Part II : Good things
I set off from home at 7am for the now-familiar drive over to Royal Derby Hospital.
After a few days, trying to get Rachael's labour moving nothing had happened. Things had started, stopped and now just about ground to a halt.
I had been getting regular updates over the following days as Rachael, Danny, Charlotte and Ben met with doctors. Different doctors gave different advice making things a bit difficult to fathom. If the baby was 9lb why was there concern over the growth over the past few weeks? Was this a serious problem?
Finally, the last consultant explained in more detail that slowing of the growth might wasn't the concern itself, but it might mean she isn't strong enough to cope with the labour - so that is why they wanted to get her out quicker.
With this clarity, Rachael was happy to have waters broken to hopefully kick off the induction again, and progress at greater speed.
So here I was on day 7 of this birth photography assignment, back at the hospital on a fresh crisp morning readying myself for waters being broken at 9.30am. I was determined that I was NOT going to miss this birth now!
Day 7 begins...
I need not have hurried! Although she was scheduled to be seen by doctors at 9.30am, a few emergencies came in and obviously took priority. We were back in familiar territory again.
M&S prawn crackers.
Pork pies. Sausage rolls.
Waiting for a baby is certainly not good for your waistline.
Finally at about 3.30pm, we were told that it was our turn. We moved to our favourite room - number 12, the midwives started their checks and set up.
We gave them some space to break the waters. But there was another surprise - meconium in her waters. Which meant that Rachael needed to be monitored more, and couldn't use the birthing pool.
But, now the waters were broken, we at least knew that a baby would arrive soon. The ticking clock begins and there is no more waiting days and days. The anticipation ramped up and after time crawling along, the pace was now changing.
Ben went to get the paperwork out the car, and Charlotte showed me the binder bursting with legal and administrative papers required for surrogacy. They also had the card Rachael had sent them with the message "I want to have your babies" - brilliant!
Soon Rachael started to look more uncomfortable and focussed within, so I knew that things were starting to happen. Her eyes were closed, she was breathing through contractions quietly. But with everything getting intense, and still dealing with meconium and leaking waters, at 5.30pm Rachael decided she wanted some time with just Danny there. We left them alone awhile so she could focus.
Seeing Rachael going through this, on her behalf, Charlotte was struggling with her emotions. Asking someone else to go through this, especially I think when it's not the home birth that they had all hoped for, she felt helpless but responsible. But we were happy to give Rachael some space, and so went around to the relatives room to watch TV as a distraction.
At around 7pm, Charlotte popped to the toilet, leaving me an Ben watching TV.
A few seconds later, the midwife came running in.
"We can see the baby's head!!" she said.
I saw Ben going to the ladies toilets to fetch Charlotte so ran, camera in hand, straight to the room. Rachael was straining not to have the baby there and then.
"Where are they?" Rachael was saying
"You need to not push now if you want them here" said the midwife
Then, after what felt like 10 minutes - but was probably only 30 seconds - Charlotte and Ben rushed in.
As agreed, Charlotte was going to "catch" the baby and after whipping on some gloves she was there ready. Only one push and baby was out, and Charlotte crying big, ugly tears as she called them.
We couldn't believe it - after all that waiting, we nearly missed it.
Rachael was a complete goddess birthing this baby, and I think that's why she caught the midwives by surprise. She was quiet and focussed, and then suddenly baby was arriving.
I am quite simply in awe of what she did for Charlotte and Ben. What an amazing, generous gift.
Everyone noticed one thing though. This was not a small baby! As it turned out she was nearly 10lbs - and thankfully she was fighting fit too.
But all the concerns about the growth scans and meconium were already forgotten. Charlotte and Ben had their little girl at last.
After a shower and change, it was time for the customary tea & toast for Rachael, whilst Charlotte couldn't keep her eyes off her brand new baby. I stuck around until daylight turned to darkness and was sad to go home and leave this life-changing event.
And here she is, the much-cherished, the long-awaited, baby Etta.