Driving home from work this week, I noticed the leaves along the dual carriageway are starting to turn. Whenever I see these leaves I am transported back 10 years – to the day I thought my baby was on the way.
It was 17th September, a Wednesday morning, and I was a day short of 36 weeks pregnant. I was due to finish work for maternity leave the next day. I got into work and sat down at my computer. Within minutes, I felt something I hadn’t felt for about nine months – period pain. I went to the toilet and there was blood (apologies if you’re squeamish/ eating). I went back to the office and announced to a room full of assorted people: ‘I think the baby’s coming’. If I remember rightly, the only people in the room at that time were women who hadn’t had babies and men. They panicked slightly. Should they call an ambulance?
No, I’d just like a lift home, please. My boss drove me home and I saw those autumn leaves. It had been a very hot summer, just like this one. When the weather is so hot, it’s hard to think that autumn is on the way. The colour of those trees took me quite by surprise.
My husband took me to the hospital, they checked me over and concluded I most likely wasn’t in labour. They had no explanation, or even concern, about the blood. They discussed whether or not to give me something to mature the baby’s lungs, just in case, but concluded he would be OK. They also said he would probably weigh between six and seven pounds already, so there was nothing to worry about. They sent me home.
Two days later, I was back at the hospital. I was in pain. The midwives thought I was in labour, but I didn’t. I just thought I was in pain. They didn’t examine me, but kept me there for hours. It got to about 10.30pm and I demanded to be let out.
Three days later, it was my 30th birthday. Needless to say, it was a fairly quiet affair. My mum had got me a cake with photos on, which was a brand new invention in 2003. She’d hung on until the last minute to get it, just in case there needed to be another little person on the photo.
Two days later, I thought I was in labour again. Still only 36 weeks, and with frequent contractions, I got my mum to put my TENS machine on and went back to hospital. They told me I wasn’t in labour and sent me home.
Another two days later, I was in agony. I went to visit my mum at work and I just had to lie down. I was in so much pain. My husband threatened to take me to hospital. But I wasn’t going! I was formulating a fool-proof new plan – I would have a home birth, so they couldn’t make me go to hospital! I lay in bed, even breathing hurt, and I said ‘I’m not going to hospital!’. In the end, I had no choice.
Finally, this time, they actually checked me properly to find out what was going wrong. They realised I had a urinary tract infection, which had been giving me contractions and pain for several days. A dose of antibiotics and an overnight stay in hospital and I was back to normal.
My baby wasn’t born at 36 weeks. He hung on in there and was born four days late. And I didn’t have him at home either.
And that’s what I think about every time the leaves start to turn on the dual carriageway.