by Sylvia Ashby
Family is where life begins.
And what better time to spend with your family than Christmas week?
Ashley and Giacomo go to Upper Swainswick, a postcard village ten minutes’ drive from Bath, to stay with Ashley’s mum and stepdad. It’s their last visit before the arrival of their first child.
But babies have a habit of being unpredictable.
So when Ashley goes into labour on Christmas Eve, three weeks ahead of schedule, it takes everyone by surprise.
She’s not ready! Her perfect Birth Plan is packed away in her hospital bag two hundred miles away, she has no going home outfit, and she has a live event planned for New Year’s Eve for her YouTube channel, The Sinking Chef. People have been signing up for it for weeks. She can’t possibly disappoint them on the last day of the year. What is she to do?
The tinsel gets even more tangled when Giacomo’s parents decide to fly from Italy to meet their first grandchild. Hotels are fully booked, so everyone has to stay under the same roof.
Would eleven people in the house, not counting the baby, turn out to be simply too much for Ashley?
Predictability is key in having an uncomplicated birth, I realise.
Joslyn, a young and tall American lady at the antenatal classes, even tried to use an ancient Japanese fortune-telling device – omikuji to predict the correct birth date for her child. I checked it on the internet and omikuji is basically a paper strip with a prophecy written on it and can be found at shrines and temples throughout Japan.
Only Joslyn wasn’t in Japan, but in England and we don’t have many shrines and temples around. So she made do with a free omikuji generator online. She got “uncertain bad luck”, “uncertain good luck” and “middle bad luck” and was quite hysterical for the rest of her pregnancy. I don’t think she scheduled a Caesarean either.
‘Giacomo, could you give us a hand with the wine? I want to pick some good Prosecco. You stay in the car, darling,’ Mum chirps towards me as she hurries out. ‘We won’t be a mo.’
‘I’ll come with you,’ I cry after her. I don’t fancy spending the next half an hour alone in the car. Mum’s “moments” can be anywhere up to an hour at a time.
I open the car door and put my foot out. I step right into a puddle which soaks my boot with German efficiency.
‘Great.’ I groan.
I turn in my seat and try to get out of the car avoiding the puddle with my other foot. Hopefully, it’ll be warm inside Marks & Spencer’s so my boot will dry out fast. I manage to step over the wet patch and slide out of the seat when a Braxton Hicks hits me so hard I double over in pain. I close my eyes, breathe and pant for a few seconds. Hot sweat flushes down my body and soaks me all the way down to my, already wet, feet. This contraction is particularly strong. It makes me grip my stomach, huddle my shoulders and shiver against the strong December wind.
I really wish I was at home, in bed, and not in a supermarket car park braving the wind. “I’m pregnant and in pain!” I want to shout after Mum who’s just disappearing through the supermarket’s sliding doors. Next to her is Michael, who is still tapping on his phone and not looking where he’s going.
‘You all right, love?’ I hear a man’s voice from close proximity. I look up. It’s the man I saw this morning collecting donations by the M&S front door. The one with the Rudolf jumper and Santa hat. He’s looking at me with an open interest.
‘I’m fine, thanks.’ I straighten up and brush my hair back. ‘It’s Braxton Hicks,’ I explain. ‘It’s not the real thing.’
The man doesn’t look convinced. He shakes his green donation bucket, making it rattle thoughtfully.
‘Braxton Hicks, uh?’ he says. ‘It’s doesn’t look like Braxton Hicks to me.’
I glare at him, irate. Why does everyone around me think they are childbirth experts? Mum, Michael, now this man in a ridiculous reindeer jumper with a donation bucket.
‘I’ve just been to the hospital,’ I inform him, ‘where I was thoroughly examined,’ “by a nurse with a uterus” I almost add but stop myself. ‘They assured me these are Braxton Hicks’.
‘Right,’ the man doesn’t waver. ‘Who did you say examined you?’
Honestly! Why does this man think I have time for chit-chat when I’m in so much pain?
I lean back against the car for support. I feel quite faint all of a sudden.
‘I can’t remember,’ I tell him breathlessly. ‘And does it really matter anyway?’
The man shakes his donation bucket again.
‘I think they might have got it wrong.’
‘Maybe.’ I force myself to nod politely. ‘What makes you say that?’
‘That wet patch on the front of your jeans is a pretty big telltale,’ he says, eying my legs.
I look down.
‘Oh, my God!’ I squeal. ‘My waters broke!’
About the Author
Sylvia Ashby is fond of the written word: books, blog posts, recipes, even an explanation to the HM Revenue & Customs as to why she thinks skirts should be exempt from VAT - she's written it all!
She likes travelling and has lived all over Europe - London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Sofia, Bulgaria. Currently, she lives in Leuven, Belgium with her husband, daughter, son and a sparrow called Jack, who comes occasionally to peck the seeds she leaves for him on top of the garden shed.
a pair of Prosecco funny socks