An observer - a fly on the wall, a bedbug, a balled cat with its engine purring - could have been forgiven for believing I'd taken up with some odd cult and was partaking in a nocturnal ritual as every twenty minutes I leapt out from under the covers and knelt on the floor, leaning on the edge of a bed scattered with crumbled bits of fresh lavender. I breathed heavily and as quietly as I could: Sally was sleeping peacefully, and I knew she was going to need every bit of kip she could get.
We got up at about six o'clock to a sunny May Bank Holiday Saturday morning. I nibbled at a banana for breakfast, closing the curtains on the bright light from outside. I bounced on my birthing ball as we played a game of Simpsons chess (a terrifying world in which Homer is King).
By 10.30am contractions were every 12 minutes according to the i-phone APP. The birth centre told us to come in when contractions had been every 3-5 minutes for two hours. I snuggled into my corner, a little den between the sofa, coffee table and birthing ball. Sally was doing her best to keep me fed and hydrated and I snacked on homemade cookies, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and rich tea biscuits. She was making the most of the sunshine at the other end of the room reading our latest parenting book, 'Babycalm', which in the following days and weeks would set us on a very particular lesbian parenting path.
A friend texted and recommended I get some sleep, which seemed impossible, but strangely I found that in the short gaps between contractions, I could lay on the sofa under a blanket pressing my Bagpuss wheat-pack to my stomach and drift into a dreamy sleep state. Then I’d notice a stirring in my abdomen and would leap up, fumble for the booster button on the tens machine, grab a lavender-drenched tissue in one hand and a comb (for acupressure) in the other and throw myself over the birthing ball.
By 3pm contractions were every 5-6 minutes but as the afternoon progressed, the gaps lengthened to every 8 minutes and then every 12-15 minutes. Soon after 8pm, disheartened and exhausted, we decided to go to bed to get some rest.