It occurred to me today that I had never written about Jasmine's birth. The opportunity has never really presented itself, I suppose. But today, I will get it down on paper, while I can still remember and before she starts asking questions!
It all began, really, on a bright, hot day in July. It was the 7th, a Monday. I had been feeling a little odd, but didn't think for a second that I could be pregnant. James did, however. Against my better judgment, he convinced me to do a test and, sure enough, that second line appeared. There was no mistaking it. James was elated; I don't think there's another word for it. I'd not seen him so happy before that moment. I was worried, at first. I didn't believe it, for a start - I somehow convinced myself that I'd got a false result by taking the test wrong. Quite how I imagined I had done this, I don't know but, the following morning, I snuck out to the nearest pharmacy and bought another test.
It was positive again, of course.
James photographed the test, he was that excited about the whole thing. It's in an album on the PC entitled Pre-birth and named Baby001. Jasmine's first photo.
James and I spent a couple of days trying to get our heads round the news before booking an appointment to see my GP. It was during this appointment that things looked as though they may become a little complex. My GP examined me and verified that I was indeed pregnant. 20 weeks pregnant, no less.
James drove us back to his place via another town ten miles out of our way. I think it's fair to say that the news had come as something of a shock to us. We had expected to be told that I was maybe 7 or 8 weeks along, not 20. We'd missed the scans, for a start. How could that happen? How could I not have noticed for that long? There had been no symptoms, clearly. No sickness, for sure. Nothing that had made me look in the mirror and think "Hang on a minute..."
What made things even more complicated was that we were, at the time, not living together. I lived with my parents, James lived alone. For me, Jasmine's conception signalled the beginning of our serious relationship. It was a crossroads, I suppose. We were living separate lives, for the most part, and could have continued to do so relatively easily. There was nothing joint about us. No house, no car, no possessions. If James had decided he didn't want a child after all, there would have been no messy separation, and nothing I could have done about it.
But, happily, we had love - for each other and for our baby - and hope for our shared future. We fought for what we had and for what we knew was possible. Eventually, we found a place to bring our baby home to, but before then, there were uncertainties.
We had our first scan around a week after we had taken the positive test. Due to already being so far along, a scan had to take place as soon as possible for there to be any chance of the pregnancy being dated correctly. There was an issue, though. The sonographer wasn't happy with what she could see, despite proclaiming that Jasmine had a "beautiful cerebellum". She scanned us again, an hour later, but was still not happy. Something wasn't right. We needed to see a consultant. The fluid levels surrounding the baby weren't high enough, the blood flow through the cord wasn't strong enough, baby was too small.
We were referred to Kings College, London, for further scans. I was scared. Despite everyone's reassurances that this was routine and that there is no greater care for an unborn baby than that administered at Kings, I did not believe them. There was a feeling inside me that we may never take this baby home. The consultants we saw often looked uneasy, cheerless. They did little to allay my fears.
James and I did everything we could to personalise our baby, if you like. We wanted to know the sex, immediately. They said they saw a girl, almost certainly. So we chose names for our girl, so that we could talk to her and have memories of her. Just in case.
We chose Jasmine because it contains both James and Jen; just as our baby contained us both. Physically and metaphorically. Every moment of our lives were spent willing her to be ok. Once a fortnight, we would make our way to London to be scanned and monitored. Every time we were asked to bring overnight bags with us in case we had to stay.
We'll show you the SCBU, they said, so that the wires and machines don't shock you when you first see your baby.
There comes a time, they said, when your baby will be better off outside than in.
The time they were looking at was 28 weeks. Jasmine's estimated weight was just over 2lb.
Then, suddenly, it all changed. We travelled up to King's College for yet another appointment with yet another consultant; a German lady, this time. Jasmine was scanned and measured, as was the fluid surrounding her. The consultant looked at our notes, looked at the scans, the measurements, the dates.
"We redate the pregnancy," she said, simply, to someone else.
When no one responded, she elaborated.
"You say baby is small for dates? We give her a new due date of December 4th and she is not small, she is perfect size."
And that was that. The fluid had increased, miraculously and, thanks to an authoritative German, Jasmine was no longer worryingly small.
I must admit, I still had my doubts. It is hard to trust the belief of one person over weeks of being told the exact opposite. But the original due date (November 23rd) came and went with no sign of us becoming parents. And in the early hours of Wednesday December 3rd 2008, I woke and slowly realised that Jasmine was on her way.
The labour was uneventful, thankfully.
It was freezing when we left for the hospital at 4:30am. I was in some pain and not enjoying having to wait for our hire car to de-ice. We listened to the King Blues and to one song in particular - the only song that would soothe our tiny girl in the following weeks. The short journey felt like an eternity and I was grateful to finally be in hospital, awaiting the arrival of our baby.
I remember not the pain but the sense that I could manage it. I remember rejecting gas and air because the taste made me feel sick, and I remember that our lovely midwife was called Esther. I remember being so sure that I didn't want any pain relief until the minute before Jasmine was born. Then I wanted everything, but it was too late, of course. I remember watching James cut the umbilical cord. I remember hearing Jasmine cry, for the first time, and seeing her beautiful pink self being passed to me. I remember not caring that I could feel the sharp stab of the stitches. I remember watching James look at Jas with so much love; more than I'd ever seen displayed by anyone. I remember her eyes, and him telling me that they were just like mine. I remember the happiness and the feeling that it had all ended so perfectly that I would do it all again, tomorrow.
Textbook, they said. The birth was textbook. For a couple who had barely dared to believe that this pregnancy would end well, it was the biggest relief. A perfect beginning to the life of our perfect daughter.
Jasmine: born 03/12/08 at 10:51 am weighing 7lbs 2oz