11 years ago today, I knew something was up. I was still four days shy of my due date, but the dull ache in my abdomen since 5am when I woke up was telling me something. I wasn’t in pain at all, it was just that – a dull ache, similar to mild period cramps. Constant yet mild. I’d been on maternity leave for four days and was already climbing the walls, bored to death not going to work and the luxury I’d felt the first day, at being at home and just chilling out, wore off even before it was over, so Friday 5th of November 2004 I was close to losing my mind and already missed work. Perhaps that was part of the reason why I thought ‘this is it’ – hoping rather than knowing, that the little kick-boxer in my belly was finally about to come out.
The day passed uneventfully, but because I felt today was different, I blow dried my hair and put on make-up – hell, if my number was up I was at least going to look good during the massacre, right? Instead of taking a long walk to Ealing and back as I had the previous days, I stuck around the neighbourhood. I do want to say I knew, but as I mentioned it was probably more a case of wanting it to happen as opposed to somehow sensing it.
Nothing changed much over the course of the day and that mild cramping ache in my lower abdomen stayed the same. No water breaking, no increase in any way.
Then, at around nine in the evening, when Bonfire Night fireworks tore through the skies and the ex-husband and I had sat down to have dinner, there was a sudden stab to my gut. Nothing, I might add, like what my pregnancy books had outlined. I thought I knew the routine: water breaks and then eventually you start having contractions that become more and more frequent. Oh, and apparently contractions would feel like “intense period pains”. Sweet Lord, I don’t know who has period pain like what I was suddenly experiencing – it literally felt like someone had stabbed me with a rusty bread knife. And no water breaking whatsoever. Just full-on seventh circle of hell without warning.
From then on, it went from zero to 100 miles per hour in no time. The first stab was almost immediately followed by another, and by 10pm there was no break for whatever motherfucker was going at me with aforementioned rusty bread knife. The only difference, perhaps, was that they’d swapped the bread knife for a chainsaw. By the time we got to St Charlotte’s I was in so much pain I could barely speak and they quickly got us to a private room, where I ensured I made enough of a fuss to quickly get an epidural. Before, I’d had some idea that I’d try my best without pain relief, but this was no state I was willing to explore any further, so once the anaesthetist sauntered in (looking a little stoned, to be honest) I nearly cried tears of joy.
Once the rusty chainsaw was numbed by the blissful veils of an epidural, I finally had a chance to take in the moment. We were approaching midnight and were told to wait for a midwife to come and check how far along I was. Whilst we waited, the ex went outside to call our closest family and friends, and once I was alone I looked down at my bump. “Who are you, in there? I can’t wait to finally meet you! Oh, and please don’t hurt me,” I whispered and giggled.
At this point, the fireworks were incredible. Loud bangs and sounds filling the west London sky, with me in that room at St Charlotte’s, with both hands clutching my stomach, hoping my little kick-boxer was OK in there.
From the moment I got pregnant, I always pictured a girl. Even after the 19-week ultrasound when they told us we were having a boy – or a Monkey, rather – I was still convinced it was a daughter I would give birth to. I’m not sure why, but I was dead certain. I could picture her so clearly. A chubby thing with dark hair and brown eyes and a temper that’d scare the Devil himself. I’m blond and blue-eyed, but my ex is dark and apparently those genes are dominant, so I guess I just assumed our offspring would have his colouring.
With fireworks still going off, although less frequent and not as intense, at 2.05am my reason for living arrived and as much as I did that first night that I held my son in my arms, I still catch myself staring at him in wonder. The chubby, dark-haired girl with brown eyes turned out to be a blond and blue-eyed slender boy. I know every freckle on that nose, I could map them all out blindfolded with 100% accuracy.
And tomorrow he turns 11, this boy of mine. I am so grateful and proud to be able to say I’m his mum, it doesn’t get any better than that – the best kid on the planet, bar none.