Ride through the rain because the car won’t start. Get soaked by the old people driving too close to you and the kerb. Hurtle down the identikit corridors, your husband’s yellow bike jacket dripping water on the floor. Watch the women with pearls and pinched faces and wonder if they are tutting at you or the queue at the hospital they come to each week with their husbands, who turn to them with deaf ears and Daily Mails.
When it’s your turn to be seen, watch the midwife prod your belly: ‘You still planning that water birth?’, she scribbles in your notes. Watch the pinched faces turn to smiles then pull on your husband’s jacket again to go into battle.
Repeat after four weeks, when you’re too big for the bike. Try to follow the midwife’s advice to ‘relax’, even though you’re on a trolley with someone’s fingers in your fanny, feeling for something they can’t find.
‘He’s sideways’, she says; you don’t hear the ‘don’t worry’. She sends you to another hospital, where they scan your son and you joke that he must be confused about which way is up: after all his Dad is a Kiwi.
Repeat at 37, 38 weeks. Try not to panic when they say don’t worry.
At 39, 40, 41 weeks, listen when the midwife says second babies rarely engage before labour. Try to relax. Fail.
Wake a week later with the rush of warm water. Watch as your husband carries your older child to the car, thinking how small she looks asleep. ‘Don’t worry darling’, you say more for you than her. Wait for the first pains. Short. Manageable.
Spend the day at the country hospital. Walk and walk in the summer sun, but only manage four centimetres. Listen as another midwife says, ‘I’m afraid we’ll need to induce you’.
Arrive in the city hospital, to a room with five other women and no air con.
Then the real contractions begin. When they crescendo you vomit all over yourself, pain like nothing you have felt before. Relax someone says, fixing you with fingers and now a monitor for the baby’s heart. A man appears from nowhere, an angel in scrubs.
No time now for no worries. They heave you onto the trolley, hurtle down the hospital’s identikit corridors. Try to sign your name as you scream. The needle scarcely has time to take effect before a voice says, ‘we need to go in’.
The next thing you hear is a silence.
Then a cry. You wonder if it’s yours.
After an eternity, the angel places your baby on your breast.
‘Don’t worry, you hear yourself say, Mamma’s here’.
HANNAH STORM is a journalist and media consultant, specialising in gender and safety. Although she’s been writing since she was a young girl, she’s recently discovered a passion for short stories and flash fiction, thanks to an Arvon course with Vanessa Gebbie and Cynan Jones. Her Twitter handle is @hannahstorm6.