As the summer holidays draw to a near close, I thought about how romance novels, films, sitcoms, and other portrayals of real life, look at having children through rose-tinted glasses. Now, before I begin waffling on about my own experiences of having my little cherubs, I want to make it abundantly clear that I do love my girls more than anything. They are everything to me and I wouldn’t have them any other way (well, maybe sleep through the night without climbing into my bed at three in the morning). Everything they do, what they say, and how they meander through their little lives, makes them who they are, and I am beyond thankful to have them in my life. Please don’t read my anecdotes and think I am taking their presence for granted.
If I start at the beginning, I think most girls will relate when I tell you that I dreamed of becoming a mum from a very young age. I had lots of ‘babies’ when I was playing make-believe and even engaged in picking out what I would have from the Argos catalogue; I lived in the middle of nowhere, so you had to make your own fun sometimes! I hit my early twenties and my hormones and natural instincts frequently whispered to me to procreate, and I almost gave in to them by buying a rabbit as a substitute. Fortunately, I refrained from buying a fur baby and managed to give those hormones the finger for a good few years. I had a plan, and being just a tad stubborn, I stuck to that plan. Fast forward through university, getting my first job as a teacher, moving in with my boyfriend, an unconventional proposal (we journeyed to Paris, went all the way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then all the way back down again, and he still hadn’t done the deed), a wedding, and I was about ready to give those aforementioned hormones the thumbs up.
Step one involved getting the husband onside, which was perhaps the easiest part of the process seeing as I simply reminded him of how babies are made. Unfortunately for him, I fell within six weeks of coming off the pill. To say he was disappointed was an understatement, and if I’m being honest, I was secretly crapping myself over how fast it had happened. I found out the day we were due to fly out to New York with a couple of friends. After I had questioned my eyesight and had had a mini-meltdown, I had precisely thirteen and a half minutes to get my shit together and leave for school. Nine of those minutes had been spent taking a bunch of new tests, just to make sure. I chose not to tell the hubby until after school, especially as I had to consider the fact that he could have been operating heavy machinery and my revelation might just cause an industrial accident. However, when I did, this is how it went:
Me: So, Bryan, I took a test this morning.
Bryan: A test? For…
Me: A pregnancy test. It was positive.
Bryan proceeded to laugh at a high pitch for a good few minutes, looking and sounding like someone who belonged in an insane asylum. The cat even grew a little concerned and made a mad dash for the door, obviously sensing the impending explosion of my husband’s head. Meanwhile, I perched against the banister, and let him have his five minutes of hysteria.
Bryan: So, does that mean you’re pregnant?
Me: Well, that’s usually the case with a positive result, yeah.
Bryan: Er…ok…well, I better go and give the spare key to my parents.
(He laughed once more, rubbed the back of his neck, then escaped through the front door.)
His less than the stuff of a romance novel reaction was enough to break me out of my own anxieties and laugh, for this was the perfect ‘Bryan’ reaction to such a life-changing moment. If he had reacted in the way they do in romances (oh baby, I’m so happy, thank you…) I think I would have growled at him for being creepy. When he returned home ten minutes later, he came into the living room, looked at me watching TV, and laughed again. He then told me he had walked to his parents’ place with high-pitched screaming going off inside of his head and his face set to ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munz. We laughed, hugged awkwardly, then carried on getting ready for our trip away. It was my first visit to the States, and I’d been so excited but ended up feeling sick the entire time. Alas, turbulence, New York taxi drivers, and morning sickness do not make for a great combination.
Fast forward through a miscarriage scare, terrifying scans, swollen ankles, hating the smell of school dinners, going off meat and tea (!), losing our cat, walking around our block shouting for the damn cat when I was nine months pregnant, going overdue, and having to have a sweep (yeah, don’t ask if you don’t know), to the night before I was to be induced. I began to have twinges, which my mum informed me were the beginning of contractions; the little ones that have you believing it won’t be that bad, aka traitorous bastard contractions. Bryan went to bed, Mum finished making an array of snacks for our impending trip to the hospital, and I ended up watching the most bizarre programme about a man who had donated his body to science so they could try and preserve him in the same way the Ancient Egyptians had done. Mum joined me to watch the section about a ‘death garden’ that exists in the States, which is essentially a garden where they throw out dead bodies and study their decomposition. Lovely.
I arrived at the hospital with very mild contractions and was induced. The kind nurse then told us to go for a walk to help the process along a bit, however, I only made it to the front doors before doubling over and having to return to the room again. Hours of painful contractions passed by, during which I randomly met someone I had gone to school with, Bryan scoffed all of the snacks intended to keep my energy levels up, and I was offered a couple of paracetamol. I even tried having a bath but was fast approaching the point of strangling someone if they didn’t offer me something stronger than a damn over-the-counter medicine.
I felt like an elephant of a woman as I gripped hold of Bryan’s shoulders on the way to a delivery room, but when I got there, they offered me the magic of gas and air. I sucked that thing like a hoover, so much so, I was feeling like I was on a night out and wanted to declare undying love to my husband with a good old dose of slurred speech. It’s my belief every household should have one of these babies fitted; it’s like feeling drunk without any of the pesky side effects. It’s a win-win situation! However, then the effects wore off and I felt like the whole Alien situation was about to happen all over again. (If you haven’t seen Alien, let’s just say the thing literally bursts out of the victim’s stomach!)
“I need something!” I growled at whoever was in earshot, most likely sounding like Regan from The Exorcist.
“Ok, Taylor, what can we get you?” the sweet nurse asked.
A tranquilizer, a bottle of Vodka, perhaps whatever the hell Lewis Carrol was on?
“I dunno,” I whimpered, “I’m so tired!”
Cue some pethidine and a shuffle onto the tallest bed in the world, and I was feeling a little better. I even managed to slip in and out of sleep, during which my waters broke. Then the pain stepped up another gear and I could tell Bryan was using all of his willpower to keep his shit together. Meanwhile, the nurse looked at me and told me she wanted me to try and pee.
“You’ve not been to the toilet in a long time. I think you need to try!”
Jesus, I felt like I was being sliced in two and this sweet, stupidly pretty nurse was asking me to have a pee? She got hold of a cardboard bedpan, asked someone to help her lift my arse in the most ungraceful manner (did I mention how pretty she was), and instructed me to pee!?! Funnily enough, even my bladder gave her the finger and refused to play ball.
Fortunately, the time to push came soon after that humiliating act of trying to urinate in front of a bunch of strangers, and they gave up on the whole idea. Ladies, if you’ve not had a baby, the feeling of needing to push is the weirdest sensation in the world, and literally has you sounding like a demon from the deepest depths of hell. Upon emitting this horrendous noise, I was warned, “You’ll end up with a sore throat!” Hmmm, this wasn’t high on my list of concerns, and it took a lot not to say as much, probably with a few extra expletives for emphasis.
Charlotte was born at one in the morning on a Sunday, weighing a whopping nine pounds, three and a half ounces (that’s just over four kilos). The staff were a little taken aback by how big she was for they all thought I’d be having a small baby, but there she was, healthy and extremely long! She was dosed up on pethidine and went to sleep soon after her first feed. Meanwhile, I was left with my legs in stirrups, waiting for someone to come and stitch me up with my hoo-hah on show for whoever decided to walk in. Bryan was rocking in the corner, looking deathly white, mumbling something about it being the worst experience of his life. I’ve got to give him credit, though, he was pretty awesome during the thick of it, gripping my hand and cheering me on with, “Come on, girl!” However, the moment they slapped the old placenta into a bucket with a healthy slop of a sound, marked the final straw for his sensitive stomach. Bless his cotton socks, childbirth really was hard on him.
The months that followed were some of the hardest I’ve ever had to endure, not least of all because it was 2011 and the recession forced Bryan to have to work away all week. My parents returned to Egypt, where they lived during the Winter, and I was left alone to try and deal with a newborn. But somehow, I did, and I’ve even managed to keep her alive for nearly ten years. She’s also a pretty cool human being, even if those pre-teen hormones are beginning to kick in and she’s already perfected the ‘death glare’ teenage girls like to cast over their mothers, fathers, sisters, teenage boys who are still trying to perfect the art of flirting, the wind when it changes direction, and whatever else manages to piss them off. When the actual teenage years do arrive, it’s going to be fun times.
To be continued…