I used to pass my days at home in silence. I like to work in silence and I find background noise distracting, but it also means that I can spend over 8 hours a day in complete silence, which sometimes seems to make me just too thoughtful, too introspective. So some months ago I tried having Radio 2 on in the background, just for a couple of hours to break the silence and give me some contact with the world outside of my head and my computer.
One day I was listening to the radio and a song came on that make me literally shake and made tears run silently down my face. That song was “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles. Not everyone’s first choice for a song to move you to tears but for me this song is very special and for you to properly understand I’ll have to take you back a few years to when I was pregnant with my son Nico.
I determined to have the “good birth experience”. The one I didn’t have with my daughter. When I was in labour I asked the midwife for pain relief and she replied “no, you should suffer, you wicked sinful girl”. Understandably I was determined that my second birth experience would be very different and a far more happy, positive experience and so I made elaborate plans for our perfect home birth.
By incredible luck our midwife lived a few houses away on our road and she agreed with the plan about having the baby in our bedroom surrounded by everything familiar and the specially made music playlist which would mean our baby would be born to the sound of lovely music. I bought a new nightie, new bed linen, I made a playlist tape (oh yes, those were the days of making your mixed tapes!) and Nico’s dad worked hard to finish off all the DIY to the bedroom. Everything was going to be just as perfect as we wanted it to be. But life so seldom is interested in the plans we make, is it?
Two weeks before my due date the hospital discovered that they had made a mistake and given me someone else’s blood sugar results. This meant that when I was told a few weeks earlier I was told that my blood sugar levels were great, what they actually should have told me was that I had off the scale level gestational diabetes and needed close monitoring. But I had spent the last half of my pregnancy in blissful ignorance of this, happily believing someone else’s blood results.
This meant all our carefully laid plans were off and instead I was booked in for an induced hospital birth on my due date. However, we arranged with the hospital that we could use their “family room” which was then a very new idea. A hospital room in the maternity ward, but laid out like a normal bedroom with wallpaper, pictures, a bed of normal width and height, arm chairs with cushions etc. We thought it would do. It was a non-scary room and owing to my previous birth experience I was already having the heebie-jeebies, so I needed there to be a lot of non-scary around.
Armed with our cassette player, my specially made mixed tape, my water spray, cologne, favourite mints, clean nightie, dressing gown, hair brush and bag of yellow baby clothes (as we didn’t know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, that meant lots of lemon to cover both possibilities) we went in on my due date. My mother had arrived the night before to stay with us, take my daughter to school and keep things happy and normal for her.
Again, things didn’t go quite as planned. After the initial injection I had a few contractions which gradually faded away to nothing. By that evening the midwives conceded nothing was going to happen that day and I sat up in bed eating toast very unhappily by 9.00pm and Nico’s dad went home.
Bright and early the next day, on the dot of 8.00am, the midwives arrived, Nico’s dad arrived and they tried again. I knew it was 8.00am exactly because we had turned our cassette player over to “radio” and were listening to the news. As I had my inducing injection again it was announced that the UK was accepting applications from Britons wanting to train as astronauts.
Simultaneously my injection kicked in, Nico’s dad announced he was going to apply to be an astronaut and a massive contraction threw me off the bed and onto the floor. I threw up all my toast from the night before and we knew were in business!
I strapped on my TENS machine and we got stuck in. Most of the next 3 hours I don’t really remember. The 10 metre corridor between my room and the loo became like an endless frozen wasteland, with me clinging to the walls when things got bad.
By 11.00am, only 3 hours after it all kicked off, we were nearly at the finishing line. I became rather obsessed with the pink candlewick bedspread I was lying on and after a few gasps of gas and air treated everyone in the room to my theory of how the candlewick bedspread reflected the waves breaking on a Grecian shore.
But in all the fuss no-one remembered to put the cassette player back onto “tape” and instead it stayed on “radio” which meant my mixed tape was never played and instead – with his blue, blue eyes wide open and staring all around, my son Nico was born to the sound of The Bangles singing “Eternal Flame”.
Yesterday, it was the first time that I had heard that song again since that day and suddenly the words took on a whole new meaning “Is this burning an eternal flame?” and I absolutely knew the answer. Yes it is, it really is. The love for my darling boy is for ever and ever.
So while most of our carefully laid birth plans went out of the window, as they so often will, I still think that Nico did so much better than my daughter, who was born to the radio playing “Hey fatty bum bum”. Nuff said.