Just for comparison, here’s the birth I planned.
I signed up for hynpobirthing, I was dead set on a home birth, no pain meds, extended cord clamping, breast feeding while still in the rented birthing pool… the whole bit. That’s what I wanted. My mother in law is a retired midwife and I was going to sail through birth (nope).
A community midwife came to our home to talk through my planned home birth and by talk through, I mean talk me out of. She followed every possible scenario with ‘and then you’ll have a dead baby’ that is NOT something you should be saying to a woman who is 6 months pregnant! Anyway, she scared me out of it and I grudgingly agreed to go to hospital.
I woke up at around 3am, 23rd of January 4 days past my due date feeling a bit ‘odd’. I was really, really looking forward to labour. I’d done my hypnobirthing lessons with Robert and I was genuinely looking forward to the experience.
We went downstairs and watched Harry Potter films back to back while timing the weird intermittent backache-y feeling I was sure were contractions. I called ahead to the hospital just to check when they thought I should head in and then settled down on the birthing ball with hot water bottles and low lighting all very chilled.
I called the hospital again a few hours later as, although the ‘contractions’ were now only a few minutes apart, I didn’t really feel like anything was progressing, the midwife I spoke to asked us to pop in for a check even though she said I didn’t sound like I was in labour, I assumed I was just coping really well because of the hypnobirthing!
We arrived at the hospital around 12:30 and I have a perfectly clear memory of saying I hoped they had a birthing pool free (so young, so naive…)
A midwife took us into one of the examination rooms, asked a few questions and then went to check how dilated I was and… I wasn’t. At all. Cervix completely closed, even though she could feel what I was calling contractions she said I definitely wasn’t in labour because contractions don’t count if your cervix is closed.
My BP was a little high so she asked that we stay while they ran a blood test (even though urine tests were clear). While they were waiting, they hooked me up to one of the foetal heart rate monitors with the clicker for each movement.
My blood tests came back clear but the midwife checked the heart rate read outs and said Tabitha’s heart rate was too steady. There was another hour of monitoring, sugar tablets, a suggestion that I may want to opt for a section since I was overdue and then they decided to give me a fluid drip, I should explain now, I have the worst veins in the world, 2 midwives failed to get a needle in so they called for an anaesthesiologist. 2 anaesthesiologists later they got the needle in and at the same time Tabitha’s heart rate halved.
I’ll say this for midwives, they don’t hang about! Her heart rate dropped at 16:26 and at 16:28 I was wheeled into theatre. It took them less than 2 minutes to haul me to my feet, undress me, get Robert into scrubs (including find him crocs in the right size), have me sign a consent form and wheel me to the next ward.
The rest is a bit blurry. I was in a bit of shock but was very, very calm. They asked if I had any jewellery on and somehow I remembered that I had a bit of metal on my hairband and they were asking about metal because it can burn if they need to resuscitate you.
The section itself was completely painless. I could feel hands and tugging inside me at one point but nothing hurt. It’s a completely bizarre feeling. I’m not about to have one by choice or anything but it wasn’t the horror show I had built it up to be.
Robert popped his head up over the screen (I’m so squeamish I didn’t want to see) just in time to see her being pulled out, she got cleaned up and handed to him for skin to skin… I wish I could say I said something meaningful or sweet as I looked upon my daughter (who we’d tried 2 years for) but actually my first words were ‘Is she ginger?!’
She passed her initial checks and they got on with sewing me up. Around 10 minutes after she was born, Robert noticed that every few breaths, Tabitha seems to stall and she was looking a little grey so he took her over to the midwife. She was placed on the resus table in the theatre and given oxygen through a (heartbreakingly) tiny mask but the O2 saturation levels in her blood were still below 80% (they should be high 90’s) so the midwife took her through to the special care unit (SCBU), she said we’d most likely have her back within the hour and some section babies just need a bit of a boost.
I was wheeled through to observation where all the other section mums had their babies with them and I just lay there in the corner shivering, waiting for an update.
Finally almost 3 hours after Tabitha was born a consultant from the SCBU came to see us. Tabitha had started having seizures, she wasn’t able to breathe on her own and they didn’t know what was causing it. I was brought an iPad linked to a webcam on the incubator so that I could see her and it was another 12 hours before I could actually get into the SCBU and see her for real. It was a week of beeping machines and sitting beside an incubator before she was able to keep her O2 levels up on her own. The morphine was dialled down and we were asked to stay in the family room as she’d probably get the intubation out over night. She actually pulled her own breathing tube out which I thought was quite hardcore for a 1 week old!
I finally got to hold her at 1 week & 1 hour old. We spent 3 weeks in the special care unit in the end (pneumonia, feeding tubes, MRI’s, off oxygen, back on oxygen, blood tests…) before we finally got her home.
The MRI showed an oxygen deprivation on her brain so we’ll be under the special care unit for regular checks until she’s 2 in case there’s any lasting damage but so far she’s hitting her milestones 1-2 months ahead (apart from walking/crawling because apparently she couldn’t get enough of blinking hospitals, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 8 weeks and spent 2 months in a harness the awkward sod, so she’s about 1 month behind on her legs! Oh, and she’s already had chicken pox. And had 8 teeth by 8 months. She may be trying to kill me.)
We are incredibly, ridiculously lucky* that she’s come through with no lasting damage.
We’re spending her first birthday with the neonatal nurses.
Stuff I’m probably not supposed to say:
- I don’t generally say I ‘gave birth’. I say I ‘had a baby’ because I feel like I missed the actual birth process and saying I gave birth seems misleading? I feel a bit guilty if I say ‘gave birth’ even though I’ve never thought that when my friends had sections.
- I gave up attempting to breast feed at 5 weeks because either the stress or hormones or shock or whatever messed with my milk production and it only came in on one side (believe me I tried, blood was spilled) and that wasn’t enough so after letting her try to latch, then bottle feeding her, I was going off to express and by the time I was finished, had sterilised the pump and started to nod off she wanted fed again. Robert came home one lunch time and I had been full on sobbing for 2 hours I was so tired and frustrated, lovely man that he is packed away the breast pump, bought a perfect prep and that was the end of that.
- I didn’t really feel like I bonded with her until around the 3 month mark. I wasn’t cold or indifferent towards her, I just didn’t feel like she was any more ‘mine’ than my friends babies. I’m probably breaking some sort of mum code admitting it took that long to bond!
*I still want to toss her out the window during 2am screaming sessions