Aw brought a little tear to my eye. Brings back so many lovely memories – I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ giving birth but I was blessed to have an uncomplicated one (I hate calling it an ‘easy’ one!) and it’s such a magical time once they’re here ?
Our Birth Story – Daddy Nearly Didn’t Make It…
April is c-section awareness month – so it felt like a good opportunity to get myself in gear and share our birth story. Those that have followed my blog or social media may be aware that Alfie arrived a little earlier than expected at (36+5). And, while his early delivery was a little rushed, I wouldn’t change anything about it! It really felt like we were in the best possible hands.
(Back story: we live in the British Virgin Islands but had been advised by our doctors to deliver in Puerto Rico due to my chronic hypertension and the risks associated with it. I had flown ahead of my husband (Dom) for the last of my appointments, since it was still 4 weeks before I was due.)
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY READING: The Pregnancy Diaries – Month Eight
Four Days Before the Birth
Like many others, I feel like my birth story actually starts a few days before the birth. At 36 w 1 d, I went in for a routine check-up on a Friday with my new OBGYN in Puerto Rico. I had just flown in the day before and this was my second ever appointment with him. As they checked my bp it was high (137/110) which I had been warned about as a chronic hypertensive but was still a cause for concern. They checked again manually after a few minutes and the numbers were still high.
The doctor doubled one of my meds, put me on bed rest for the weekend and told me to come back Monday to re-check. He really wanted me to get to 37 weeks, or preferably 38 – if we could get my blood pressure to stabilize. He explained that as a chronic hypertensive it was unfortunately typical that at the end of pregnancy my blood pressure would start to rise. He told me, quite bluntly, that I wouldn’t make it to 39 weeks.
He checked my cervix and it was thick and closed. Baby was still high up and showing no signs of being ready to move out. I asked him about our delivery options and he said that an induction would likely be difficult at this point.
Leaving my appointment I was a little nervous. Still in Puerto Rico by myself with the husband not due to arrive until Wednesday evening. I called and warned him that baby might be here sooner than we had first thought!
The Day Before the Birth
On the Monday morning (36 w 4 d) I returned to the doctor, well rested after a weekend confined to the couch and a marathon Netflix session! They checked my blood pressure and it was still high (140/110), the doctor took it a couple of times and checked me over. Still no dilation at all. With my bp continuing to stay elevated despite the extra medication and bed rest the doctor made the decision to send me straight to Labour and Delivery for monitoring.
I had nothing with me but my purse, phone and keys but had to head straight to the hospital which was over the road from the doctor’s clinic.
I called Dom and advised that he might have to fly later that day or the next morning and completed my admission on the maternity ward. Now I really was nervous, but somehow (naively) still confident that I would be released later that day. It was still too early to have him.
At the request of my doctor the maternity nurses started a full blood work up, a non-stress test and I went for one final bio physical profile scan. Baby was measuring 8lbs 8oz and scoring 10/10. It was reassuring to know that everything was going perfectly with him, it was just me that was the problem. That afternoon I was given some food and I was still hopeful that I might be allowed home, even if just to shower and get my bag together.
That evening my blood pressure continued to climb, reaching 160/110 and 175/115. The doctor’s kept increasing the medications accordingly and told me that they would be keeping me overnight. Finally late Monday night it appeared that we had the numbers under control, but I was now on maximum dose of three different drugs (methyldopa, nifedipine and labetalol).
Early Tuesday morning (36 w 5 d) my OBGYN came in and told me that we’d be delivering that day. While my numbers were currently stable, it was requiring so much medication to keep them down and they couldn’t guarantee how long they would stay that way. He wanted to deliver while we were at a safe level. A long induction wasn’t an option at this point so he wanted me in surgery that afternoon! It was time to get the husband on a flight ASAP! He agreed to wait for Dom as long as he was there by 4 pm that day, the surgery was happening with or without him! Luckily the flight is only an hour, it was just a question of getting an available seat on one of the few flights that day.
While we frantically put the emergency travel plans into place, I tried to relax and enjoy my last few hours of pregnancy. Focusing on his little kicks and wriggles as he rolled and hiccuped in utero. Savoring the moments with him safely inside as the deadline approached. At this point I had been in hospital for over 24 hrs with nothing with me! My hospital bag neatly packed, abandoned at the apartment! A friend had kindly brought me a phone charger and a mini toothpaste and toothbrush. But I was desperate for a shower and the hospital had no soap or towel that I could use. I was also nil-by-mouth and hadn’t eaten since the previous afternoon.
As my husband boarded his flight the nurses started to prep me for surgery. I was signing all the consent paperwork and getting increasingly anxious as we got closer to surgery time. I asked the nurse if I could shower once my husband got to the hospital with soap and towels, but I was told that there wouldn’t be any time for that. We were already right down to the wire. Finally after begging one of the nurses for a shower she said that I could wash just with hot water and then use my sheet to dry myself and she would fetch me a fresh sheet afterwards. It wasn’t ideal but I felt really dirty and uncomfortable by this point.
Suddenly Dom arrived and it was all go! He came straight from the airport and stashed his luggage with the hospital porters. He had to quickly buy his scrubs and get ready for surgery. As I was wheeled down the corridor into the operating theater he was still signing forms and I remember asking for him (multiple times) and making the anesthetist promise that they wouldn’t start without him. Everyone was around me speaking Spanish and the senior nurse was trying to calm me down as they got me ready for the epidural. Curled over tight and holding myself as still as possible for the needle, trying to keep my breathing steady. As they strapped down my arms Dom was finally allowed into the theater and it was baby time!
Warning: Graphic Surgical Pictures
I remember being told that a c-section is like having your handbag on your lap and having someone rummaging through it. No pain but still the sensation of the movement and tugging. I think that’s quite an accurate analogy. But I just focused on taking deep breaths and trying not to feel sick and within minutes Alfie was born at 4:08 pm!
(The birth photos are courtesy of my very curious husband who was told he could watch as long as he promised not to faint!)
Our beautiful baby boy was 7lbs 12oz of perfect – scoring a healthy 8 and then a 9 on the Apgar score. With everything being so rushed there was no opportunity for skin to skin and after a few minutes of gazing in confused wonderment at this tiny person. He was whisked away for further monitoring and I was left to be stitched and glued back together before being taken through to recovery.
Being in recovery was torture and I just desperately wanted to get back to my room and back together with Alfie and Dom. To be together as a brand new family. It was a full 90 minutes of trying to wiggle my toes before I finally had enough movement in my legs to be allowed back to my room.
When I got to the room, there was no sign of Alfie. With all the babies born that day and a full nursery, it was nearly 10pm before we got him back with us. It felt like the longest 6 hrs of my life! Although I was blurry with morphine and it was a warm and fuzzy evening of calls to family and friends as we explained that he was here already and went over what had happened.
When we finally got him back with a clean bill of health and no need for a NICU stay it was such a relief. Just barely shy of term he needed no intervention. I wasn’t allowed to sit up but we started trying to breastfeed which involved a lot of help from the husband. In fact everything involved a lot of help from Dom as c-section recovery is no joke (but that’s a story for another time!). I still hadn’t been allowed to eat so it was just ice chips for me. I barely slept a wink that night, full of happy tears and just so excited that he was here! It was overwhelming and terrifying, but also so amazing to finally have him in my arms.
Having been delivered on the Tuesday afternoon – we then spent the next couple of days in hospital before being discharged on Friday. Unpleasant recovery aside (does anyone want to hear the truth about c-section recovery in a future blog?), those first days were just a bubble of happiness with the fantastic support of the nursing staff. Getting to know our baby, learning to change nappies, establishing breast feeding. Time didn’t seem to matter any more. Days and nights merged into one. It was just a whirlwind of baby cuddles, doctors visits (I needed further attention from a cardiologist and regular check-ups from my OB), getting my vitals checked, delivery of pain medication and meals (finally after 40 hrs I was able to eat again!)
Leaving the hospital felt nerve-wracking – how were we going to do it all by ourselves? We were ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ now and completely responsible for this gorgeous little creature. How were we going to cope in the real world, without being able to ask the nurses silly questions and have our meals made for us. Now the adventure was really starting!
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