The idea of having another child had been on the cards for sometime, so last summer, while on holiday in Europe, my husband and I decided to expand our family. I have survived two relatively easy pregnancies in Australia. How different could it be in China?
Besides, I am much more concerned about the timing of the birth than location. Only five percent of babies are born on their estimated due date, but expectant mothers fixate on the magical number circled in red on the calendar. My first two daughters were born past their due dates, and the hardest period of pregnancy for me, psychologically at least, has always been the last four weeks of the 40-week cycle. Despite the slim chances of the third baby arriving early, I am determined to have this third (and final) child on time.
By 36 weeks, I’m completely overwhelmed by everyday life. I’ve outgrown every pair of maternity pants and obsess over every dull ache and twinge. Even a coffee date is too much of a commitment. My mother, affectionately known as Nanna Anna, has arrived in Beijing to provide support on the home front. Juggling an energetic 3-year-old and the homework demands of a 6-year-old while being the size of a hippopotamus isn’t one of my strengths.
At 37 weeks, the nurses know me by name – a sure sign this has been going on too long! I’m visiting the toilet five times a night and gain two kilograms in a week thanks to a sale on my favorite chocolate biscuits. Thankfully, my determination to cut back on sweets is replaced by a taste for felafel and baba ganoush.
Morning sickness returns to mark 38 weeks and emotions run high with the sinking realization that I’m probably going to be "late" for a third time. I continue to eat punnets of pineapple and buckets of curry, washed down with a glass or two of wine to try and hurry things along.
At 39 weeks and technically only one week to go, a trip to the doctor reveals no progress. Nothing. He then leaves the country for two weeks, joking that he’ll see me when he returns. I’m not sure which is worse – perpetually grey skies or still being pregnant. I’m beginning to think spring is the forgotten season and that Ugg boots really shouldn’t be needed in April.
Two days to go and a note from school that my eldest daughter needs a traditional Chinese outfit as part of a lesson on how Chinese culture has changed over the last century, including foot binding. A trip to Yashow wasn’t something I’d planned at this point, but I’m up for anything in the hopes that the waddle and a bit of ruthless negotiation might move things along.
One day to go and I’m hiding at home unable to cope with yet another random comment of "Oh, you have a baby!" I’m so exhausted by yesterday’s outing that I take a long afternoon nap with my younger daughter.
Finally, the estimated due date arrives and much to my dismay, I’m still pregnant. I’ve tried every old wives’ remedy – bounced on birthing balls, walked, jumped, laughed, cried, wallowed and nested as best as possible. (Much to my better half’s delight, there are no walls to paint this time. What we do have on the home improvement front is a series of shelves, racks and hooks in the laundry and a brand new set of color-coded boxes to store everything from children’s craft supplies to maps and menus.)
After much anguish, I decide during my 40-week check-up that I cannot wait for Mother Nature any longer and schedule an induction that night. The thought of hailing a taxi in the rain at midnight is far too hard. As soon as the girls are tucked into bed, my husband and I make our way to hospital and settle into our room. After waiting patiently for two hours and one mild contraction, the doctor on duty announces that I am already in early labor. Hooray!
Now I’m torn between returning home or enjoying a nice night away from the children. What if nothing happens and I’m sent home tomorrow anyway? Thankfully, four hours later, contractions begin spontaneously. Eight hours later, aided by gallons of hot water, pressure-point massage and a variety of colorful language, we are proudly nursing our third precious princess. And this time, she was only born one day late. After proving himself a valiant birth support partner for a third time, Baba has announced he’s never ever going through that again.
Elise Nadine Cahill Baird was born at 11.13am
on April 23, weighing in at 3.48kg