I gave birth in the Lindo Wing – it's worth every single penny
Eleven years ago, soon after my waters broke, my husband and I arrived at the private Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, West London, and were whisked immediately up to the fifth floor. Once we'd entered through the electronically locked and constantly monitored door, we were ushered to a spartan, white room where I was wired up to monitors to track my blood pressure and the baby's heartbeat.
After two hours of contractions, I noticed the beeping had slowed. My husband summoned the midwife. She arrived instantly, checked the monitor, and announced: "This baby needs to be out – now.'' My obstetrician appeared like a genie and I had an emergency caesarean 30 minutes later.
It turned out that the umbilical cord was twice wrapped around my baby's neck, strangling him. I believe the staff of the Lindo Wing saved my son Oscar's life and I will always feel indebted to them. I had my two subsequent children, Conrad and Caspar, there and despite the eye-watering cumulative cost of around £30,000 (inclusive of obstetrician, anaesthetist and paediatrician fees) it was worth it. Now the Duchess of Cambridge is experiencing that same superlative level of care.
Yesterday I was back at the Lindo Wing, this time jostling with police, and media representatives from every curve of the globe – hundreds of reporters and photographers are contained in a makeshift pen where a silver forest of ladders guarantees every camera a decent shot of the new parents who – barring any medical emergency – will eventually emerge on the steps of the building to show their newborn to an appreciative world, just as Diana, Princess of Wales, did with William 31 years ago. But some camera crews are thinking ahead. A handwritten sign reads: "Post-partum ladder sale (photographer not included)''.
John Loughrey (58), an ardent royalist, has been sleeping on a bench outside the Lindo Wing for the past week in anticipation of the birth of Britain's future monarch – he has a tan and a sore back but yesterday, wrapped in the Union flag, he prepared to celebrate. At mid-morning, the sky was a scorching blue – the hottest day of the year in London so far this summer – but before dawn Mr Loughrey had been rudely woken by thunder and lightning.
"The heavens came down,'' he says. "What a way to wake! And I had the gut feeling that the duchess had arrived at the hospital.''
She had indeed. It is thrilling to feel part of this happy occasion – even if most of the celebrants are journalists. "We don't have a royal family, and we admire the tradition,'' Marcela Skabova (30), a reporter for TV Nova in the Czech Republic, told me. "It's a fairytale for the people of the Czech Republic.''
But joyous though the atmosphere was outside St Mary's, there was a sweet sensibility from most well-wishers, that for two young people inside the hospital, this was an exhilarating but also, anxious time.
Anna Maxted is a bestselling author based in north London