Almost a week ago, I was waiting for someone to call me about an induction date, whilst trying to figure out how to negotiate my way through our various options with BOB. My deliberations, however, soon became moot - like many parts of this surprising journey. The carefully-laid plans for an FET. The alternative birth options we researched and living arrangements we put in place when floods overtook our city, leaving us to evacuate our house in the eighth month of this pregnancy. The backup sleeping spots I organised in case the bassinet mattress failed to arrive in time. All moot, to name but a few.

Because the FET never had to happen, and the floods subsided, leaving our house high and dry and pregnancy intact, and the bassinet mattress turned up more than half a week past our estimated due date but days before the baby arrived. And in the case of my ponderings over the induction, they were moot because labour started later that night, and by the morning our little girl was safely in our arms.

Let me tell that bit to you from the start.

In Monday's report, I mentioned that I was having haphazard cramps, kind of like period pains. And that I had become so irritable and fed up with The Prata Baby, who wasn't really misbehaving, that I had called Mr Bea home from work an hour early to give me a break. Around ten pm, whilst watching TV, I noticed that the cramps were becoming more intense. I found myself closing my eyes until they passed, but they were irregular, and I was still able to keep one ear on the program in front of me. I decided, however, that things were starting to get underway, and that it was a good time to catch some sleep before I lost the chance. I had a shower and went to bed. I ordered Mr Bea to bed, too. Ordered, apparently. He said that, in hindsight, it was a sign he should have heeded more seriously. I may not have been doubled over with pain or breaking my waters throughout the house, but I was irritable and bossy and that should have been a warning. He's probably right.

Somewhere around midnight, having dozed on and off for nearly two hours, I started absent-mindedly counting contractions. When I woke up properly, around one, to go to the toilet, I calculated that they were probably coming around ten minutes apart. Or not, depending on how reliable you thought my counting had been, given that I was three-quarters asleep. Then I lost the mucous plug, and I decided to tell the entire internet about it before going back to bed, and sleep. But my plans were never carried through, because when I stood up I had a succession of rather intense contractions quite close together, which I rode out in various positions in the living room. When things quietened down a little, I decided to wake Mr Bea.

Mr Bea was quite reluctant to be woken. I got extremely frustrated with him and started bossing him around forcefully, which didn't work either. He was wandering around in a daze, taking ten minutes to complete simple requests that should have taken one, whining and arguing the point every step of the way. At about 1:30 I asked him to bring me the cordless phone and after I wheedled the action out of him (it took maybe ten minutes), I rung the hospital to speak with someone about when, possibly, I should come in. Mr Bea's attitude changed slightly at this point - apparently he had not realised that I was in labour. He must have thought I was waking him in the middle of the night and asking him to gather hospital supplies for kicks or... look, the guy was half asleep, let's not judge. We can all be really, alarmingly dense between one and two in the morning.

As soon as somebody answered the phone on the other end, the contractions started to ease off. I spoke to the midwife for a while, as she timed the duration and frequency of a few contractions, and tried to assess their intensity from my tone of voice over the phone. I could still speak through most of them, and through the others I was taking deep, slow breaths or producing softly audible sighs. She told me I should get my parents around to take over care of The Prata Baby, and maybe have a snack to eat whilst I waited for their arrival. She suggested toast. I thought toast sounded great, so I asked Mr Bea to make me some and this time, he got right onto it. I was to call them back when we were ready to start in.

On my way to the kitchen, things picked up. I dropped onto my hands and knees twice before I reached the end of the hallway, and one contraction was so strong it sent shudders through my body. I used the hypnobirthing techniques I'd gleaned from the book - deep breathing and visualisation. In my mind, I pictured my cervix as a big, shiny ribbon, gently unravelling before my eyes. I pictured my body dissolving, leaving only the sensations of labour, then I focussed on causing the sensations of labour to dissolve away, too.

When I got to the kitchen, toast sounded less appealing than a cool shower to take the sweat off my suddenly-heated body, so I made my way to the bathroom and hopped in. I worried briefly about how I would look to my parents when they arrived, and then a new series of contractions sent me to my knees in the tub. These ones were powerful enough to make me switch to the vocalisation techniques we'd gone through in yoga class. I opened my mouth and produced a low "aaaahhh" sound, sliding it down through the scale like a trombone. I remember feeling compelled to press forcefully against the bathtub with my arms, and I knew I should head for the hospital, but I wasn't really sure how to get out of the tub. I tried to plan a sequence of movements in my head, but it was hard to concentrate with the contractions coming one of top of each other as they were.

Then all of a sudden - it didn't seem like more than a few minutes later - I felt a change. And all at once, I knew these concerns were moot, too.

Mr Bea was hovering uncertainly by the bath, bringing me the news that my toast was ready. "I feel like pushing," I said simply. He made some sort of alarmed noise, but I didn't hear what he said, because I was having another contraction. I fought my instinct to push upwards with my arms and say "aaaahhh" and instead lowered my chest and puffed, to slow things down. When I could talk again, I said, "It's alright. It's fine. Everything's ok."

It's always amazed me how well that technique works. If you ever feel like taking charge of a situation that has everyone in a tizz, follow this advice: appear calm, authoritative and reassuring. Tell everyone firmly that things are under control, no matter what the truth may be. They will instantly decide - although decide isn't quite the word; the reaction is less deliberative than that - to follow your every instruction. Immediately, and without fuss or question. Try it and see.

I assured Mr Bea that everything was okay, then after a short pause (to allow this hard-wired human reaction to take effect) I went on to say, "I want you to go into the living room and get the cordless phone and bring it straight back in here." He left. Immediately, and without fuss or question. I had another contraction. This time, I felt the baby moving down the birth canal and knew we didn't have much time.

"Can you see anything?" I asked when he got back. He told me he couldn't see much - just some blood. "Okay. I want you to remove the redback spider from the wall in front of me."

"The what?"

"The redback spider. There is a redback spider crawling around in our bathtub in front of me. Please get it out." After a moment of stunned disbelief, he did this, whilst I had another contraction. Puff, puff, puff. Soon I could speak again.

"I want you to call triple O and ask for an ambulance," I told him.

He started dialling. I heard him give our address as I fought my instinct to bear down during the next contraction. Then I heard him say he could see the head. This seemed to alarm him somewhat, and he started shouting in exasperation at the person on the other end of the line, who was obviously still going through the initial, routine questions. "What? How old is my wife? I can see the baby's head! It's happening really fast!" he was saying.

A new contraction started, and I knew there was no way I could keep her inside any longer. "The head is coming," I said to Mr Bea, and I eased her out as gently as I could.

"The head is out!" he shouted down the phone.

And I asked him, "Are you ready to catch the baby?" I think I asked him several times, and I never really listened to the answer, but I heard him get into the bathtub behind me and I saw him under my armpit, ready and waiting with arms outstretched.

There was one more contraction and Surprise Baby was born. "Have you got her? Is she pink? How's her breathing?" I asked Mr Bea. I heard muffled infant noises.

"The cord's around her neck," he said urgently, and I turned to look and saw that it wasn't, really, it was going over her shoulder and around the back of her neck, well away from her windpipe.

"It's fine, it's not obstructing her airway," I assured him, but I had to say it several times. "Give her to me and grab that towel." He did. I unwound the cord in order to bring her to my chest and bundled her up, wiping her mouth and nose with the towel as she stared up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Mr Bea was talking down the phone again.

"She's making soft noises. Yes, my wife's doing that. Yes, she's doing that, she's doing that. Um, I don't know, we haven't checked yet..." I checked... "A girl, it's a girl. Thanks. Yes. Ha!" He was babbling with relief, and grinning wildly. Then, "I have to go and let the ambulance guys in," he said to me, and he took off up the hallway to the front door.

There's not too much more to tell. The ambulance guys came in, they clamped the cord, they checked us both over, placed the very Adam and Eve of all maternity pads under me and escorted us to the ambulance waiting outside. They suggested they snap us a quick picture. Then Surprise Baby - how aptly named! - and I took off for the hospital whilst Mr Bea made a cup of tea to go with my uneaten - but still slightly warm - toast, and waited for my parents to arrive.

The Prata Baby, bless his tender little heart, slept through the whole thing.

Thus endeth the tale.

There's only so many ways you can compose a post to say, "Nup." I have, therefore, largely refrained. Today, however, I had a marginally more exciting stretch and sweep and we discussed booking an induction in case that doesn't work. (The receptionist was supposed to ring me back to tell me which day we were going to make that, exactly, only she hasn't, so I'll have to chase her tomorrow. Sometime towards the end of the week, only, hopefully not because hopefully things will happen before we get to that point.)

Here's the thing. Last time, as you probably don't recall, I had the stretch and sweep and the prostin gel at the same time and it all kicked off nicely. This time BOB says there's no point in using the gel because the cervix is already nice and soft and ready to go (apparently he can stretch my cervix out to 4cm without any trouble at all, by which I presume he meant trouble on his part) so the gel won't really won't add anything to a stretch and sweep. And I'm sure he's not making that up or anything. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who likes to make up medical facts for fun, or because he's too lazy to ask someone where they keep the prostin and can he grab some, please.

But it's hard to shake the thought that it worked so well last time and I guess I'm just not a big fan of going straight from here to ARM or a pitocin drip and I'm wondering... can it hurt to humour the batty patient? So I'm rehearsing a little speech in my head where we do it anyway, just for fun, just in case it's the mystery ingredient my body needs to nudge it into labour, and see where that takes us for an hour or two (it worked within an hour or two last time) and then we can maybe move on with his plan if need be. It can't be - in fact, it isn't, from what he told me about the reasons for his running over an hour late this morning - the craziest thing he's heard all week.

At the same time, if he's right and it wasn't actually the gel last time (and my body responds similarly this time) then I should be in labour any moment now from the stretch and sweep alone. It's not completely out of the question - although I have to say I'm not obviously in labour like I was this many hours after the stretch+sweep+gel combo of yore - because I have been having haphazard... cramps? dare I say contractions? often enough to call Mr Bea home early from work and help out with the bedtime routine. Not because I am physically incapacitated, as such, but because the cramps are strong enough that I am getting rapidly fed up with being crashed into, pestered, pummeled, whined at, or otherwise interfered with in the middle of them. I mean, heaven forbid I try to close my eyes and breath deeply during a particularly sharp one. I will instantly get my eyes poked and Somebody will shout in my ear, "Mum! Mum! Don't pretend to sleep, Mum! Muuuuuuum!" and after several hours of this sort of thing I was starting to go... well, it was ruining my Zen. So Mr Bea is doing teeth cleaning and I am taking a break and he will finish off his last hour of work from home later on, when all is a little more peaceful and icecreamful.

Which is something that will only happen if I duck off now to acquire said icecream.

I'll let you know if anything escalates, or if someone calls me back with an induction date, or whatever. 40w8d, and heading for the end game...

I am mainly posting because people are asking for updates. I don't actually have an update, however, so this is more of a non-update.

Nothing has happened. The plan is still the same - if still nothing by next Monday we might start doing things. And then if that doesn't work I guess we'll do other things. And in the meantime I have googled the sorts of things we can do on our own, and have started doing a lot of them.

Sorry to get you all going with news of contractions, but that doesn't seem to have led anywhere at this stage. My to-do list now contains items such as "review superannuation", so... mainly thumb twiddling... although I am still waiting on that bassinet mattress... we'll see... 40w2d and signing off...

I have just paid our latest embryo storage bill.

Did you know that in some states of Australia, embryo storage times are limited, perhaps to as little as five years? Or at least they were last time I heard, which was admittedly several years ago now. You might like to check my facts.

The point is, I just paid our latest embryo storage bill, and in doing so I paused for a moment, because in so many other ways I live in the conservative backwaters of assisted reproductive and alternative family-building legislation. I'm not trying to imply you can't use third party reproductive techniques (including surrogacy), adopt, or become a homosexual or single parent, but our brothers and sisters in other regions seem to fare much more easily on those fronts. When it comes to storing embryos, on the other hand, well, bless us one and all. As long as I pay the fees, they'll stay in the freezer, no questions asked. Which means that if, for example, one has embryos left over from a disastrous OHSS cycle performed in early 2006, which generated enough almost-rans to sink most reasonable people into some degree of panic, depression and/or financial disarray, such that it was decided to start fresh in mid-2007 and leave those last embryos for a later, saner time, which - praise be! - ended up being necessarily deferred until after the birth of a healthy child and then - praise and also astonishment be! - until sometime after the birth of another, completely unexpected surprise baby... just to pluck a set of circumstances from thin air... if this were to happen to you, and you weren't particularly keen to up and bin the whole batch on the spot just because some bureaucrat couldn't see why it would possibly take anyone longer than five years to use a frozen embryo, you don't have to jump through any legislative hoops or fill in any forms explaining your circumstances or justifying your decisions in triplicate to any legislative body in order to have your wishes granted, especially when you might have other things to do like, maybe, give birth*.

You just have to pay your bill. And they stay right where they are, in the freezer. As they should.

*Or not. I did have mild, yet regular contractions for an hour or so last night, between about 3:30 and 4:30am - about 30s each, about 5-10mins apart - but that all seems to have gone by the wayside. Bets are still wide open. My eyes, on the other hand, are not. Sleep awaits.

My to-do list is looking decidedly undaunting all of a sudden. Perhaps it's because of this that I feel as if I've hit a bit of a wall the last few days. I think I'm starting to recover - I suspect I just need a couple of afternoon naps.

There is no news. Surprise Baby still looks fine at 39w2d and is even back in an optimal position, after a brief flirt with a posterior presentation last week. BOB advises that the risks of induction are lower for women with a proven record of vaginal delivery, which is heartening, although he is still inclined to wait it out til after 41 weeks to give things a chance to start off on their own - all other things being equal, of course. Then (as long as conditions look favourable) he'd probably start with stretches and sweeps and the like before moving on to anything more serious, or keep waiting til 42 weeks, whichever we prefer/seems appropriate at the time. I think stretches and sweeps from 41+ weeks under favourable conditions sounds fine based on our discussion today. So that's where we're at. Current plan is two more weeks for things to hurry themselves along, and then we start nudging. If we get to that point. I'll keep you posted.

For those who follow Prata Baby there is a new post up there, too. Behind the password as it discusses infertility stories of friends who have not given permission to be publicly blogged about.

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