Until recently, I’m pretty sure I’d been handling first time pregnancy like a smug-faced pro. No swollen ankles, no hysterical rants, a healthy gym and swim regime and a beautiful nursery masterplan. I was occupying my own upbeat montage, dancing around with a roller in hand to Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ with a playful paint smudge on my nose.
But then week 27 struck, and suddenly I became a tear stained, resentful manatee of a woman.
The lowest point came at this week’s antenatal class in Cornwall. My husband’s job requires frequent travel and, through no fault of his own, he has missed all of them so far. At the first session when we went around the circle of couples I explained that he was working in London. Last week it was Leeds. This time, before I can even open my mouth, a woman says: “And where is he this time?” “Russia”, I mutter.
To make matters worse, after an incident with a heavy sash window five weeks ago I’m unable to wear my wedding band. The swollen knuckle of my ring finger seems to tell its own sad story of imaginary matrimony. The midwife, in a kindly and hushed manner, takes me aside to ask ‘There will be somebody with you for the birth, won’t there?’.
Still, at least we’re starting off with a game this week. A nice, light-hearted game. Not so. This is the type of game a serial killer might conjure up in the basement of his woodland hideaway before getting out the crossbow and setting the captives loose. The midwife produces a harmless looking pillow case and we’re all asked to take a ‘lucky dip’ inside. Our first warning should have been her cheerfully added: “Careful, there are some nasty little sharps in there!”
We go around the circle, hazarding guesses as to what our special birth-related item could be. And so we learn that under some circumstances it might be necessary to stick a sucker pad onto the baby’s head and pop the little blighter out (this could leave a sizeable welt, or a temporarily cone head child, but don’t worry), and that if they fear the baby is in distress, they may poke a pole inside you, cut into its scalp and attach this heart monitor (again, perfectly natural).
My favourite moment comes when a young father-to-be hopefully guesses ‘chopstick?’ for his item, only to be told he’s actually twiddling an amniotic membrane perforator. He takes on an odd greenish hue and sidles to the toilet.
An hour later we’ve grimaced over various catheters, episiotomy scissors, a suture kit and a delightful absorbent sheet soaked with replica blood to represent the average loss during birth. The midwife looks around the group of now ashen faced women and men and falteringly says, “Oh dear, you all look a bit glum. Birth’s the easy bit – wait until you tackle breast feeding and the first ten days at home!”
Knowledge is power. But in this case perhaps ignorance is bliss. I ask my imaginary husband to take me home.
A Guest Blog from Eleanor Gaskarth
Ellie is a freelance writer and mother to marauding toddler Marla, with another due on Boxing Day (great timing…). She and her husband Jamie recently moved to Cheltenham from Cornwall and although sad to leave the pasties and Poldark landscapes, she loves not being a four hour journey from almost everywhere. Addicted to crime fiction, Radio 4 and Bakewell tart, she misses playing roller derby and squashing herself into a wetsuit for some cack-handed surfing. You can find her on Instagram.
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