A Private Birth and Passionfruit Sponge Cake

When I was pregnant with my third child I thought I would go to the luxury end of town for the birth.  A new private hospital had opened offering spacious delivery suites with every mod-con including spa baths and heat packs and bean bags and drugs; lots of drugs, but what sealed the deal was I heard you could order a glass of wine with dinner.  I was in!

Never-Fail Passionfruit Sponge

Finally, when I was eight days over, it was time to go to the hospital at the typical time of 4am.  I phoned the luxury private hospital and announced my imminent arrival only to have the midwife on the other end sound horribly disappointed and ask me if I could delay my arrival.  ‘Are you sure?’ she asked.

‘Sure of what?’

‘Sure you’re in labour’.

‘Well it is my third child and I am more than a week overdue so I’m pretty sure I’m about to have a baby’.

‘Well it’s just we’re really busy and we don’t have any delivery suites available.  Do you think you could call back in a few hours because by then we might be able to help you’.

‘Oh, certainly.  I’m happy to fit in.  I’ll just switch off those contractions.  Easily done’, is what I felt like saying to such a bizarre request.

Sponge Cake

I stayed at home another hour but then decided it was time for Carl to drive me in with Arabella who was by now awake and super-excited.  We arrived at the hospital at around 6am to be told, (as luck would have it), that an available delivery suite had miraculously become available.  I cheered up instantly and was shown into this super-dooper room with an enormous ensuite with a spa and a little trolley bed under a warming light waiting for my baby.  I got myself all unpacked and settled myself down onto the bed when another midwife came in and said, ‘You’ll have to move.  We need this room for a more urgent case’.

I was stunned.  ‘Where will I go?’

‘We have a Visitor’s Lounge.  We can put you in there and as soon as a room becomes available we’ll move you back into the Labour Ward’.  So I had to pack my things and move off the ward and into a Visitor’s Lounge that was brimming with people, mostly men making tea and toast and flicking channels on the communal TV looking for sports, sports and more sports.

Then my parents arrived because I had phoned them and asked them to pick up Archie from boarding school so he could be there to see his new baby brother or sister.  So we were all in the Visitor’s Lounge together; mum, dad, Carl, Archie, Arabella, the men addicted to sports and me, because I had no where else to go.  But no nursing staff.  Or doctors.

Filled with cream and topped with passionfruit icing

I didn’t want a public birth and was trying to hide from everyone and wondering why they couldn’t at least put a screen up with a sign on it saying, ‘Woman behind here in labour.  Do not stare or disturb’, when into the room came a woman looking to make herself a cup of tea.  My mother looked up at her and said, ‘Karin!  How good to see you.  Is your daughter in labour?’

‘Yes, she is.  We’ve been here since yesterday.  Is your daughter here?  What a coincidence.’

‘Yes, Charlie’s here.  We got the call first thing this morning.’  And my mother searched the room for me, ‘Charlie, come over and meet my friend, Karin.  You’ll remember me telling you that her daughter is also pregnant’.

No, no, I had no recollection of that at all.

And my mother turned to Karin.  ‘But I didn’t think Sarah was due for another three weeks?’

‘She’s not’, said Karin, ‘but her waters broke yesterday so here we are but nothing much is happening, but she’s in a lovely room with a spa bath and she’s getting lots of TLC from a fabulous midwife’.  And then she looked at me.  ‘What’s Charlie doing in here?’

‘Well they haven’t got a room for her.  All the delivery suites are full.  So we’re waiting for someone to deliver and then she can be moved’.

And then Karin’s husband came into the room.  ‘Charlie!  Have you met my husband?  Phil, this is Charlie, my friend’s daughter.  Both she and Sarah were pregnant at the same time but Charlie was a month ahead so we weren’t expecting to have grandchildren born on the same day.  Isn’t this amazing!  Amazing we’re all here, waiting to become grandparents.  This is so exciting.  ‘

And everyone was so excited and thinking this was the best day ever which it was of course except that mine would have been better without a lot of introductions to friends of friends and perhaps with the sharpness of the contractions a little privacy and PAIN RELIEF would have been more what I was expecting from this luxurious private hospital.  And when you’re in labour that is not the time to be adding more people to your Christmas card list.

Very good post-pregnancy snack

In total I was in that room for two hours.  At no time did a nurse enter the room.  Actually they forgot about me.  Somehow, between the changeover from the night-shift to the day-shift someone forgot to mention they’d put a woman in labor in the Visitor’s Lounge.

Feeling slightly desperate after my two hours of public labor, I barged through the doors of the delivery suites, went up to the nurses station and introduced myself; ‘Is there any room at the Inn?’

And they found me a room and Alfie was born just over an hour later with no drugs because they said it was too late to give them to me.  Excellent!

While I didn’t get to try out the hospital’s spa baths, heat packs, bean bags or DRUGS, I did get to try the cakes wheeled in to the post-delivery rooms.  And they were very good.  I remember particularly liking the sponge cake.

And here’s my version of no-fail sponge that I’ve adapted from a recipe in The Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook.

Light as air sponge

Never-Fail Sponge Cake

Serves:  8-10

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  A sponge cake costs very little to make.

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 2/3 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cornflour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1 cup cream

Passionfruit Icing:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tspn butter
  • 2 tbspns passionfruit pulp (approx 2 passionfruit)

Put eggs in small bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium to high speed until mixture is thick and creamy (about 6-8 mins).  Gradually beat in sugar, beat until sugar is dissolved.

Sift dry ingredients several times to that all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.  Using a spatula, gently fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.  Do this lightly and quickly, so that the airy sponge mixture is not broken down, but make sure all flour is mixed in.

Pour mixture evenly into 2 well-greased 20cm round cake tins.

Bake in oven for 20-25 mins; cake is cooked when it shrinks slightly from side to tin or when pressed with fingertips and it springs back lightly leaving no impression.  Turn onto a wire rack immediately and invert so that tops of cakes are uppermost.  When cakes are completely cold, spread one cake with whipped cream.  Put the second cake on top, ice with passionfruit icing.

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  1. Oh, soooo not fair. I’m an old fashioned girl when it comes to childbirth – it’s all about whoever is doing the pushing! My advice to prospective mothers is always – take the drugs!!

  2. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    Oh Charlie what a story, you poor thing! You deserved more than a little cake!

  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Oh my goodness! They forgot about you? And no drugs? Eeek!

  4. Wow, I would have demanded a room for crying in the mud! I am happy you were ok though, but no drugs….EEK! You seriously sound like the calmest person,I wish I was that way:-) This cake looks amazing, love your addition of cornmeal. AND passion fruit icing, OH MY WORD YUM!!! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  5. What a story. Now print this post and stash the story inside Alfie’s baby book if you have not already done so.

  6. That sounds like the worst luxury birth experience ever! SHEESH. You deserved a LARGE slice of cake. LARGE.

  7. Sounds like everyone was having a great time socializing while the most important person (YOU) was being ignored. I’m amazed you put up with it for so long. The cake wasn’t enough. 🙂

    Your cake looks lovely though. So tall and fluffy looking.

  8. Oh, That was too funny.I am so glad you can see the humor in it now. No time to be adding to the Christmas card list! What a line…I love it! I had an experience and a half with both of my kids, (for the second one,I was alone down a corridor which was around the corner from the nurses’ station and next to the psycho ward.)
    I’m glad all is well with both of you .!

  9. What a great story–well, fun for all those who weren’t you, struggling in labor.

    I can almost taste this cake. I love passion fruit, though I can rarely find it here, and would love to be able to make this lovely sponge.

  10. Luxury experience? More like ignored experience!!! More like a hotel obviously! But hey at least the sponge cake and Alfie were the silver lining 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t stop reading. I knew something was going wrong from the first paragraph. I cannot believe they forgot about you. Hope you didn’t have to pay for the same fee as those special suites! It’s crazy that they didn’t give you drugs because THEY were late. I think I’d be so angry!!! If there is 4th time, what are you going to do next? 😀 Lovely cake!

  12. Oh Charlie that is horrible!! I hope you drunk them out of wine on the subsequent days to make up for it!! I had a similar experience with Miss Anais (no 5) in a private hospital, because I wasn’t screaming I couldn’t even get a nurse to come in to me let alone a Dr!

    So girls don’t be shy or brave! Loud and take lots of drugs!

    After I had Anais the nursing staff and Drs were arguing in my room over why no one was notifiedi that I was giving birth??? Seriously! Then I couldn’t get them to all leave so I could have a shower!

  13. Oh… Lovely lovely cake, sorry I forgot to mention 😉 I may have gotten a little worked up about our labours 😉

  14. How terrible that the hospital didn’t have a room for you to deliver in!!! I’m glad it worked out in the end and you didn’t end up delivering in the waiting room, although the no drugs is a bit harsh. Sigh. Lovely cake though! xx

  15. How horrible that this happened to you, particularly when you had made reservations! At least you got a really cool kid out of it! And cake. Have a great weekend, Charlie.
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

  16. Oh goodness, Charlie, I would have been SO angry! I can’t believe they did that to you. Glad it all worked out in the end though. This sponge cake looks delish!

  17. Phwooooooar. That is incredible. Now you seem even more incredible! Might as well have delivered Alfie yourself… wait, you kind of did. 😉

  18. But do you get Christmas cards from Karin, Sarah, and the lot?
    I’m glad the story ended so well, Charlie. You handled the situation far better than many would have. This cake sounds delicious. I’ve never cooked with passion fruit and it’s about time I give it a shot. Thanks for sharing both your story and recipe.

  19. And this a luxury private hospital? I cannot understand how a hospital can be so uncaring. Glad all came to a happy ending.
    Your cake looks fabulous.

  20. I suppose the delicious cakes made up for part of their insensitivity, but not much. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  21. What an experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Oh gosh Charlie that’s horrible! How could they ever forget! Did you complain? I would have gone crazy at the hospital lol

    Ohhhh fail proof sponge yes please!!!

  23. I suspect I am in that very hospital now. Wishing I had never, ever given birth by the old-fashioned method. Section was much more civilised and I’m now paying the painful price for the vaginals. Ouch! Where is my wine? Passionfruit sponge, I’m ready !

  24. What dreadful treatment! At least you got there in the end, ie to the delivery suite, but you’d think they’d provide a private place for those who were waiting.

  25. Ooooh, look at that lush passionfruit icing dribble! The Hungry Dad is a massive sponge cake fan – they are so classic & light.

  26. What a story! I can’t believe they asked you to call back later, then kicked you out of your suite and THEN forgot about you!! So rude!!!

  27. I’m feeling just a little bit traumatised by this story. Thank goodness it was at least your third, so you had some sense of the process! And thank goodness the cakes were good, if nothing else 😉

  28. What an ordeal! I’m surprised that you can still eat sponge cake. I really cannot eat things associated with trauma but of course, you got a beautiful child out of it so well worth the trauma.

  29. Wonder if it’s too late to ask for a refund on all things you never got at the hospital…
    Fantastic sponge cake though.
    🙂 Mandy

  30. Only you! At least you didn’t have Alfie in the visitor’s room!

  31. How bizarre.. you’re a quieter sort than me.. I’d be standing in front of the nurses so that they could hear me going through every labor pain! I don’t know how you were quiet in that room! What a beautiful sponge cake, that would cheer a young mother up for sure!

  32. You got cake? Wow! I’ve never heard of that in the delivery wards, but you deserved any treats you could find. That’s a harrowing story. I would have been so overwrought I probably would have made a scene. But it did come in handy as a great story many years later, Charlie! 🙂 Love the recipe, too. I love sponge cake.

  33. Another great story, Charlie. What a shame they were so incompetent that they forgot about you. I had a nurse during my stay in hospital after giving birth that I would slap in the face if I saw her. She was so nasty to me. Mind you, she was the exception, not the rule. Apart from that I have had nothing but great experiences with nurses, especially when my father was in there for months.

  34. How charming :p I’m glad our first experience of childbirth in the private hospital here in France was rather more smooth, but damn they don’t let you get a moment’s rest after the baby is born do they? I’m not sure what it’s like there but here there’s someone busting through the door of your room every couple of hours to take measurements, blood pressures, give out medicine, ask you how it’s going etc. Best of all was that we had a list of things we needed to bring to the hospital… they didn’t even provide soap or towels…. :-/

  35. You are so kind – never want to cause a fuss. Are you sure you’re not a pom?

    I couldn’t have been kind to those people in the waiting room, even my own family. Having a baby is pretty intimate for me. I need to spend time with you and take notes on being a nicer person.

    I’d be a lot nicer with a cake like this. It looks like there’s a piece left for me.

  36. I love how calm you sound through out this post I would have thrown a fit!! this cake sounds amazing!

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