This time of year is our birthday season. And today it's no 2's turn. Her birthday coming only two weeks after no 1's, means no 2 sometimes feels no one is quite as interested in her big day. Added to which, it being in half term means it's often a bit of a damp squib. Five of her birthdays have been spent away from home (though on the plus side, last time we went away she got three cakes as a result). We also missed her 7th birthday because Spouse took me to Venice to celebrate my 40th (and has she ever let us forget that one? Why no. I think she'll be reminding me on my deathbed.) This year she was mighty pissed off when she discovered that no 1 would be on a school trip to Germany, and has only been mollified by copious texts and no 1 promising her an "extremely coolio Geburtstag pressie" (any parody of Georgia Nicholson fully intended. I think no 1 fantasises about being Georgia Nicholson - I don't think the reason she now calls us Mutti and Vati has anything to do with learning German properly.)
I meant to mark the occasion of no 2's tenth birthday as I did no 1's here with a rhapsodising post about the joys of her birth, but somehow didn't get to it last year. So instead, as I muse rather sadly that I am losing my second little girl to a preteen hormonal world of secondary school and semi independence, I'll take that nostalgic look back now....
After no 1's birth which was hugely traumatic, I did think for a while I couldn't face going through the whole shebang again. But Nature is a cunning Old Bird, and when no 1 hit one, she got me bang between the eyes. One year old babies are just beautiful. Gorgeous, funny, engaging. Doing new things all the time. Not so demanding as when they first come out. So you get completely besotted with them to the extent that you forget all the horror of their birth and the early weeks of no sleep and no life, and suddenly your body is screaming at you I WANT ANOTHER ONE NOW!!!! So it was that I forgot my resolve that no 1 would be an only one on whom I could shower all my love and affection, and by the time she reached her second birthday her new sibling's arrival was imminent.
I never seemed to manage labour straightforwardly - well, ok does anyone? -but my babies all went into stop start mode, so I'd have really strong contractions for a bit which sent me scurrying into hospital, only for everything to stop and I'd come home the next day with my tail between my legs feeling both disappointed and stupid. It was very very tiresome.
And after all those shenagigans which went on for weeks before the baby arrived, the little buggers turned up late.
No 2 was due on 23 May, but showed no signs of arriving so I had an appointment on 28 May to do a swipe (you don't want to know, but clever way of getting a baby moving) and was given another appointment for an induction should that not work. As no 1 was induced I wasn't keen to repeat the experience, so it was a mighty relief that no 2 showed signs of arrival in the afternoon.
My mother was staying with me on standby to look after no 1, and by midafternoon was keen to get me into hospital. I wasn't budging till I knew for definite the baby was on its way, so I made her take me for a walk around the park, during which I had to pause for the odd contraction. I was strangely relaxed. After the absolute hideousness of having no 1, doing it naturally seemed like a doddle in comparison.
At teatime the contractions were coming closer together, but I insisted on feeding no 1, and then bathing her, even though my mother was practically pleading with me to go in. It was only when reading no 1 her bedtime story that I conceded defeat. I had a rather puzzled two year old, saying Keep going, Mummy, when I kept having to pause from reading as I breathed my way through contractions which were definitely on the wrong side of painful.
So Spouse and I set off for the hospital, which is luckily only ten minutes away. All was calm when we arrived. We were ushered into a labour room, examined, I was strapped up to a monitor, given some gas and air and we were left to it for a bit. Being in a labour room is really really strange. You lie there looking at your bump, trying to think about something other then the pain, and trying and failing to imagine your new baby lying in the empty crib awaiting it. Everytime I did it, it felt weirdly surreal.
The midwife was popping in and out checking up on me, and it became very clear after a bit, that the ward was incredibly busy. To the point that, having examined me and discovered I was still only 2cm dilated (another incovenient fact of the way I gave birth was my babies took HOURS in the first stage of labour, and because I wasn't at 3cm and therefore officially in labour, no one ever took my pain seriously) she suggested I go home. I'm sure they needed the room I was in, as although I really really didn't want to budge, somehow we were persuaded that going home was a really good idea. Have a nice hot bath, were the midwife's parting words.
Now. I had been to antenatal classes for nos 1&2. I had read nearly every book on childbirth I could lay my hands on. I knew that labour takes two stages. Stage one when the cervix contracts. Stage two when the baby is born. I also knew that in between stages one and two there is a transitional stage, which can involve: confusion, irrational behaviour and violent shaking. Did I recognise all of these things when they happened to me? No dear reader, I did not.
So there I was lying in my bath, thinking, oh yes, I remember this from last time, this feels soo nice, and all was going swimmingly as it were, when all of a sudden, the nice easy controlled contractions I'd been experiencing turned into the most godawful shuddering bodyshaking pains I have ever felt. I hadn't a clue what was going on, but suddenly that lovely feeling of being in control vanished and I was a gibbering wreck. I fortunately had enough presence of mind to get out of the bath, and just about enough to resist the temptation to go the loo, but otherwise I was a complete mess. I wandered up and down the landing moaning pathetically, dripping with water, resembling no doubt a rather large and sad looking fat whale. I called downstairs to Spouse, who couldn't hear me (my moans really were that pathetic), but I couldn't quite work out that I needed to either get dresssed or shout louder. Eventually, I must have done the second, as Spouse came and found me. To do him credit he didn't burst out laughing, as I think he would have been quite entitled to, but instead tried to find me some clothes.
At that point I turned into Mad Labouring Mother From Hell.
Where are you leggings? he asked
In the drawer, I replied, not actually telling him which one.
Not that bloody drawer, you idiot!!
He had to put up with quite alot more of this until he managed to get me back in the car. I can remember clinging to the passenger handle for dear life everytime one of the enormous body wracking contractions hit me (which seemed to be about every five seconds), and then when Spouse miraculously got us to hospital in one piece, I climbed out of the car, and felt the most incredible urge to push. Wtf? I'd left hospital less then two hours before, I couldn't believe the baby was on its way.
Somehow between contractions which involved me stopping where I was, refusing to move and clinging to Spouse like a drowning woman, we managed to get up to the labour ward. By now I was raving like a lunatic and demanding an instant epidural. They tried to give me gas and air instead, and I kept spitting it out, effing and blinding that it was doing no good whatsoever. In the midst of all this, I was dimly aware that all the staff seemed to be moving swiftly into battle stations, and someone was ripping my leggings off. I spotted Spouse with a silly grin on his face. Suddenly the penny dropped.
Oh. Is the baby coming? I said stupidly.
Er, yes, was the patient answer. Followed by a stern lecture from the midwife that I needed to get myself under control if I wanted my baby to come out and be placed straight in my arms.
Three pushes later, and suddenly I was being presented with a wriggling writhing little alien. Spouse and I were so shocked at the speed of it we could barely speak.
I looked down at her in awe. Second baby. I was now a mother of two. It felt just as good as the first time.
Still does. Actually.
She might feel neglected, and overlooked sometimes. But no 2 has always made her presence felt since her dramatic entry into the world. And on her eleventh birthday I thank her for the fun she brings into my life, for the laughter, even for the tantrums. She's one in a million.
The first eleven years have fled by far too fast. Can't wait to see what the next eleven bring...
For my special, A. With love on your birthday.
PS just realised, the word I was looking for was sweep, not swipe. Blame the next phase of my hormonal womanly journey. Am having huge trouble remembering the simplest of words. Not very helpful for a writer...