“Well,” says my obstetrician, “You can write down that you plan to give birth, if you like. That one’s a definite. But you can make up the rest as you go along. Unless there’s anything specific you want, of course. I had a woman once who was adamant that she needed this giant red oil painting in the delivery room to focus on and channel energy through.”
“Did it work?” I ask.
He frowns a little and gazes up at the ceiling. “I think by the time she entered transition, her energy was more focused on another channel.”
After scouring the pregnancy forums, I pick my OB because the words that come up the most are ‘laid-back’ and ‘non-alarmist’. Also the fact that he doesn’t do internal examinations ‘unless medically indicated’. I’m not a fan of internals. A few months later when I am in labour, I will kick a midwife halfway across the room as she quite roughly performs one on me. She will raise her voice: ‘Come on, be a good girl, it’s not as bad as the contractions is it.’ I will growl ‘YES IT FUCKING IS’ but be in too much pain to point out that given I am currently giving birth, I am obviously no longer a ‘girl’ and probably haven’t been a ‘girl’ for quite a while, thank-you very fucking much you patronising medical professional. Five hours later when I am attempting to push out a baby, I will accidentally shit on this midwife and not mind at all.
I’m getting off track here. Back to just-pregnant.
I phone up to make my first appointment somewhat apprehensively, as my OB’s receptionist has A Reputation For Being A Little Bit Difficult. “Um, I’ve got a referral to see [redacted name of OB]?”
“How far along are you?” comes the terse reply.
“Three and a half weeks,” I say.
“So you haven’t missed your period yet.” She sounds really annoyed.
“Um, no,” I say. I’m standing outside my GP’s office in the wind, and I’m a bit frazzled at all of this. I hate making phone calls at the best of times.
“Then how do you know you’re pregnant?” she accuses.
“I have a positive pregnancy test,” I say. I nearly add ‘it’s a bit of a tip-off,’ but I’m too intimidated to rise to my usual level of smart-arsery.
She sighs. “Hold on I’ve got another call.” I wait for the usual waft of on-hold music and am slightly perplexed to find I’ve been hung up on. I ring back.
“I was just talking to you and we got cut off - ”
“You’re the three-and-a-half weeks?” she says.
“24th May at 2pm?”
“See you then.” She hangs up, and I burst into illogical tears. But hey, I’m pregnant, I now have special dispensation to burst into illogical tears whenever the fuck I want. Also I get to swear as much as I like because once I have a two-year-old with a talent for repetition, I’m going to have to try to behave myself. I may or may not prove to be very successful at this, and my two-year-old may or may not prove to be very good at clearly announcing ‘fucking computer!’ at inopportune moments.
But back to the early days, when my future swearing blonde moppet is little more than a tiny prawn made of snot floating around somewhere a lot lower down than I imagine my uterus to be. Should have concentrated harder when the Life Ed van came round to my primary school.
I like my OB even before I meet him. This is mainly because he has a Playmobil operating theatre and hospital room set up on his office book shelf. I’m easily wooed by the presence of these little German pieces of plastic. When he does enter the room and begin to speak, I’m soothed by his soft voice. He’s kind of like a really nice dad. He’s probably in his mid-fifties, has inoffensive grey hair and wears chinos.
“I have heaps of Playmobil,” I say. “I asked for it for every birthday and Christmas present from age 4 up until I was way too old to still be asking for it.”
It’s probably not the usual first thing he hears from a new patient, but I’m not going to be a usual patient. I am going to be weirdly low-maintenance for a first pregnancy. I’ll have hardly any questions or worries (that’s what the internet is for), I’ll never call him after hours, or even during hours, I’ll never page him and I won’t have a single medical problem even when I go 10 days overdue.
“Do I really have to follow all those food rules?” I ask. “There’s like a million of them. And I really like soft cheese.”
He leans forward and steeples his fingers. “Look, you can be as cautious as you like about these things, really. I would say: don’t eat undercooked meat if you’re in France, don’t eat anything that’s off, other than that just eat whatever you’re comfortable with.”
I must look pleased. “Oh,” he says, “And you’re going to need to drink to get through your second pregnancy, so you may as well start now. A small glass of wine each day isn’t going to do any harm at all.”
It’s official: I am in love with my OB.
I’d like to say the next 9 months fly by, but they don’t. Increasingly, they waddle. I outgrow every bra size ever invented. I stare in confusion at ‘hospital bag’ suggestion lists that insist I pack thank-you cards so I can write my thank-yous while I’m still in hospital. Why don’t I just write a novel and find a cure for cancer while I’m learning to breastfeed?
I manage never to have heartburn or need to wee more often than usual (even when I’m 9 months gone I don’t ever have to get up at night to take a piss. I try not to mention this to pregnant friends or friends with new babies, because their eyes take on a certain murderous gleam that I vaguely think I’ve seen once before and I think it was during ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’).
Pregnancy is weird. Everyone is suddenly interested in me, and a bit grabby (which oddly enough, I find I quite like). I do consider having a set of business-sized cards made up that say “January. Boy. My first.” in order to save answering the same three fucking questions from every single person on the planet.
I also note one weird pregnancy thing that no one ever told me about: when you’re really, really pregnant and your baby moves around while you’re having a poo, it feels like your poo is alive. True.
And suddenly I’m 10 days overdue, lying on the couch moaning about how I’m going to be pregnant forever. Then something…squirts. I don’t usually spontaneously piss myself, I think. I leap off the couch and in ridiculously stereotypical Hollywood style, my waters break spectacularly all over the floor. It goes everywhere. I get the giggles. “Labour doesn’t start like this in real life!” I exclaim, “I’m an episode of Friends!”
I’ll spare you the labour. It’s actually quite boring, for the most part. It hurts, it takes fucking forever, I get really tired, I kick a midwife, I have an epidural. Epidurals are awesome. Everyone should have one, maybe once a week.
Then suddenly it’s time to have a go at actually giving birth, and I can’t manage to push properly (apart from the aforementioned shitting upon the patronising midwife). My OB, who has arrived with his hair tousled from sleep, says kindly: “I think I might need to give you a hand. You have one more go, I’ll get the salad servers ready.” I assume he means forceps because I don’t recall ordering a salad.
I’ve meandered all over this blog post, not knowing quite how to end it. I can only think of one way how it ends, and when I mention it to @matchtrick, he replies: “Then that’s how it ends. You get very few chances to tell a story that ends that way.” He’s right.
I admire my stripy Juno-style socks as my numb legs hang in the air, propped up by stirrup thingies. I can’t feel a thing, but my OB appears to be tossing the salad. (This is not intended to be a euphemism, but I suspect it already is.)
A few moments later a curled up creature is slopped onto my chest, apparently covered in tinned tomatoes and cottage cheese. It’s not a bag of kittens after all.
One of his fists clutches around the strap of my nightie. He’s all shiny and gross and a lot bigger than I expected and completely amazing.
I burst into logical tears.
It ends with baby.