Born in Lewisham Hospital on the 27th December 2005 at 8.56pm, weighing 6 pounds 10 ounces (not 7lb 5 as we were originally told....), one of my first thoughts was 'thank goodness we weren't more careful' because I didn't want any other baby than this little one who had just been plopped onto my chest (not that she was unplanned - I just wouldn't have landed her with a Christmas birthday if I'd thought about it a bit more carefully).
And isn't giving birth incredible. I feel like I've joined a club - gone through something crazy and come out the other side. I knew it was going to happen soon - I'd been having twinges for quite a while and was bleeding slightly every now again. I had my first contraction at 8am that morning which put paid to our plans to go shopping in the Christmas sales. But they were not like I expected - where were my contractions 40mins apart, then 20mins, then 10mins....? Mine seemed quite close together but certainly not regular. Despite how strong they were I was not completely convinced they were the real thing - maybe they were Braxton Hicks, after all didn't all the books (which of course I had religiously read throughout my pregnancy) say they could feel strong and you might mistake them for the real thing? I had a bath to help ease the pain then tried out the TENS machine, which was a total disaster - the second Adrian turned the power up I felt like I was having electric shocks all over my back and shouted for him to take it off. Well, it was worth a go....
I ate some soup and threw it back up, then decided I might as well try a homoeopathic remedy since I'd spent £35 on the kit and it contained something that would apparently would stop the contractions if they weren't the real thing and get them going if they were. Well, if it didn't actually work! Adrian went to clean out the car (see how prepared we were?!), I panted and groaned and bent over double gripping furniture then finally decided to call the hospital. The contractions were coming roughly every 5 minutes. The midwife I spoke to sounded slightly annoyed and told me to wait until they were coming every 3 minutes and then I could come in. By the time I'd put the phone down they were pretty much coming every 3 minutes and Adrian finally persuaded me that I really probably was in labour (as I bent over the stair rail gasping) and they did seem to be very close together, so lets just get to the hospital. He called my parents to let them know things were starting and we headed to Lewisham Hospital.
I think this was around 3pm and they took me in to examine me, with me saying could I please go home if I wasn't ready and I'm sure I'm hardly dilated at all, when my waters broke there on the bed and I found out that I was almost 7cm dilated. So much for Braxton Hicks.
My memories of the labour are hazy (that'll be the gas and air...!). I know that I longed for the midwife to tell me I needed an epidural and I know I was sick a lot, and so tired that I slept between contractions, and that Adrian rubbed my poor aching back so much that the skin was sore. I know I was so hot I stripped everything off while Adrian and the Midwife shivered with cold. I know Adrian gave me my homoeopathic remedies and at one point I sat on the birthing ball chatting to the midwife. I tried going on all fours which I thought would be how I would want to give birth only to find it didn't feel right. I know she was 'sunny side up' and had to turn before she could come out. I know the midwife said to me that if she hadn't turned by 8pm they would reassess and I looked at the clock to see it was only 6pm and I didn't know how I would keep going for another 2 hours. I know I found the pushing exhausting and that when her head came out I thought I would rip and tried to snatch the midwife's hand away. I know that I felt her soft head, the first skin to skin contact she had ever had and that I heard her whimper like a kitten as she tried to inflate her lungs which were still inside me. I know that the moment that she came out and was pushed onto my chest, all slippery, wet and dazed, was one of the most exhilarating and overwhelming moments of my life.
Adrian watched her being born (something else I thought there was no way I would let happen - hey, you can't plan for these things!) and says he will never forget the moment she was in my arms and the look on my face and how I excitedly exclaimed that we had 'A little girl! A little girl!'. He cut the cord once it had stopped pulsating and our Little Pong, who only that morning had been curled up safely inside me, was finally with us.
Those hours spent in that room were like being on another planet. It was as if nothing else existed - I thought of nothing else for the entire duration. It seems surreal that life was just carrying on as normal all around.
She arrived just in time, before shift change at 9pm - that'll be the Tryggvason genes there. I had asked not to be injected to speed up the delivery of the placenta but it only took about 20 minutes to come out and then Adrian helped me bath while Freyja was checked. I was then checked by the midwives, which was possibly more painful than actually giving birth though I am pleased to say that I didn't tear. But an hour later I still hadn't stopped bleeding. This is what frightened me - I really did seem to be bleeding a hell of a lot and had no idea what was normal. The new shift midwives decided I needed to be injected after all to stop the bleeding but I did have fears all night that I might be haemorrhaging...a worrier? Me?!
I was wheeled down to the maternity ward (down the back lift in a wheelchair, ha ha, none of this tucking me into bed and transporting me to the ward in style like they do in Kings!!) and Adrian was allowed to stay for a while to get me settled - I had a private room as they were very quiet, I was the only woman to have given birth that evening. And then I was alone. Well, no not alone - just me and Freyja, my daughter. And yet it wasn't strange, or frightening, or confusing - how quickly do you get used to having a child? I think any uncertainty sets in later once you are back in real world, initially it is instinct and it felt natural to be in this room with my first child, barely hours old, just as it had felt natural to be groaning on all fours earlier that day - we can do amazing things as long as we don't think about it too much.
So I spent that first night in a state of exhaustion, cuddling a crying Freyja who would not sleep in the bedside cot. How desperately I wish I had brought her into the bed with me - if only I'd known then that it is okay to do that!! I must admit to feeling a bit abandoned at this point - not because I didn't know what I was doing, more because I was so tired and needed to sleep but was left alone with a crying newborn having only squeezed her out into the world hours before. But, according to my notes 'mother and baby slept well', so we woke up at 6am and I set about being a mother - feeding ('breastfeeding beautifully' said my notes. Hurrah! So why, 2 weeks later, am I in agony and feel sick with nerves every time she is due a feed?), changing nappies (how huge are they on a newborn?!) and waiting for daddy to arrive. Oh and fending off the only person who knocked on my door all morning - a nurse cheerily proclaiming 'Contraception!' as she walked in...
Adrian came in the morning and then brought Katie to visit in the afternoon. I called my parents from my mobile in toilet (how much I would love to hear the conversation from when Adrian called my parents to say 'congratulations, you have a granddaughter!'), told my mum it how much it had hurt to which she replied, 'yes, I didn't want to tell you that bit'!
I had asked to be discharged that afternoon as, despite the advice telling me to stay in as long as possible, I wanted to be at home with Adrian, and anyway, things seem to have changed from when our mums had us and they took the babies away and delivered them to you for feeding every 4 hours , leaving you to recover from the birth in between!! We tucked her up into the brand new car seat and I waited in the reception with her while Adrian got the car. Again, it seemed so natural sitting there with her, looking into her round little moon face, so peaceful and trusting in this bright, strange place.
At home I felt mildly panicky about whether I done the right thing coming home so soon. I was back in the real world and suddenly felt out of my depth - what did I know about babies? But Adrian had tidied the house and put Freyja's moses basket right next to my pillow in our bedroom so she would be close to me and she was ours and we did know what to do or at least we would do our best and, hey, we had loads of posh ready meals in the freezer - so of course everything was going to be okay!