I’m almost there. I’m almost there. I’m almost there. That’s what I keep telling myself every day as I trudge to work, eight months pregnant. Strangers shout at me on the street: ‘When is the baby due? Any day now?’ I answer through gritted teeth, ‘Yes, almost there,’ even though I have more than a month to go. The fact remains, and there is no hiding it, I’m having a baby.
Pregnancy is a peculiar state, as anyone who has been there will tell you. By the end, when it’s evident for all the world to see, you become public property. It must be a little what being famous is like. It’s callous not to be appreciative of what is essentially the kindness of strangers and acquaintances alike, but by the tenth time that day that a well-meaning person has said, ‘You are just huge, are you sure you are not having twins?’, it can be a little grating.
Anyway, back to the happier topic of the baby: we have discovered it will be another boy. So, no need to buy new sets of baby clothes and my knowledge of trucks, trains and anything with wheels will keep expanding. Besides the wonder of expecting another child, I do hope — and have been assured by everyone — this time around looking after a baby will be easier. Everyone says it’s easier. Let’s hope so, because pregnancy for the second time certainly hasn’t been.
One thing I will be changing is my birth plan. For some extraordinary reason the first time around, I thought I was going to be cool and bohemian about it all. To that end, I hired a doula. For the uninitiated, a doula is essentially a birth coach and advocate at the hospital.
Having started out as part of the whole ‘back to nature’ trend of birthing sweeping the Western world, the fancy ones have become a bit like labour-ward Birkin bags: expensive and highly unattainable. Their main function is to be the voice of the mother. As American hospitals can be a little factory-like, doulas who are more familiar with the politics and mechanics of the hospitals than new parents are supposed to help in making sure the family’s wishes are obeyed.
Our doula came recommended by someone I never thought would have one, so we hired her. She was a perfectly sweet person but ended up being unnecessary. Doulas seem to work best for couples where the husband or partner isn’t comfortable or welcome in the birthing room and for women who want to have a drug-free birth.
I was happy to have Hugh in the room (standing at my head and instructed not to budge from his position no matter what) and I wanted as many drugs as possible as soon as I could reasonably have them.
As Harry was over a week late, my doctor recommended induction. When we arrived at the hospital, I was hooked up to a Pitocin drip. It took a few hours for the contractions to start and during that time Hugh was entertaining me, reading me silly stories and attempting to teach me bridge, which quickly devolved into Kings in the Corner, a card game I loved when I was about nine. It was quite a sweet time between us and rather special. Finally, at about 2pm (I went in at 9am), the doula appeared and instantly the vibe changed.
One of the best things about marrying an Englishman is how polite they are, but there are some situations when good manners can be a hindrance. When the doula arrived, Hugh began behaving as if he were at a work drinks party. ‘So, do you have any plans for the summer?’ he asked her while I was panting away, trying to remember how to do the Lamaze breathing I’d YouTubed the night before.
Soon they were engaged in a discussion of the merits of Greece vs the south of France. The doula was heading off to vacation with some old clients who were desperate to have her along on their first vacation post-birth. I was getting pretty irritated by this point, but there was little I could do about it. As the contractions ramped up, I do distinctly remember that he asked if he could get her anything to drink, maybe a Coke from the machine perhaps.
Frankly, most of what she contributed was stroking my forehead during the worst bits, which just made me want to punch her. I’ve come to the conclusion that when you are in that state, all you want are doctors, nurses and your husband around you. So this time, no doula, just the two of us.
After all’s said and done, Hugh’s the only one who should be in that room anyway. Maybe we’ll play cards again but this time, I think we’ll just stick with Kings in the Corner. In these circumstances, bridge may need to be shelved for the time being.