Phase 1: horror
Approximately thirty seconds after the cross shows up on the pregnancy test stick, you realise in absolute, stop-still-and-freeze, horror that you’ll have to give birth again. Previously quite rosy coloured memories of your children’s births, polished by years of telling, become distinctly less rosy in the light of this new realisation. Yes, they were comparatively easy and straightforward, when you think of all those horror stories you hear, but, you know, it’s all relative. They still felt like every bone in your body was being broken at regular intervals, slowly and agonisingly. You remember that ever since, you have assessed all pain on two separate scales: normal pain and birth pain. No pain you’ve experienced since, including broken bones, has ever made it above a 3 in the birth pain category.
Phase 2: denial
You enter a phase of blissful denial, and you welcome every second. The twenty four hours you spent in labour for the birth of child 1 is forced from your memory. Instead, when the prospect of birth looms, you focus on the two hours of established labour for child 2. You can do anything for two hours. Anything. And your over-riding memory of the birth of child 2 is that it didn’t hurt as much as you expected. The knowledge that this was just in relation to the birth of child 1, where your introductory ‘welcome to the world’ text also included the words ‘I am never, ever doing this again; people that do are insane.’ is summarily banished from your mind. It will be fine! You’ve done it before! Your body knows exactly what it’s doing! And no one would ever do it again if it were really so terrible, would they? (You will not think of the brutal truth that no one, when conceiving their children, planned or unplanned, is focusing or even thinking of the hell of birth at that time, and after that it’s too late)
Phase 3: re-emerging horror
You stumble across an old episode of ‘One Born Every Minute.’ Sadly it’s not that one where the blonde girl with the weird husband gives birth in the pool with barely a squeak, but one in which a woman loses it around 3cm and only regains any semblance of control when the epidural enters her spine. You want to change channel but instead you are transfixed. You want to think of yourself as more of the blonde woman, spreading serenity and bliss with every wave of the pool, but you have an uncomfortable recollection of screaming at both the midwife and your husband round about the transition stage in the birth of child 1 that they shouldn’t fucking tell you to calm down. (The venom was such that they didn’t do it again) You comfort yourself with thoughts of the birth of child 2, where you were genuinely confused when it was time to push because it didn’t seem to hurt enough, and there was no swearing or screaming. Then you remember that the pushing stage hurt so much that you really hated child 2 for at least the first three minutes of her life. It was great that she was born and everything, and everyone else in the room was celebrating, but you were still on that bloody awful torture she had caused during the fifteen minutes of pushing. You try to focus on the fact you get a baby at the end of it, instead, but your brain is stubbornly refusing to forget the pain.
Phase 4: acceptance
You become resigned. You suppress the panic that, irretrievably, this baby has to come out of you somehow, and there are no ways that don’t hurt. You remember that four hours after child 2’s birth you were walking out of the hospital feeling just a bit tired. You live through the birth of your sister’s second child via whatsapp and this lovely sanitised way of experiencing it dulls the fear. The fact that it’s a nice quick birth in which she copes admirably is helpful in this. You cuddle your new baby nephew, the minuscule weight of him warm against your shoulder. and are overcome by the thought that soon you will have one of these tiny creatures of your own.
You look at your first two children as they sleep. You watch their chests rise and fall, reach out to touch a hand curled against a flushed cheek, gaze at the shadows cast on flawless skin by long eyelashes, and you remember that you’d give birth every day for the rest of your life to get these two. And one day soon, the emergence of another little being, no matter who he is, no matter how the birth, will cast any amount of pain into insignificance.
You cling desperately to this thought and wish beyond all wishes that vodka was allowed in pregnancy.