Cordelia Florence Mei Lau
Daughter of Nina and Paul Lau
Born on the 26th of December 2013
at the Bloomsbury Birthing Centre, UCLH, weighing 6lb 8oz
I think Paul suspected that I was getting broody when I started dressing up our pet rabbit, Mimi, in different outfits and carrying her around everywhere!
I took the pregnancy test as soon as it was possible to get a result, so the line was very faint. I think Paul had his doubts that it was even real, but we were both ecstatic.
Tiredness was the only pregnancy side effect that I experienced – I shouldn’t complain, but the lack of any other symptoms actually made me anxious that I wasn’t making enough hormones and that something must be wrong with the baby. I found the regular check ups at the hospital reassuring, and I kept working until ten days before my due date, which distracted me from any anxieties I would otherwise have had about the baby being alright.
I didn’t really read anything about pregnancy and birth, as my biology degree meant that I already knew quite a lot, and I thought I would just get anxious if I kept mulling over every possible scenario. Paul and I attended a weekend course in hypnobirthing, and really bought into the whole programme. Friends and family were a bit sceptical, and I think somewhat put off by the name – thinking I’d gone all hippy and alternative. But I’m a biology teacher and I wouldn’t believe in anything not based on hard science – hypnobirthing works on the premise that the birth hormone oxytocin is released when you are relaxed, and slows down in the presence of adrenaline when you are anxious, so the calmer you are, the more smoothly and quickly the birth happens. I think the term hypnobirthing is a bit of a misnomer – I never entered a hypnotic state, I just practised relaxation and breathing techniques and repeated positive affirmations.
My due date was the 29th December, but as soon as I finished work on the 19th I felt ready to meet our baby. On Christmas Eve morning I woke up at 6am, and I just knew that things were going to happen soon. By late evening I was feeling restless, so we drove our old London taxi down to Covent Garden and walked to Trafalgar Square, looking at all the Christmas lights in the deserted streets. It was a really lovely quiet time together before our baby arrived.
By Christmas morning I had mild cramping pains. I was glad that we’d decided to have a quiet Christmas alone at home, though we still had turkey with all the trimmings. The cooking took my mind off things. Just after we finished our Christmas pudding I had my show, and the contractions started to get stronger. At around midnight Paul phoned UCLH, and they told us to come in and get checked out.
After a quick examination I was told that I was 3cm dilated, and that I could go home as things could still take a long time to develop. By 9am on Boxing Day the contractions were pretty intense, and I wanted to go back to the hospital. Our black cab turned out to be the perfect mode of transport, as I knelt on the floor, holding onto the handles, while Paul drove. I did get some funny looks from the queue of people outside Madame Tussauds when we were stopped at the traffic lights! At UCLH I was told that I was 4cm dilated, before being admitted to the birthing centre.
I feel so lucky that I enjoyed the birth experience. My midwife, Frida, was amazing – she told me that I had already done the hardest part in getting to 4cm. I’m not sure that was entirely true, but it made me feel more relaxed and confident at the time. She left the room saying she’d check on me in four hours.
Four hours! I wasn’t having that, so I furiously bounced on the birthing ball and walked around, and an hour later I buzzed for her to come and examine me. I was now 7cm and ready to get into the pool, which was blissful. I didn’t need any other pain relief – the warm water was so soothing, and I found the contractions very manageable.
Cordelia was born at 2.48pm, after four hours in the birthing centre. I am so grateful to all the staff at the EGA maternity wing at UCLH, for making me feel that I was in such safe hands throughout my pregnancy and birth. Paul was an amazing birthing partner. For the past five months he’d helped me to relax with the hypnobirthing techniques, and on the day he said all the right things and was so supportive.
We stayed in the hospital overnight, and took it in turns to sleep and watch over little Cordelia in her plastic cot between our beds. The midwives looking after us were really lovely, and helped to establish feeding without stress.
Cordelia has always been a very contented baby, which I’m sure is partly due to her calm entry into the world. We now follow a loose routine that has made her sleep patterns predictable, which is a real blessing. I am having the absolute best time of my life and I love being a mum – it sounds clichéd, but I feel complete now.