As pregnancies go, I believe mine was rather easy. I barely had any morning sickness until the final trimester. I didn’t have cravings but I did have mood swings. My baby could not be accurately measured, being squashed up in a tight little ball; I kept having to go back to the hospital for scans to try again. Trying to quit smoking was tough and the matter wasn’t helped by the stress of applying for benefits (I tried to get a job, but who hires a pregnant 18 year old?) and looking for new accommodation. In fact, it took me so long to save up that I only got the keys to my new flat five days before my due date, but more on that later. In the meantime, I went to prenatal classes, took iron and folic acid and gathered as much baby stuff as I could from friends whose own children had outgrown the need. I got my nose pierced. I made the decision to try to cross another item off my list, ‘Cure my Arachnophobia’, as I didn’t want to teach my fear of spiders to my child. (You’re going to have to wait for that story.)
My nineteenth birthday came and went, spent watching movies with Barrie’s mum. Before I knew it, I was six months pregnant and could find out our baby’s gender – a girl! Once Barrie and I found out, the naming discussion began. It transpired that Barrie did not like any of the names I had already picked out (Phoebe, Cassandra) and was determined to have a Japanese name. Resourcefully, I found a name generator online and typed in Barrie’s surname and the middle name we’d decided on (Rose, after my twin sister Rosie) and eventually, the name ‘Emiko’ came up. It means smiling child, a blessing or a gift, depending on which definition you use. We both loved it and knew immediately it was the right one.
Finally, nine months pregnant, I got the keys to my new flat. Barrie, his Dad and my friend RJ helped me pack and move in. Sitting on the floor, screwing together pieces of my bed, I felt an odd twinge in my belly.
“Are you alright?” asked RJ, who was helping me assemble things.
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “It’s probably just practice contractions, they’re really common.” I have to say, now, I’m not sure if I genuinely believed that, or I was just in denial. I continued to have twinges throughout the day, hours apart and not really painful. I also continued to insist they were practice contractions. I must have been convincing, because finally, at 1:30am, the last person left and I went to bed. I slept badly, until around 7am, at which point I became aware that I was having contractions around two minutes apart. I phoned Barrie, who said he was on his way and I should call an ambulance. At this point, my waters broke. I phoned the emergency services, who said an ambulance was on its way. The woman on the end of the line stayed with me, talking to me, although I now can’t remember what she said. I realised the front door was locked and that the paramedics would need to come in, so I staggered to the door and put it on the latch, then staggered back into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. I don’t know why, call it instinct.
I felt an immense urge to push, so I pushed. I could distantly hear myself screaming and worried in a disconnected way that I might disturb the neighbours. I actually found out later that all the other flats in the building were unoccupied; the landlord hadn’t managed to rent them out yet and I was the only tenant. Alone in a huge building, with only the emergency services on the phone for support, I gave birth to my daughter on the toilet. No help, no drugs. I dropped the phone, stood up, and lifted her out. She was screaming, understandably. I checked her airways, wrapped her in a towel, sat down on the floor and went into shock. I can remember the paramedics feet coming through the bathroom door and that they were disappointed to have missed the birth. I remember being on my bed and wondering how I got there. Barrie was suddenly there. My midwife appeared, half an hour late, saying she’d gone to the wrong address. I was sick several times. By the time we arrived at the hospital, things were clearer but I still have gaps in my memory.
We spent three days in the hospital, returning home the day before the original due date. I sat in my flat, surrounded by unpacked boxes. Holding my daughter in my arms, I gazed at her. This tiny little person, I made her. Mine to love and to care for, forever. My little Emiko Rose, 7lb 6oz, 14th May 2007. The best thing I ever did.