I have to kick off with an apology. You need to trust that I'm a normal person. I have a fairly sensible job that requires me to err on the side of cynicism and I pride myself on an appropriately English disdain for self importance. But I'm sorry, I can't talk about giving birth to my daughter Edie without sounding embarrassingly earnest and like I might knit my own underwear from recycled hemp.
So here goes: it was the most incredible and empowering experience of my life. It was, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. Eight months on I still regularly stop dead and think 'Oh my god I did that - I am incredible!' Honestly, normally I would be the first person to hide my light under a bushel but I've got to level with you - that day I was amazing!
I had my first contractions on the evening of a bank holiday. Having felt a profound sense of connection with my body throughout pregnancy I had no idea what was going on and was convinced I'd eaten too much fruit during our lazy afternoon. Thankfully my mum was able to gently point out it could potentially be the start of labour.
We'd decided to have Edie at home. My partner, James, has the science down. He can talk you through the facts and stats. He was well rehearsed in reassuring concerned friends and gently contradicting those who wanted to tell us we were putting lives at risk. For me, none of that mattered, it was an instinct not a question. I knew where I needed to be, trusted my body's ability and was delighted to meet a team of midwives at the Whittington hospital in London who quietly and calmly stood ready to support my choices (I have a book in me about the pleasure of being treated like an adult capable of making decisions for my body and my baby but I won't hop on that soap box today).
Therese, one of the midwives, spoke to me on the phone and suggested I get some sleep before things got exciting. I tried! But lying down was agony and I was having a baby! Getting up and moving around was much more comfortable and, when Therese came over in the early hours, she got me walking up and down the stairs which seemed to do good stuff.
When morning came James got to work inflating the pool we'd hired. A happy unintended consequence of being at home was that he never felt like a spare part in the birth. This was our space we invited people into and, more practically, there was loads for him to actually do from filling the pool, to making endless cups of tea.
Getting in the pool was exactly what my body needed after several hours of labouring. I felt myself loosening up, relaxing and filling with a new energy. I've been told we went on until lunchtime. My memory is hazy. At that point the water had cooled and I was tired. My contractions slowed down. Therese had gone, replaced by Amanda and Tina who took me upstairs to my bedroom. There was a suggestion I give birth up there. It was never going to happen. Edie was almost crowning but I was exhausted. I lay down on the floor, put my head on Amanda's lap and slept.
Incredible! My amazing body knew exactly what to do - it took over, shutting down for 20 minutes to regroup ahead of its most important task to date. I will be forever grateful for those brilliantly skilled midwives who trusted in what was happening and let me get on with it (in hospital there would have been no way to avoid stirrups, interventions and pain at this point). And forever grateful to James, who knew exactly what I needed to do the next bit and rushed downstairs to refill the pool - boiling kettles and pans of water to supplement our struggling hot water supply.
Getting into the water the second time felt as good as that morning. I'd guiltily never quite got round to mastering my illegally downloaded hypnobirthing album, but was delighted to find my breath and brain working beautifully together - an imprint of an amazing yoga week I'd had in Italy over a year before. I rocked and flowed into each contraction, chanting and mooing. I must have looked insane. In my mind I was a goddess.
Then Amanda told me to reach down between my legs. I felt the silky top of Edie's head. It's strange to experience a moment knowing it will be one of the defining points of your life. I think I'll always love to stroke the top of her head and remember touching her for the first time. Just as vivid was the feeling of my body opening up as I pushed her out. It's impossible to write about really. There just aren't the words for the sensation. Certainly pain was part of it. But not in anyway central.
I was on all fours in the pool still channelling Artemis when Edie was born. She swam through my legs and into my arms (much debate subsequently as to whether this possibly could have actually happened. It did for me).
I sat back in the water and held her to my breast. Nothing happened. I marvelled at her and tried not to fret, reminding myself that these things can take a while and there'd be people who could help. A short while later I was tucked up in my own bed with Edie in my arms. Deliciously alone. I showed her my nipple and she latched on as James came into join us.
Of course this Walton-esque tableau was only the beginning of a journey that has had its undeniably rocky moments (I'm writing this with Edie feeding from one breast and conducting a remarkably skilled Chinese burn action on the other). But we started as we've meant to go on and the only times I've felt truly lost (as opposed to just utterly exhausted and covered in spit up) were the few occasions when I haven't been in touch with my instinct to be my own expert on my body and my baby.
As a mum there are many days when I'm merely good enough - my house is a tip, I use industrial amounts of dry shampoo and last week I let a stranger give Edie a sugary biscuit in order to have 5 minutes peace - but despite that and because of it I will always treasure the memory of the day I was awesome.