After trying for almost 18 months we were finally expecting our first baby. By all accounts the pregnancy was an absolute breeze. My previous gluten and dairy intolerances vanished almost overnight and I enjoyed the foods I hadn’t for over a year. I whacked on 22kg bringing me to my heaviest weight, yet I was the happiest I had been for a long time. I loved my pregnant belly as it grew, my blood pressure remained steady and there was not even a skerrick of gestational diabetes.
I went to Birth Classes, Hypnobirthing classes, read as much as I could and had conversations with my doctors and midwives at each appointment. My theory was that prepared is best and I considered myself well informed, educated and aware of my options. I never wrote a plan, as I didn’t want to set expectations to later measure myself against, not wanting to be disappointed or feel a sense of failure.
The months rolled around and soon I was 39weeks, when they bring you in to have the conversation about what happens when you go over term. I saw an anaesthetist because policy requires it with a BMI over 35. Bub was still sat right up there at my 40week appointment and an induction date was booked. I was adamant that an induction was to be left as long as possible, as I wanted to avoid the cascade of interventions which i worries would result.
I google searched every possible way to naturally induce labour. We tried it all. I had three sessions with the most efficacious accupuncturist on the north shore, who advised Bub was sitting to far back in my pelvis so I spent days floating face down in a friends pool wearing a snorkel to try and shift him.
After a first failed Cervidil pessary on the scheduled induction day we negotiated to try again in three days, right on the 42week mark. We returned to the hospital the night before for another Cervidil, nervous but excited. A restless night of no sleep in a delivery suite, I listened to back to back hypnotherapy recordings. At 6am I was checked and still only measuring 1cm dilation so the plan was to plod along with the breaking of membranes and intravenous oxytocin.
We had continuous CTG monitoring but it was difficult to maintain an accurate trace (likely due to my extra padding) so a scalp electrode was applied. This meant I was on a very short leash and any plans I had for a water birth went out the window. The Oxytocin made me very nauseous so I declined morphine and other pain relief.
Contractions progressed slowly and at the 2hr mark I was 2cm dilated. Another 2 hrs there was little change but the monitoring was showing baby’s heart rate was slowing so a “Code Blue” was called. This meant any available medical and nursing staff came in to assess us.
The IV drip rate was reviewed and it wasn’t long until I was experiencing back to back contractions. An hour later and I asked about when decisions were made about Caesarian deliveries. I was intensely focussed and breathing through the pain but the need to monitor closely meant I was back on the delivery table.
At the six hour mark I was 4cm. I asked for an epidural. In the back of my mind I knew things weren’t progressing ideally, and I knew having epidural access would potentially take a little while to happen but would also allow for a spinal block if the decision was made to perform a Caesarian.
An hour later the anaesthetist arrived, and two hours after I requested it my epidural was in. Within fifteen minutes, baby’s heart rate was increasingly having periods of slowing. I was rolling side to side on the delivery table, breathing through continuous contractions but baby’s heart rate wasn’t improving. Thirty minutes after placing the epidural, the anaesthetist returned to assess its efficacy. I still had about 80-90% sensation and it was found that the connection had come undone with the rolling. At this point the scalp electrode came off and a second “Code Blue” was called.
It was decided at this point, by the dozen or so people in the room that it was essential to get baby out. There was no time to replace the scalp electrode, or try to find external tracing and I had no spinal access. I knew my options, and they were very limited. I wanted my baby alive, so I signed the consent for the Caesarian and we ran along the corridor to Main Theatres. I remember poor Brennan flapping along in his thongs behind me, the lights flying past overhead and asking my midwife to make sure I was covered so none of my colleagues saw more than they needed to.
Being in Main Theatres meant that Bren couldn’t come in. Within thirty minutes, he was holding our first son and only knew that I was still in theatre being operated upon. Four hours after leaving Delivery Suite, I woke in recovery and desperately tried to get the attention of the nurses at the station to find out what happened to my baby. I was groggy and confused, with a raspy voice from the intubation and was so relieved to hear he was back in Delivery Suite with my husband.
Finally meeting my son for the first time, hours after he was born I was exhausted. The midwife rapidly stripped him and we had the skin time I’m still so devastated was delayed for so long. She stayed well past the end of her shift, checking in on me and showing me how to feed then sitting beside me holding him while I rested.
Recovery was hard. The surgeon chose to use staples which pulled and stung with every movement resulting in an infection within a week. The shoulder tip pain I experienced was beyond the pain of anything else though thankfully resolved within three days. My legs and belly were rock solid for almost a week after the IV fluid replacement in theatre.
I was debriefed by the surgeon and obstetric registrar before I was discharged and was advised that J had the cord looped around his neck which was likely what had caused the slowing heart rate. They said that without the Caesarian I would likely have lost my baby. I also found out I had a moderate bleed and needed blood replacement and that the lining of my uterus had torn. They made the usual uterine incision but it tore down the full uterine length to my cervix meaning I will never have the natural birth I wished for. It also meant a strict two year delay between deliveries.
I’m so thankful I was as informed as I was, able to make the decisions I did and I’ll be eternally grateful to our midwife for helping me with bonding. I truly believe her presence and dedication made the difference in being able to successfully breastfeed my baby when statistically we had all the odds stacked against us.
My main regret was our lack of planning as a couple, for what would happen if things were to go wrong. I still get tears imagining my husband sitting there by himself for hours, holding a new baby and not knowing if his wife was alright, not knowing whether he should call someone. I wish we had talked about him being able to call my mum, about him doing skin time if I couldn’t, about bringing the colostrum I had painstakingly been collecting for weeks which was still in our freezer at home.
J’s birth was without doubt the single most challenging experience of my life. I cried for weeks after my delivery, and I know it shook Bren to his core. Writing this, and having Bren read it to make sure time hasn’t altered my recollections has managed to bring both of us to tears, even years later. I’m endlessly grateful for the beautiful son we have, but I think will always grieve not having the natural delivery I always wished for.