At 35 weeks pregnant I was starting to get excited about my first baby, I was convinced the baby would be late. My due date was 16th December and the pessimist in me was fully expecting to be in hospital on Christmas day. But at 35 weeks I got sick – I thought it was the Noro virus that was going around so I didn’t think too much of it, but when I was still having cramping pains a few days later I took myself off to visit the GP. He assured me that I was ok – nothing to worry about… so I carried on having hot baths in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep due to the pain on top of my bump. During the next week I went to my first NCT class, had my ‘baby shower’ afternoon in the pub with my friends and started training up my maternity leave replacement at work. So after what felt like a very long week we went to the hospital for our 36 week check. Hugh was hungover* and I was trying to feel positive after my exhausting week, I remember leaving work and meeting Hugh to get the tube – he suggested we walk to the hospital as it would ‘good for me’… little did he know how ill I was!
The midwife checked my urine and my blood pressure, not giving too much away she said she’d get the doctor to check me over – suddenly I was being found a bed “better stay in for monitoring” was the gist. I remember feeling surprisingly calm about it all, I think as I had been feeling so ill there was a little relief that the pain wasn’t ‘normal’, I had been dreading another 4-5 weeks of it.
The next morning my consultant came to see me. I remembered being told who my consultant was at my very first appointment: “If things go well, you’ll probably never meet your consultant” I was told. Well, here she was at 8am on a Tuesday morning telling me “if you’ve got any plans for the rest of this week I suggest you cancel them…you’ve got to have this baby soon”
Now in my mind, it’s Tuesday, this week – so Saturday… I might have the baby on Saturday… or even next Monday? does that count as this week as it’s Tuesday now? Well that wasn’t quite how things panned out. Hugh left to go home and get some stuff but 5 minutes later the consultant was back at my bedside asking where my husband was and telling me to get him back here. By the time Hugh had got back to the hospital, I was already being wheeled up to the labour ward. At 11am I was in a high dependency suite with a doctor about to break my waters with what looked suspiciously like a crochet hook.
I don’t know at what point the words ‘pre-eclampsia’ or more specifically HELLP syndrome were used, but throughout the whole process I was kept well informed, my questions were answered, I had truly amazing care and I felt very calm and surprisingly in control. We hadn’t written a birth plan – I didn’t have too many expectations of labour, to be honest I’d probably tried not to think about it – I’m the very opposite of my friend who was also pregnant at the time and was arming herself with every bit of information she could: ‘you wouldn’t run a marathon without doing training’ was her stance… well not for me.
Once my waters had been broken I was hooked up to the drugs to start my contractions – a hefty dose of syntocinon and I was in having regular contractions by 1pm. My body was ready to be rid of this baby!
As things started well the consultant was happy to give me a chance to have a vaginal delivery. Because the levels of platelets in my blood had dropped to a dangerously low level if a c-section was necessary I would be having it under general anaesthetic. I really really didn’t want a c-section, however bad the pain was I wanted to be conscious when my baby was born and I wanted Hugh to be able to be there too. However because the chances of having to have a Caesarian were high I had to stay nil-by-mouth. Also my body was basically leaking fluid into my organs so I wasn’t allowed to drink anything either. I had a catheter attached and all fluid going into my body (in drug form) and coming out was being closely monitored, as was my blood pressure which was seriously high…
Between 1pm and 6pm things progressed quite well, I knew being hooked up to so many machines wasn’t ideal but I just concentrated on the contractions which were regular as clockwork. Hugh worked with me and we really felt like a team – we had this strange little routine going where he would put his arm above my head as a contraction started so I could reach up and hold it while I breathed through it… but at some point in the afternoon I also started on the Pethidine. Ah, I know it’s not right… but it was soooo good! I was quite enjoying the drowsy effect.
We also had a visitor in the form of my brother in law who came by having been dispatched off to buy some essentials – we had nothing, no hospital bag, no baby clothes. Nada. Poor single twenty something having to locate maternity pads in Tesco. Meanwhile my Mum went late-night shopping in Mothercare instructing some poor assistant to pick out everything required to clothe and care for an early baby, sex unknown.
Sometime around 6pm after 5hrs of contractions it was decided that the fluid monitoring wasn’t really working, so it was I had to go to theatre to have a central line put in. This is basically a pipe inserted into your neck so that drugs can go straight into your main artery and blood can more easily be taken out. Hugh got to have a little break (and eat some food without making me super-jealous) while I was taken off to theatre. The midwife stayed with me and helped me to stay as still as possible through the contractions while I had a local anaesthetic and the tube inserted into my neck. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking “I should be at my NCT class now… not here in labour”.
Out of theatre things continued to progress well and I was finally allowed a few shards of ice… I was begging Hugh to give me more but the midwife who was with us was pretty strict with him! By midnight I was 5cm dilated and thinking that I only had a couple of hours to go, but at 2am I was only 6cm dilated. I was getting tired and the c-section threat was hanging over me. I felt like I’d come such a long way and I really didn’t want to have a general anaesthetic.
We were having constant monitoring and there was a midwife permanently at the end of the bed – often writing notes; I kept wondering what an earth she could be writing – eventually at about 5am in the morning after 14 hrs of regular contractions I’d got to 10cm dilated. It was time to push. I really cannot remember much – I was quite spaced out and so thirsty… I’d stared fantasising about a cold coke. Suddenly Marcia the midwife wasn’t writing any more and the room that had up to then been dimly lit and quiet was bright and buzzing with people. As my blood pressure rose they weren’t taking any risks so the stirrups came out and were fitted on to the bed.
Coco was born on the dot of 6am by forceps. I didn’t hold her straight away – I remember thinking she looked like a big blue slug! (I blame the drugs.) Hugh suddenly had to jump to it and find clothes, he got a telling off for not having a long-sleeved vest. Meanwhile of course I still wasn’t entirely finished… but the placenta was delivered pretty swiftly and suddenly I was holding this tiny tiny creature in my arms.
I remember feeling quite giggly, in that way you sometimes do in a crisis (or is that just me)? I couldn’t believe I was a Mummy, that this perfectly formed little baby was ours. Over the next few days I realised more and more how ill I’d been, I had more tests and a blood transfusion, I felt ridiculously weak but despite it all I think Coco’s early arrival was the best thing to happen to us. We took it in our stride, because we had no choice and that kind of set the tone, parenthood began.
* He’d had a Dad baby shower thing… is that normal!?… the morning afterwards my urine was looking a bit dark and I asked him to take a look – hungover Hugh couldn’t take it; I think it nearly made him throw up!