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Daughter: Natalia Barbara

When Tim and I got married, both at the age of forty, it was "out of the blue". I already thought I would never marry anybody. When we talked about having a baby together it was unbelievable happiness that it was also possible. Maybe I could even have a girl this time!

Tim said that whenever he imagined having a baby it was always a girl and besides he said we already had a very good boy so why should we want another one?

I became quite obsessed with the idea of having a daughter. When I was in Russia I asked a woman to calculate for me what sex of a child we were more likely to have. People told me that the woman had never been proven wrong. She took the birthdays of a man and a woman and did some mysterious calculations. She said that most likely we were going to have a girl.

I also heard that if I renewed my blood I would as well have more chance to have a girl. How could I renew my blood? I heard if I gave some of my blood away the rest of it would start renewing itself. So I went to a donor centre in Manchester and gave some blood, that was very much appreciated. It could very well be an old wife's tale but why not try it? It was not difficult.

My pregnancy was a very good one, the only problem I had was severe heartburn. I even joked that I would have to call my daughter Hilary because of the first letter.

When I was seven months pregnant and was having a scan I again wanted to make sure that I did have a girl (after all my efforts to ensure it) but they were reluctant to tell me. I think nobody could be a hundred per cent sure and they did not want to be blamed later for having been wrong. It has happened.

They asked me why I wanted to know the sex of my baby so much and I had two reasons to offer. If it was going to be a boy I would gradually get used to the idea of having another boy. If they told me that it was going to be a girl I would enjoy the rest of my pregnancy enormously.

I think my reasons satisfied them because when I was having the scan the nurse was showing me the picture of the baby, saying: "Look, these are the she-baby's arms, this is the she-baby's head", "this is the she-baby's bottom" and so on. I admired the way she was saying it as she still was not allowed to tell me straight: "It's a girl". It was one of the best things I had ever heard.

I enjoyed my pregnancy very much, everybody was saying I was blooming. I also enjoyed preparing all the baby clothes such as: little tiny vests, suits and shoes, as well as bottles, changing mat, nappies and so on. I could never dream of such a great choice of things for a new-born baby in Russia!

Before I was pregnant, whenever I passed "Mothercare" or "Adams" or some other shop with all those wonderful baby things in them I could not help feeling jealous about the women who were shopping there. Now they were my shops too! I had the right not just to look but to buy as well. It was like a game to me, I thought I was going to play "Mothers and Daughters" and it was fun!

The nursery was ready in time and painted pink. The beautiful lace curtain was from Siberia - a present from my mother to her future granddaughter. Tim's parent's gave us a nice soft carpet for the nursery.

A lot of my time, usually before going to bed, I spent reading Johnson and Johnson's "Mother and baby care" book. I even remembered some breathing exercises although I was quite sceptical about them. I did not believe they were going to work. However I wish I could have had such a book on labour years ago in Russia when I was expecting my first baby.

So when one fine night ( it was the 15th of October to be precise) my waters broke about two o'clock in the morning Tim and I knew it was time to go to the hospital. It took us a while to find the right door but we got there eventually. I was examined and given a bed. Tim left.

He came to see me about twice the next day but as in my first pregnancy many years ago nothing seemed to be happening. I was not sure whether I wanted my husband with me during labour or not. I thought I would make that decision when it came to it. Tim always told me he was prepared to stay through the labour with me if I needed him. It was very nice to feel his support.

When the contractions started at about 7pm I suddenly felt I wanted to stay on my own. Tim did not argue and left, a little bit hastily I noticed. I thought he felt kind of relieved. By ten o'clock the contractions were stronger, with smaller intervals and I went into labour which lasted till half past five in the morning.

The pain was really bad as it was natural labour all the way. Sometimes I thought I could not take a little bit more pain but to my surprise I could control myself. A midwife was with me in the room all the time. At first she tried to help holding me and trying to tell me what to do but when she saw that my actions made sense and were quite well organised she left me alone and only did her jobs like: measuring my blood pressure, baby's heartbeat etc. and putting the numbers down. It must have been an easy night for her because she did not have to do much. I did it all by myself until the very last bit when there were two midwives with me to help me to finish the "job".

My mind was clear and I knew what I was doing and why. When a contraction came I jumped off the bed quickly taking the vertical position (something to do with gravity) and found the pain much more tolerable that way. As soon as the contraction was over I lay down to rest again. When the contractions became very frequent I thought I was like a soldier exercising "ups" and "downs" on the parade ground. I thought it must have looked very funny indeed.

In between and sometimes during the contractions I was watching a film about vampires on television. I think it had Tom Cruise in it. It was also very long as I thought it was going on nearly all night.

Then the time came when I wanted to push the baby out but my body was not ready for it yet. The midwife kept asking me not to push but it was very difficult to stop because it felt like somebody else was pushing for me against my own will. It was also very painful.

Suddenly, oh miracle, I remembered one of the breathing exercises from my book! I forgot my scepticism and the next time when my body started to push I quickly leaned down to the right position and started to breath as the book taught. After only two or three breaths it worked: my body stopped pushing and the pain went! I could not believe it! Later I learned that that single exercise had saved me from having stitches.

So I was really busy and felt that the midwife was watching me in great surprise. One minute I jumped straight up like a soldier to make the contraction less painful, the next minute I was leaning down on the bed with my bottom in the air breathing to stop the pushing. And this is what I was exercising for maybe an hour or more.

Then at last we came to the "push, push" stage and this is when the second midwife came to hold me and to help with the most important part of the job. I could feel how my little girl slipped out of me on the bed and she has been with me ever since.

I was glad Tim was not there. First of all I think I would have been embarrassed. Secondly I wanted to concentrate on what I was doing and having another person there would have distracted my attention from the labour. If he had tried to help me I think he would be interfering with what I was doing. However if he had been there I think it would have made him laugh for the rest of his life. I thought it was rather humorous.

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