People often tell me I don’t look old enough to have a 15 year old daughter and quite frankly I’m not. Much to the surprise of my friends, family and teachers, I was pregnant at 16, the first in my peer group. I always was known more for my academic ability than my common sense.
My first pregnancy then was pretty chilled out. I was at college studying for my A-levels and living at home. I spent most of the daytime hanging out in the common room, wearing a huge Bob Marley t-shirt, and getting people to fetch me packets of bacon Wheat Crunchies from the canteen. Evenings were spent hanging out in my room with my boyfriend, doing homework, and having my tea made for me by my mum. Even the birth was pretty straightforward – I even referred to it at the time as ‘lush’. You can read the full teenage birth story on my blog.
Second time around I was 24, still not exactly old, but at least the baby’s father wasn’t still in school this time. I call that progress. This pregnancy was a less laid back affair though, what with me being a grown up. I had a full time job, a two hour round commute on the train everyday, a seven year old and a partner I wasn’t even sure I liked much. In a cruel twist of fate, I had my mother living with me this time, which was nowhere near as relaxing as it had been when I was 16.
I felt sick and exhausted for pretty much the whole nine months. Work and travelling was a nightmare, and I spent a lot of my time in the office sat in the toilets with my head resting on the cubicle wall, breathing deeply and trying not to be sick or pass out. Home live revolved heavily around lying on the sofa.
I can remember quite clearly the moment I finally decided I was in labour. I had been having contractions in the evenings for about three days, but they would normally be gone by the morning. This time they didn’t go. They got stronger. And closer together. Having been awake most of the night, I finally woke my partner up at 6am on the Sunday morning to tell him I was in labour. I had been hoping for one of those TV moments, where he jumped out of bed, panicked, excited, and rushed to start the car before remembering to get dressed.
No such luck. “Go back to sleep,” he moaned at me, “hospitals don’t open on a Sunday.”
It was 9am before I could get him out of bed, and even then he was decidedly laid back. “We don’t know how long we might be there,” he called from the kitchen at 10am, accompanied by the sound of sizzling bacon, “I need to make sure I have something to eat.”
At the time this seemed sort of OK, but when I write it down it seems less reasonable. I’m sure if you asked him he would say it was all under control, that it would have been silly to go into hospital too soon, and that he took plenty of care of me. Kneeling on all fours on the living room floor though, rocking backwards and forwards with the pain, my idea of being cared for wasn’t just having a sausage sandwich put down on the floor next to me.
We did eventually get to the hospital of course, and everything went smoothly. Three hours after we arrived I was sat up in bed with baby number two in my arms. “Are you alright?” considerate partner asked, “You don’t look very happy.”
“Yes I’m fine,” I assured him, “just a bit shocked.” And of course I was shocked – childbirth is a massive physical shock. I was shaking all over, my mind was blank, my teeth were chattering. It was an emotional shock too. For nine months I’d just be focussing of not throwing up, and now I had a baby. Where did that come from? I have a couple of hideous photos of me minutes after the birth – my face is deathly white, my eyes wide in horror. I love lovely painted red finger nails though. Childbirth is no excuse to let yourself go after all…