Shower? Rock salt lamp? I bat away suggestions for coping with labour

Pandemic Pregnancy: I picture us at our first antenatal classes, saying ‘I can’t wait for labour!’ Lol

“I feel like Nelson touring Victory before the battle of Trafalgar,” my husband whispered to me as we entered the delivery ward on an antenatal hospital tour in 2019. Thankfully, I didn’t get the reference. When you’re married to Mark from Peep Show, you learn to tune a lot of things out.

Receiving a tour of the hospital in advance – appropriate as it was at the time – seems comically OTT now. This time round, he hasn’t yet set foot inside the hospital and won’t until the moment it’s confirmed that I am in established labour.

Similarly, we have crossed the threshold of our 20-month-old daughter’s creche only once and that was when we were given a tour of the place over a year before she would ever start there. I was 16 weeks pregnant. That was how far in advance you had to book a city centre creche then. Now, with some out of work and others moving their childcare closer to home, they can’t fill it.

If you say rock salt lamp once more it'll go the way of the Holy Stone of Clonrichert

Back then, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Earnestly asking questions like “Can we visit her on our lunch break?” Now we ask things like “Are you opening on Good Friday?” and were absolutely thrilled, first that they were and second that we were wearing masks that hid our delight.


There has been a very gradual but definite move from checking every few minutes that the baby is still breathing to, two years later, comforting her after a fall with: “Get up there now and you’ll be grand.”

So I was quite surprised at the weekend when my husband leapt to his feet and ran down the garden after we’d both witnessed the toddler fall slowly (and I’d have to say, gently) back on her nappy-padded bum. She wasn’t even thinking about crying but my husband was already halfway to her. His shrieks of “I THINK SHE’S TAKEN OUT MY CLEMATIS” quickly followed and then it all became clear.

We were equally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at our first antenatal classes. Oh to be so young and innocent again! I picture us now as two love-heart-for-eyes emojis, walking out hand in hand actually saying to each other “I can’t wait for labour!” Lol.


Antenatal classes have resumed but have moved online. And they are excellent. I couldn’t fault them. It’s just that now . . . now, I know. When previously I believed the spin that “a contraction only lasts a minute and you can survive anything for a minute!” now I know the truth that a minute is quite long. Especially when it is followed by only a short break and guess what – another minute. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen.

Two years ago I heard the suggestion of taking a bath in early labour and I thought oh yes, a bath will be lovely. I’ll have a bath and some snacks and then I’ll go in and (clasping hands) “Dear me, I can’t wait”. Now, I cynically bat away every single suggestion they throw at me for coping with labour:

Tens machine? I couldn’t get it off me quick enough.

Shower? Awkward and somehow irritating.

Massage? I could barely speak but if my husband so much as put a hand on my back I did manage to say: “Please don’t touch me!”

Rock salt lamp? Honestly, if you say rock salt lamp once more it’ll go the way of the Holy Stone of Clonrichert.

Climb the stairs? CLIMB THE STAIRS? This was suggested to me during labour and I can remember looking down the corridor at the stairs which were about 10 metres away and thinking that the midwife may as well have said: “Just try climb Mount Everest there and see how that goes for you.” There wasn’t a hope of me even getting to the base never mind climbing them just for fun.

“Imagine the pain leaving your body with the breath out” was another suggestion and I’m starting to think that this is where I went wrong. You see, I have zero imagination. It runs in the family. My brother was at a summer camp as a child and when given moulding clay and some free rein, he and his eight-year-old imagination constructed a rock.

Perineal massage was also recommended (at the antenatal class, not the kids’ summer camp) but they made the mistake of adding that there is “some” evidence that it “might” “slightly” reduce the risk of tearing. I’m sorry but my 98th percentile-headed baby and I will need more definite language than that to convince me of all that fannying around.

But later that evening, I notice a bottle of fennel cooking oil that’s been sitting on the kitchen shelf for four years and I think: “Sure it’d be nice if it finally got some use.” I’ll keep you posted.

Part 1: This is all getting a bit Angela's Ashes
Part 2: We got bad news at the first baby scan
Part 3: What's the oldest woman you've delivered a baby to?
Part 4: Not yet telling your colleagues about the baby
Part 5: I go in to the scan and it turns out, I do miss my husband
Part 6: Was she asking if the baby had magically appeared?
Part 7: I am more apprehensive about having a second child 
Part 8: I'm living for my monthly maternity check-ups
Part 9: We decide we'll take a little holiday
Part 10: Maternity leave during lockdown has its advantages
Part 11: I bat away suggestions for coping with labour