I really had no intention of writing about my birth beforehand but when it turned out to be a huge drama and Holly ended up so desperately sick I know a lot of people got curious about what actually happened. So I thought I’d curl your toes at how truly dramatic it was. Warning – its loooong. Here’s a photo to distract you first:
The baby engaged in my pelvis supppper early, we were definitely expecting an early arrival. When 40 weeks came and went and I was approximately the size of a small european country my midwife booked me in for an induction to happen on 41+2 (or 41+2 by her dates) if the baby hadn’t come by then. Typically I woke at 3am the day before that with bleeding and my first contractions. During the whole labour my contractions never really happened often but oh boy were they strong. I had a bath (or two? I’ve already blocked out a lot of my labour for obvious reasons) and the contractions stopped so I went back to bed. I texted my mw about 9am and we arranged to meet her to check if my waters had broken – nope, I just peed in the bath a few times. And that is why I prefer to shower! I was only 1cm which I had been for about 6 weeks already so I got sent home to labour. I ended up having another nap, the contractions were so far apart. The next day shit got rough though. I called my mw about 3.30am begging for drugs! The pain was horrendous! She said she couldn’t do anything and to have a bath and she’d see me at 8am. So I got into the bath at 3.45am and apart from leaping out in fright when something nasty floated to the surface at 6.45am (my mucus plug? Nobody warns you about this stuff!) I stayed in the bath until 7am. Water and labour go together like peanut butter and jelly. Typically the second I got out at 7am my contractions stopped. I had breakfast and Dave showered before we headed to the hospital.
My wonderful midwife Jill checked how dilated I was (3cm) and broke my waters straight away. By then I had been in labour 29 hours. There was some meconium in my waters so I had to stay on the bed with a fetal monitor around my tummy. My midwife also inserted a canula in my hand just in case and for some reason the second she did that I started vomiting. Do not ever eat peanut butter on toast before birth if you’re a barfer. It burns. Anyway…no more water for me. I was in an enormous amount of pain with each contractions and rapidly losing the plot so when the gas wasn’t helping enough she arranged an epidural. Oh sweet, sweet epidural I love you. I appreciate those people that have wonderful home births with whale music and candles but I am a total wimp and I need the drugs.
Because of the meconium an obstretician had appeared and kept popping in and out and one other one came by occasionally to check me too. No matter how bad my birth went I cannot fault the care I received. As the morning went on I developed a fever and had to have iv antibiotics, the baby became tachycardic (panicking) and I never got past 3cm. My midwife had mentioned that a c-section might have to happen and by that point I was telling her that I would not question that decision and so as soon as the obstetrician came in and mentioned it they decided to send me to theatre for one. They were calm but things for both me and the baby were steadily falling apart by then. My midwife didn’t leave the room at all after a while and arranged for another midwife to come and do her other deliveries. Unfortunately a lady with a breech birth took priority for a c-section so I had to wait another 2 hours. My grandma purses her lips when I say that and mutterd about the little shit who was breech but frankly by then nothing would have changed if I had been first. Eventually we went off to theatre which was thankfully much newer than the labour and delivery rooms. The c-section was a nightmare. It took an eternity for them to get me numb enough, they kept rubbing ice on me to see if I could feel it. Eventually they opened me up and 6 weeks later Jill said that when she saw my uterus full to the brim with meconium (my waters had been broken 7 hours before so I should have been relatively empty) her first thought was ‘fuck’. I think she was probably expecting a very unhappy outcome. After an eternity of tugging and pulling in my lower regions a lumpy headed, grumpy looking baby absolutely dripping in poop was waved over the curtain at me – my first words may have been “shes so ugly”. Ahem. They rushed her off to the corner of the room to clean her up and she cried which was quite possibly the most perfect sound I ever heard. At this point things went downhill for me. The obstetrician started suctioning out my uterus and sewing me up (apparently he did a particularly nice job, it has been mentioned by several people) and I started having some sort of reaction. The morphine gave me horrendous shakes which I had for over 24 hours and I had a horrible crushing feeling in my chest the whole time I was lying there. I felt like I was about to have a heart attack and was so scared I’d just given birth to a baby that would never know me. Dave tried his best to distract me and told me the middle name he had picked for Holly – Natasha. I had insisted he chose the middle name and then he had refused to tell me until she was born. I was suprised by how well he had chosen and touched that he had even chosen a back up name – Patricia. She’s so lucky to have a thoughtful father.
After a while Jill sent Dave over to the corner to meet the baby and she stayed by my head. She reported that he had a huge grin on his face and was smitten with the baby. Eventually he bought her over to me to see. I didn’t have my glasses on but I have to say she was quite beautiful by then. She had marks on her face from the oxygen mask and once I had seen her they said she had breathed in a little meconium and they were going to take her to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) for a couple of hours, just as a precaution. After I was sewn shut Dave and I were taken to my room. The bonus of having a c-section is getting a private room. I can’t imagine having two women and two babies in one room. The next wee while is blurry but we were there for a while, I rang my mum to tell her she finally had a grandchild, we discussed the sign on the wall advertising a baby massage course held in the day room on Thursdays. It was all normal. Then Dave was taken down to SCBU to see the baby and I assumed he would be bringing her back to room in with me for the 5 days I was supposed to be there. The next bit has haunted me ever since – he came back in and my first thought was that he didn’t have Holly with him. He looked terrible and he told me that she was really sick – really, really sick and hooked up to heaps of wires and they were sending her to Wellington Hospital NICU (SCBU at Hutt Hospital is mostly for prem babies or urgent cases just passing through). My world fell apart then. He said he had to go with her and that I would have to call my mum back to come and be with me. I got wheeled in to SCBU to see her briefly. She was swollen with a ventilator down her throat and wires coming out of her umbilical stump, ankle, arm and groin. I got to touch her once before being wheeled out of the way so they could transfer her to the travel incubator. My mum and her partner arrived at that point and it became clear that my mother would NOT be my support person. She was in tears and I would not be able to get the support I needed from her. So I sent her home (little knowing she would go to Wellington Hospital with my grandma to bug Dave! Mothers, sheesh!) and went back to my room where a lovely midwife helped me hand express copious amounts of colostrum. For the first 2 weeks my milk was the only thing I could provide my baby so I became quite passionate about it.
After a few hours I was packed into an ambulance to go into Wellington. I was still running a major fever by then and the ambulance had no air at all. Plus I was facing backwards so I threw up again. Eventually we arrived and I got wheeled out into the blissful cool air and into a room. I had run into Dave in a hallway (I was really not well by then and have no idea of the order of events) and we eventually managed to get a bed in my room for him – He hadn’t really slept since my 36 hour labour had started and by then it was more like 44 hours with no sleep. Lack of sleep and an abundance of stress were not affecting him kindly. Daves sisters and brother-in-law arrived at some point, I remember accidentally ripping my canula out of my hand and spraying blood everywhere – I would later discover I had sprayed it into my open bag of clothes. This was all happening in the middle of the night by now. We got told that she would be flown up to Auckland to Starship which is the national childrens hospital where really seriously sick babies/kids go. We got taken to NICU to see her where we got told by a particularly blunt nurse that one of us would have to go up with her. I still couldn’t feel my feet from surgery so Dave was the only choice but he was so shattered from everything he was near collapse. Eventually the nurse had to say it was pretty much life and death for Holly at this point and one of us needed to be with her. Hmmm, which parent to send in case she dies? Not a decision you ever want to make. When she said that I threw up again, it just hit me like a punch in the guts. So Dave went with her, taking his sister Donna for support. They got there about 8am the day after she was born (she was born about 3pm the day before) and I arrived at National Womens Hospital (in the same complex) about 4pm. The next week was just….hard. She spent most of it on an oscillator which runs at 600 beats a minute to prevent her burnt lungs from closing because they would just stick shut. She was sedated so couldn’t move and she was too swollen to open her eyes. We were allowed to touch her and kiss her and we took thousands of photos of her. They gave her a drug to make her pee and as the swelling went down she looked like a different baby each day. Eventually they moved her back to a ventilator which she tolerated enough to stay on. Everything that was down to her was only ever if she would tolerate it. They took about 3 days to wash her because she wouldn’t tolerate it. On about day 6 they stopped sedating her and she opened and eye then both eyes the next day. When she was 7 days old we got to hold her for the first time on a pillow. By about day 10 I finally got my first hold with no pillow and no CPAP mask, just oxygen prongs. Just plain baby. We had tried skin to skin but an enormous CPAP mask poking you in the face is not really condusive to that.
The whole time she was in Starship I struggled to bond with her. I was so scared she would be taken from us and knew that if I let myself care for her then I would be utterly devasted. So I pumped gallons of milk for her, gave her kisses and stroked her puffy little body and just….hoped. She was finally flown back to Wellington NICU 11 days after she was born. Dave had flown home the day before to see the cats and tidy the house and was due to come back up that day so it was a waiting game to see if he would come back up or if she would go down. Wellington agreed to take her but refused to come get her. I don’t know why but eventually Starship arranged to send her down themselves. I’ll save that for part 2.