Today son number two is four, and very proud of the fact. He marched into nursery this morning declaring 'I am four, I am a BIG boy now', and instantly set about that uniquely male pursuit of comparing spoils with one of his best friends who is also four today. It turns out that although his friend's badge is bigger, it's not a Transformers birthday badge and is therefore infinitely inferior, phew.
Whenever one of my sons has a birthday I try to carve a few quiet moments in the day to recall the day of his birth. I am assuming this will become ever harder as they get older, but at just four years distance I can still remember pretty clearly how I was feeling on this day in 2005. I had been induced the day before and all the midwives were convinced that because this was number two the moment the magic gel hit my bits I would instantly pop out my boy.
Oh how wrong they were. I spent a boring night waiting for those elusive contractions to start and begging the midwives to give me more drugs to kick start the whole show. Despite my recalcitrant womb, which remained stubbornly contraction-free, they were still unwilling to move things along and by morning there was still no sign of him. My husband was very happy about this as, although he claims to scorn all superstition, he didn't want his son to be born on the 13th of the month.
Day two of twiddling my thumbs and waiting for any sign of action found us taking a walk in a beautiful nearby park. I still remember that the weather was unseasonably warm and we sat outside the park cafe on pretty white garden chairs, the sun beating down on our backs and me, on a strict fast, lusting after the cakes and crisps being consumed by the usual crowd of mums, toddlers and retirees. I lumbered around the park, feeding the ducks and missing my own toddler who was back at home with grandma, hoping that the rolling movement of my cumbersome body would somehow persuade Mr Baby to make his entrance into the world.
It was a sign of things to come though, as son number two is wholly disapproving of both doing as he is told and doing anything at speed. On dragged the hours, I was back in bed and finally more drugs were dripped into me in the hopes of getting those elusive contractions going. At last it seemed to work and I was wheeled into the labour ward. More drugs, a fuzzy sickness descends and much of the next few hours is lost in an opium induced haze.
My experience of hard drugs is entirely limited to those administered during childbirth and from the effect they had on me then I can safely say that I don't think there is any chance of me becoming a junkie. Far from making me feel floaty light and full of joy, morphine and its ilk send me into a vomiting, shivering state that I wouldn't replicate for pleasure.
When I was at my posh private hospital after having the twins, I entered this 'delightful' phase as a result of the morphine drip I was given after my C-section, the solicitous midwife mopped my brow and said 'You don't do recreational drugs do you dear", in the slightly awed tones of one more accustomed to dealing with a far more louche celebrity crowd.
Anyway I digress. After many more hours of sickness and delirium, a reassuringly efficient consultant came in and said that if the baby wasn't out within 15 minutes it was a C-section for me. By this point I would have agreed to someone gouging him out with a rusty spoon I was so desperate to give birth. Fortunately the doc had one more trick up her sleeve, quite literally as it turns out, as she shoved her hand inside me and rummaged about in a manner that brought to mind James Herriot birthing a reluctant calf from it's surprised mother.
Fifteen minutes to the second later my darling baby popped out into the hands of the consultant serenaded by the dulcet tones of Jamie Cullen. The first thing he did was look for the food, setting the pattern of a lifetime.
He was the most adorable baby, after my skinny little firstborn, his thick padding of baby fat was a pleasant change, as was his readiness to eat. Son number one had wailed and screamed at the mere suggestion of breast milk, chewing down agonisingly on my nipple only to bat it away in disgust. We never really settled with each other until I moved onto the bottle which he took to instantly. Son number two didn't mind where his food came from, as long as it was plentiful.
My first night with my second baby remains one of best nights of my life. It distilled all the adoration and passion of first love into eight dark hours in a stark hospital room. With son number one I had clung to my husband when he had to leave, terrified to be left on my own with my firstborn. With son number two I shooed him away as soon as possible so I could get some alone time with this gorgeous new boy in my life.
I was as exhausted as the first time round, but what was absent was the abject terror, I was a confident mummy by now and I knew how change a nappy, bring up burps and feed, so rather than being scared of my baby I simply couldn't wait to get to know him.
That first night was spend in a daze of love, I would feed him from breast and bottle so he was satiated, he would sleep for two hours and then wake with a gentle, crackling newborn cry. I would hold him close, feed him up and he would go down to sleep again. We spent the night recovering from the excess of labour and birth and falling into endless, infinite love.
When my husband returned, with some trepidation, in the morning he was greeted not with the white faced fear of two years before, but with the beatific smile of a woman in the first throes of a love affair. How he must have heaved a sigh of relief.
Four years on and I love my boy even more. He still eats and sleeps like an angel, he is even more beautiful than those big brown eyes and mole soft cap of velvety black newborn hair suggested he would be and he still likes to dictate his own timetable.
Happy birthday to my big four-year-old boy, and thank you for proving to be just as amazing (and more so) as I believed you would be on that very first night I spent falling in love with you.