Despite being a copywriter, I have never quite been able to put down in words our route to procreation. It wasn’t due to overwhelming emotions, simply a wish to do this incredible life process some kind of justice. So, I hope this doesn’t fall short of the mark.
We went through it all: miscarriages, early 28-week labour (which was luckily halted with lots of drugs) and the birth of my daughter Mae through non-elective C-section on 21 June 2013 at 8.37pm. Oh and this all happened in Amsterdam – where we lived for the past five years. We had the sex, we had the drugs (lots of them while giving birth) but the rock ‘n’ roll was fast replaced by the Cbeebies theme tune.
Here’s the good, the bad and the (not-so) ugly of what went down:
After a number of miscarriages, ranging from early-on to 17-weeks, my husband and I mentally distanced ourselves from project procreation. As a close friend recommended, we ‘just started bonking with intent’ instead of ‘trying for a baby’.
It wasn’t about making a ‘bean’ or ‘peanut’, it was about being together as a family – even if it was just the two of us. So we just hung out and despite having a miscarriage only three weeks before, I somehow defied the odds and got pregnant with Mae on a holiday to Belves in the South of France. We considered calling Mae ‘Belves’ so delusionally happy we were.
And she hung in there – until 28 weeks.
I was throwing up in an IKEA disabled toilet with someone ramming on the door saying I wasn’t disabled and should get out of there. I had food poisoning from a hipster haunt in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and I was sobbing at the yellow and blue-hued nightmare I was in.
After a distressing journey home (still clutching that IKEA baby lamp that seemed so essential at the time), I started to get painful stomach cramps, which fast became contractions. I kept doing the maths – “she’s 28 weeks, she’s 28 weeks” running on loop through my mind – and Googled everything from ‘what are her chances of survival’ and ‘can food poisoning lead to early labour?’ to ‘what’s in a hospital bag?’.
The (not-so) ugly
After a tense 24 hours in hospital, being pumped full of drugs to slow the contractions, Mae luckily decided to stay-put for the rest of my pregnancy. I was house-bound and rested-up for the majority of it but that didn’t matter – every day she was inside was a bonus.
Because she was a breach baby, the midwife decided it was safest to deliver her by C-section. I remember coming in at 8am on the 21 of June to the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouwen Gaasthuis) hospital in the heart of Amsterdam and not knowing when we’d have our little girl – it was like booking in for a regular hospital/hair appointment. The nurses kept saying ‘someone will be with you shortly’. As in, someone will be with you to deliver your baby? Or someone will be with you to do a check-up? It was all rather surreal.
At about 7pm after no food or water for 11 hours, I remember saying to my husband, “I either want a sandwich or a baby” – I was literally on the edge and it looked like we were going to have to wait until the next day to have her – the suspense was killing me.
But at 8pm, as we were huddled up on a hospital bed watching Family Guy in a pre-parental daze, the nurse came in and said, “are you ready to have a baby?” I really wasn’t, I had mentally switched off and couldn’t believe we’d have Mae with us in half an hour. But I was whisked off to theatre all the same, with the husband in hot pursuit, donning blue scrubs in a mad panic.
The C-section took literally three minutes and there was a genuine sense of calm in the room – it wasn’t the medical harsh environment I’d expected – they even turned the lights down when she came out. Mae emerged from behind the green curtain mewling like a cat, while my husband and I broke down with relief that our ‘bean’, our ‘peanut’ had finally come to fruition after so many painful false starts. The moment she latched on in the recovery room? There literally are no words. No words that would ever do it justice.