antigua. She gave Leah a detailed once-over, and asked me quite a few questions about how I was feeling, whether I was tired, and how my moods were. She was pleased to hear that Leah was feeding okay from the breast, but suggested that I express some milk later, so that Olly could do some night feeding and I got some sleep. When she measured Leah’s head, I asked her how long it might retain the obvious cone shape.

“Should only be a few days, darlin’. Though some stay like that for a few weeks. This don’t look so bad”. While I had her attention, I asked her why Leah hadn’t cried to be fed. That seemed to interest her. “No crying at all? Not for soiled nappies, or feeding? Not even to be picked up?” I shook my head, and asked her if I should be concerned. She gave me a reassuring smile, and held my hand briefly. “That crying should come soon. Might just be the fact that she had a hard time coming into this world. I will be around to check on you for the next few days, and you can let me know when she has cried”.

When she left, Rosa appeared, excited to hold the baby. She didn’t have any children, but was hoping to once she went back to Poland to get married. She spoke to Leah in Polish, and sang her a little song. Then she handed her back, asking “Why her head like that?” I told her about the vacuum delivery, and she went over to her bag in the hallway, returning with a small box. “This is for her. Good protection”. Inside was a tiny silver cross, on a chain. Olly and I were not religious, but I was touched by this kind gift from someone who was just paid to do my housework.

Mum phoned twice that afternoon. Once to ask about the shape of Leah’s head, and the second time to tell me her friend Barbara knew a woman whose baby had been born with the same shaped head, and was fine after less than a week. I imagined her and Barbara having a good gossip about Leah’s head, but I didn’t let it get to me. She was only trying to do her best to make me feel alright about it. One thing I soon found out was that everyone knows someone who had either a worse time than you, or had some advice about things you hadn’t even asked them about.

After Olly got in that evening, he said he would go back out in the car and get a Chinese takeaway. I had completely forgotten about preparing any dinner, probably because I had stuffed myself with biscuits and cake all afternoon. Or I was already suffering from what my mum called ‘baby brain’. Over dinner, I asked him how it had gone at work. I was very aware that Leah had fast become the only topic of conversation, and I didn’t want that to change our previous relationship. Olly thought that doing the bottle feed at night was a good thing, and said he would go to bed early to make sure he was up and about in time for it. But when the vibrating alarm went off, I stayed awake anyway. Might just as well have let him sleep, and fed her myself.

Doreen’s visit the next day was brief. She was pleased to hear that Olly had done a feed, and wanted to know if we had heard her crying yet. I shook my head, and told her that she made small gurgling noises, but still had not cried. Then Doreen took Leah and checked her hearing. She turned in response to noises made either side of her head, and Doreen wrote something down on the record sheet. Then she checked her eye movement, and wrote something else down. I asked her if it was all normal, and she smiled and nodded. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to believe her.

She had only been gone for thirty seconds, when I felt an overwhelming need to start crying.

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Random Thoughts.

Usually when I wake up on a Sunday, I am thinking about something specific. That wasn’t the case today, so I decided to present my collection of random thoughts instead.

One.
It was very cold this morning. Cold enough to make me want to stay in the warmth of the bed for a while. That made me think about how much colder it used to be when I was a boy. No central heating, no double-glazed windows, and the whole house heated by one coal-fire in the living room. I often wore extra clothes to go to bed in, rather than getting undressed. The risk of waking up to frozen water pipes meant that my mum would fill saucepans and a kettle the night before. Then at least she had water to make tea, and to heat up so we could wash.

How soon we become accustomed to the luxuries of progress.

Two.
I thought I should get up, to let Ollie out into the garden. Then I started to think about how Ollie would feel if I died of Covid-19. (Or anything else for that matter.) He is so dependent on always being close to me, I feel sure he would pine badly, and be inconsolable. I concluded that it would be best if I outlived him. But then I would be the one grieving. It’s a tough call, either way.

Three.
Writing my new serial was on my mind. I am sure I am making errors in trying to write it from the perspective of a young woman who has just had a baby. I have never been a woman, had a baby, or even fathered a child. More so than anything else I have written, it feels like a challenge to get through each episode. Then I reminded myself that I have never been a serial killer either, yet I have written stories about them. Perhaps real serial kilers languishing in jail somewhere are reading my stories online, and noticing errors?

Then I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so got up.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.

For most of the night, I had stayed awake. Every time I felt my eyes closing, I jumped, trying to wake myself up. The baby monitor was making no noise, and there had been no crying. Olly was dead to the world, but I didn’t need the vibrating pad under my pillow to wake me up.

I went into Leah’s room more times than I can remember now. If she was awake, I sat in the nursing chair and fed her. If she was asleep, I sat staring at her, wondering if she was alright.

When Olly got up to get ready for work, I had just gone to sleep. But I dragged myself up and went to check on Leah. Olly could have probably got away with taking the day off, but they had been very understanding, and he didn’t want to take advantage. He made me a coffee and brought it up to me, tactfully not asking me if I was going to be alright on my own that day.

Not that I had much chance to be alone. Mum and dad turned up just after nine, with my brother in tow. They had made him take the day off to see his niece, and he grinned as I opened the door. “Where is she then?” Mum was carrying two huge balloons, one with ‘Baby Leah’ printed on it, and the other in the shape of a pink unicorn. Dad handed me a bouquet of pink roses, and they both brushed past me in their eagerness to see their granddaughter.

My brother looked over their shoulders, and one glance was enough. He sat on the sofa and said “Tea and toast would be nice, sis”. I told him he knew where the kitchen was.

Mum was already fixating on the shape of Leah’s head, and she was multi-tasking as she told dad to find a vase for the flowers in the same breath. I kept my temper as I watched mum examining my baby as if she was a pedigree piglet she was thinking of buying.

“Green eyes. That must come from Olly’s family. Nobody on our side ever had green eyes.
Does that mean she will have ginger hair? I hope not.
Mind you, she hasn’t got much hair to speak of at the moment anyway.
Does she feed alright?
Did she keep you awake all night? You look terrible.
Why don’t you get some sleep while we are here? I will look after her.
How long before her head looks normal?”.

Her words were tumbling out like the sound of a machine gun, leaving no pause for me to answer. I just sat on the sofa and let her get on with it. Then the smoke alarm went off, because Ronnie had burned the toast. Dad put his arm around me as Ronnie flapped a tea-towel at the ceiling.

At least my dad understood.

It got to almost one in the afternoon, and they showed no sign of leaving. I decided to take executive action, and told them I was tired, so could they go and let me rest. Mum looked very miffed, and pushed her lips together in an expression I knew all too well. But Ronnie was pleased, and took my words to mean he could leave immediately. He was on his feet in seconds, reaching for the car keys.

They managed to drag out the departure for another twenty minutes, Ronnie standing by the front door jiggling the keys as mum made her last checks and asked her last questions. I took Leah up to her room and fed her, stretching out in the new nursing chair, cuddling her close. I hated appearing to be unkind to my family, but if I didn’t get some rest, I would be good for nothing.

I should have known I would go to sleep, and of course I did. It must have been some kind of instinct that stopped me dropping Leah, because when I heard Olly close the front door I was still holding her tight. He had got off early, but I had still been asleep for almost three hours. I thought I should feed Leah again, and Olly sat on the floor of the room watching me, listening to my story of the family visit. He asked if it was alright to call his sister now, and she would be busting to hear the news. I had forgotten about her, and felt guilty that it was all about me, and my family.

I could her her screams of pleasure as Olly told her the news.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 726 words.

A different midwife came to see me after the morning shift came on duty. She talked to me about breastfeeding, which I wanted to do, and how a health visitor would come and make regular checks on Leah for a few days. She said I could go home that afternoon, and then asked me if I had any questions.

I couldn’t think of anything, it was as if my mind had gone blank.

Olly looked awful, so I told him to go home by taxi and get some sleep. I would ring him when he could come and collect us in the car.

Us. It felt funny to say that. Before Leah, ‘Us’ had only meant me and Olly.

Before the midwife left me to it, I finally managed to get Leah to feed. The feeling was both weird, and fantastic at the same time. She was hungry too. Although she still hadn’t made any noise remotely resembling crying, she did make some gurgling sounds that reassured me that at least her vocal chords were working. I had told Olly to ring everyone and ask them not to visit the house until the next day, at the earliest.

There had never been a time in my life when I had felt so tired.

Being alone with my little girl mainly made me anxious. What should I be doing? I spoke to her, kissed her and cuddled her, and didn’t let on to her that my belly and my lady bits were still hurting quite a bit. Once the anaesthetic had worn off totally, everything below my hips felt as if I had skidded down a tarmac road naked. Not quite enough for agony, but far more than sore. I hadn’t asked for anymore painkilers, as I didn’t want to ingest any more medicine than absolutely necessary while I was breastfeeding.

By the time I was allowed home and Olly was there with the carry-cot, I had started to feel like a mum. Millions of women did this every day, I kept telling myself. I had to stop over-thinking everything, and making such a big deal of it. We waited in the main reception while Olly went to get the car from where he had parked on a meter.

The cot fitted onto the car seat base in one slick movement, and he looked at me with such a look of pride on his face, you would think he had just constructed the Forth Bridge. I had been walking like John Wayne after a long ride on his cowboy horse, and it was a relief to flop into the seat.

As the car headed off into the early rush-hour traffic, I had a wobble. This was it. We were going home with a tiny baby, and it was all up to us now.

For the rest of our lives.

To give him full credit, Olly had done wonders while he had been at home. I doubted he had slept at all, as he had tidied up, prepared a basic meal for later, sorted out everything in Leah’s room, and had the nappies and wipes all ready downstairs. The machine for expressing my milk was there too, along with the bottles all sterilised, in case I wanted to use them. I thanked, him and told him I was going to try to stick with breast feeding. Then as if to prove a point, I gave Leah a feed while he watched. At least one of us would get some sleep later that night.

With Leah asleep next to us in her carry-cot, we sat and ate together. Olly said he had sorted out the baby alarm, and also the vibrating alarm that would wake me when I needed to feed her. He said he would watch her after dinner while I had a bath. But there was no way I was going to try to sit in a bath, and just stood there with one hand against the wall using the shower attachment. When I came down, Olly was trying to amuse Leah with a stuffed toy that had bells attached. But she wasn’t taking any notice. I suggested he wait until she was just a little bit older, and he laughed, saying he felt silly.

That was such a happy night, that first night at home.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 748 words.

Some of the reading I had done told me what was going to happen next. Leah would be handed to me, put to my breast to suckle, and that would help expel the placenta naturally. Through watery eyes, I felt myself smiling, and opened my arms, reaching out to receive her, just as I had imagined I would.

But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was that a worried-looking Tanya walked away into the corner of the room, followed by both doctors. They placed Leah inside a plastic box that was on a trolley, and then turned their backs to me as they started to do stuff. Elizabetta came and held my hand. “Just checking the little one, dear. You will hold her soon”. Despite her reassuring smile, I sensed she wasn’t telling me everything.

Whe Tanya came over to connect a drip to the needle in my arm, she managed a grin that was completely unconvincing. I could hear the sound of air rushing fast, and knew they were giving Leah oxygen. Then Tanya stuck a needle in my thigh, and said, “Just something to help you expel the placenta, Angela”. I asked her what was going on with Leah, and she glossed over that. “The doctors are just checking her over. Won’t be long. I am going to give you a few stitches down below before the anaesthetic wears off, okay?”

It seemed to take forever until they had stopped fiddling around in the corner, though it might have only been ten minutes, for all I knew. Olly started to feel dizzy, and said he had to go outside for a while. The poor man hadn’t had anything to eat since yesterday’s lunch, and only one bottle of water to drink since he had arrived. He checked his phone. “It’s almost three forty-five, I won’t text your parents or my sister just yet, far too early in the morning”.

When Elizabetta brought Leah to me, cleaned up a little, and wrapped in something soft, she looked relieved. “Here she is, your bundle of joy. Be happy, mama”.

That was the moment that everyone talked about. That strange rush of emotion when I suddenly felt undying love for that funny-looking baby in my arms. I ignored the strange shape of her head, which looked like the hats worn by garden gnomes. I ignored her screwed up face, sparse hair, and the mucky white stuff still stuck around her tiny neck. I loved her more than I ever thought it possible to love anything. I would have willingly jumped to my death from the roof of that hospital if it meant she would be alright.

Tanya came over with a small hat that she placed on Leah’s head. “Dont worry about the shape of her head, Angela. That was caused by the vacuum device, and it will go back to normal soon. Get her on your skin, and let her feel your heartbeat”. I pulled up the gown and pressed her to my breast, but she didn’t seem to want to suckle. She was just lying there, tiny green eyes not focusing on anything. In case Tanya decided to disappear, I asked her my questions while I could still think of them. What had they been doing in the corner? Why wasn’t Leah crying? Could someone go and find Olly so he can see his daughter?

“The umbilical cord was tight around her neck, Angela. Don’t worry, that’s not at all unusual. But we gave her some oxygen to help with her breathing, and as you can see, her colour is getting better already. As for crying, some babies just don’t cry. I should know, shouldn’t I?” I didn’t believe her about the crying, but wasn’t in the mood to argue. I couldn’t stop looking at Leah, and finding it hard to believe she had just come out from inside of me.

Olly came back, still crying. Lack of sleep and food had made him more emotional than ever, and when I told him to hold his daughter, he cried even more. Not bad, for a man who had never said he wanted children. They fussed around me some more, and Elizabetta took away a bowl containing the placenta. Then they cleared up all the swabs and dressings, before leaving us alone with Leah.

I stared lovingly at my baby, watching every twitch, and the slight movement of her head.

But I so wanted her to cry.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 782 words.

People often use the expression ‘That was the longest day of my life’. I used to smile at that, and say that every day only has twenty-four hours in it. But by seven-thirty that evening, I knew what they meant.

Almost five hours had felt more like thirty-five. And the midwives were quick to let me know I could be in labour for another five hours, if not more. The pains came and went, and the gas stopped helping it. Olly looked as if he was going to fall asleep, jolted out of his dozing by the occasional scream from me. I told him to go out and get something to eat, walk around in the fresh air. But he was determined to stay.

And I had to get used to some new faces, once the night duty staff arrived. No longer red-cheeked Moira, or the girl with the surpised look on her face. It was now Tanya, a stunningly attractive young woman who looked more like she should be on the cover of a fashion magazine. The most unlikely midwife I had ever seen.

Tanya had a businesslike manner, and wasn’t about to take any nonsense from me. She was local too, and listening to her accent was like hearing myself talk. When she didn’t come to check on me, Elizabetta did. Short, dumpy, and Filipino, with a big smile and caring nature.

She told me she had three children. I told her I just wanted to have this one.

By eleven that night, I was starting to panic. How long could this take? Surely Leah should be out by now? The pains got so bad, I felt like I had a bowling ball stuck between my legs. I tried getting on all fours, and even got Olly to help me walk around and kneel by the side of the bed. Nothing seemed to help. Leah was happy where she was.

The noise of the screaming and grunting was getting on my nerves too. I was quite shocked when I realised it was me making it.

Olly was getting distressed to see me in such a state, and pressed the buzzer. Tanya listened to him rambling on about my intense pain, and then left the room. She came back with an Indian doctor who was wearing surgical scrubs, and she asked me if I wanted stronger pain relief introduced through an epidural needle in my back. I had been determined not to have that, but felt so exhausted, I just nodded.

When that was done, I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, and became worried I might not know when Leah finally came out. Then I actually went to sleep.

I had no idea how long I had been sleeping, when a strange noise woke me up. It was coming from one of the two monitors attached to me, and I didn’t like the sound of it. As if to confirm my suspicions, Tanya suddenly appeared, looking serious, but her make-up still perfect.

She ignored my panicky questions about what was wrong, then pressed the nurse call button. Olly still looked drowsy, but the urgency around me had made him recover his wits quickly. Elizabetta appeared, and exchanged a nod from the doorway with Tanya. Moments later, the Indian doctor came into the room, and had that same look on her face. I know I was asking all sorts of questions, but if anyone actually answered me, I don’t remember what they said.

The three of them began to rummage around between my legs like a team of mechanics trying to fix a car that wouldn’t start. I only heard bits of hushed conversations.
“Emergency section?”
“Not sure there’s a theatre free”.
“We could do it here”.
“Get the cord off her neck”.
“I’m going to try vacuum”.

With each snippet I heard, I fired a question back. But it was as if I wasn’t in the room.

Only the back of the doctor was visible as I saw her standing in the doorway talking to someone. Then a male doctor appeared, fully gowned up, and holding something that resembled a plumber’s plunger attached to a grease gun. He looked more like he had been disturbed whilst unblocking a toilet, than someone who should be in a Maternity Department delivery room. They all hunkered down between my legs again, and I heard a pumping sound of air, like when you pump up your tyres on a bike.

Moments later, Tanya stood up straight, holding a baby that was covered in gunk, and its skin a funny grey colour. Olly started crying, so I did too.

There she was, my little girl.

Serial Confusion

As my latest fiction serial ‘My Bundle Of Joy’ continues, I have decided to test myself further by writing another serial at the same time.

The weather is still bad, and it is still dark early, so why not?

My original intention was to try to run both serials almost consecutively, as an experiment. But I stopped myself publishing the first part of the new one earlier.

I think two serials at the same time is too confusing for readers, and too much to ask for them to read. But I could be wrong.

Let me know what you think.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Twelve

This is the twelth part of a fiction serial, in 765 words.

As I went up in the lift to the Maternity Department, I smiled to myself. The next time I was in this lift, I would have Leah with me, and be starting a whole new life.

The midwife who took me into a room had a strong Irish accent, bright red hair, and those red cheeks you see on people who work outside, or live on farms. Her accent was very strong, but I could understand her well enough. But like most of her colleagues, she was unimpressed, and showed zero sense of urgency. I presumed student midwives must have had a training module called ‘Never act impressed’.

I hadn’t had any pains since that one in the taxi, and I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved, or worried. I was soon undressed and in a gown, and following a brief ‘look’, she ran through a few questions before confirming my preference for a natural birth.

Then she disappeared.

The next pain came five minutes later, and caused me to shout out a swear-word that I don’t think I had ever used before. Then I was grabbing the call-button, and pressing it like mad. Red cheeks came in with a colleague who was wheeling a tall cylinder on a trolley. They showed me how to suck in the gas and air through a black rubber mask, and before too long I felt as if I had drunk a few gin and tonics. As they put a needle into my wrist, I had to suppress a giggle that came from nowhere. Then red cheeks told me her name was Moira, and talked about first babies, long labour, and how I might yet be sent home.

It hadn’t occured to me I might be sent home, and I thought I should make Olly aware of that. But as I was thinking that, he came into the room. They had made him put a plastic apron on over his work suit, and given him a blue hat to wear over his floppy hair. I couldn’t help myself, and started to laugh at him. Moira grinned, and winked at Olly. “Too much gas and air, daddy”. I wondered why she had called him daddy, but was soon to discover that she called me mummy, and would refer to us both like that throughout. I suppose it saved her having to remember a lot of names in the course of her shift.

Olly told me had had sent a text to my parents, and to my brother. He had also told them not to come to the hospital, as he wasn’t sure they would be allowed in anyway. Besides, there was nowhere to park anywhere in the area, as it was in the centre of the city. Then he held my hand, leaned over the bed, and kissed me. Moira spoke to him, explaining most of what she had told me, including the fact that I might be too early to deliver that afternoon.

Then she disappeared again.

When the next pain came, I grabbed the mask and sucked on it like an astronaut running out of air in a space film. I took in so much of the gas Olly thought I was unconscious, and pressed the button. A slim black nurse arrived, her hair braided and pulled back so tight, it made her face look surprised. She told Olly it was normal, and pointed to the fact that I had come round before she had got to the room. Once again, I was left feeling as if I was wasting everybody’s time.

Time seems to stand still in situations like that. I lay there waiting for the next cramping pain, and it felt like two hours before it happened, even though it was only twelve minutes. Moira came back in and had a good feel of my baby bump, pushing and squeezing like she was trying to burst an enormous spot. A quick inspection between my legs preceded another pain strong enough to make me grab the gas mask. Moira grinned. “I don’t think you’ll be going home, mummy. Baby’s in the right position. She’s ready to see the world tonight”.

A monitor was attached to my belly, and it started to bleep reassuringly. I was told to keep calm between the contractions, and use the gas as much as I wanted. Olly’s phone kept going off, and he dismissed two calls from my mum, and one from his sister in Canada.

Then he grabbed my hand and gave me his best serious look.

“It’s happening, Ang”.