Christmas is always a special time for families.
But imagine what it’s like to find yourself racing to the maternity unit on Christmas day.
Here, three mothers who all gave birth on December 25, reveal their experiences of going into labour when most others were settling down to roast turkey...
‘His heart beat was the best Christmas present I could have ever had’
“I remember being wheeled into the unit and this woman was having a contraction,” says Emma Shipp, from London. “Afterwards she braced herself and said: “Right, I've got a goose in the oven, let's get on with this.”
For Emma 39, her baby boy, who was born in 2006, was a Christmas miracle. She explains: “For a few hours, I thought my baby was going to die on Christmas day. It was awful. But everything turned around within moments and became wonderful.
“Guy wasn't due until the end of January, but very early on in my pregnancy I was diagnosed with placenta praevia major and told that I had a high risk of delivering him extremely early or perhaps losing him,” says Emma, a nurse at an intensive care unit in London.
“I woke up at 1am on Christmas morning and realised that things were coming along quite fast. So we called an ambulance. At that point I wasn't very well at all. In the ambulance, I had ruptured and was losing a lot of blood.
“When we arrived at the hospital they whizzed me in and did a Caesarean section. Really quickly they brought him to me. He was absolutely fine. I felt ecstatic.
“We'd gone through weeks of worry and to have him in our arms was a miracle. When I heard that heart beat it was the best Christmas present I could have ever had. We still say he is our dream come true. He is a very special boy.
“My husband Michael is a little bit older than me, we got married in quite a whirlwind and never knew if this would happen for us, but when it eventually did, we love it and embrace it, it's so very special to us. It takes a moment to grasp that and Guy reinforced it for us.
“He was very small for a long time, but he was absolutely perfect. And we love the fact that he was born on Christmas day. He will never have to go to school on his birthday and he'll always have his whole family around him. We had quite a rough ride getting there but when we got there we couldn't believe he born on Christmas day.
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'Band Aid started playing as I had my Caesarean section'For Louise Ogden, 37, an event manager from Bristol, the birth of her son Fred at Christmas was nothing like she imagined it would be. “I wanted to have the baby at home, and we were all set up for a home birth,” she explains. “But in the run up to the birth, the doctors had been worried about preeclampsia.
“They asked me if I had any headaches and I said 'no headaches here'. But looking back I was probably quite ill.
“He was due on New Year’s Eve. Just before Christmas, on the 23rd I thought I should be tested, so I booked in with the midwife.
“She looked at me and said ‘Oh no, this is bad, you're going to have to go to hospital, your blood pressure is high and you've puffed up like a puffer fish. I hardly recognize you. You look really ill and need to get to hospital now’.
“She told me to pack a bag, but because I am quite laid back, I thought no, I'll be fine. I didn't think they would keep me in because it was Christmas. At the last minute I changed my mind and started panic packing, grabbing loads of the wrong stuff. I wandered around my house picking things up, thinking 'oh, yeah, that'll do'. Lipstick, hand cream, er, pens?
“I went to the hospital at about 1pm on the 23rd. They did all these tests and then at 6pm they said they would start inducing me. I said: 'What do you mean? This is not what we're doing'. I remember they all had reindeer earrings and flashing badges on.
“At about 11am on Christmas eve, they put an epidural in. I had left it quite late because I had done hypo birthing so I was breathing away thinking I didn't need pain killers. But on this drip the contractions are not natural contractions so all of a sudden they get really painful, so 'I said oh s*** just give me the epidural'.
“I was bending forward in pain and everyone kept telling me to keep still. It was very tense. Then, in the midst of all this, the Salvation Army piped up with Good King Wenceslas.
“It was the most surreal moment of my life. All these consultants saying keep still and these bloody trumpets start up. Some old Doris even had a set of jingle bells.
“All the nurses kept talking about what the food they had in the fridge and I couldn't have any. 'Ooh did you see what Pat brought in, she brought in smoked salmon'. I kept thinking, shut up, I'm nil by mouth, what's wrong with you? They kept saying, 'Ooh and Janine's turned up with a lovely big cake'.
“I just lay there in the delivery room for ages. The chemicals were trying to get my body to do something it wasn't ready to do.
“Then at nearly 7pm, my heart rate and blood pressure shot up and I got really hot. My body was getting stressed by all the intervention, which had now been going on for three days. I was told I needed to have an emergency caesarean section. They had to get the baby out straight away.
“Fred was born at 7pm on Christmas day. In the operating theatre they had the radio on, and as they were pulling him out Band Aid was on. That song has sentimental meaning for me now!
“When I first saw him I thought god he looks massive, and grumpy! I can't really remember it because I was out of it on morphine, but I couldn't believe he was mine. He was the best present I've ever had.”
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'By 3pm I was sitting around the table having Christmas dinner'For full-time mum Natasha Rumbold, 37, the birth of her daughter Lila was a lot more straight forward. She says: “I went into hospital at around 2am. She was born at about 5.30 in the morning and I was at home, sitting at the table having Christmas dinner at 3pm.
“It was really nice being pregnant around Christmas, because I had that real nesting feeling and the cosy nights in suited me. Lila was about eight days late, but it wasn't dramatic at all, it was uncomplicated and a really happy experience.
“That year there had been a huge snow fall and the roads had been closed. We live in Oxshott in Surrey where the roads are quite bendy, so it was a real worry about having to do a night-time trip to the hospital. We thought we might not get there. Everyone was expecting a drama but luckily it had all cleared.
“The midwives at the hospital were lovely and the hospital staff were excellent.
“I didn't know what we were having, but was convinced I was going to have another boy. When she arrived it was a massive surprise and it felt really special.
“I was absolutely elated. I'm not a devout Christian, but I think because it was Christmas day it even more special. I just thought 'Wow this feels really magical'. To a certain extent it feels like that any time you have a baby and they arrive safe and well.
“My parents had been at my house looking after my son and my husband’s parents had come over for Christmas day so the four grandparents were busy cooking, so the champagne was open and the turkey was on the table ready to carve as soon as we walked in the door. We had Lila in a little Moses basket fast asleep at the table with us.”