This was my 3rd birth. My first was when I was 27. Livi, now 13, managed to get herself stuck and was pulled out with forceps after a horrendous labour. A decade later, when I was 37, Jasmine, who will be 3 in May, arrived to chill out tunes in our spare room, following a hypno-birthing course. Still bloody painful but overall, a really wonderful experience. A little heads up before we proceed, baby number 3’s arrival was the TOTAL opposite to Jasmine’s in every way. It’s also a bit icky to read in parts. If you are due a baby soon or planning to have a baby, don’t let this scare you – as far as I’m concerned, it’s still a positive birth story with a very happy ending.
Due to baby being breech, I was booked in for a c-section today, Tuesday, 12th March. At 6pm last Tuesday, 5th March (my dad’s birthday), James facetimed us from his office in Staines to say goodnight to Jasmine. He was hanging back to miss the traffic caused by the Heathrow bomb scare. With him being shattered and needing to back there on Wednesday, I told him to stay the night and get a good night’s sleep. Only 3 more working days and then he’d be off work for birth week. So, he stayed the night. At 3.20am on Wednesday morning, I woke up due to feeling a trickling sensation down my leg. I thought, “Blimey! Has my pelvic floor given up completely?” 🙂 I got up to go the loo and as I did, it felt like my bladder just opened. As I went to sit down, something pretty huge, dark, bloody and jelly-like fell out of me. With Livi, my waters were broken for me and with Jasmine, my waters broke as she came out, so I didn’t know what it actually felt like to have your waters break naturally or to have a bloody show – but this seemed like way more than a show. I sat on the loo, feeling a little light-headed and thinking, “Fuck. He’s not here. The girls are sleeping. I can’t panic.” I called my mother-in-law first as she only lives 5 minutes up the road. She told me she was on her way and to call for an ambulance. I called emergency services and told them that my waters had broken and that I was home alone with 2 children. The lady on the phone immediately requested an ambulance. While I was talking to her, Livi, my 13 year old heard me on the phone and came into our room. It’s crazy because she is usually such a deep sleeper but she woke up and heard me on the phone and knew that something must be happening. The lady on the phone then told me to ask Livi to get towels to lay out on the bed and string to tie around the umbilical chord… she said, “I’m going to help you deliver the baby!” I’m sorry – you’re gonna do what now? WTF? Erm… no love. You’ve misunderstood. Ain’t no one delivering anything anywhere at 3.30am! I wasn’t even having contractions – just a few Braxton Hicks (in denial much?) But she said we had to be prepared in case baby started coming and the paramedics hadn’t arrived yet. In the meantime, my mother-in-law arrived as Livi was calling James. They got hold of him and he was now on his way back from Staines, a good 1.5 hours away, even at that time of night – oh and there was torrential downpour outside.
The first paramedic arrived at around 3.45am, quickly followed by two more paramedics in an ambulance. The first one took a look at the thing that fell out of me and said it was normal, so I started to worry less about the baby. Honestly, the room looked like a scene from Chainsaw Massacre! From my bed to the ensuite, there was blood everywhere! I remember thinking, before anyone arrived, “I need to get out of this blood soaked nightie and get some wipes to clean the floor!” You can’t take the Monica out of me, whatever the situation! 🙂 Anyway, they were all amazing, asked me a few questions and then we calmly headed for the ambulance. Livi, who was a total rock throughout, had already carried mine and baby’s hospital bags downstairs, so we (baby & me) were good to go.
We arrived at the hospital and I was wheeled to the triage area where Leslie, a midwife of dreams, took over. I told her that I felt like I was just having Braxton Hicks and that nothing was really happening yet. A doctor, who would potentially be my surgeon, came to see me with a trainee doctor too. To be honest, for me, the doc was the only chink in the chain. He was quite aloof, borderline cold and didn’t seem to want to progress with me. He performed a scan to check if baby was still breech, which she was and, with my permission, got the trainee doctor to have a feel too as apparently I had the “perfect breech” for a trainee, as you could really feel the baby’s position. He kind of fobbed me off with waiting another hour to see how things were progressing but in the meantime, wanted me to have the mother of all steroid injections to help baby, which two of the midwives thought a little odd given I was 38 +3 weeks but we did it anyway. Holy shit! That’s the worst injection I’ve ever had! I could have done with some gas and air just for that!
At 5.30am, James arrived and I felt so relieved that he’d made it back in time. People came in and out, it’s all a bit of a blur but at around 7am, I asked Leslie to strap me up as I felt like the “Braxton Hicks” were becoming more regular and a bit painful. Leslie strapped me up, wandered off and then came back in and said, “Nicki, did you feel that?” and I said, “Yes, it was quite sore.” To which she said, “You must have a high pain threshold. They’re contractions.” Oops! The doc came and had a look and agreed but said they’d leave it another 30 mins or so. WHAT THE HELL FOR? At this point, James and I are thinking, just get me into theatre – we know I’m having a c-section, I’m now having contractions, let’s just get this done. It was pretty frustrating.
I think it was around 8am when there was a handover. Leslie went off duty and Hannah became the mid-wife that would be with me throughout the c-section also. Another doctor came to see me – a very lovely lady doctor whose name I didn’t catch. We talked through the c-section procedure, covered the risks etc. I had to sign a few forms and she said that this is now a semi-planned section. She realised that I was having contractions very regularly and that I was having to breathe through them (thank you hypno-birthing) and said we should get me in next. I met with the super-friendly anaesthetist who talked me through what a local anaesthetic meant and everything seemed to be in hand. Then, as the midwife, Hannah, was preparing me, I jumped as I felt something sort of bubble and pop below. Hannah checked and looked over at the doc and said it was blood – half a pint, to be precise. I’m pretty sure she used some acronym that I can’t remember and then we went from what was quite a calm prep to there suddenly being a whole heap of people around me and the anaesthetist had come back in. I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to know that when people are holding back the double doors, to reduce delays in getting you to the operating theatre, it’s pretty serious. The anaesthetist told me that I would now need a general anaesthetic and I remember thinking that wasn’t ideal but whatever, they knew best. They then strapped me up and baby was absolutely fine so they decided to go with a local anaesthetic after all. I was rolled on to my side and the anaesthetist attempted to administer the spinal block. He joked about my bony back not playing ball as he was struggling to get the needle in. I’m still having contractions during this time and I just remember thinking, “I’m not breathing down… you are not coming out breech through my vagina, baby!” I was offered gas and air but just figured I’d made it this far, what’s another few minutes for the spinal block to kick in? However, I’d lost another half a pint of blood and apparently, being the bionic woman that I am, my body wasn’t responding to the local anaesthetic as quickly as they wanted it to. They kept poking or using ice cubes and I kept saying, “Yep! I can feel that… and that…and that…” It’s actually quite funny looking back. However, due to the blood loss, they couldn’t wait any longer so they said I’d have to have general anaesthetic. James was asked to leave the room. I do remember feeling panicked now. I’d been so calm but now I felt uncertain. They put the mouthpiece over me and said I would soon go off. I had closed my eyes at this point and they told me to open my eyes. I did and then panicked that the general anaesthetic wasn’t working and that I was going to end up feeling everything. I remember gripping a lady’s hand and saying, “I’m scared.” (I get a lump in my throat just writing that.) She told me not to be.
Next thing I know, I come round and as soon as I open my eyes, there she is… my little ball of love being held right in front of my eyes. She was so beautiful. They knew how important skin to skin was for me so after a quick cuddle, they’d popped a nappy on her and put her straight down my gown. James had been brought back in and I remember crying, “I missed it.” But really, it didn’t matter. Baby was ok – more than ok – she was perfect and I was ok too. James then showed me photos that the midwife had taken with his phone as soon she was born.
How amazing that amidst all of that, with our baby not having a single parent ‘present’ while she was born, the team thought to stop and allow the midwife to take some photos for us – we didn’t even ask them to. They even brought James in to cut the umbilical chord before stitching me back up and taking him back out until I came around.
Then, in true English style, the midwife brought us tea and toast. This sounded amazing until I tried chewing and swallowing toast after being on anaesthetic – I had a mouth like Ghandi’s flip flop! The tea was good though! I felt pretty dizzy and lightheaded but given what had just happened, I didn’t feel too bad. Up until this point, baby was going to be called Lyla. I looked at her and cried, “She doesn’t look like a Lyla!” Hubby then went straight online, while we’re still in the recovery room and got onto the case of finding a name! He said, “Willow” and then almost dismissed it as quickly as he’d said it. But I looked at her, all dark and willowy down my gown and I just knew it was the one. What would we do without t’interweb, eh?
We were then moved to the maternity ward where both Willow and I smashed our obs over the next couple of days… I don’t mean to brag but the night nurse said, “You’re my favourite kind of patient.” We were discharged morning of the 8th. Willow came into the world at 10.09am on Wednesday, 6th March, weighing 7lbs 2oz.
So what actually happened?
It wasn’t until the midwife came to visit us the day after Willow and I were discharged that we understood the gravity of what had happened. The blood loss was due to placental abruption. In short, placental abruption is when the placenta starts to come away from the uterus. When it has come away completely, there is nothing keeping the baby alive. In the most severe cases, the mother’s life can be at risk too but this is rare. Interestingly, I had called triage a couple of weeks back as I had a spot on my bump where it was so sore to touch – like a bad bruise. I looked it up on online and it was one of the symptoms of placental abruption. They asked a few questions over the phone and in fairness, I didn’t have any of the other symptoms. I did, however, have bleeding early on in pregnancy and baby was breech – two things that can increase your chance of placental abruption, as can (and I really hate to say this) the fact that I am 40. The reality is, we’ll never know what caused it or when it started. Hearing how serious it actually was, did knock me sideways for a bit. I looked at James and said, “You could have lost us both.” I know – extreme – but I’m hormonal, remember and what I said wasn’t entirely untrue, just rare. I did wonder why the blood clot or abruption weren’t picked up by the first aloof doc that did the scan when I got to hospital, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. I did also think about why Adam Kay quit his job, for those of you that have read, This is Going to Hurt. But I’m trying not to think about it because we are here and healthy – super healthy, all things considered. I can’t thank all the staff that treated and tended to us at Gloucester Royal Hospital enough. I feel like we really do owe them our lives.
As for my recovery, my scar is barely there. I was expecting to look all bruised and battered! James and I couldn’t believe how clean and neat it was. The midwife said my recovery is testament to my healthy lifestyle. She said that it was clear my diet was good as given how much blood I’d lost, my iron levels were low but nowhere near as low as they would be in many others. I’m not over doing it but I am mobile and even took a very slow stroll to our local, for wine obviously, the day after I was discharged.
Willow has slotted perfectly into our lives. Jasmine adores her and Livi is smitten too. I feel so lucky to have 3 healthy girls and am thankful that when it mattered, my body and the NHS didn’t fail either of us.
So, there you have it, my birth story. Thanks for reading!