A Birth Story

Throughout my most recent pregnancy, my biggest fear was going into labour when hubby was at work. He works from 2pm until midnight, and I know the majority of women that spontaneously go into labour do so during the hours of darkness. I’ve also had the pleasure of having a super fast and relatively easy labour with my first son. With him, my water broke just before midnight and he was born at 1:26am with just the use of gas and air and two pushes. My second son was born via scheduled caesarean as he was in the Frank Breech position, which basically means he was ready to greet the world butt first. Even before he was born, his personality was shining through. Unfortunately, he was unable to turn head down as he had the cord around his neck three times. Having had both a caesarean and natural labour before, I was aiming for another natural delivery; however, having also been on the edge of post natal depression following the caesarean birth of my son, I was also determined to not let the birthing process influence my emotions. Birthing is such a small blip on the radar of motherhood, and several weeks later it won’t matter how you birthed your baby as long as it’s healthy and you’re both happy.

It’s 11:30pm and I’ve just waddled to bed, complete with empty bladder, ready to settle in for a mediocre night’s sleep (this is the best I’ve come to expect in months). I wedge my pregnancy pillow under one side of my belly and gently roll myself onto it. Then I feel a warm gush between my legs. It’s way too much for it to have been the result of a pregnant bladder. I slide my pants down and jumped out of bed to turn the light on. As my finger flicks over the light switch, I hear a loud “SPLAT” and look down to see a puddle of water at my feet. My eyes go wide. I’m thirty-six weeks pregnant … I look at my watch … It’s 11.30pm. I will be thirty-six weeks pregnant in thirty minutes.

The words of my obstetrician flicker in the back of my mind when he was joking with my husband after the birth of my first son: “Better take note, the next time you might be delivering your own baby at home!”

I take three steps to the right towards my hospital bag which still needs some last minute additions. I pause then take a few steps towards the kitchen where hubby’s emergency work contact number is. I pause again and head towards the bathroom. I turn back around and race back into the bedroom, grab my mobile phone then I go to the bathroom, finally able to commit to a course of action. My hands are shaking and I have no idea what to do first. I sit on the toilet and hear another gush of liquid. I look down to make sure it’s clear then replace my underwear with a giant maternity pad (read: “miniature pillow”) and head towards the fridge. I call hubby’s emergency work number, which I find on a magnet on the fridge, and advise his manager that I am in labour. He replies “He’s on his way!” but I don’t miss the slight snicker in his voice.

I then text hubby, but my shaking fingers don’t quite work properly.

Git hom qik.

Com now.

DUCK! In laboru! Get home now!

My mobile phone rings and I answer immediately. He breathes down the phone, “Are you for real?” I assure my husband this is no joke. I explain I’ve had no contractions yet so will wait for him to get home as he’s already on his way.

I go into my inlaws’ bedroom and nudge my mother-in-law just as I hear my four year old son wake up calling out “I need-to-go toilet!”. I tell her my waters have broke and ask her to help me.

I help my son to the toilet, then guide him back to his bed. My mother-in-law tends to him while I throw my phone charger and iPad into the hospital bag along with my most comfortable tracksuit pants and a breastfeeding top.

I phone the hospital and tell them my waters have broke and I have a history of fast labours but no contractions yet so I’ll just wait until they kick in. The midwife asks how far along I am. When I tell her I’m thirty-six weeks, she says not to wait for anything, but get there as soon as possible.

As I hang up, I hear my husband’s car pull up out the front and I meet him at the back door. He throws his things into the kitchen, changes his shirt and heads off to the car. I duck back into my bedroom to use the doppler to check for the baby’s heartbeat. After you’ve had a miscarriage, there is never any point where you take anything for granted and I realise I’d not felt any kicks since my waters broke. With a steady heartbeat detected, we head off to the hospital

We walk into the birthing suite and are greeted by a petite young midwife. She’s in her late twenties, has her hair tied back in ponytail, a name badge which reads “Louise” and she speaks with an English accent which reminds me of my family overseas. I giggled with excitement while she asks me several questions. She checks my pad and hooks me up to the monitors then the room fills with the loud beat of my baby’s heart. Louise explains that it would be better for baby if she stays inside for at least another week, so as long as I have no contractions, I will stay in hospital while baby gains some more weight. She leaves the room and we start to discuss names as we still have no idea what we’re going to call this baby.

Not even ten minutes pass and I feel some light cramping. A few minutes later, I feel what I’m sure is a contraction. While I’m squeezing hubby’s hand and breathing through the pain, the steady thud of her heart beat slows down. It’s noticeable, but once the contraction finishes, her heart beat picks back up again. Louise the midwife reappears to check a few things, and I ask her if that was normal. She says it can happen, but we’ll definitely keep an eye on it. She gives me IV antibiotics as a precaution since I’ve not had the routine swabs done yet. My obstetrician is overseas and I have an appointment to meet his colleague next week. It looks like I’m not quite going to make it …

We’re alone again in the room and I feel another contraction coming on. This one is tough. My stomach muscles go rock hard, I feel like I have horrible period cramping but it keeps increasing in intensity. I grab hold of hubby’s hand and rock back and forth groaning in pain. This one is knocking me about and doesn’t seem to be stopping. I realise the steady beat of the baby’s heart has become one beat every two or three seconds. I look at hubby with frantic eyes while breathing through the pain and start to shake my head and point at the monitor. Hubby can hear it too. I start to panic. There is no beating. I say “COME ON!” and hear one beat … then another … Hubby hits the emergency button and the midwife comes running. My contraction has finished but the baby’s heartbeat remains scarily low. I picture my little baby girl struggling for oxygen. Can I have made it this far and go home without a baby? My mind starts to ponder how easy things can go wrong.

Louise goes out to call the obstetrician who I’m scheduled to meet the following week. She says there is every possibility that I may need an emergency caesarean. I tell her that it doesn’t matter how it happens, but we need the baby to be OK. Louise returns to the room and explains that they’ve called a Code 1, which means the theatre staff, anaesthetist and all relevant medical staff are to get to the hospital immediately. They put a drip in my arm and start preparing me for surgery. Once my nail polish is removed and I’m changed into a gown, they wheel me down for surgery. Baby’s heart beat is still too slow and they prepare me to be put under a General Anaesthetic. I cry at the thought that I may sleep through the birth of my baby. They go through the protocol and as the last of the theatre staff arrive with mussed hair and smudged eye makeup, her heart rate returns back to normal. The anaesthetist is a solid man with an accent and a deep voice. He explains to me that we’re going to have time for a spinal block so I can be awake for the birth of my baby, and the recovery is much easier.

I had my first son without an epidural not because I’m wonder woman, but my fear for the giant needle far outweighs my fear of the pains of natural child birth. I honestly HATE needles. I don’t know how I do it, but I relax and curl my spine forwards while he inserts the spinal block. The pain and feeling of that needle going in will always be the worst feeling I’ve ever felt in my life, but it only takes a minute and I can already feel my legs going tingly. They lie me back on the cold metal table and I start to shake. I’m covered with multiple layers of warm blankets as they bring in my husband who takes his seat to my left.

After a quick check to ensure I couldn’t feel any pain, I start to feel tugging. My body is jolted around so much that I worry I might fall off the table. The anaesthetist explains to me that there is scar tissue to get through so it will take a little bit longer than last time. Hubby and I chat for a few minutes and then someone calls out “Get your camera ready!” Hubby raises his mobile phone to the top of the curtain in front of us and the obstetrician lowers the sheet. I’m not expecting this and I don’t want to see my insides, but it is the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen. Just as I look down, I can see my daughter’s head. Her face is all scrunched up, her eyes are shut tight. A hand comes around her neck and she’s lifted out of my stomach. I cannot believe it. I have just watched my daughter being lifted into the world. She lets out a loud cry and I start to sob.

Louise explains to me that they will measure her in theatre, but if she weighs less than 2.4kg, she’ll be transferred to the special care nursery. If she’s over that, then she can room in with me and we can bond like I did with my other two. I hold my breath while she’s weighed. Louise explains that she weighs 2.395kg, but there is another set of scales upstairs in the labour ward and they could be out by up to 30grams. Hubby goes with them and our tiny new baby and I call out for them to “just lean on the scales a tiny bit”.

Once I’m stitched up and have spent some time in recovery, I’m wheeled into my room on the maternity ward. Hubby is there waiting already with our baby girl, who is completely healthy and weighed in at a refreshing 2.406kg.

Apart from a bit of jaundice a few days later, she has had no problems. From the day she was born, she has fed and slept just perfectly. She doubled in size in the first six weeks, and even the paediatrician who had called her “scrawny” in hospital commented that she had piled on the weight and even looked chubby.

The birth of my daughter was meant to be my perfect labour, just like I had with my first son, but things don’t always go to plan. Just like with my second son, I needed to have a caesarean for the safety of my baby. The difference is that with him, I was in denial right up until the last minute, I resented the fact that I needed major surgery when my first labour was so easy. I panicked and needed much more drugs than necessary which meant I couldn’t walk or hold my baby for a few days. This was a big factor in my mental health following the caesarean. It took me a long time to get over the disappointment of things not going to plan, and those times sometimes cast a shadow over what should have been happy bonding time with my new baby.

This caesarean experience I was determined not to panic and to just accept what was going to happen was required for the safety of my baby. I would do anything for my husband and children, and this small sacrifice is one of many which I’d do again. One thing that I was sure of is that I wasn’t going to let my failed expectations cloud one of the most memorable moments of my life. And when you don’t fight it, a caesarean’s really not that bad at all.

Thank you for reading.

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