I was recently asked in an interview what the happiest day of my
life was. And I know that the answer they were gunning for me to
reply with was the day my first child was born. But let’s
be honest, here. The arrival of a child is an amazing
thing, but happiness isn’t the overwhelming emotion I remember
feeling on the day, by any means.
My first daughter Mairead’s due date was May the Fourth (be with
you), 2009. She arrived on May the 14th at which point I
was 41 weeks, 3 days pregnant. After extensive research on
natural ways to induce labour....curry, raspberry leaf, sitting
on expensive white couches (I found one website that suggested
that a surefire way to induce labour was to swallow semen, at
which point I thought, ‘Bugger that, she can stay in there for
all I care’), I ended up being induced in the hospital.
The night before I was induced the first time I lay awake all
night thinking about how tomorrow would be the day my life (and
probably my vagina) would be changed forever and I would be
holding my brand new daughter the very next morning. Two days
later I was still in the hospital, they had tried to induce my
three times (seriously, I think every person in the hospital had
given me an internal examination, by the third time I was
offering the dinner ladies and janitors a go). The worst
part of that was because I had been given medication, I had to
stay overnight in hospital. In the shared maternity ward.
With new mums and their new babies and the only thing that
had come out of me was swear words.
After the third attempt at induction didn’t take, they called in
the big wig obstetrician. I had yet another internal examination
during which the medical staff discussed me at the bottom of the
stirrups like I wasn’t even there (and I quote) ‘Hey Susie, I’m
trying to hook the cervix but I can’t quite reach it....can you
call Simon? He’s got the really long fingers’ (I suppose I should
be grateful for the small mercy that he didn’t request the staff
member with the wide fingers). After some discussion I was told
that I could either try to induce the baby with the gel again,
have a caesarian then and there or go home. My partner Phil
and I decided that we didn’t want to try to induction for a
fourth time, I wanted to try for a natural birth if I could so
the only option left was to go home, with our empty baby capsule.
We didn’t go back to the hospital until the 14th of May, my
doctor advising that it would be best to see if I just went into
labour naturally, by which time I so pregnant I thought when the
baby did come out, she’s probably arrive with teeth. I was
treated by exactly the same midwives I’d seen the first (three)
times. One particularly dim one laughed and exclaimed ‘What?
You’re back again? I can’t believe it! I thought you’d had your
baby days ago!’ and it was all I could do not to reply ‘Yeah, you
and me both, Bitch’ (did I mention I was grumpy by this stage?).
Again they administered the gel and nothing happened for
hours. Then the senior obstetrician suggested we have one
more go. So we did. And I went from nothing to
full-blown labour in what felt like about 5 minutes.
They rushed me into a delivery room and monitored mine and the
baby’s heartbeats. I threw up. I was in agony. I kept
trying inhale and hold onto the gas like it was a ciggie. The gas
made me go on the nod, then I’d be wracked with a full-blown
contraction. I crapped myself (in more ways than one).
I laboured for about 4 hours with no broken water and only
2 centimetres dilation (I mean, really, I reckon I’ve
involuntarily dilated more than that in some cake shops).
Then suddenly the baby’s heartbeat plummeted.
Bells and whistles were going off all around me and all the
medical staff were whispering furiously out in the hall.
Then Simon (the one with the really long fingers, you
remember) came in and said ‘Janelle, the baby’s in a little bit
of distress so we think it’s best if we just get you in for a
caesarian straight away.’ I just wanted her out and safe so
they whisked me off and prepped me for theatre.
Getting the epidural was terrifying. I had a very nice but
sickly sweet midwife with me who had one of those posh TV kids’
show presenter voices. You know the ones, annoying and
condescending. She said ‘Nnnnnnnow Janelle, what we need
you to do is bend over, that’s right, just arch your back because
we need to get access to your spine, so I want you to do a pose
that I like to call ‘the scared cat’ just like this!’ and she
hunched her shoulders over and arched her back to show me.
I had just enough sarcasm left in me to ask her ‘Do I have
to make the face too?’ as I did what I was told. Then she
said ‘Now, Janelle, it’s super important that while the needle is
going in that you absolutely do not move, because as you know
we’re injecting into your spinal column, okaaaaay?’ Of course,
just when the needle was going in, I felt a contraction coming
on. So there I was, bent over the table like the stupid scared
cat, my body in agony and dying to squirm into a comfortable
position. So I wriggled my tongue from side to side.
Because that was literally all that I could do.
But once those drugs kicked in it was awesome. I didn’t
feel any pain or even pregnant anymore (I couldn’t feel pretty
much anything at all from the nipples down). Phil said when
he left me I was screaming and crying and terrified and
when he walked into the theatre I was on the table laughing and
joking and asking the surgeon if he could do a bit of liposuction
while he down there (that actually wasn’t a joke - I think that
should be part of the service, don’t you?).
And then suddenly there she was. And there was silence. And
there was a lifetime of waiting as I lay on that table unable to
see anything. And then she cried, and the relief the flooded over
us was immeasurable. And the midwives cleaned her up and put her
into my arms, and I couldn’t believe she was finally really here
and I’d done it. So I bawled my eyes out.
So, no. I don’t think the day my first child was born was
the happiest day of my life. It was a day filled with
overwhelming fear, with staggering pain, with crippling worry.
It was an undignified day full of anxiety and despair and
relief and messy bodily fluids. But we got our beautiful,
slightly purple squashed potato baby girl at the end of it, and
that was an all-encompassing emotion like none I had ever felt
But the happiest day of my life? That’s an easy one. That would
have to be the day I was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.
That day was freakin’ awesome. And no-one even saw my
fanny. TOP DOLLAR!
is an accomplished comedian, a mum of two little girls (aged 5
and 1 and no there won't be any more thanks for asking) and
mediocre guitarist. She’s proud to consider herself a ‘real
woman’ but keeps her skinny jeans ‘just in