Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Our Baby: An unexpected arrival

Oh the irony. The very day I wrote this love letter was the day everything started happening, and our baby arrived only 2 days later- 10 weeks too early.

I'm writing an account of her birth for others who may have been through a similar thing, and for myself. I'm sure the sharp detail of the last few days will fade in time, and I want an account to look back on.

So last Wednesday was a normal day. I went to work. I wrote a love letter to my baby. I went to buy a maternity bra but decided to wait till closer to the time (murphy's law!). In fact the day was just so boringly normal. Until about 10.30pm at night when I was about to get off the couch and go to bed, and I felt something wet dripping down my leg. Before I looked I thought 'oh God, please don't let my waters have broken.'

In fact, it was worse than I expected- blood was streaming down my legs.

*Panic, panic, panic* - I went into auto response mode. I cried out to Matt and ran to the bathroom with blood dripping behind me. It was pooling on the bathroom floor, but somehow I managed to keep it together and called my midwife, who said to come to the hospital right away- we drove because an ambulance would take too long.

Somehow my orginisational brain hadn't quite been taken over by my reptile/panic brain, and I managed to grab my phone charger and some clean underwear on the way out- I realised I'd be in hospital for a while.

Sitting in the car on a blood soaked towel, I didn't let myself cry. Instead my thoughts were just 'Oh God please, let my baby girl be ok,' which I repeated over and over like a mantra. I wasn't capable of any more 'deep' thought. I sent a quick text to some close church friends asking them to pray urgently. Matt drove us there with speed, and got frustrated with drivers who were meandering along at the speed limit. But, being late at night, the car trip was quick- we were there within 20 minutes.

The first thing they did at the hospital was check the baby's heartbeat on a CTG monitor. Oh, hearing her heart beating away was the sweetest sound, let me tell you. Although something was wrong, she was allright, and that was the main thing. I was able to stop shaking and relax a bit.

Tests were carried out on me all throughout the night, and I was told I'd be in hospital for at least 24 hours after the bleeding stopped. So I mentally prepared myself for a 2 night stay. That would be ok, I thought, then I'd be back to normal life.

On Thursday it was revealed to me that my tests weren't coming back with very good results. In fact I was developing pre-eclampsia. I was in shock- I had naively thought that only older woman or overweight women or smokers developed this (I have no idea where this stereotype came from.) I was told on Thursday that my baby wouldn't be born at full term, in fact 35 weeks would be the longest we'd go, and I'd be in hospital till then.

I had a scan that morning and it showed that baby was only at the size of a 28 week old baby, instead of 30 weeks. At our 20 week scan she had been big, at the 26 week on she had been bang on, and now at 30 she was small. So this was another worrying indicator that something was wrong.

The day before she was born

So my vision for the future changed again. I cancelled all my ongoing work, I asked my brother to fill up a USB of movies for me. I mentally prepared for a 5 week hospital stay.

At this time my parents had decided to come down from Auckland for a few days, which I was so grateful for- there is nothing like seeing your parents to cheer you up! Matt was constantly in with me, and his parents visited too.

On Friday morning I texted Matt telling him maybe he should go to work today- it didn't look like anything was going to happen. A few minutes later the team of doctors came around and told me I was very, very unwell with pre-eclampsia. And baby had to be born today before I had a stroke or worse.

I was in shock. I felt fine, with no symptoms of pre-eclampsia (headaches or blurred vision.) I couldn't believe my body was failing me, us, when I felt so well. And our baby was doing fine in there, it wasn't her fault she would have to come out early, my body had let us both down and I was so upset.

So, I called Matt, crying, and told him to come in right now. 'Our baby is coming today,' - words I didn't think I would be uttering. I called my parents and they came in too, as did Matt's.

I was on a drip of various drugs for 4 hours before the c-section. The main one was magnesium which helped me not to stroke or hemorrhage, and helped baby's brain. Those 4 hours waiting for surgery were so surreal. In that time I had to let go of my 'birth vision' which I had had. I had imagined labouring at 40 weeks, in the bath (the bath in the corner of my room taunted me), with not much medical intervention, and active labour. I wouldn't get delayed cord clamping, or immediate skin to skin. Instead I was going into the most medicalised type of birth possible.

My last pregnant pic

Waiting, waiting, waiting
After the four hours of the drips, after consents and meetings with different staff we were good to go.

Matt getting funky in his scrubs, he knows how to make me laugh

Matt and I went into the operating theatre, and as they had told me, there were heaps of people in there, all focusing on their seperate jobs. I was shaking- so nervous. I had actually interpreted for someone getting an epidural before (not pregnancy related) and it had gone quite badly and looked painful and I couldn't get this out of my mind. But, in fact, after the small injection to numb the area, I didn't even feel the epidural go in. I just slowly began to lose feelings in my legs.

They lay me down, and it was so strange being a 'deadweight.' I told my feet to wiggle, my bum to clench and it didn't work. They did the 'ice' test on me, where they see how far up you can feel the ice, and I was numb from the chest down. They pricked me and I didn't feel it, so I was good to go.

My whole body was exposed for the whole theatre to see. They say you leave your dignity at the door of the maternity ward and pick it up on the way out. They are so right, but I didn't even care. Matt was up at my head end, trying desperately not to catch a glimpse over the sheet at what was going on. It was very comforting  having him there.

I felt what they were doing in the c-section, but it wasn't painful. After about 10 minutes the had got to the uterus and sucked the fluid out. They started pushing my tummy very hard to get baby out and I felt very very sick. After a bit of pushing she was out- I heard a tiny little cry and I can tell you I was SOOOO pleased to hear that sound. I cried on the operating table. 

It turned out that the placenta had half come off. I am SO grateful that the doctors operated when they did, because if we had left it, the situation would have been life threatening to both of us very soon.

We didn't get to see baby straight away because she was taken for assessment in the corner of the room. After about 5 minutes Matt was allowed to pop up and see her. I made him take photos to show me.

Our tiny, precious bundle.
The first glimpse I got of her was via photos. But I was pleased that she was doing well- her apgar score had been 7 then 8, then 9 (normal!).

I was sewn up and taken to recovery where Matt joined me. I was allowed a ice block, which was the best because I hadn't been able to eat or drink for about 24 hours. After about an hour I was wheeled in to see our baby. She was so tiny and helpless looking. Our precious little lamb, my arms ached to hold her.

But I was wiped, zonked and had to go back to the ward for a nice long sleep.

Baby A has gone from strength to strength, and is doing so well. She appears to have no medical issues apart from being small. So she just needs to fatten up, and she will be in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 6-8 weeks.

My recovery has been up and down, with my blood pressure playing havoc, and now under control with lots of drugs. I have slowly felt better and more human each day, but anemia is wiping my energy. I was discharged after 6 days, and am now spending a lot of time at home sleeping, in between visiting Baby A.

Every day I have been able to visit my baby more and more, and get more involved in her care.

We love our baby so much. Although we wish she hadn't arrived so early, now she is here we can't imagine life without her. It's crazy how much love you can feel for such a tiny helpless creature. Our precious little lamb.

I will write a post soon about how A is doing, and life as a NICU mum- a whole new world for us.

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