This post might make more sense if you read about our cystic fibrosis diagnosis here first.
My birth story, in a way stems from other women's birth stories! I was working on labour ward for the last 6 weeks of my midwifery course. Three days a week my big belly and I headed into the hospital to deliver more and more babies. My last week was an extremely busy one. We had a few crazy days and I cared for a few complex patients with a handful of PPH's and emergencies thrown in there to keep us on our toes.
All this stress and excitement began to take its toll and I began having regular braxton hicks contractions. I took the Thursday off work and returned on the Friday. Looking back now its funny how things turned out...I attended a talk run by a consultant in the special care nursery on how to treat parents. I thought of all those parents I had cared for and how I could never imagine what they were going through. Little did I know within a week I would be one of those parents. As I was getting my bag ready to leave that afternoon a few of the girls and I were laughing at how big my tummy was. "...6 weeks to go! you are going to be HUGE!" I said goodbye to everyone and that I would see them on Tuesday for my baby shower and morning tea!! Three shifts to go, I had delivered 34 babies and had 6 more to go! I was feeling like I was just getting on top of things.
Over the weekend I took it easy. Spending time at our new house with Ian, my brother and dad. I painted doors and sat down eating mostly hehe. On Sunday we were having a BBQ at my brothers and I began to think something wasn't quite right. Mainly because I couldnt sit down, it was way too painful & uncomfortable. I just put it down to braxton hicks and pushed it to the back of my mind. Monday morning rolled around and I went off the the hospital to see the psychologist I had been referred to through the antenatal clinic. I had been finding it hard to deal with the diagnosis and it was immensely helpful talking about it however this day was different. I couldn't stop crying, I was so emotional. I really didn't know what was coming over me! I cried all the way home then met my best friend for lunch. Once again I couldn't sit properly at lunch, I pushed it out of my mind simply putting it down to my expanding belly.
That afternoon I began feeling quite unwell, just unsettled...hard to explain. I just did not feel right. Ian was getting ready to go to night shift and I said to him that I was feeling terrible and I couldn't go to work in the morning, he reassured me I would be fine and that I only had a few days left. Off he went to work and I headed to the supermarket with my brother. As I walked around the shops I was breathing through braxton hicks one straight after the other. When we got home I jumped in the shower and that was the only place I felt relief! When I came out I smelt the chicken cooking for dinner, I swore something was wrong with the chicken because the scent smelt so strong to me. I kept going to the toilet and it was really painful, I thought right I have a UTI (never mind the contractions!!!) So I headed to bed and called my mum. I told her about the braxton hicks and she freaked out! she said how often are they coming?! I didn't know, I wasn't counting! I had a UTI for godssake! We started counting and I was contracting every 5 minutes.
Mum: "ring your midwife"
Me:"no its nothing"
Mum:" elli ring your midwife"
Me:"no mum its 9pm!!!!"
Mum:"RING YOUR MIDWIFE RIGHT NOW ELLIOT!"
Mum:"im hanging up the phone RIGHT NOW and ringing back in FIVE MINUTES!"
I called my lovely midwife and told her what was going on, while I was explaining things to her I realised I hadn't felt the baby move all day. I couldn't remember the last time he moved. That really scared me. We decided I would go into the hospital and be checked just to be sure. I called Ian and he came home from nightshift and we headed in, I didn't pack a bag. I would be home in a few hours anyway! On the way to the hospital I became nauseous and the pain gradually became worse and worse.
We arrived at the hospital and headed up to the assessment unit. I told the midwife I was sure I had a UTI and went to do a wee sample. I was then connected up to the CTG machine and chatted away to Ian. The midwife came back and I questioned her regarding my dipstick. I was expecting some oral antibiotics and a talking to about the causes of a UTI...well, no. My urine was completely clear! Perfect in fact. Well what on earth...? I was so in denial! The midwife did an assessment and I was 2cm dilated and fully effaced. Well...surprised was an under statement!
The midwife was concerned the baby was breech and asked the doctor to come and scan. The scan showed that the baby wasn't breech however I had polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid) and the baby had ascites (a collection of fluid in the peritoneal cavity). I had an appointment 2 weeks prior which had been completely fine. The doctor asked if I had noticed a sudden growth in my tummy which I confirmed. She then told us our baby would be born tonight, TONIGHT we said?! We haven't finished our house! The doctor reassured us that the special care nursery made great babysitters. After she left I went straight to the bathroom and was sick, I was in complete shock.
We were moved around to labour ward to a lovely big room overlooking the city. I was connected to the CTG machine and a junior doctor attempted to insert a cannula in my arm. That was more painful than my amnio a few weeks back!! I managed to get a bit of broken sleep until 5am when my waters broke and things became more intense. I had such a heavy feeling that made me feel like I constantly needed to wee. I was having to lean forward and breathe through my contractions which was lifting the CTG off my belly and picking up my heart rate instead of the babies. This meant people kept running in and out thinking the babes heart rate was dropping.
When 7am rolled around I had about 7 people in my room trying to fix my CTG monitor, holding the doppler on my tummy and just being completely overwhelming! They decided to apply a fetal scalp electrode ( a device that goes under the babies skin on his head to monitor his heart rate, much more reliable than through the mothers tummy) to do this the doctor needed to do an examination and held his hand there to feel changes in the cervix during a contraction. This was becoming way too much for me, the people, the examination, the feeling that something terrible was happening. I began to lose my shit. My new midwife took control and declared everyone get out and we calm things down. This midwife was so amazing, alongside her was a student who was in my class at uni who was equally as good. They discussed pain relief with me and because I hadn't had a thing I was unsure of what to have. The midwife suggested an epidural would be a good option, I was reluctant because at uni all we had drummed into us natural birth! We even had private hypnobirthing classes! Regardless I opted for an epidural and my god was it the best decision I ever made.
Epidural in, what a relief. I look like shit.
I was completely comfortable and feeling great at 8cm dilated when the consultant neonatologist came to see us. He discussed the babies ascites and told us they would probably drain his tummy on labour ward, then transfer him to the nursery. We agreed and thought nothing more of it. It wasn't until the midwife told me we would have to be prepared to get into the McRoberts position (used for shoulder dystocia - when the baby becomes stuck) because of his tummy. Really! I thought geez..ok but it never occurred to me what this really meant.
Things started getting more intense when my mum just arrived from the airport! I was fully dilated and began pushing. I felt like I was pushing for about 20 minutes but two and a half hours later and the doctors started rolling in. The room was full of people. me, ian, mum, midwife, midwife, midwife, consultant obstetrician, fellow, registrar, RMO, consultant paediatrician, registrar and RMO. It was a big room but with 13 people there it quickly became small. I had to turn it up a notch with the pushing when I saw the instruments come out, my midwife said come on we need this baby out NOW. I heard the clink of the scissors and I pushed for my life! No scissors were coming near me! After I delivered his head and shoulders I thought geez! walk in the park!! what was I worried about. Then came the hard part....I pushed and pushed and he wasn't coming out. Pulling, pushing, it was so intense. I saw everyone moving, the looks on their faces...I knew it wasn't good. After what felt like a lifetime he was born, the midwife was shouting to cut his cord and he was quickly put onto the cot. He wasn't breathing and his abdomen was incredibly distended.
Meanwhile I was overjoyed! I was saying its a boy! I knew it! I told you all! I was high on all the hormones! It was decided he was too sick to drain his tummy on the ward and he needed to go to the nursery immediately. I was able to have a quick cuddle and he was making the cutest little noises. Looking back I guess he was trying to breathe.
Oliver Andrew born at 1237hrs 26/11/2013
Oli holding Ians finger, a few minutes old.
Oli was whisked off to the nursery and Ian went down too. Suddenly all the people were gone and there was just the two midwives, my mum and I. I chatted and chatted I was hyper and so excited. A BOY!!! I couldn't believe it. At this point I had no idea how sick he was. I hopped in the shower and got ready to go to the nursery to see my new baby. I was told I needed to eat and drink before I could go down. Ian came back up to the ward, he was white as a ghost and said he felt sick. I was so confused. Why would he feel sick?! Why wasn't he excited like me! He bought some photos up of Oli so I could see what he looked like. Regardless of all the tubes, monitors and that belly I thought he was just perfect.
Ian came back and we headed down to see Oli in the nursery. We were told we had to come and see him before 3pm because he would be transferred to the paediatric hospital as he needed surgery ASAP. We came out of labour ward and there were my mum, dad, brother & sister. I was so excited, I was still in the lovely post birth haze. "It was a BOY! we called him Oli!!!!" Unfortunately my bubble was about to be burst. Big time. Ian wheeled me to Oli's cot where he lay motionless. I was too scared to touch him, the nurse encouraged me to reach out to him. I put my finger up to his palm. I started crying, he was sick. He was so so sick. He wasn't the newborn I imagined. I wasn't prepared for this at all. The NETS team arrived and Oli was to be taken to the kids hospital for surgery. I got to hold him before he was put into the cot. Such a precious moment. I had that feeling of a really sore throat because I was holding in my tears.
Cuddling Oli before he was transferred to the children's hospital for surgery. Ian's still in his uniform!
The nurse told us to give him a kiss, I tried to find a patch of face without tapes or tubes. I gave him a kiss, he was so cute! The nurse told Ian to give Oli a kiss, he said no! I think he was too scared, she encouraged him and after a quick kiss he was put into the plastic isolette and off he went. I went back up to the ward, Ian went home to sleep. I sat in disbelief... learning about breast pumps, collecting milk and getting my obs checked. The midwives called the kids hospital to see if I could stay there so I could be close to Oli. There were no beds so I had the choice of staying in that hospital or going home. I was going home! No way I was staying next to mums and newborns without my baby. I wanted to be with Ian. My midwife didn't want to send me home, my heart rate was sky high. I reassured her I was just excited (HAHA!) I had a phone call from the surgical registrar at the kids hospital where Oli had arrived. He discussed with me the fact they would have to perform a colostomy and remove a part of his bowel which had ruptured. I gave my consent and hung up the phone. A colostomy! I told the midwife, I didn't expect that at all. It never even crossed my mind.
I left the hospital at 5pm, I walked all the way from labour ward to our car out the front. I was completely exhausted. The car ride home is foggy. It felt so bizarre not to have my big belly. I just went through all this hard work yet....I'm just me again. We got to my brothers house where we were living and everyone was so excited! I got given lots of beautiful gifts and had a weird feeling of excitement and sadness. I went to find Ian and quickly scoffed a peanut butter sandwich so we could go to the hospital.
Ian had a few hours sleep and was exhausted. He looked like complete shit. I was still puzzled as to why he wasnt excited. At the time I didnt realize how hard it must have been watching the events from the outside. We were sitting on our bed and Ian just said to me "...it was so horrible" he had witnessed things in the nursery that no parent should have to see happen to their newborn.
We made our way into the hospital feeling scared, exhausted and excited. We arrived at the nursery and were pointed to Oli's cot. I cried as soon as I saw him. He looked so different from when he was born. The colour of his skin was much better and he wasn't so red. His tummy was normal again yet he was still covered in 1000 tubes, lines, monitors. We sat for hours stroking his head and saying how cute he was. I had bought in some of the blankets my mum had made him and put them on his cot. This would become a daily ritual for me.
The first time we saw Oli post op. He was about 7 hours old.
Ian and I will never forget the nurse who was caring for Oli that night. This nurse was amazing, she was such an expert at her job. She was funny and caring and knew her shit! We were laughing and joking...forgetting for a minute just how fucked up the situation was. After a few hours we left to go home. We got outside the doors of the nursery and I couldn't move. My legs became so painful, I couldn't move a muscle. After being in labour for days, different birth positions, being up in stirrups, pushing for hours, pure exhaustion and stress my body gave up. I was crying from the pain and it was so bizarre not being able to move! One of the staff got a wheelchair and pushed me to the car.
The whole way home I was crying. I think Ian was too. Nothing could have prepared us for this situation. I kept on repeating, " hes just SO CUTE" "Iz he is SO CUTE" We held hands so tightly the whole way home. Our lives had just been turned upside down, we should have been cuddling our newborn baby and celebrating his birth. Instead we were hoping he made it through the night and we wouldn't get a terrible phone call. There was only one thing for certain. We were sticking together, if we stuck together we would be able to hold each other up and be strong. Well...that was the plan.