Before I had a baby, what did I know about birth? Frantic notes taken in ante natal classes and a terrifying evening watching One Born Every Minute
But then I met a new mum who'd had a 'good birth' – and suddenly I thought, okay, maybe I can do this.
Now a new website aims to bring together anxious mums-to-be and women who want to share their positive experience.
Active birth teacher and doula Natalie Meddings is behind www.tellmeagoodbirthstory.com
, which she describes as something of a dating agency – nervous pregnant 30-something seeks mother-of-one for coffee (decaffeinated) and chat.
"This is not promising people on a wing and a prayer," she said. "It's about believing in your body.
Natalie, who is based in South London, said: "That belief comes a bit from books and NCT classes but in the old days it came from other women – your sister, your mother, your neighbour."
It's not unusual to get near your due date without really talking to someone about the sheer practicalities of having a baby.
Tales we do hear aren't always encouraging. There are plenty of horror stories in the news with tales of emergency Caesareans after agonising two-day labours making the headlines. But in fact only around 20% of births in this country are classed as complicated, said Natalie, so somewhere out there eight out of 10 babies quietly arrive with relatively little fuss.
I headed to ante natal yoga classes to calm my nerves before our baby was born last year, and vividly remember meeting a new graduate – a tiny little two-week-old girl and proud mum who reassured us all that it doesn't always end in forceps.
The hospital preparation classes were thorough but heavily practical – all about different drug options and explanations on what happens if you end up in theatre.
But chatting to a brand new mum made me wonder if there was a less dramatic way to get this baby out. My scientist partner – normally sceptical about anything that could remotely be classed as 'hippy'– made a fair point. If birth is a complicated, medically demanding affair requiring surgery, drugs and a team of flying doctors, how come the entire human race didn't die out centuries ago?
has shown that nervous women are more likely to have longer labours, and also less likely to tell midwives of problems along the way, possibly delaying the help they need.
Friends of mine weren't always impressed with such research though. And why? Because it's often presented by men – and you reach a point in your pregnancy when you feel like your head will explode with so much information – and you definitely start to wonder what a man can honestly know about childbirth.
Sitting down over a cuppa for a bit of a chinwag with a real mum can fill you with confidence and be more inspiring than a man on the telly pondering what all the fuss is about.
And having a one-on-one conversation is a lot more personal than just reading anecdotes in a magazine or online chat forum.
Telling a good birth story is not about boasting of how you got through 26 hours of gruelling labour with half a paracetemol, or over sharing every gruesome, gory little detail. It is genuine reassurance that, yes, this is what my body does.
That feeling of confidence in your own body is something Natalie hopes to foster with tellmeagoodbirthstory.com
. "My fight is to stop women feeling powerless," she explained.
And a good birth does not have to be at home or in a pool with zero drugs and soothing music. It just means you feel in control of what is happening.
Having a baby should not be a passive experience – we as women should be able to make our own choices.
The message is simple, really: I did it, so can you.
- Week two
Ovulation usually happens around the end of week two or at the start of week three, and then... conception! Sperm meets egg and a zygote is formed. It heads off towards the uterus down the fallopian tube.</p>
- Week three
The cells multiply on the journey. Once they settle into the wall of the uterus the embyonic stage has begun. The embryo is still very tiny. It would fit on a pin head! The placenta now starts to grow.</p>
- Week four
Amazingly, the body's main organs have already started to grow. The heart is forming into chambers and beginning to beat, although it doesn't have a regular rhythm yet. If you could have a peek inside your womb, you'd maybe be able to spot the embryo; it is a few milimetres long.</p>
- Week five
A number of blood vessels have formed and the nervous system and brain start to develop around this time too. The embryo doesn't look anything like a baby so far, it resembles a tadpole with a big head instead!</p>
- Week six
By the end of week six the embryo should be a bit bigger than a grain of rice. Tiny lumps originate where the arms and legs will appear. The face starts to develop its shape with bumps, dents and holes where different features will eventually be.</p>
- Week seven
It's still busy in there! The beginnings of teeth appear and fingers and toes start to develop. Those fingers and toes will be webbed for a few weeks. Movement can often be seen on an ultrasound by the end of week seven.</p>
- Week eight
About the size of a bean, the embryo's tail is now disappearing and the body starts to look more straightened out. All the internal organs are present and they all start to do their jobs! Bones are developing as the limbs grow longer.</p>
- Week nine
Muscles have become strong enough to move the arms and legs of the embryo around this time. Skin starts to develop into two layers. The placenta is cleaning away waste, and is making food for your future child along with hormones.</p>
- Week 10
By the end of this week your embryo turns into a foetus. Fingernails start to grow, as well as taste buds in the tongue. Blood is being made and pumped around the body. Downy hair starts to grow from new hair follicles.</p>
- Week 11
The foetus can move more of its body. It can form a fist and arch its back. Eyelids are fully developed by now and the eyes will stay shut until much later in the pregnancy.</p>
- Week 12
You won't be able to feel any movement yet even though the embryo can respond to your touch at this stage. It might even get hiccups! By the end of the first trimester the foetus is pretty much fully formed. Now it just has to grow!</p>
- Week 13
At the start of the second trimester the foetus is still tiny. In week 13, it should weigh about the same as four two-pence coins. Despite being so small, amazingly the fingers already have their very own little fingerprints.</p>
- Week 14
Ideally, by now you will have had your first ultrasound appointment where you can see your future baby and hear the heartbeat. The foetus can now move around a lot more energetically as its muscles develop, although this movement is not controlled by the brain yet.</p>
- Week 15
Laguno starts to cover the body of the foetus. It's a fine downy hair which is shed before birth but may be seen on the bodies of premature babies. Occasionally a term baby is born with laguno still present, and baby seals are born with this hair too!</p>
- Week 16
The foetus is getting bigger all the time. It now is approximately the length of a small ruler. Sweat glands develop on the still transparent skin. The placenta has been growing too and is now about 1cm thick. The foetus's external genitals are forming.</p>
- Week 17
Bones are hardening, including the bones inside the ears. The foetus can now hear sound! Newborns have been shown to recognise the voices they hear while in the womb so don't feel silly chatting to your bump - you are getting to know each other already!</p>
- Week 18
Eyelashes and eyebrows start to sprout, although the eyelids are still tightly shut at this stage. Lots of funny faces are pulled around this time as your unborn baby starts to exercise the muscles needed to breathe and feed later.</p>
- Week 19
Although weight gain continues, growth from now on is a bit slower. The head size starts to look more in proportion with the body. The heartbeat of the foetus can now be heard with a stethoscope - a magical sound for mum! Many first-time mums feel movement for the first time around now.</p>
- Week 20
Around this time you should have your second scan at hospital. Your baby's genitals are developed enough to make it possible to tell what gender he or she is if you can't wait until the birth to find out.</p>
- Week 21
By week 21 the sebaceous glands in the skin are making the greasy, waxy material vernix, seen here on this newborn. This is thought to protect the skin. You are well into the second half of your pregnancy now and the embryo is about 27cm long.</p>
- Week 22
The 22 week old embryo can now swallow some of the liquid surrounding it, and so can make its own urine. It is putting on brown fat. This fat is to keep it warm when born. Nipples appear on boy and girls at about this stage. </p>
- Week 23
You might be surprised to know that the embryo has a startle reflex already. Alveoli (air sacs) are starting to form in the lungs. The embryo now should weigh about 500g, or 1lb.</p>
- Week 24
Babies born at 24 weeks have a chance of survival but there is quite a high risk of health problems for children arriving so prematurely. He would have to stay in hospital until at least his original due date.</p>
- Week 25
By now her eyes can open again, and she can blink too. Eyes are usually blue at birth and can take months to settle into their final colour. The brain, nervous system and bronchi in her lungs are all developing, and she is getting fatter.</p>
- Week 26
The brain is now controlling some movement, so for example, by week 26 he can turn away from bright lights shining onto mum's abdomen. He has regular sleeping and waking patterns and his heart rate is slower.</p>
- Week 27
A 27 week old foetus has all the same proportions as a newborn, and the same brainwave patterns. Nostrils open in preparation for breathing when born. Incredibly, studies have shown that at this age, a foetus has a memory and can learn!</p>
- Week 28
Congratulations, you are in the third and final trimester of your pregnancy! Your baby should now weigh about one kilogram. The hair on his head will now be getting longer and thicker.</p>
- Week 29
Her head is getting bigger now too, it is attempting to keep up with her fast growing brain! As the brain runs out of space it becomes wrinkled and covered with folds and grooves.</p>
- Week 30
You are probably in your last few weeks of work and your baby is working hard too. He has grown to 33cm long and has little eyebrows. At this stage babies begin to stock up on iron. Boys' testes descend into the scrotum.</p>
- Week 31
Bone marrow is making her red blood cells now instead of her liver. The baby starts breathing in some of her surrounding amniotic fluid in preparation for breathing when she is born.</p>
- Week 32
As the lungs are closer to being fully developed by this stage, babies born at 32 weeks or later have a much better chance than those more premature. Early babies born now usually just require some help to breathe and need to be kept warm.</p>
- Week 33
He weighs nearly 2kg at 33 weeks and is running out of room! Your unborn child can still turn round but hopefully he will decide to keep his head pointing down from now on ready for his impending birth.</p>
- Week 34
Her hearing should be fully developed around now. On the subject of hearing, your family could try pressing their ears to your tummy to see if they can hear the baby's heartbeat. It is possible if you get the right place!</p>
- Week 35
Fat is growing under his skin now and he's getting more plump all the time. He starts to look more pink and his skin will appear less loose and wrinkled as he fills out.</p>
- Week 36
Her bones are getting harder towards the end of your pregnancy but her skull bones stay soft to help with delivery. She is now making cortisone which helps her to breathe when she is out in the air.</p>
- Week 37
By now most of the lanugo and vernix has gone from the skin and been swallowed by the baby. This is why his first poo (called meconium) will be so different to any other poo you will see!</p>
- Weeks 38-40
If your baby arrives from now onwards it would be considered full term. On average babies weigh between 2.7 to 4.1kg at birth. It gets quite cramped in there when your baby is fully grown - this baby certainly looks keen to have a nice stretch!</p>
- Week 40
Overdue babies are bigger than others of course, and their skull bones are harder, which can make giving birth more difficult. They are often more alert and lively too, and probably extra keen to meet you as they have been waiting longer!</p>
- Week one
The first week of pregnancy is actually classed as the week after your last period. You haven't even ovulated yet! The baby-to-be really is still just a twinkle in your partner's eye at this stage.</p>