And so we learn the golden rule of smugness. And that rule is 'indulge in the smugness at your peril, for to do so is to tempt fate to come and kick you up the bottom with its big boot of fatality, and leave you sprawling in the mud of your own smugdom'.
Mere hours after writing that last post, about how Zen and calm and in-control I am about this whole pregnancy and labour thing, I was in hospital, weeping at fairly regular intervals and peeing into a jug which I then had to store beside my bed. Oh yes, I can hear the Pregnancy Fates sniggering right now (they exist. They do. Now shhhh.)
I had a bad feeling about the appointment, right from the moment it was booked.
"Ohh," said my midwife, a couple of weeks ago. "They've just started doing clinics up at the Spires again. Let's book you in for one."
The Spires is where I was/am hoping to birth the Lumpy. It's a midwife-led unit on the top floor of the hospital (great views over the dreaming spires! Which is exactly what you care about in labour, I'm sure), and is super and luxurious, and not filled with machines that go 'beep!' It seemed like the sort of place that wouldn't fill me with the medical heebie-jeebies, while having the reassurance of lots of doctors and drugs and sharp implements a mere two floors down.
But for some reason the idea of this appointment there filled me with dread. I had no problem with the thought of going in there once I was in labour, but I just knew something was going to go wrong during this routine, friendly, straightforward appointment and visit.
At the risk of summoning the smug boot of justice firmly to my behind once again, this pregnancy has been, so far, really not bad at all. I've basically been able to carry on with my life largely unchanged (though I've cut the daily two bottles of vodka down to a modest one), have been cycling into work, going to the gym, driving, mud-wrestling, pole-dancing, the lot. My midwife has seemed pleased with me, the test results have all been normal, everything seemed good. I have a long standing and impressively dramatic case of 'white coat hypertension', where your blood pressure goes all show-offy and mental when it knows it's being taken by a professional, but I've always had that, and my usual midwife has been completely understanding, not made a big deal out of it, and trusted that I keep an eye on it at home, where it always measures at a completely normal and healthy level. My bump also looks pretty small (even at 38 weeks, I could just about pass for not pregnant, in the right clothes (i.e. a small marquee)). But that's based on how I'm built (like a brick shithouse), and my ABS OF STEEL (excuse me - it's impossible to type that in anything other than FULL CAPS), which have held the poor Lumpy firmly in place and prevented any belly explosion. But the bump has been progressing perfectly throughout, and growing at every appointment. Nothing to worry about.
Till last Monday, and the appointment of doooooooooooom.
So, Mr Badger drove me to the hospital, and we parked up, me merrily chirping that the next time we came here I'd be in labour. Ha ha! What a thought! We headed up to the Spires and were met by a cheery midwife and a young trainee, and showed into one of the rooms. The views were, indeed, lovely, and I'm sure would work better than any epidural at taking my mind off contractions.
We had a little chat, the trainee took my wee sample off to test, and the midwife asked how things had been going so far.
"Brilliant," I announced confidently. "All very straightforward. I just have this thing with my blood pressure. White coat syndrome, you know. But it's always fine at home..."
She flicked through my notes and took in the collection of, ahem, eccentric BP readings from the last 8 months.
"Okay..." she said, with just a hint of caution tingeing her previously cheery tone. "Let's just have a check."
At that moment, the trainee came back into the room and announced that there were 2 points of protein in the urine sample.
And cue mental blood pressure leap from the pregnant lady - GO!
She then took my blood pressure. 160/80. Pretty high, even for me.
"Well," she said, sounding about as unconvinced as a very unconvinced person. "Not too bad... Let's just have a feel of your baby."
I lay back as she poked and wiggled and measured, trying to breathe and stay calm, and not feel like what I feared would happen was totally and utterly happening.
"Feels a bit small to me..." she said.
And that's when the madness really began. They tried to book me in for a scan, to check the size, and a trace, to check the heartbeat and the placental function. But the Day Assessment Unit was too busy, so it looked like we'd have to come back the next day.
Okay, no big deal. Annoying, and it'd mean missing even more work, but so be it.
Some more faffing, and a rather awkward conversation about breastfeeding followed, where she seemed to suggest I should breastfeed my child till the age of five (I started to lose concentration at this point, and was mainly checking escape routes, but we were 7 floors up, and nimble though I am, this may have been a little too much at this point). They then decided to do the heart trace right there (mainly, I think, as a delaying tactic to stop us from escaping), while she went off to talk to the people downstairs.
I was strapped to a machine that went 'beep!' (after they'd promised they didn't have those up here - the liars!) and tried not to cry as I apologised to Mr Badger for failing so utterly at pregnancy, and he patted my hand, and considered throwing himself out of the window.
After a while the midwife came back and said that they would see me downstairs, after all. She'd shown them my notes, and discussed what she thought and they had found this worrying enough that they would try to squeeze me in. Great! I could feel my blood pressure lowering all the time (er, not.)
We then got to go downstairs to the high-risk pregnancy unit, where we were introduced to more machines that go 'beep!' and I managed to produce an even more impressive blood pressure reading. A consultant came round to see us, and started making noises about inductions. I tried not to weep. They decided to admit me for '24-48 hours observation', though they did decide it was safe enough to let me go home and pack a bag first.
We walked out of the hospital slightly stunned. My low-risk, easy, happy pregnancy had, in a matter of hours, been transformed into a scary, high-risk, medical nightmare. And I had no pyjamas.
A swift visit to Primark later, and the second of those worries was resolved. We went home, where I wept over our cats and went around the house touching everything, convinced I would never see any of it again. I threw stuff into a bag, with no real idea whether I'd need to take breast pads, nappies, babygrows... Were they really going to induce me? Please, please, no.
I just wasn't ready. It all felt horribly wrong. And then I felt guilty, as if I didn't actually want this baby. If I wasn't ready now, then when? Was it really going to be better in 2 weeks time? What was wrong with me? I was an awful mother, already, at minus two weeks... eeeeeeeeee!
Eventually, Mr B bundled me into the car, and took me to prison. I sat in the waiting area while they got my bed ready, trying to read while a football game raged on the TV beside me. New mothers with babies and proud grandparents milled around, and I tried to get my head around the fact that I may have one of those of my own, in a matter of days. Hours, even. The thought made me feel sick. And then I felt even sicker, for feeling sick at the thought of having my own baby. But all I could think was 'not yet. I'm not ready yet. It's the wrong time.'
I started to lose faith in everything I'd done to prepare for the birth. For all the time I'd spent listening to the hypnotherapy CDs, visualizing the birth, breathing, reprogramming myself to view the whole thing as a positive, natural, wonderful event. It was, clearly, all bollocks. I was scared, again. Scared and alone and totally unprepared.
I got taken to my bed and lay down. It was by a window, and I could see the richly, excessively green trees of early summer, glowing in the sunshine. A midwife who looked about 12 came and took my blood pressure. 140/78. A tiny flicker of hope lit up in my chest. She also presented me with a big plastic container and a jug and told me they wanted me to collect my wee for the next 24 hours. I eyed the jug. It was about 2.5 litres in size. A challenge. Now I had something to work on. I asked for a jug of water, and got drinking.
The next 24 hours were, as anyone who has spent time in hospital will know, fairly grim, in a dull, repetitive, numbing sort of a way. I tried to read, stared out of the window, and attempted to listen to some of the hypnotheraphy CD on my iPod. I started filling my jug of wee, and calculated that, at this rate, I'd need at least another one before the 24 hours were up. They took my blood pressure again and again, and it seemed to follow the same pattern. One good reading, one not so good. My blood results came back. All normal. Mr B came in to visit and I cried on him again, until he had to shuffle out, all covered in snot and tears. They took my blood pressure at 1.30am, then again at 6.30am. The woman in the bed opposite was big with twins and snoring like a grumpy warthog, a noise even earplugs buried deep couldn't hope to cut out. Two new women were moved onto the ward between 2am and 4am. Sleep didn't really happen.
At 6.30am my blood pressure was pretty good, and then again at 9.15. I was sent for a scan, to check out how miserably small Lumpy was, and to see how badly my placenta was failing. The scanner swept the ultrasound over me, took a couple of measurements, and then declared that 'this baby isn't small at all.' The growth was completely normal. Bang on for 38 weeks in every way. Blood flow through the umbilical cord was also normal. All was well. I could have hugged her. I got strapped to another machine that went 'beep' and told to press a button every time Lumpy moved. Now, he likes wiggling as much as any other baby, but this time he really outdid himself. I was on that machine for 13 minutes and he moved 46 times. Maybe it was sending little electric shocks to really get him going? Who knows?
The doctors were due to do their rounds at 2.30pm, and I started to vaguely let myself hope that they might, just might, discharge me. My wee sample that morning had shown no protein whatsoever. I started to fixate on my next blood pressure reading, convinced that if it could be okay, they'd let me go, but also convinced that I was building it up so much, it was sure to be high, and they would strap me to the bed once more. The nurse came round. I took several very deep breaths. In and out. In and out. In and...
Good enough, surely.
The consultant came to talk to the warthog... sorry, woman, opposite, and told her she was being discharged. Then she said the same thing to the person next to me. And then.... nothing.
They weren't coming to see me. I wasn't going to be discharged. I was going to be forgotten, and left here forever. And I'd almost filled my second jug of wee! What was I going to do?!
And then, finally, they came to me, and she said those magic words. We're letting you out. The initial urine sample had been tested, and, actually, the protein was normal, nothing to worry about. My blood pressure had stabilized, and everything else was fine. She was still cautious, and wouldn't want me to go too far over my due date, but she was happy to book me in for an appointment on July 1st and see what happened in the meantime. I was free to go.
I thanked her profusely and struggled not to start weeping again. Then I held up my five litres of wee and asked her what she wanted to do with them. I have rarely been so proud of myself.
And freedom has never tasted as sweet as when I walked out of those hospital doors.