One day, back in 2014, I was talking to my neighbour across the road about my husband as he’d broken his wrist falling off his bike and it was only a few weeks until the due date of our first baby. ‘How am I supposed to get to the hospital’? I lamented. ‘I should be able to rely on him to get me there’. He thought we could grab a cab or a lift with his friend, Steve, neither of which I was happy about. But I really couldn’t see what choice I’d been left with, after all, I could hardly drive myself there when in labour could I? It was my first baby, and not knowing what I now know about child birth, the thought of a home birth sadly didn’t even occur to me. My neighbour, a good friend of mine, replied, ‘I’ll take you to the hospital.’ I shook my head and said no, I hadn’t been dropping a hint and couldn’t possibly expect that of her. But she insisted that it was fine and that she and her partner wouldn’t drink and would be available 24/7 for me. I was blown away by this kindness, and unsure as to whether she had really thought this through, but as the weeks went by, she was definitely committed to helping us and so I relaxed safe in the knowledge that we would get to the hospital OK.
Despite living near to Bournemouth General which has a Birthing Centre, we had decided to go to Poole, which also has a Birthing Centre but is right across the road from a labour ward and hospital. If anything went wrong at Bournemouth, I’d have had to transfer over to Poole anyway so I felt more comfortable being over there anyway – kind of a best of both worlds situation. However, it is a half an hour drive away, and is notoriously bad for traffic at rush hour.
On Friday 9th May, 3 days after my due date, I went into labour. I stayed at home all day, and my neighbour, who was also my cleaner, came over to clean the house and gave me moral support. After all, she’d had 4 babies of her own! My husband and I used the tens machine, the birthing ball, massage and distraction but by 5pm, I needed to go to hospital as I was in active labour. My husband ran over the road to tell her we needed to go and to put the bags in her car. He got me in the car and by now I was contracting really regularly. My neighbour decided she needed to go to the toilet before we left and I was panicking in the car. Her daughter came out to chat to me but I was in no fit state for a conversation. Off we set on our mad dash to the hospital, she thought I was going to give birth in the car because the contractions were coming thick and fast. She was driving like a bat out of hell and shouting out the window ‘woman in labour’. If I hadn’t been in transition it would have been funny. We arrived at the hospital and I was in the middle of a contraction, as soon as I was out of the car I had another, and another before we even got in the building…and she had parked right outside the doors! She carried our bags into the room for us and gave me a hug before leaving. She was my absolute hero. She was one of the first people we text to announce the birth of our beautiful little girl. And the next day, as soon as we’d had a few hours’ sleep, we took little Lola over the road to meet her Aunty Livvy and the rest of Livvy’s family.
Fast forward to 2016, and I’d gone into labour with our second child. Thinking the contractions would go on for some time, I left it too late to get my Mum around to look after Lola. I realised that, despite Mum being en route, we needed to get to the hospital. For the past 9 months, both myself and Livvy’s daughter had been pregnant together. Fortunately for me, this meant that Livvy answered her phone at 7am when I called her and asked if she could look after Lola until my Mum arrived. She was yet again, my hero when she came running across the road in her dressing gown, and gave me the biggest hug before helping me out the door to the car. This time, we were only going to Bournemouth which was just as well, as Lily Rose was born 15 minutes after arriving at the hospital. Probably around the same time that my mum arrived at my house and wondered where we all were, before Livvy came back across the road with Lola.
Exactly two weeks later, Livvy became a grandmother for the first time. She may be Mum to four, and Nanny to one, but she’ll always be the hero of my birth stories, and an extra-special ‘Auntie’ to my girls.