It’s Thursday morning and we are both dressed in our “visiting the social worker outfits.” For me this means coral trousers, smart boots, newish jersey top and cardigan. It’s similar to what I would normally wear at work, except slightly smarter because I have dressed up the cardigan with a brooch.
For my husband this means a polo shirt with his company name written on it.
To be clear: my husband does not have work today. He is wearing the polo shirt, purely and simply in order to look like he has a job. Not only does he look like he has a job in fact, he also looks like he’s willing to take a few hours off of his job, to support his wife at a hospital appointment. Perfect.
I have collected up all my medical documents, removed them from the plastic bag where they are normally kept and placed them inside an NCT folder. This is so that when I bring out the documents, the social worker will see that I’ve been to NCT classes.
We have both done this, instinctively and without discussion. When we see each other in the hallway we laugh and hug because we are on the same page and going into battle together.
On the way we clarify our tactics. We agree that we are going to be polite and helpful and say nothing at all to suggest we are even a little bit annoyed or worried at being investigated.
We are definitely “not that kind of people” and precisely for that reason we would never be vulgar enough to actually say so. Instead we have simply costumed ourselves in signifiers to that effect.
We go in for the scan and everything changes: The baby is too small. There isn't enough amniotic fluid. The heartbeat is wrong.
The medical people do that very calm, very incremental escalation of attention that they do in emergencies. So that one minute I’m looking at a blurry picture of a fetus while the sonographer goes to “just check something” and the next, I’m strapped to machinery signing a form giving advance permission for my womb to be removed (should it prove necessary). And at no point has the tone of anyone’s voice indicated that something serious is going on.
My husband is more of a worrier than me of course and sees right through this. I find myself attempting to calm him down with the information that “ They've been doing Cesareans since Roman times: hence the name. And Caesar’s Mum survived- even in those days.”
I cannot understand why this fails to reassure him. In truth I am full of anticipation. I will have a baby by the end of the day. Just as soon as they have a theater free, in fact.
Absurdly: I am still concerned about social services though. I am worried it will go against me if I miss the meeting. After all, it wasn't my fault I missed the scans and that went against me, didn't it?
I don’t want to start motherhood with this hanging over me so I ask the doctors if I can just nip over to the social services office and quickly apologise for not being able to make the meeting.
They look at me like I’m a crazy person for failing to understand the seriousness of the situation, even though they have been consistently down playing it themselves. I send my husband, which gives him something useful to do and also makes it look like I have a supportive husband (which I do obviously- but I want to make sure that I’m seen to)
He returns with good news: The social worker seems happy with us. She’ll some and visit me on the ward tomorrow and then she’ll close the case.
A nurse comes by and asks when I last had something to eat and drink. I tell her that I had breakfast cereal and a cup of tea around 8.00am and she says “Is that all?- no wonder you’re so slim. Not like me” and pats her own belly in mock despair.
I take a moment to be amazed that, even when she's waiting for Caesarean to deliver a baby tiny its life is in danger: it is apparently still acceptable to compliment a woman on her weight. There must be literally no situation in which it is unacceptable to compliment a woman on her weight. I say nothing because it’s clear she is only trying to be nice and by now, I am really, really excited at being about to give birth.
I am tagged and catheterised and wheeled into an operating theater It is in the basement somewhere and has a sort of “backstage” feeling to it, perhaps because patients are not usually awake to see it.
Once there I am stabbed with needles to numb me below the waist and the nice surgeon makes small talk while we wait for it to kick in. Then she rolls me onto my back, rigs up a screen and pulls a tiny angry scrap of humanity out from somewhere below my waist.
And that’s it: it’s over in minutes. My baby is 4lbs 2ozs of protesting red flesh. I can tell he’s OK because he’s crying. I can tell I’m OK because he’s OK.
And it’s strange because a moment ago- I only needed my husband. They wouldn't bring him in from the corridor until they had me all rigged up and I kept asking and asking after him.
But now- it’s like my whole focus is on the baby. On his crying. I was good to hear him crying at first but now it feels like its been going on too long. It tugs at me and I want to comfort him. I’m asking: Where is he? Can you bring him over? And they do but I can’t hold him because my arms are strapped to the bed, but my husband does and he stops crying right away. He doesn't look too small to me. He looks perfect.