BabyMouse was scheduled to be born by caesarean section on 17th March, due to the fact that she was breech and because of her needing to be born a bit early because of the potential dangers of me having obstetric cholestasis. [That was a long sentence, sorry. This is a long post, and is a bit of a ‘mind splurge’ so may not be entirely coherent.] However, things did not go entirely to plan…
On 25th February, we went to our usual Tuesday appointment at the hospital in London, saw the midwives and the obstetricians, showed my parents around the hospital so they knew where to go when the time came for the birth, and went home, all without incident. When we got home, we had dinner and watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (an excellent film) on DVD. At about 9.30 pm, I decided to go to bed early because I was (as usual) feeling rather tired. I got into bed. At about 10.00 pm, I turned over in bed and [apologies for too much information] thought I’d wet myself, although it didn’t really feel like that. I went to the toilet and realised that this was not the case – it was actually that my waters were breaking! I sat on the toilet for a while – every time I went to get up more ‘water’ came out and I didn’t want to make the floors wet – and called for Mr C to let him know what was happening. He rang the hospital who, in true traditional fashion,told us to stay at home, wait another hour and take a paracetamol! To be fair to the midwife who answered the phone, Mr C didn’t tell her my medical history, and I wasn’t in pain at that time, so she had no reason to tell us to come in, although at the time I was rather cross and decided this wasn’t on and rang the hospital again. I spoke to someone else and told them about all the complications, and that we were going to come in straightaway, to which she agreed.
We called a taxi, which, thankfully. arrived within about five minutes. Mr C packed up all the things we might need – he already had a bag ready and just had to add a few last minute things. I took a towel with me because I didn’t want to make the taxi seat wet! I explained to the taxi driver that I thought I was in labour, and he was totally nonplussed!
When we got to the maternity triage they monitored the baby to make sure she was OK. This took about 20 minutes, by which time the pain had got much worse and it was confirmed that I was definitely in labour. By the time the obstetrician examined me I was already 7-8 centimetres dilated. We rang the London hospital to let them know what was happening and they talked about possibly arranging a transfer to them from the local hospital, but in the event there was no time for that! We were going to have to deliver the baby at the local hospital – at this point it was still the plan to do a caesarean and I was taken to the delivery suite to be prepared for this. Needless to say, I was in a bit of a state by this point; mainly because of the pain of the contractions, but also because I was worried that the people in the local hospital wouldn’t be able to deal with all my complications – the plans we’d set in place had gone out of the window and we were entering (even more) unknown territory…
The anaesthetist came to talk to me about pain relief, and asked me lots of questions which I found difficult to answer because I couldn’t think or talk very well due to the increasing pain and frequency of contractions. The anaesthetist was lovely, and waited for me to answer her questions in the bits of time where I wasn’t in pain, and was very clear in what she said, as well as taking the time to listen to my concerns about things, Luckily we had the delivery plan from the London hospital in my notes, and I let someone know about this so they could see what drugs I was allowed (or not), and the different methods of monitoring that were required. (I have to be monitored more closely because of my heart condition).
We went to one of the maternity theatres, and I could see all the surgical instruments being laid out for (I still assumed) the caesarean. There were about eight medical people in the theatre, as well as Mr C, who was now decked out in green scrubs and a surgical mask. He tried to help me breathe through the contractions. I had got to the point where I didn’t think I could carry on because the pain was so bad, and was gulping in lots of gas and air. I’m not sure that this helped with the pain, but it was a distraction, and helped my regulate my breathing,
Because it was in the original plan drawn up with the people in London, the anaesthetists tried to put in an arterial line – this gives more accurate blood pressure readings and can also be used to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Having an arterial line inserted hurts – fortunately I was given local anaesthetic (which also hurt, but I assume not as much as if I’d been able to feel the line going in) every time they tried to put it in, because they tried to insert the line lots of times before finally giving up due to my arteries refusing to cooperate and at the request of Mr C who told them there was no point trying to continue.
Another factor in stopping the attempts at insert the arterial line was the fact that BabyMouse was now well and truly on her way out! A c-section was no longer an option, so we were going for a natural delivery for a breech baby, something that is rarely attempted nowadays. I was given a spinal block to numb everything that needed to be numbed – it was such a relief not to be able to feel anything! It was now about 2.00 am and I was put into position on my back, leaning on a wedge-shaped cushion with my legs in stirrups. Not very dignified. It was now about 2.00 am and time to bear down and help BabyMouse out! It was very odd trying to bear down when I couldn’t feel anything, and it was hard to take deep enough breaths and let them out slowly enough when I was pushing.
The doctor actually delivering BabyMouse was lovely (in fact all the staff were lovely) and calm and he talked me though each push, and everyone else in the room helped me to know how long to push for. One of the midwives had her hand on my tummy, feeling for each contraction and telling me when to be ready and breathe. At about 2.25 am, BabyMouse was born! She weighed about 5lb. I had a quick glimpse of her just after she arrived and then she went over to the nurses, as she needed a bit of help with her breathing. Mr C went over with her. A few seconds later we heard her cry, which was a big relief. Someone showed her to me again for a second or two, and then she went to the special care baby unit. I delivered the placenta and the obstetrician dealt with my bleeding – unfortunately this was quite heavy as my heart condition meant that couldn’t have the usual amount of the drug used to contract the womb.
Once the bleeding was under control, I was taken to a recovery room. As is my wont after anaesthetics and/or traumatic medical procedures I spent the next hour or so shaking quite violently. (I’m not actually sure what causes the shaking – maybe just adrenalin.) My oxygen was quite low so they gave me some more, and I also had some tea and toast. Mr C went to see BabyMouse in the special care unit. The nurses took a photo of her which he brought to show me. It was lovely to see her, if only in a picture.
After a while I was taken to the high dependency unit overnight so I could be monitored closely. The next day I was moved to the maternity ward. BabyMouse stayed in an incubator in the special care unit for three days, as she had trouble maintaining her temperature. She was fed through a tube for the first week or so of her life, because she was so early she didn’t have enough energy to take milk herself. Once she was able to maintain her temperature at the right level she was moved to the special care nursery and taken out of the incubator and put into a cot, although she sometimes had to have an overhead heater on her when she got too cold. The nursery was nice – it had murals of trees and animals all over the walls. A few days after this she moved with me to the transitional care unit, where mums and babies stay together until they’re both well enough to go home. Dads can stay as well, but they have to sleep on chairs (or on the floor if there are no spare chairs). If you’re lucky enough to get a reclining chair they’re quite comfortable, otherwise not so much. Mr C spent a few days on various floors as we moved round the hospital, but also got his fair share of reclining chairs, for which he was most grateful.
BabyMouse and I stayed in hospital for two weeks, until the staff at the hospital were satisfied that she was able to feed properly and didn’t have to have her tube in anymore, and we eventually went home on 12th March.
Before I finish this post, I would like to say that the care we received in Medway Maritime Hospital was exemplary. We could not fault it. The staff were unfailingly competent, kind and thoughtful. Most importantly, the medical staff listened to me when I had concerns, and went out of their way to find answers, reassure me, and help BabyMouse and I as much as possible. I think my experiences at Medway over the last couple of weeks were probably the best experiences of hospital I’ve ever had, and I’ve had my fair share of hospital experiences! I can’t thank the staff enough for everything they did for us. All the people we spoke to said that they also experienced a high standard of care during their stay at Medway. It’s a shame people’s good experiences don’t get reported in the press, but then I suppose that wouldn’t sell papers.
Read more about Claire and Anna over at Bookmouse