I went into labour at 9pm on a Friday night watching Have I Got News For You. The pain started immediately, the taxi ride to University College Hospital was torture, and when I got there, the harpy at the desk told me to go home. “You’re hardly dilated at all,” she told me.
“What about the pain?” Through the agony, I strove to convey the hint of a suggestion that I might be related to someone high up in government.
“Oh, you’re not in pain yet,” said she, stroking her white cat and sliding open the door to the piranha pool. “This is only the beginning.”
As beginnings went it was fairly intense. If only it had been my twelfth child, I could have made a stand. But what did I know? Maybe childbirth was supposed to be even more painful than chainsawing through your own leg.
It didn’t get worse. It started out bad and stayed there, and no pain relief was forthcoming until the sadist went off-shift eight hours later. My husband went home to sleep, and I quietly crumpled the bit of paper on which I’d written my (oh ho ho!) ‘birth plan’. No Epidural, it said in big letters. Because the weirdo fantasists at the NCT had told me that only gas and air was necessary in a proper birth, and an epidural might harm the baby.
In the end, I had an emergency Caesarian, not that I cared a whit once I had my epidural. Did it harm the baby? Hard to say. There’s always the question of her mediocre taste in pop music.
I bring this up now because I never think of those hours of pain. I think of more recent pain, like the shrieking whine of the hair dryer every morning at 6am. But mainly my husband and I squint at our daughter and think, not bad.
I had lunch with my lovely German publisher this week, and we talked about the next book, which started, as if by magic, to assume a real shape in my head. And I didn’t think once of all the hair-tearing involved in the writing of There Is No Dog.
(The vital difference between books and children, btw, is that after all the pain, the book pays royalties.)