I've never shared the story of Lily's birth before and am very nervous about doing so but a couple of days before she turns four, my mind is filled with memories of this time in 2012 and it feels good to write...
*Possible Trigger Warning*
Whenever I thought about giving birth I had just one image in my mind. It was of me, Matt and baby, sat on the bed, Matt holding me and me holding baby.
And that's it. That was all my usually over-imaginative mind would show me. No matter how much I read about birth, no matter how many times I watched One Born Every Minute, I couldn't actually imagine myself giving birth.
I knew it wouldn't be like the movies. Every mother and baby magazine on the planet is explicitly clear that television and film get birth all wrong and I read more than my fair share of pastel coloured articles about the wonder, and reality of birth.
I knew it wouldn't be easy. People would tell me their horror stories, quickly adding at the end "but you'll be OK, it's worth all the pain when you hold your baby". Even the stories of those 'amazing' births didn't sound all that easy to be honest.
I knew it was unlikely that I would get the birth described on 'the plan'. I'm yet to find a friend who has given birth precisely to their neatly laid out and presented birth plan. I simply downloaded mine from the NHS website, ticked what I wanted and then ticked the box which said "but I would be happy to consider anything" in each section.
But despite knowing what it wouldn't be, I still wasn't prepared for how it would turn out.
I wasn't expecting to be sent to the day unit a few days after my due date to be checked over for pre-eclampsia. It was a relief to find out that I didn't but unsettling to be told that my baby seemed to be in distress and that I would have to be induced.
And so I was admitted to hospital. Where I waited for three days before finally being induced because they had to wait for space in the birthing suite.
I was so excited to be wheeled down first thing on Friday morning. This was it!
I was warned by the midwife to not expect anything after inserting the pessary. She advised that it could take hours for it to work, if at all.
Less than an hour later and I was in agony.
Matt went to tell another midwife that my contractions had started. She laughed him off derisively and told him she'd bring me some painkillers in a bit.
But by the time the consultant made it around to check on me it was obvious I was in labour and that my contractions were very strong and incredibly painful. I could have told them that earlier when the poor Junior Doctor was attempting to put a cannula in whilst I screamed - in pain from both the contractions and from his dreadful stabbing with a needle.
The midwife was cold. She was stern. She laughed and told me to calm down because I wasn't even in full labour yet.
"If you're this bad already, think how bad it'll be in twelve hours."
And, despite knowing that all those films and movies were full of crap, I still felt let down by their softened, quick and funny birth scenes.
This was not soft, it was not funny. It was frightening.
All the time I was frightened. This was the fourth day of being told that Lily was in some distress, that her heartbeat kept dropping, that they may need to take me for an emergency c-section.
I was rigged up to a heart monitor and I could hear it slow right down as each contraction grew.
I didn't grab Matt's hand, squeeze it until he cried and scream at him "this is all your fault". I clung to him as the only person in the room, in the hospital, in the world, that I trusted to get me through.
And he did. When the midwife threatened to take my gas and air away from me, he helped.
When the consultant came in and said "we have to get the baby out soon" he helped.
When the midwife said "I'm not even touching you, it can't be hurting" when it bloody well did hurt, he helped.
Matt was amazing. I was a wreck. In my head I was just begging for a c-section. I thought my baby was going to die.
And then, in a last burst of fear at hearing the words "we'll have to use the forceps", Lily was born. She had the cord wrapped a couple of times around her neck, explaining her distress but she was fine. She was here.
I had been induced at 10:30 and Lily was born 8 hours later. I spent longer having stitches put in than I did in active labour and I lost two pints of blood. In contrast to the horrible hours preceding her birth, the hours just after are bathed in a hazy glow in my memories. In our own little observation room I was safe, cocooned.
Once I was stitched, cleaned and made comfortable (or as comfortable as you can be after having a baby), Matt popped out for food. I hadn't eaten all day and hadn't been allowed lunch in case I was taken for a c-section. He came back with chips. A big bag of chip shop chips, covered in salt and vinegar, and we sat on the hospital bed and ate chips whilst holding Lily and reading the congratulations sent to us by family and friends.
Even if I had known what was coming, I don't think any magazine in the world could prepare me for what it was like giving birth to Lily. I've read so many other birth stories and am amazed by how much they differ from each other, how each baby born is a miracle no matter how lovely or awful the birth is..
Reading some of these stories, I have been shocked and saddened by how traumatised some women are and I feel ashamed that my story, tame compared to others, still left me with nightmares and anxiety. It took me nearly two years before the memories had faded enough for me to consider going through it all again.
And there was hope and hope fulfilled in that Ollie's birth was completely different. It was more like what I expected the first time round, it had funny moments and a couple of scary moments but it's a story I'd be happier to share with you.
Perhaps another time.