"Hi, Charlotte," said the midwife, herding me gently into the birthing room. "How are you?"
"I feel like I need to do a poo," I said, because I am a delightful and witty conversationalist.
"That's probably your baby's head," said the midwife, unperturbed. This kind of sparkling repartee was obviously quite standard for the delivery ward. More importantly, she seemed to actually believe I was properly in labour and not just malingering. "I won't examine you just yet," she added. "It looks as if you're pretty established."
So she didn't just believe I was really in labour, she thought we might actually be having a baby, like, sometime soon. I was partly very relieved about this (I'd still been fairly convinced she'd examine me, find I was only 1cm dilated, and send me home in shame), but I was also concerned that maybe I was just doing a very good act of being properly in labour, and eventually, after nothing happened for several hours (or several days) she's start pelting me with fruit and turf me into the gutter. She seemed to have more faith in me than I did.
She looked over my notes, and read my birth plan.
"I'm afraid there's someone already using the birth pool," she said. "But I think she might have already given birth, so we might be able to get in there in a bit."
"I really need to do a poo!" I repeated, clearly delighted with the witticism and deciding it deserved a second go. "I'm going to the loo." I stumbled through to the en-suite and sat on the toilet. Surprisingly, there was no poo. But there was a lot of sunshine, coming straight through the window. It was hot, and really quite horrible. And I was wanting to push properly now, and didn't particularly savour the idea of dropping our baby down the toilet. Particularly not this sweletering, sun-cursed toilet. I got back up and went back into the main room, sheened in sweat.
I should pause now, and describe the room we were in. The Spires is an amazing unit - very unhospitally, with no doctors in sight, and hardly any machines that go beep. The rooms are all set up to be as home-like as possible - ours had a bean bag, and a strange, parachute-type silk, looped over and hung from the ceiling, along with a couple of chairs and a height adjustable bed. All of these came in extremely useful as I moved into the really serious, I'm-a-actually-gonna-push-this-baby-out-through-my-hoo-ha stage. I started on all fours, but then realized I kept collapsing forward, so that my forehead was on the floor. This meant that my arse was up in the air, and I was trying to push the baby uphill - not so clever. I then moved to hanging off the parachute silk, which was nice for a couple of pushes, but then I wanted to be even more upright. Gravity was my friend, and I was keen to embrace him.
I moved across the the chair, raised right up onto my knees. The moos were getting deeper, but strangely, there was absolutely no pain. The earlier contractions had been sort of painful, in a crampy, distracting kind of way, but now it was just productive effort, like a particularly satisfying burst of race pace on some smooth water in a perfectly matched eight, before the lactic acid kicks in (oh, come on. We had to get a rowing comparison in somewhere. Stop groaning).
Sometime around this point, the midwife wheeled a cot in, and I decided to stand up completely. Magically, the bed was at the exact right height for me to lean forward on, with Mr Badger across the other side, gripping my hands and arm wrestling me throughout the big contractions. There was also a fan, perfectly placed to blow cool air on my face. Our midwife, Becky, was clearly gifted with some sort of psychic ability, knowing just what was needed at any moment, and providing it, no questions asked. She was always there, offering reassurance (particularly when I felt like the head kept coming out a bit and then popping back in, and started to fear we'd be there forever, like some sort of horrific gynecological jack-in-the box), occasionally updating us on progress, and gently encouraging me to keep going and not to be scared.
Soon, the head was crowning. Mr Badger managed to text the prospective grandmothers about this milestone, without me realizing it, which demonstrates some pretty impressive skill (or just shows that I was away with the birthing fairies in my own little world entirely). I can honestly say that in the next few minutes I experienced some of the most extraordinary sensations I have ever felt. I can't describe what it's like to actually feel your baby pass out of your body, but I honestly wouldn't have missed it for all the slush puppies, penny sweets, and ice-cold champagne in the world (and I really, really, like slush puppies, penny sweets, and ice-cold champagne). There were some stinging sensations (where I'd break off briefly from the mooing, and go 'ow, ow, ow', which Mr Badger thought was comical understatement, but was actually appropriate from where I was standing). And then we were there. I felt the unmistakable moment that Lumpy's head passed completely through, followed by the smooth slide of the rest of his body. Lumpy had landed. We had done it.
An hour after walking (well, zombie-shuffling, but let's not split hairs here) into the hospital, Lumpy was born. The midwife made an excellent catch, with no fumbling of the slippery little fella, helped me to sit down on the beanbag, and placed our son into my arms. He was gorgeous, and perfect, and quite, quite unbelievable.
"This had better not be a particularly cruel dream," I said to Mr Badger, as he leant down to kiss us both. "If I wake up back at home in a minute, still pregnant, I'll be seriously pissed off."
We sat, cuddling for some time, leaving the umbilical cord to pulsate. Lumpy was a little bit wheezy to start off with, but was too chilled out to cry and clear his chest until they dared to take him away to be weighed, when he demonstrated the true power of his lungs (we actually haven't heard such powerful screams out of him since, but we live in fear of the day he rediscovers this power). We eventually moved up onto the bed, and were brought some lunch (excellent timing). I was halfway through a cheese and pickle sandwich, when the midwife said they usually asked people to wait until they'd delivered the placenta before eating. I guiltily put the sandwich down, and decided to take a brief sojourn into the bathroom to attempt this final stage, passing Lumpy to his daddy for a manly cuddle.
I sat on the toilet, which was blocked off by a cardboard tray to catch the wonders still to emerge from inside me.
"Should I push at all?" I asked the midwife.
"That can help, if you feel like it," she answered. I didn't admit, at this point, that seeing the umbilical cord still hanging out of me, I'd felt an urge to just pull on it and help things along. Luckily, and remarkably, I had resisted.
I gave a couple of gentle pushes, and suddenly plop! I laid a placenta. I looked at the frankly gigantic, liver-like thing in the tray, somewhat impressed that I had produced something like that with so little effort.
"Is that it?" I asked the midwife, just to be sure I hadn't actually pushed one of my essential internal organs out by accident.
"Yes," she said, whipping it away before I could start poking at it with my fingers.
In the meantime, the grandmothers had arrived and were busily cooing over their new grandson. The next few hours passed in a haze of disbelief and euphoria. I had a shower, and changed out of my now rather sullied 'birthing skirt' and into some rather swish silky pyjamas, and we moved into a recovery room, where Lumpy began his career as the most photographed, texted, and facebooked about baby ever. Largely unimpressed by it all, he slept aloofly, waking briefly to feed a couple of times, before returning to sleep. I scoffed a large and faintly confusing dinner (chicken curry with rice, plus a portion of mashed potato and peas, fresh pineapple, and a chocolate eclair. I ate it all, needless to say). The midwives said that we were welcome to stay overnight, or go home if we felt like it. After a few moments thought, we decided to go home, and just after 9 we were discharged, still a bit dazed by the speed of it all.
Hello Lumpy! Welcome to the family! Hopefully you won't think we're too odd and embarrassing. But you probably will. Oh well.