Dr Boy Wonder’s friendly, reassuring smile and quite adorable bedside manner didn’t help one bit. My confidence had been seriously rattled and I was on the verge of tears. Again. What a surprise.

He read my file and noted my latest blood pressure reading and other vital statistics.

“Hmmm… everything here looks good. The sister tells me you’ve been having cramps this weekend?” he asked. Ever so professional, but I was still waiting for the punchline.

“I tell you what, let’s have a look. If the pains weren’t regular, it’s probably just Braxton Hicks.” He paused tactfully, in case I didn’t know what Braxton Hicks were. Of course I knew. Snotty know-it-all kid. “But let’s make sure, shall we? Hop up onto the bed and we’ll check you out.” Another reassuring smile, which also made no difference.

Hmph. Check me out indeed. The nerve. So, not only was this little boy going to sit there and be all condescending, now he wanted to go prospecting too? Wonderful. I wondered briefly whether he was some kind of perv from the paediatric psych ward in a stolen white coat. I wasn’t convinced by his official name badge or fancy stethoscope. He was a pretend doctor, a Doogie Howser, a George Clooney – entertaining and easy on the eye, but you wouldn’t let him anywhere near a real patient.

I stripped and got up onto the bed. Of course I did. For all my stroppy bravado, I was still a sucker for authority, real or fraudulent. Wuss.

I’d thought I was over the embarrassment of gynaecological examinations. I’d been wrong. I didn’t mind Teddy Bear Doctor. He was old. He knew what he was doing. This guy, on the other hand, was a whole new ball game. I was very aware of how young and handsome he was, and that he was poking around in places where young and handsome males of the species do not as a rule poke, except under completely different circumstances.

I lay there with my legs up, as you do, and tried to think of something to say. My meagre store of small talk had been erased from my brain, unfortunately, so I lay there in silence, waiting for him to finish. He seemed to be taking awfully long.

Then he said “Hmmm.” Just like that. Hmmm. What the hell did that mean?

He fiddled and faffed a bit more, then asked, “These pains you were feeling, how strong were they? Are you still getting them?” Very calm, very doctor-like, but I was freaking out. Okay, so now I’m worried.

“No, they stopped on Sunday. I haven’t had anymore. They just felt funny, almost like period pains, but not really. Why?” I asked in a quivery, soggy sort of voice. Tell me what the fuck is going on here please? But I didn’t say that.

“Hmmm,” he said again, as he took another look. Not very helpful, I must say. Then he straightened up, snapped off those rubber gloves and grinned at me.

“Are you quite sure you’re not feeling any contractions right now? Because you’re five centimetres dilated, and I think it’s time to admit you.”

Oh, holy God. What? This was definitely not in the plan. How could I be five centimetres dilated, half-way there, without having felt anything? What happened to timing contractions, waters breaking dramatically in the street, frantic midnight drives to the hospital? What happened to all the stuff the book said about first labours taking a long time? And most of all how could it possibly be time now? Just like that, no big deal, no time to prepare or get used to the idea. No hanging around for hours trying to decide if it’s time to go to the hospital or not. No time for reality to sink in slowly. Just sommer bung me in a hospital gown and stick me in a bed. Just like that. Yes, I know – I’d had nine months to get used to the idea, But still, this seemed unfair. I felt ambushed. I felt like he’d sprung this on me just to be mean.

And he looked so damn cheerful. Clearly, he thought this was wonderful.

“Come on, then, get dressed. Is your mom here with you? Let’s go tell her the good news,” he said. Grinning damn idiot. I was frozen to the spot and couldn’t seem to feel my legs.

Eventually I managed to pull myself together, and we walked back into the waiting room. He took me over to the reception desk and got my file in order for the admitting procedure. My mom looked worried as she watched us pass – this was a new development, the doctor didn’t usually come out with me.

I went over to Mom and whispered, “He says it’s time. He says I have to be admitted now.” All shaky-voiced again.

“What?! NOW?!” she squealed, trying to be quiet, but with the whole room on high-alert, they heard every word.

“Yes, that’s what he says, Ma. He says I’m five centimetres dilated. It’s time.”

And so it was.

Lots of excitement and activity followed. We filled in all the forms at Admissions, where another very young desk clerk asked, “Reason for admittance?” He was serious, too. The enormous tummy and hefty hospital bag I was lugging were perhaps not obvious enough clues for him.

“Um… it would seem I’m in labour”, I replied. Duh. He printed what seemed like ten thousand sheets of sticky labels with my name and file number and other details on. What the hell they were all for was anyone’s guess. Clearly, printing labels was his job and he was enthusiastically committed to doing it. I might also mention that it was somewhere at this juncture that, under “religion”, someone checked “Roman Catholic” on my file. The military hospital was clearly keen on religion and you had to pick something. I’d seen through the whole church racket by then and couldn’t call myself Catholic, even though my father was a Catholic. Had I checked the box myself, I probably would have picked “Other”. So perhaps I can blame the dumb young office clerk for the horrors that were to come.