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As we drove to the hospital I kept thinking about all the last times I’d do something alone. That was the last time I’d leave the house not being a Mum, this was the last time I would be in a car not being a Mum, it was all very surreal. We arrived at the hospital and I said to Michael to just come and get the bags later as we didn’t know where we were going and I’ve heard this part is a bit of a waiting game so he’d probably appreciate the journey back to the car. The amount of stuff in that car was a joke. It was honestly like we were going on a 2 week vacay. My case was a rather sizeable cabin bag full of several change of clothes, nighties, breast pads, loads of toiletries and hairdryer, straighteners and make up which I DID use. Then there was the changing bag full of the baby’s bits, clothes, bottles etc, Michael had his own rucksack with a change of clothes, pillow headphones etc. Then there was our mammoth bag of snacks! We walked in and told the receptionist I was here for my induction. I was ushered to a lovely private room overlooking the fields, comfy bed, TV, birthing ball and a huge bathroom! I got on the bed and soon after my blood pressure was taken and I was given a menu and to choose what I’d like for lunch. As it was a Sunday I went for the chicken roast. Michael wasn’t allowed any free food so he headed down to the canteen and had a jacket potato. My chicken was actually OK. Like, it was never gonna blow my socks off but some people will have you believe the NHS provide you with gruel and a glass of tap water but it honestly was pretty nice.

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That day was the Russian Grand Prix and Chelsea were also playing Everton around an hour later. Michael made me a nice little set up of the F1 on the tele and Chelsea on the iPad before he disappeared for lunch. My lunch arrived and life was close to perfect. I had food, I had a drink (albeit soft), the F1 was on and Chelsea soon went 1-0 up. All of this would have been much more pleasant had I not had to increase the volume to drown out the woman screaming in pain up the corridor. How dramatic was she being! It can’t hurt that much – can it?

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Michael returned, my plate was taken away and at around 2pm it was time for my induction. The midwife had a little rummage and popped a really cold gel on the inside of my vag. That was it. Game over. No issues here – so far, so good. She explained what the gel was doing and that my contractions could start as quickly as in 15 minutes time but anything up to 8 hours! The first hour went by – nothing. So did the second and so did the third. At around 6pm I felt what I could only describe as a mild period pain. Within 10 minutes it was a strong period pain and within 15 minutes I was on the floor, in the foetal position, requesting that Michael fetch a midwife as this pain was now obscene. FYI – it wasn’t obscene. Had I known what was to come I’d have happily had that pain from now until the end of time but like I say, naivety innit. The midwife came in, looked at me like ‘get up you absolute helmet, you ain’t seen nothing yet, I’ll get you some paracetamol’. I pride myself on not making a fuss about stuff but Christ, did this hurt. She popped on the blue/pink tummy band thingy’s that were monitoring the baby’s heartbeat and as that was as regular as ever she left me to dilate and contract some more at my leisure. After another 30 minutes or so I was in agony. I pressed the button for one of the midwifes to come back and a new midwife came in, she looked at the heartbeat monitoring screen and immediately pushed some emergency red button above my bed! The next 5 minutes are an actual blur. To Michael and I. All I recall is at least 8 (Michael thinks there may have been more but we lost count) doctors, nurses, midwifes, cleaners, chefs, I don’t know, rushed in and were all over me and my bump. All talking very loudly, very technically and worst of all they were rushing. I didn’t know what was happening, nor did I ask but then as quick as the chaos started, it ended. One of my straps had come loose and it was no longer on the baby’s heartbeat. Once they’d re-secured it was clear that the heartbeat was fine and I do believe the midwife that pressed the emergency button got quite the telling off. Nether the less, although she put me in the absolute depths of fear for 30 seconds, she actually done me a favour. Because of what had happened and the OTT noises coming from me along with the ‘emergency’ situation I was examined and told I was at 7cm. Err… yeah I am bitch. I haven’t even had any gas and air yet – I AM A LEGEND AMONGST THE BIRTHING COMMUNITY! They decided to take me through to the delivery suite because I’d gone from 0cm to 7cm in just over 2 hours so they assumed I was going to give birth pretty livo. I was fine with that but wait – where’s all my stuff! They wheeled me off to the delivery suite and Michael ran to the car. No lie, he was back in seconds it was quite impressive.

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Once I was in the delivery suite I actually though the world was going to end. I was handed the gas and air which I don’t think I released my grip on for hours and I do believe the mouth piece had to be replaced due to me biting through the first one. How pleasant. We arrived in the delivery suite at around 8:30pm and I was in pain like I never knew pain existed. My contractions (I was later told, I couldn’t count at this point, I could barely exist) were lasting 40 seconds and were every 2 minutes. They called it ‘5 in 10’. I assume 5 contractions in 10 minutes? Who knows, but these were fucking hard. I remember a conversation going on between the midwives at the foot of my bed. One of them said ‘5 in 10 is a lot for an induction’ and the other just nodded and looked at my clipboard. I didn’t even have the strength to comment as I knew I had about 90 seconds to be grateful of this semi-pain free time before the chaos would ensue again. It was the next contraction that I distinctly remember my body ‘pushing’. I wasn’t doing it. I had zero control and then Glenda, my midwife (the single greatest woman known to man – ever) said ‘do you feel like you need to push love?’ I nodded as I bit on my gas and air mouthpiece and it was at this point she called a doctor. The doctor came in and he went ‘in’. His arm came out redder than post box. Worst bit – he was the fit doctor I’d been chatting too earlier in reception. Fantastic. He confirmed I was only 8cm so couldn’t start pushing yet and the idea of an epidural to slow down my dilation and ease the contractions was suggested. If I could have jumped off that bed, found the anaesthetist and administered that drug myself, I would have done so there and then. I remember begging at this point to have the epidural right now. The midwife explained that there was no anaesthetist available but I was next in line. Michael then overheard a conversation near the door about getting me one as a matter of urgency so they really did have my best interest at heart. The next minute The Messiah/anaesthetist entered and he was carrying drugs. He explained how it would work and how it would hurt going into the spine and all I could think was ‘it can’t be any worse than what pain I’m in so you just pop that bad boy in and stop talking mate’. He then explained how I had to be 100% still for this to be administered correctly. Any slight movement from me could mean it would go in wrong and could cause further complications. By this point I was having 70 second gaps in-between contractions. He said it took about 45 seconds to administer fully so we had 25 seconds of time to play with. I sat on the side of the bed and hugged a pillow. Michael was holding me from the front and Glenda from the side. I had my gas and air still in my mouth and he waited for me to give him a thumbs up to say the contraction had past and I was ok for him to start. The contraction came. I think I chipped a tooth biting on the mouthpiece. Michael gripped me so hard I had finger marks on my arms. Then I gave the thumbs up. The needle went in and I felt this cold, sharp liquid just ooze down my spine. I had a couple more bad contraction’s and then the third was a little less severe, then the fourth was even better, the fifth was back to period pains and the sixth – was gone. I could not believe the pain had gone. I cried and cried and cried. I hadn’t cried once in this entire charade as I was trying to stay mind over matter and be strong but the relief of pain was so overwhelming I couldn’t stop. I properly introduced myself to Glenda and she got us a cup of tea. I apologised profusely to her and the anaesthetist for being such a drama queen and she said she’s had a lot worse people so all was OK. Thank god, how embarrassing! She examined me again and I was still 8cm. It was 10pm at night. I asked Michael to go and call my parents and friends as my phone was going mental but I didn’t have the energy to speak to anyone. By the time he returned to the room, I was asleep. I woke up about 1am Monday morning. Glenda was by my side and as soon as I woke she asked if I wanted a drink. She got my Lucozade from my bag and we shared my pack of fruit pastels whilst Michael slept in the chair the other side. We chatted about baby stuff and she examined me again. I was 7cm!! WHAT THE HELL!? I wasn’t even open for business yet and its closing up! What is up with my vag? She said it was common and not to worry. She said let’s give it another 2 hours and she’d check again. By this point Michael was shattered and kept waking trying to sleep in a tiny chair. I told him to go and get some kip in the car. Glenda took his number so if something happened and I was unable to call she could call him. I then went back to sleep. It was 3:30am when I next woke and she examined me again. I’d gone down to 6cm. I was furious with my cervix by this point. She kept telling me it’s a really common side effect of an epidural and that the baby’s heartbeat (and mine) were both fine. Michael came back about 5am. I was examined again. Still 6cm. This was a joke.

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At 7am Glenda’s shift finished and I was panicking big time. She’d been there with me since I was brought into the delivery suite and now she was going home. I seriously considered offering her money to stay but she informed me that everything would be fine and that all the midwives were lovely. Around 10 minutes later my new midwife arrived and she honestly seemed just as lovely. They did a handover of my notes and current status across my bed for about 20 minutes and said for me to intervene at any time. A couple of times I corrected them on times, amounts etc… but all in all they had it sorted. Glenda bid me farewell and wished us both well and at 7:30am she was gone. My new midwife Anna was an incredible woman. We chatted for ages about her time being a midwife in the amazon and all the strange places she’d delivered babies around the world. It really took my mind off the fact that I’d lost 2cm of dilation over the past 12 hours and how angry I was at my cervix at that point. At 9am she checked again, still 6cm. She called a doctor in, Doctor Psy (pronounced Si). Obvs I’m expecting the gang nam style guy to bounce in but alas this was not to be. He asked politely if he’d mind him examining me. Why the hell not! Everyone else on the bleeding payroll has been up there mate, what’s one more arm between friends?

He then said something that for some reason made me breathe the biggest ‘psy’ of relief. Ahh again with the puns. He turned to Anna and said ‘give it another 2 hours, if she’s not gone any further, we’ll have to go to caesarean section’. He looked at me and said ‘is that ok with you?’ I said something along the lines of ‘you can do it now if you like, don’t wait the additional 2 hours on my part’. He confirmed it was best to wait and also there was no space in theatre at that moment. He removed said arm and went on his merry way. Michael then made all the necessary phone calls again to keep everyone in the know and the next 2 hours really dragged. More so than all of the other hours in this hospital put together. From the waist down I was completely numb. I was exhausted, tired, uncomfortable and now just willing it all to be over. Although I wasn’t in any pain as such I was just fed up. I had a catheter in, a clip on the baby’s head monitoring his heartbeat, the epidural in my spine, a saline drip in one hand, a hormone drip in the other, a blood pressure sleeve on and a clip on my left forefinger. I’d had enough. I looked like I was being experimented on and I just wanted to feel more like Steph. Doctor Psy came back at 11:30, arm went back in and I’d actually gone down to 5.5cm. This actually pleased me no end as I knew now they’d have to intervene. He came out, took his glove off and said ‘Right Stephanie. We’re going to go to theatre. We have a few forms for you to sign and we need to get you changed first. Any questions?’ I asked if I could keep my nightie on as I really didn’t want to wear a rank hospital gown and he laughed and said he didn’t see that to be a problem. I signed the forms which basically said ‘if we kill anyone, your ish babes, not ours’ which I kinda expected and within minutes I had my surgical socks on and we were ready to go and meet our son.

Exactly one week before my last day at work, we exchanged contracts! Hurrah! The completion date we’d been given was the following Wednesday, the day before my last day at work. That was going to be one busy week. We spent the next few days frantically packing everything we owned into cardboard boxes and labelling everything up with where it should be left in the new house. We decided not to bother with removals as we lived in 2 bed flat. We were leaving our wardrobes and our mattress had seen better days so we ordered a new one to arrive in the evening of moving day at the new place. All our big appliances, washing machine, tumble dryer etc. were integrated so other than our fridge and sofa, everything else could either be dismantled, binned or would fit in boxes. We hired a huge Mercedes Sprinter for two days and called in help from my Dad and step-Mum, Sue for the day. The plan was Dad and Michael would move all the big items, Sue would clean (she’s more of a clean freak than me, which was perfect) and I would do things like make beds, make tea and lug around my 38 week old bump. What could possibly go wrong?!

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Moving day arrived and we were up at 7am ready to go! Dad and Sue arrived shortly after and began loading the van. Initially we thought our stuff would be rattling around in there but it soon became apparent that we owned more than we thought. We sort of, kinda, forgot we had a loft until the night before! Duh! So once all the Christmas stuff, camping gear and DIY gubbins were down things were getting very tight. The van was filled and the flat was not empty. We then started loading Dad’s truck. The truck was filled and the flat was still not empty. We then moved on to filling Michael’s car and then mine and with things balanced on my shoulder for the 4.6 mile journey the final door was closed. Michael and I went back in alone and sat on the floor of the lounge for a few minutes for the last time in our first home together. We’d been there for five years and it was so strange that we were about to leave and never come back. We bought this flat having only been together for nine months. People’s opinions of ‘wow that’s soon’ were obvs the least welcomed of opinions because when you know, you know. We both said we remembered sitting on this same floor during the time when we were buying the flat. We bought it new and it was finished a couple of weeks before we were able to get the keys however the lovely sales assistants at Taylor Wimpey said that anytime we wanted to measure up for furniture or just sit in our new home for an hour, we could pop along at pick up the keys – and we did exactly that. Our bedroom looked like square main had just been murdered with the amount of tape on the floor marking out where each item would go and here we were over five years later with most of that furniture either on the van or at the tip whilst we sat in our empty flat thinking of all the amazing memories we’d created here. It was in this flat that we’d held so many incredible parties. It was in this flat we’d had 12(!) for Christmas dinner one year. It was in this flat our beloved Colin (our house rabbit) had spent two years but sadly died a year earlier. It was in this flat that we opened all of our amazing baby shower presents. It was in this flat I told Michael he was going to be a Dad. It was sad to be leaving but so exciting to start our new adventure – this time with a garden!

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Just before we left our first home

We bid the flat farewell in convoy. Michael driving the van, Sue driving Dad’s truck, Dad driving Michael’s car and Me driving mine. Working out who was insured on what and under what capacity took longer to work out than loading the bloody van! We were good to go by 11am and as the transaction wouldn’t take place until at least midday we took Dad and Sue for brunch to thank them for their troubles. After a lovely breakfast, several cups of tea and many a phone call to the solicitors, we’d completed and could go and collect the keys! We jumped back in our convoy of vehicles and we were headed to the new pad! Dad hadn’t seen the house, only pictures so I was interested to see what they thought. They both loved it and loved the road and could see exactly why we’d gone for this one. As we pulled up with these four massive beast vehicles we brought our new quiet cul-de-sac to an abrupt halt as we jumped out and gathered on the front lawn. Soon after, the neighbours were all coming out to greet us and bring us drinks, they’d noticed I was pregnant and asked if I needed anything. They were all such a lovely bunch and it made us realise our move was a good one.

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Dad and Sue started unloading whilst we went in alone to have a look around our new family home. The previous owners had left us a lovely note with a few instructions about things and wishing us well on our next adventure. Such a nice touch. Then the chaos began. Kitchen boxes were in the dining room, spare room boxes were in the downstairs loo and I was seriously losing my shit. It was a mixture of tiredness, exhaustion, swollen ankles and an inability to do anything but carry pillows. I just wanted a perfect family home for our little one who could be here any minute now but all I could do was walk around and notice things I hadn’t noticed on our two previous viewings. Once their furniture was out more problems became apparent. The walls were not as smooth as they seemed. Some of the skirting boards were cracked, some of the doors didn’t shut and I was starting to think we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Michael, my Dad and Sue were absolute diamonds that day. I couldn’t do much but point and boil kettles but they worked like Trojans and slowly but surely our home was coming together.

That night when we went to bed I remember panicking that we hadn’t unpacked any boxes and I had nothing to wear to work the next day – my final day! I rummaged around for a good hour and found some skinny jeans, a grey maternity t-shirt and heels. Not the best outfit for my last day and maternity drinks but by this point I didn’t even care. My head hit the pillow and in what felt like seconds, my alarm went off. Michael was off that day as it was the day before Good Friday anyway so to get some bits done ahead of the long Easter weekend he stayed home to get started. He took delivery of our new washing machine, unpacked some boxes, stripped all of the wallpaper and got the carpet up in the nursery ready for the plasterer that was scheduled for two days’ time! I was determined to get that nursery finished if we worked every day until he was here, even if the rest of the house was a bit of a dump.

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This was the rightmove picture of the nursery. As we were having a boy we knew we had to act fast!

My last day at work was lovely. As usual my colleagues had gone the extra mile and bought me and bump so many lovely gifts. We went for a farewell lunch and for the afternoon I pretty much just chilled out and went round and said my goodbyes. By 4pm we were in the pub. I couldn’t believe my turnout! Either I had amassed quite an array of friends in my time there or they were just making sure I’d definitely go, probably the latter. Michael turned up later on in the evening which was a good job really as I’d have struggled to get all of my presents on the train alone. We left about 10pm and I remember leaving with such mixed emotions. On one hand I was like ‘WAHOOOO A YEAR OFF’ but on the other hand I was really sad. I love my job, I love coming up to Canary Wharf every day, I had the best colleagues and I didn’t know what the future held. Would I be that person that says they’ll be back and then can’t bear to leave their child so quits? Would I go back but be offered a different position (as I was on secondment to another division when I left) that I wouldn’t like? I honestly didn’t know if I was leaving that night for 12 months or for good.

We got in just before midnight and it did not look like the same house that I left that morning. I was so happy I actually cried. Michael had hung all our photos, the kitchen tops had all my appliances out, the bed was made, my toothbrush was in the bathroom and it was starting to take shape. He’d worked his socks off that day and didn’t tell me all night. He let me enjoy my last evening with my friends and instead of me coming home to cardboard chaos it was sort of looking like this could now be our home. He is the very best.

That Saturday was manic. We had the plasterer in the bedroom with my Mum’s boyfriend who was pretty much rewiring the entire room around him. Michael was toing and froing to the tip all day (it was at this point we decided to get a skip), my Mum and I were creosoting the fences in the garden and my brother was jet washing everything in sight. It was chaos but I look back on that day so fondly as everyone really pulled together for us as they knew how important it was to me to have that room finished and we were really on a tight deadline.

The following few days went a little like this:

Sunday – Michael’s Dad came round to put the coving up in the nursery.

Monday – Michael gave the ceiling a coat of paint in the morning and coat a night.

Tuesday – Michael gave the walls a coat of grey in the morning, went to work and did a coat when he got in that night.

Wednesday – My Dad came over and fit all new skirting boards and architrave in the nursery and I laid on the floor and glossed said skirting as he went.

Thursday – I did a second coat on the skirting and glossed the windowsill and architrave round the door.

Friday – Michael fitted all the new chrome sockets and switches.

Saturday – at 2:00 in the morning my waters broke.

Saturday – at 3:00 we were at the hospital being examined and I was told I was in early labour. He wasn’t due for another week!

Saturday – at 4:00 they told me I could go home and wait for contractions to begin but I had to stay at the hospital and wait for my blood pressure to go down as it was dangerously high. Of course it was bloody high I’m about to have a baby and the nursery doesn’t have a carpet yet!

Saturday – at 7:00 they let us go home.

Saturday – at 7:50 we arrived home.

Saturday – at 8:00 the carpet fitter turned up. I was adamant we were not rescheduling that fitter!

The carpet fitter said I looked tired and I can’t have long to go. I told him I’d been awake since 2am and that I was in fact in early labour. He nervously laughed, necked his tea, fit that carpet in record timing and was gone quick as a flash. I don’t know if he thought he was going to be roped in to help with the birth or something but he did not look comfortable.

Once he’d left we called our parents to let them know he was on his way but nothing was happening so we were going back to bed for a few hours. I assumed the contractions would wake me up!? We woke around 1pm and started building all the nursery furniture. Michael did the cot and wardrobe and I did the changing table. I was very conscious that we were on a very new, very expensive, very light fluffy carpet and I’d heard about this ‘you have two lots of water’ shenanigans but I figured it would be covered in sick and faeces soon so I just cracked on. We put up his blind, unpacked his clothes, hung them in the wardrobe, made up his bed and filled his toy box. It was so lovely to see it all finished, even if it we were cutting it a bit fine.

That night we ordered a take away and watched the Anthony Joshua fight. We went to bed around 11pm and with no contractions still I set my alarm for 7am. I was told when we left the hospital that if my contractions not started naturally, I’d be induced at 8am the next day. I’d read absolutely nothing about inductions and all about natural labour but as I was shattered and it was now less than 10 hours away I thought what you don’t know can’t hurt you so I finished packing my bag and got my nut down. The alarm went off at 7am, we got up, had a bit of breakfast, packed the last few bits and we left our still very new home to meet our even newer little boy.

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What a difference a week makes

 

Nuggets of Knowledge:

·         You own more than you think you do. We were lucky that we had a massive sprinter, my Dad’s pretty big truck and Michael had an estate. Had we just had the van and a smaller car I honestly don’t know what we’d have done. As much as my Dad and Sue were a god-send that day I’d defo hire removals next time. They do it every day and it just takes a little of the stress away from an already stressful day.

·         When you leave a house that you’ve lived in for a while just spend 5 minutes at the end sitting on the floor and think about all the funny, sad, memorable events that those walls have seen. I’m really glad we did that.

·         When viewing a house, really look at it. Look at the ceilings, look for cracks, shut the doors, shut the windows because what you think can be sorted with a lick of paint can end up costing thousands. We learnt the hard way.

·         Don’t say to a midwife who is taking your blood pressure ‘has it gone down yet only I’m having a carpet fitted in an hour and I really need to get back’. They have no time for your carpet.

·         If, like me, you’re being induced, really enjoy that last night at home as just the two of you. Most people don’t have the luxury of knowing when their last night as a two will be as it’s a waiting game one minute and then bam! Waters everywhere and contractions are in full flow. I counted us incredibly lucky that we didn’t have the mad dash to the hospital and actually enjoyed our last day together alone. From that morning on, it was never going to be just us again.

As January arrived the whole ‘I’m having a baby’ thing seemed even more real. I was having a baby THIS YEAR. In a little over 4 months (or less, who can tell) we would have another actual real life human living in our house. Although having said that, we didn’t actually have a house at this point. As with any house move there was umpteen problems with solicitors, outstanding paperwork, the land registry, you name it – there was an issue with it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say ‘I moved house, it was a breeze’. How in this day and age is moving house still the most time consuming and stressful activity known to man? We’d done everything we could, our buyer was ready to go, the people in our new home were moving to a new build that was finished so how this process took 6 months to complete, I’ll never know. We had no choice but to become a nuisance to our solicitors and estate agent but ultimately leave it to the powers that be and just hope we’d be in before the baby arrived.

In the February when I was 29 weeks gone we decided pretty last minute to go on one last holiday before the baby and the house move. We wanted sun but with my expanding waistline and inability to go more than 11 minutes between urinating we didn’t want to travel far. So we decided on Marrakech. I had my fit to fly letter from the midwife, which annoyingly I wasn’t asked for, packed up the cases and off we went. I was so looking forward to a few days of not getting on the tube, not wearing a massive scarf because my coat no longer did up, not talking to our estate agent but most importantly, snoozing in the sunshine. We touched down and the smell of sun just hit me. I was so happy. The hotel was lovely and there was palm trees everywhere. Before lunchtime I was already in my swimsuit eyeing up the mocktail and pizza menu and for the first time since finding out I was pregnant I felt so relaxed. I wasn’t reading pram reviews, I wasn’t checking future roadworks on the A228 that would scupper our hospital rush (I only did that like 347 times) and although I couldn’t drink, man did that barman make a good mocktail. That evening Michael had said he’d done some research on restaurants in the local area and sourced that evening’s eatery. I was stunned. He was not the planner or organiser in this relationship but I was tired from the early flight and growing human so I didn’t think too much of it. Then just as I was spritzing the perfume and having a last minute mirror check, I turned round and he was on the floor on one knee holding out the most beautiful engagement ring I’d ever seen. I was so shocked, I didn’t say anything, I just laughed. He then asked the inevitable, I said yes, he stopped shaking, it fit and all was good with the world. Most people won’t believe that I was shocked and that it was the most unexpected thing ever but it really was. We’d been together 6 years. We had friends that had met after us and were already married with children by this point but I honestly didn’t have a clue. I had an inkling that he may have proposed on other holidays or birthdays but not this one. We were about to become parents! I didn’t have time to plan a wedding too! We then headed to the restaurant (he knows I’d have died of embarrassment being proposed to in public which is why he did it just the two of us) and we had the most incredible meal. The table was full of lots of Moroccan delicacies, there were belly dancers and snake charmers and after the meal we rung our parents. They were so thrilled for us. A grandchild and a new Son/Daughter-in-law and it was only February, what a year this was turning out to be!

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That trip was epic and not just because of the proposal. It really was a holiday to remember. There was no crazy late nights, no hangovers, no early mornings pick-ups for tours just us two, chilling round a pool, eating everything in sight, exploring the beautiful city of Marrakech whilst doing so dragging around my huge belly and my huge diamond!

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Upon our return to the UK we were inundated with cards, gifts, surprises and well wishes on our engagement. It was so lovely. I’d just made the classic ‘we’re having a baby’ announcement on Facebook and now I had to make one for the impending nuptials! My Instagram had never seen so many likes! Our first card to arrive was from one of my besties in Australia, Jenny. She’d left us all high and dry to embark in life down under 3 months before and we all missed her terribly. So for her to get the first card in was pretty impressive. FYI, Jen couldn’t cope with life without me so came back to the UK for good in July. Was it her family? Her other friends? Her newborn Niece…? Nah. She came back for me. Anyway, on that Monday after Marrakech I’ve walked into the office to find my desk covered in heart shaped chocolates, a card from all my colleagues, confetti, joke guide books on how to be a good wife/husband and a huge ‘YOU’RE ENGAGED’ balloon attached to my chair. They knew exactly how to embarrass me. The next few weeks that followed were filled with all my lovely friends and family bringing wedding bits, magazines, framed photos of us and for a small moment I forgot I was even pregnant! We viewed a few venues when we got back to try and give us an idea of the kind of wedding we would want but I’m writing this 15 months later and we still have no idea.

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At about 34 weeks and after the chaos of babymoons, engagements and wedding planning it was time for the day every preggo bird longs for… it was… My Baby Shower! And what an incredible day it was. I had no idea where I was going. I was just told to be ready for 1:30 and Michael would drive me there. My friends really had gone the extra mile on this one. There was a huge balloon wall, confetti balloons, personalised biscuits, the most amazing cake, nappy cakes, incredible food but most importantly it was a room filled with all my favourite girls (and my 6 month old nephew, Oscar). After the shower we sat in the bar downstairs with all our friends and headed home early evening. I remember getting in and it taking a good 5 trips to the car to bring all of our gifts in. I felt incredibly lucky. We ordered a dominoes, sat on the floor and opened presents for near on 2 hours! It was like Christmas day all over again. I made Michael make a note of who bought what for thank you cards but truth be told I remember every gift and who bought what to this day.


I’ve always known that I have the best friends and family a girl could ask for but over those past 6 months they really all showed me how special I was to them and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. My engagement surprises were all so thoughtful and my baby shower was amazing. These girls have seen me rolling up my school skirt to the nth degree, seen me neck so many Bacardi breezers I vommed through my nose, picked me up when I was down and made me laugh more times than I could care to mention. So to be there with them celebrating my engagement and having them put on the most lovely baby shower for me was more than I could ever have hoped for.

 Nuggets of Knowledge:

·         If you get the chance and have the money, you must go on a babymoon. As I’ve explained it was perfect. We always look back on those pictures fondly as I cart my massive gut round Marrakech sipping on a smoothie. It really allowed us to just step away from the hustle and bustle of real life for a few days to reconnect and be just us two for the last time. The diamond was just a massive bonus.

·         Unless you have a photographic memory like moi, I would recommend the notebook when opening gifts. Otherwise you could be thanking your Auntie June for a babygrow when she actually turned up with a hooded towel.

·         If you’re 13 and reading this, don’t roll your school skirt up. You look a dick.

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10. You feel and look radiant. So much so, there was a distinct lack of filtering on my Instagram selfies during the second trimester. My hair was thick, shiny and bouncy and never looked dull. My skin too was positively glowing. I wore limited make up and instantly you’re in a good mood from the word go.

9. The horrible nausea and sickness that caused you to be bed bound for 12 weeks has suddenly disappeared! Sure, there’ll be some reading this saying ‘not for me… that awful feeling lasted right up until labour’ but for most it goes completely or at least subsides a little as you go into month four.

8. Your bump is visible enough for people not to be like ‘is she pregnant or just still carrying some extra holiday weight?’ but you’re not yet rotund enough to not be able to the things you need to do. Basically, there is no need for spanx in a tight dress AND you can still do your shoes up and roll over in bed. Winning!

7. You are ravenous at all times! Sure I’m growing a baby and all that but my Christ was I hungry. I had to have a snack between breakfast and lunch like I was some sort of whining toddler. I remember one occasion where I’d had tea and biscuits at work at 15:00, left at 16:00 and couldn’t make it home without eating so I stopped at drive thru McDonalds for a cheeseburger. Savage.

6. You can stay awake ALL DAY! Like when you weren’t with child. You’re like a real life adult again! You’d think, the baby is bigger now I must need more sleep but it’s the total opposite. You can also get comfortable enough to be able to sleep at night. Unlike the third trimester – I’ll come on to that at a later date.

5. You’ll start to feel kicks!! The average time to start feeling kicks is anything between week 16 and week 25. It’s apparently slightly earlier for subsequent pregnancies. My first kick was at week 19. It’s difficult to tell at first as I just feels like the aftermath of a dodgy ruby but after a few days they become more apparent and thats when you know its those teeny tiny arms and legs having a party in there!

4. You can still fly! Hurrah!! Guidance for most airlines is that you can fly up to 36 weeks (its earlier for multiples) however you may need what’s known as a ‘fit to fly’ letter from your midwife between week 28 and 36. Our last trip was when I was 29 weeks. Got my letter, had it ready at the gate and no bugger asked for it! I felt like it was my 18th birthday all over again standing outside my local spoonies with my driving licence in hand and just getting a mere ‘evening ladies’ and an open door. ASK FOR MY SPECIAL LETTER GOD DAMN IT!!

3. Your steering wheel and bump do not yet meet and your bump can usually just slot under any table/desk when you’re seated. Bear in mind this is coming from someone who is 5ft so most people should be fine with this for a little while yet.

2. Your 20 week anomaly scan is in the second trimester. This is the time, where if you’re impatient like us, where you can find out the gender of your baby(ies)! This scan also picks up on any health concerns with the baby(ies) for the medical staff to be aware with at birth. Annnnd…. You get another more detailed snap of your baby! Who doesn’t want more snaps?!

1. You can relax. The awkward ‘keeping it a secret’ part is over. You can finally tell the world. People do everything for you – let them. You can start buying bits, decorating the nursery, but there’s no mad rush, you have ages to go still! Kick back in your leggings with a cuppa rosie and a good book. This may be the last chance you get to properly relax until that foetus of yours is at University.

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I didn’t feel comfortable doing a social media announcement after everything that had happened. I felt I owed it to twin two to mention him/her whenever I told anyone I was pregnant and putting all that shenanigans on Facebook just didn’t seem right. When I told everyone else I gave a slight back story as to how there was two but now there’s one and he/she is perfect in every way. I pretty much got the same response from everyone. They were so sorry to hear that but at least we have one perfect healthy baby cooking away. I hate telling people awkward stuff. They don’t know how to respond and I don’t really know how to receive said responses. I’m more of a ‘yep, I’m fine’ kind of person when the truth could be far from that.

One of the worst moments for me in all of this is something that when I say it now, is going to sound ridiculous. But it’s still something I vividly remember to this day. It was at my 16 week midwife appointment. It was the first time I was going to see my midwife since the scan at 13 weeks and I wasn’t sure if she’d know the news. Does the hospital update records somewhere that she would later read, turns out, no. My midwife was a lovely lady, always made me feel comfortable. She went even further up in my estimation in the last few weeks of my pregnancy when she asked if I had any questions and would I like to start working on my birth plan. I said no every time to questions and politely declined creating a birth plan because, can you really ever plan for birth?! From what I’d heard it was utter chaos from start to finish and having a plan just seemed like you were failing from the start. Anyway, on this particular day at around 36 weeks she said ‘Stephanie, let me tell you, you are refreshingly normal for a first time Mum. I usually get pages of problems, birth plans coming out of my ears and at least a phone call a week asking the most obscure questions. Your outlook on this pregnancy is something to behold’. I was so smug. I thanked her for her comments, walked out that surgery, called Michael and was like ‘Err… the midwife called me refreshingly normal!’ His response of ‘Well she doesn’t know you very well then does she’ was both hurtful, although somewhat accurate.

I digress, the most upsetting part was when I told her we were down to one twin. She offered her condolences, asked how I was feeling etc. Then she opened my maternity notes. Every page and every piece of paper in there was headed up with the words ‘twin pregnancy’. Every page had two columns. Two columns for measurements, two columns for heartbeats, two columns for just about every reading they could take. She then said ‘do you mind if I change this paperwork to reflect what’s happened so theres no confusion at a later date?’ I of course did the ‘yep, that’s fine’ and she proceeded to cross out in thick black marker any trace of twin two. The columns very quickly become ‘column’. The word ‘twin’ was crossed out and she scribbled down ‘no foetal heartbeat found on twin two at dating scan’. I wanted to grab that marker and shove it up her arse! How dare she scribble out my baby! Could she not get me new maternity notes? I’ll pop these ones in a memory box and wait for a new set. Anything to stop you defacing the most important book I’ve ever owned! I’ve been paying national insurance for 11 years love! I’ve never been to hospital, hardly ever get sick, I deserve a second bloody set of notes, god damn it! In hindsight, she did ask if I minded and the politeness in me burst out before I’d actually thought of what she was going to do and no amount of marker or tip-ex was going to bring twin two back so I just needed to get on with it. She must be involved in situations like this every day of her life. Stop being a melt, O’Connor, I thought and be glad she’s here.

The next few months were lovely. The nausea had gone, I was starting to get a real life bump, my skin and hair were Instagram worthy (minus the filter), we’d started baby shopping, Christmas was around the corner and we’d finally sold our flat! It went on the market when we were in Copenhagen in September and sold it in mid-November. Great – now we just need to find somewhere to live before the baby comes. 6 months? Piece of cake 😉

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We viewed about 10 houses in all and every time I came away thinking ‘meh… yeah I could live there, but I’m not obsessed with it’. Then on 10 December we viewed our new home. As soon as we pulled up outside I said to Michael I loved it and whatever we faced inside we could sort. It was on a quiet cul-de-sac, big drive and a front lawn! I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted my own front lawn. I love really stereo-typical Simpson/Family Guy houses and I firmly believe it’s because of the front lawn. I remember as a kid sitting on the front lawn in the sunshine with my dog, Duke, chatting to my Dad whilst he cleaned the car, Mum would bring us out a drink and we’d all chat to the neighbours, the ice cream van would pull up and looking back to that time – life was pretty cushty. I had visions of our little one (maybe one’s in the future) riding their bikes out here whilst Michael is mowing said lawn and I’m shouting ‘lunch is ready’ from the door on a Sunday afternoon. I know, I just read that back to, it’s awfully cringe but that was the ultimate goal.

I got all of that from a sodding front lawn. I really need to get out more.

So we went in. The owners showed us around. They were a couple with a little girl of about 10. They were really helpful, showed us everything we needed to see and answered all of our questions. Their choice of décor left a lot to be desired but who moves to a new house and is completely in love with how the current owners have decorated – hardly ever. We saw past that and that we’d need to put in a new bathroom almost instantly (it had carpet!!!) and we left feeling pleased. We put in an offer of £5k under the asking price and it was accepted the next day. I was so pleased we were moving forwards. We had first time buyers on our flat and the family in our new home were buying a new build, what a simple chain, we thought! We’d be in by January/February at the latest giving us at least 3 months to sort the nursery and bathroom before I pop. Oh how naïve.

Three days before Christmas was our anomaly scan. Like any normal person who’d had bad news last time I was in hospital, I was a tad anxious on the days leading up to it. I’d had 2 midwife appointments since the news and both times the heartbeat was strong which had comforted me a little. As we journeyed back to the same Ante-Natal ward I got a horrible déjà vu feeling that something was up again. I was sure that was normal so I just tried to stay as calm as possible. Up until that waiting room we had both agreed not to find out the gender of the baby. We liked the idea of the element of surprise and the other thing was, we were both totally convinced it was a girl. Friends told me I was carrying like a girl, I had girl-like symptoms (if there is such a thing) and both of my parents were pretty sure too. We’d even started calling the bump ‘Poppy’ or ‘Olivia’ which were our names for a girl. For that reason alone we didn’t want to know. Then it dawned on me. What if it’s not a girl? We’re pretty much booking this foetus into the local brownie unit and buying her a tutu for her first birthday and it could end up coming out with a penis?! What then? We were only half way there and we’d both convinced ourselves it was a girl so what would happen if we did this for another 20 weeks and we got a boy then? Would we be disappointed? Just as we started to discuss this, fairly important subject at length, I heard ‘Stephanie O’Connor…’ and before we knew it I was back on that bed, gel on, waiting for some more ‘news’.

The lady explained how the anomaly scan worked, how she would go quiet for sometimes long periods and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong it’s just that she has to concentrate on the smaller parts of the baby. So away she scanned. The baby looked HUGE! She counted 20 fingers, 20 toes, 2 arms, 2 legs and thankfully – 1 head. Happy days, I thought! Then she started looking into each chamber of this teeny tiny heart. It was incredible. I had no idea up until this point the amount of detail they can find when the baby is still in the womb and better still, if there is a problem, how they can sometimes operate whilst it’s still in there! Sorry, what!? Good job I was laying down. After about 20 minutes she’d completed all her checks and told us that the baby was in good working order and that she had no concerns. PHEW! The relief that came over me at that minute was as if all of my muscles had just relaxed at that very second and I was suddenly floating on a lilo in Jamaica with a cocktail in hand being serenaded by Bob Marley himself without a trouble in the world. If I’m honest, I’d totally forgotten about the gender until she said ‘would you like to know the sex?’ I looked at Michael who said ‘it’s entirely up to you’. I looked back to her and nodded, yes. ‘You’re having a little boy’ she said very calmly. I couldn’t believe my ears. A boy?! What? A real boy? Like an actual boy? OMG – I’m gonna be a soccer Mum! Imagine some kid goes in for a two-footed tackle on him though? I’ll break their face. What about when he has a girlfriend, or worse a wife – what if I don’t like her? All of this is going through my mind whilst I’m still covered in gel. Ridiculous. Although we’ve said we wouldn’t find out again as I’d love the surprise at birth I’m so glad we did for our first as I would’ve definitely started buying dresses!

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Christmas was so lovely that year. We told everyone on Christmas day it was a boy. My Dad was gutted we’d found out but also glad as he too was convinced it was a girl! I’m pretty sure my womb got more gifts than I did that Christmas, but I didn’t mind. Technically I own that womb and all its contents so even if I have just been given a pram spiral toy, I’m just going to pretend it’s some Topshop boots – because I can. We split the time between Christmas Eve/Christmas morning at my Dad’s and Christmas lunch and evening at my Mum’s. I was waited on hand and foot and it was bloody wonderful. I took 2 rather long naps, I didn’t wash up, don’t even think I offered, and a drank my body weight in schloer. Both had catered well for a ‘usual wasted by midday-er’ and I don’t even recall missing the blue cheese! It was a nice end to my string of 28 Christmas’s where it was just me and the family. This time next year, it would be v-tech and fisher price galore!

It was on Christmas day that we decided (very last minute) that we’d put a snap of my Christmas bump on Facebook. Loads of people still didn’t know as I’d only really told family and people as I’d seen them so it came as a shock to most. So many well wishes and congratulations came on an already perfect day. It’s one of my favourite pictures of Michael and I as we look so excited for what’s to come but also so clueless as for what’s to come!

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Nuggets of Knowledge:

● If, like me, you loved reading your maternity notes and kept thinking ‘I can’t wait to stash this away once the baby is here and show them when they’re older’ I hate to be the barer of bad news hun but that aint gonna happen. The notes are filled in throughout your entire birth (and I mean entire, the detail is mental) and you have to give them to your midwife when she visits you at home when the baby is 5 days old. These are then kept on file at the hospital should you have any further babies they can check back and see if there were any complications previously.

● It’s totally normal for the anomaly scan to have really long silent periods. The checks they have to do are astronomical so best to let them crack on and not ask questions during as I’d imagine they’re concentrating pretty hard.

● There is no such thing as ‘a feeling’ or ‘gender-like symptoms’ or ‘the way you are carrying’ it’s all a load of toosh. The only way you’ll be able to tell what you’re having is if a medical professional shows you a nob or a vag on that screen. Simples.

● If you’re pregnant at Christmas, do eff all. This may be your last chance for a number of years to just sit and enjoy the day.

● If, like many others, you decide to move before the baby comes – be realistic. We thought 6 months was plenty of time from offer being accepted to being in the new place and ready for the baby, turns out – it was not.