Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
IF THIS week's column makes no sense at all, it is because I have had very little sleep for the past four days. Yes, I finally had a baby - rather wrinkled, rather late in arriving, and with a distinctly yellow tinge to his skin, but a baby none the less.

He was born at home last Saturday, just before midnight. He wasn't supposed to be born at home, but by the time I needed to go to the hospital, it was too late: the contractions were too close together even to contemplate getting into the car. Luckily, there were two very nice midwives who came to the house, and a kind friend who rubbed my back, and my dear husband, whom I nearly throttled when the pain was overwhelming. In fact, the bedroom was quite crowded.

I started off being rather calm, kneeling, squatting, pacing - doing all the things you are supposed to do these days. But after four hours of that, I was feeling a bit tired - exhausted, actually. 'I want an epidural]' I wailed. 'Get this bloody baby out of me]' An emergency Caesarean would have seemed like nirvana at that point, but unfortunately there weren't the facilities in my bedroom, so there was nothing to do but continue to yell and heave and push. And then, just when I was about to give up, out popped this baby: a boy, eight and a half pounds, no eyebrows, squashed head, but who otherwise looks just like his dad.

I am very glad he was born at home: it was nice afterwards, getting into my own peaceful bed, instead of being surrounded by 30 other exhausted women and their crying babies and noisy visitors (which was what happened when my first son was born). And call me neurotic, but I don't think hospital lavatories and bathrooms are very clean these days - which is Virginia Bottomley's fault, I suspect.

But despite having had an entirely natural home birth, I don't feel at all evangelical about it. Childbirth hurts - much more than having your wisdom teeth out - and no one boasts about going to the dentist and refusing to have an anaesthetic. You don't say with a smug little smile on your face, 'Oh, I had four teeth out yesterday, and it was all natural, no pain relief at all.' Everyone would think you were mad.

But perhaps childbirth does make you slightly mad, especially in the first strange days after giving birth. You ache all over; your body hurts in places you never normally think about; you are tired, you want to rest. But instead you have to feed a baby, change nappies, exist on very little sleep at all, in a weird state of exhausted euphoria. It is enough to make the sanest woman quite deranged. But there are three good things about the whole ordeal: first, it's over; second, it's better than being pregnant; and third, small babies are quite delightful, especially when they're your own and fast asleep. -