As my caesarean scar is four years old, I thought it was time to write our birth story.
Hubs and I got married 1 October 2009. We thought about when we wanted to try to get pregnant, and decided we’d be married for a year before we’d start trying. Through the year, I tracked my cycle, got a blood test to confirm my Rhesus status and a full health check, improved my diet and cut down on alcohol. I then started taking folic acid in the months leading to October 2010. We celebrated our anniversary in Hobart, Tasmania. We ate and drank too much, had a whale of a time on the island, came home and later that week when the moon was in alignment, the chi was in the air, the little flower on my iPhone told us now was the time.
We tried to put everything out of our minds, telling everyone that I’d drunk so much in Tasmania I was giving my liver a rest. This worked ok until I got eaten alive by mosquitoes while visiting Hanno. My arm swelled up to the point I couldn’t wear my clothes comfortably, we visited A&E where I whispered that I might be pregnant, but we weren’t sure as I couldn’t test until next week. The doctor winked at me and gave me a safe antihistamine, a small dose of steroids to bring the swelling down and wished me well. The following week, we found that I was pregnant, first time of trying. Amazing in itself.
When I was filing my tax return on the Saturday morning, I borrowed their bathroom and found spotting in my underwear. I called my GPs office, who said, “Don’t worry – it happens”. But it carried on and was accompanied by cramping, Hubs and I went to A&E again in afternoon. Waiting for our turn, I went into full on meltdown mode, desperately worried about the little bundle of cells inside me that had only been confirmed a few days before. Hubs I’m sure thought I was mad. The nurses were blasé, the doctor who examined me less so, picking up on my anxious state. She took a blood test, which showed my hCG level was through the roof, she told me that I either was more pregnant than I thought I was, or it was likely to be a multiple pregnancy. They arranged for me to have a scan on the Sunday, it was confirmed there was only one little butterbean on the scan, and it looked fine. Stop worrying.
Later that week at all of about six and a half weeks pregnant, I went to see my obstetrician, Haider Najjar, such is the way in Australia – to get continuous care you have to pay for a private OB/GYN. You also have to book in the minute you pee on a stick as they get booked up so quickly. I literally called Hubs, the OB and then the hospital (to book our spot), all within 5 minutes. Sitting in Haider’s waiting room one day a lady was stunned to be told that at eleven weeks pregnant; she wouldn’t get into Cabrini, her hospital of choice, because they were full.
A word here on how we knew who we wanted to look after us and where to get booked in so quickly; we visited two hospitals, Cabrini and Waverley Private. Both were close to where we lived, I had a long list of questions of I wanted answered. Waverley Private answered all of them, the midwife who showed us around also answered a curly question, ‘Who would you recommend who is a good surgeon as well as a good OB?’ she gave me two names. I called both, but one was out the country when I was due, so Haider’s rooms took me on.
(Please don’t think that Hubs was out the loop on this massive decision, as he wasn’t all. Hubs just wanted me to be happy with what we chose, after both of us doing lots of reading, we’d talked about questions to ask. He didn’t have too many, as I said, I had loads – all were answered. Then before we started trying, we had a final conversation about what and where we were doing and going).
My pregnancy passed uneventfully, except for morning sickness which finally gave way just in time for us to move house. When we’d settled in, I promptly started up with chronic heartburn. The pharmacist gave me all he could, then sent me to my GP, who gave me all she could, who eventually called Haider who prescribed what he was happy with.
I was never once weighed, my blood pressure remained happily normal, aside from the heartburn it was a normal, uneventful pregnancy. I had a scan at 12 weeks, my placenta was sitting low, so low I commented on it. The technician said there was plenty of time for it to move, don’t worry. At twenty weeks we had another scan, again my placenta was low, but we also found out that after actively trying for a boy, we were having one. Peanut was firmly breech for most of the rest of the pregnancy, as you go from monthly, to fortnightly appointments, he was still firmly bum down. Until one day when I felt terrible and had a bad night; the next appointment showed that at last he’d turned, at 36 and a bit weeks! Haider sent me for a final scan to make sure that there wasn’t room for him to rotate back again, and also for one last check on my placenta. There had to be clear distance between it and my cervix before I would be allowed to go into labour naturally.
I got another peep at Peanut, and thought nothing more of it, until I got a phone call from Haider’s rooms. ‘You need to come in and see him today.’ Straight away, I knew I’d be having a c-section. I called Hubs, he had back to back meetings, I called a girlfriend, my nominated birthing partner if Hubs could’t be contacted. Luckily she was home with her daughter for the day, she met me and came in with me to hold my hand.
All the way through my year of preparation, I’d been reading up on natural childbirth, wanting to be in the moment of riding the waves of contractions to have the baby on my own. It was important to me, I was strong, fit, I’d kept walking, swimming and even doing the odd Bikram Class through my pregnancy.
However, the Practice Owner of the clinic had called Haider and told him he needed to review the film. Not just called him, but called him in his car on the way home. I had Vasa Praevia, a low-lying blood vessel, lying right across my cervix. No natural birth for me, we couldn’t even risk Peanut’s head dropping and becoming engaged. It could have been fatal for both of us.
Sitting in Haider’s rooms, he gently told me that we needed to have the baby. Tomorrow. Did I want a morning or evening delivery? I didn’t much mind, I was in shock, I called Hubs and told him we were having a baby tomorrow, he left work and came home. Haider’s staff swung into action, getting an anaesthetist, paediatrician and another surgeon ready to go. I got called to be told to report for 6:45am. They’d cleared the morning theatre schedule, I would be going in first.
My bag had been packed for a couple of weeks. I’d also only finished work a few days before, but I wasn’t even on maternity leave, I was still on RDOs! I went back to work with Hubs later that afternoon to drop off the final bits of project work that I couldn’t now finish. Walking round the office, everyone was happy to see me, but all I could think about was ‘I’ve got to have the baby. I’ve got to have the baby.’
Hubs and I spent the rest of the night calling everyone we needed to call, making sure we had everything, and taking final pictures of my pregnant belly. The stress had brought out two huge spots on my forehead, just in time for lots of photos. Not that I’m that vain, but bluddy hell.
I was nil by mouth from midnight. Have you ever tried being nil by mouth when you’re pregnant? Don’t – it’s hell. Not only was I starving hungry, feeling queasy as I was hungry, my heartburn was escalating to dragon proportions. At past midnight, the pair of us lying awake, holding hands and wondering about the following day, I got up to take a tablet. Washing it down with barely a mouthful of water Hubs said ‘I’m prepared to lie like a rug to say you’ve not eaten or drunk anything.’ Love him. We eventually got to sleep.
The next morning, I got up showered, took one last belly picture in the bathroom of zee bump at 37 weeks and 3 days, as I had been doing all pregnancy. We got dressed and headed to the hospital. Arriving on time, our midwife wasn’t ready, so we dropped our bags off and sat in reception looking at the fishes. Person after person came in with crutches tucked under their arms, it was evidently ‘leg day’ in theatre that morning. I wondered how annoyed they’d been the day before after being told that their operations were being pushed back a bit, for an emergency c-section?
The midwife came out to reception to look for me. I was sitting down, coat still on as I couldn’t get warm. Eventually we heard ‘But there’s no pregnant lady out there!’ I stood up and my wee bump popped out the bottom of my jacket, this was me at 34 weeks:
Not exactly huge am I? The midwife rushed us through the paperwork, Hubs answering questions while our anaesthetist, Dr Joseph Mezzatesta, came to talk with me. I didn’t want an epidural, so he agreed to give me a spinal, which is less invasive. I had a canula put into the corner of my right hand, almost where it met my wrist, most uncomfortable and a PITA for holding a baby afterwards I can tell you.
I walked up to theatre with everyone, resplendent my revealing gown, bed socks and cap. I sat down and waited while they got Hubs ready. Sitting in a little room on my own, the baby charging around like crazy, I wondered what on earth was happening. In the theatre, I was sat on the edge of the bed, hunched over a pillow, two nurses holding onto me as I sobbed. I went to wipe my nose and got told off as I’d moved, luckily he wasn’t in the process of injecting me right that second. Within minutes, my legs went cold and like lead. I was rearranged on the bed, Hubs on my right hand side, Joe on my left. He chatted away to me while he wrote up pain relief for after the operation. At 7:45 I was sat outside theatre in a little room, staring at the covers of shitty gossip magazines, at 8:03 Archie was born.
He had a mark on the side of his face where the forceps had caught slightly, he was indignant, cross and vociferously yelling at us to tell us so. I can remember turning to Hubs to say, ‘Is he here?’ We took no cameras into theatre with us, neither of us wanted that moment to be shared on film with anyone else. I barely got a peep at him, the paediatrician, who I’d hated on sight, did what he needed to do while I was being stitched up. Then I was wheeled to recovery. Hubs spent the first hour with Archie in the nursery, then our room. I begged to be let free from recovery early, but hospital policy meant for most of the first hour, I was sat in bed, numb from the waist down, on a different floor in the hospital, being checked on, not even sat with.
When I was let out, we found that our midwife had been sent home, despite us being told she’d be with us all day. I was met back in our room by two nurses that I didn’t know, one of which undressed me, grabbed my left nipple and shoved into Archie’s mouth, ticking off the ‘first feed within an hour box.’
After that, we were left on our own for a bit, we had an idea of names, but I wanted to wait until we’d met him before we finally decided on what and the order. At 11:06 we sent the first of many texts out, telling everyone he’d arrived. My father in law was in Melbourne on business that day, so he managed to meet his second grandson on his birthday. My cousin and her husband came to see us, my brother and sister in law and their children too. Flowers began arriving, my legs were still numb.
Lying down in bed to rest at the end of an eventful day, I got transposed shoulder pain. I was screaming in agony, and I mean screaming, I was sat back up in bed and it faded away. An hour or so later, they laid me down again, this time with a nurse leaning on the same shoulder for good measure, and off it went again. For the rest of the night, I was propped up, off my face on pain relief and wondering what the f*** had happened to me. The next morning, I hobbled to the bathroom, Hubs helped me strip off, washed me, dried and dressed me, and got me back to bed before I keeled over. Still the most romantic thing he’s done for me.
So much for the calm natural birth I’d wanted, researched and hoped for. The one saving grace, I was able to get the placenta encapsulated; that the hospital didn’t have a problem with. It took me a long time to get over the birth, to process it. This is the first time I’ve written about it all actually, which considering how much better I feel after writing about things, is surprising.
I can still get angry over not being with Archie for the first hour, if I let myself. I can still get annoyed when I think about the paediatrician too. But instead, I choose to think about the wonderful care Haider gave me all throughout my pregnancy. Answering every single question, I’m also incredibly grateful that he was a good enough surgeon that my scar is now a tiny faded line, and I was up and about so quickly after what is major surgery.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help, to take the donuts when they’re offered. Without asking so many questions, we may not have ended up with such a good doctor who saved both our lives by his intervention. I didn’t get the birth I wanted, but we got the son we hoped for. That is more important.