10 April 2010

A Birth Story Carnival ...and mention of a Kebab?

It's been a while since I talked about the births of my children in any depth, with the youngest now being 16. I felt the discussions were probably well past their sell by date, no one could be that interested in my birth experiences. Also, until I started this blog, I'd never had a place to write about them, as all my pregnancies and deliveries were back in the Stone Age, i.e, pre-computers and internet. So when I spotted that Amy over at And 1 More Means 4  was holding a Birth Story Carnival I saw it as an opportunity to put at least one of them into words. 
Of all my 5 birth stories I could write about, as all of them were very special, as every birth is, I'm choosing just one. This is the one that caused me to reflect the most on how meeting one person, just one individual, at one point in time, could perhaps change an outcome.

My 37 week check up and I had just been informed my baby had now, finally, turned head down, from what had been a transverse position a week before. Yay! Phew! Slight panic about an immediate C-section over then..

When I'd been told this the week before, and about the very real and serious risk of a prolapsed cord (until then I'd never heard of it), I being the info junkie that I am, I promptly set about reading absolutely everything I could get my hands on about it (this was before the days of  t'internet). 
It made uncomfortable reading. Horror stories of oxygen deprivation which could lead to brain damage, and death in some cases, in fact I scared myself silly, so much so, I'd stopped reading.

Two weeks later...Friday 7th June 1991...
Dull lower back pains, obviously I'd overdone it playing with 3YO and 1YO sons in the garden. About 2pm I put both little ones down for their afternoon naps, still in slight pain. By about 3.30pm, with both still asleep, the pain was worse, and oh..now let me think, sort of rhythmic..duh!...you really would have thought I'd recognise 'contractions' by now? 
I decided a nice warm bath was in order, to help with the back pain, which it did, pure bliss. Hubby, who was already at home, timed the contractions. About 8-10 minutes apart, but regular. Loads of time. The hospital was only a 2 minute drive. I ended up staying in the bath for well over an hour, which also involved the 2 boys waking up and both trying to get in with me, involving lots of giggles and splashing about.
The bath obviously did it's job, as getting out of the bath, I discovered that the gentle rhythmic pains had turned into 4-5 minutes apart, stronger contractions, and I hadn't even realised. Our friends next door came in to mind the children until my mum arrived, as she lived a 2 hours away. 

At the hospital, in between leaning on several of the corridor walls to 'breathe' through contractions, we took the lift one floor up to Admissions, and arrived about 5.15pm. 
After being booked in and put in a room, a scarily young looking, teeny tiny midwife, who spoke with a gentle Irish lilt, came in to do all the checks. Which of course included the dreaded internal. I hate, hate, hate them, they hurt like f***!. But it did show that I was already 7cm. She strapped a moniter on my still very 'lively' bump and there was that wonderfully reassuring loud, strong heartbeat sound. By this point the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart.  During the examinations I'd had several strong contractions, and after one of them the midwife suddenly stopped what she was doing, and closely watched the recovering heartrate on the monitor. My blood froze. I could see it in her face before she'd said a word. And we watched too, as slowly, very, very slowly the heartrate climbed back up. Too slowly. She took an ear trumpet, saying she needed to check something. 2 minutes, lots of re-positioning of the trumpet, and 1 contraction later, she said she needed to do another internal. 
"Why, what's wrong?"
"The baby's heartbeat is a little slow recovering after contractions, which could indicate a problem and as you're 7-8cms dilated I may be able to feel if there's an obstruction" she calmly explained. 
"You mean like a prolapsed cord?" I asked, trying hard not to think about all the information I had read and terrified myself with.
"Let me just check". Another internal, how wonderful.

"No, I can't feel anything past your cervix" she announced, after extracting her hand, it having got slightly stuck mid contraction. 
"But the slow heartrate recovery does indicate a possible prolapsed cord, how did you know?"
I explained some of my reading.
"But I thought as the baby had turned, head down, it would be okay now?" I asked.

And yes, I can remember every bit of conversation this clearly, 18 years on, like it was yesterday. It is seared into my brain.

"Yes it should be, but as this is your fourth pregnancy your muscles are more relaxed (Mmm?) so baby has lots of room and not all babies heads engage, so there's sometimes space for the cord to move down in front of the head, it's a possibility, although I can't feel anything internally, but your babys head is quite high"

I find it difficult to describe the sheer terror I felt, thinking that each contraction could be damaging, or worse, my unborn baby.

The midwife, again very calmly, explained there was still time for me to have an epidural, if that was what I wanted, ready for a C-section. I was only 7-8cm dilated. So with that in mind, they moved us to a bigger room. Meanwhile I kept up an internal mantra of 'Dont panic, stay calm'.

By now my contractions were every 2 minutes or so but there were still gaps between them. Someone shoved a gas and air mask into my hand, which I clung on to and buried my head into the pillow with it. There seemed to be crowds of people in the room, a constant flow. 

I looked up as a midwife came in carrying a bic razor. What?!

"I need you to lay on your back, so I can shave you" she commanded, and I remember replying 'Well you can well shave me from where I am, I can't bloody move!' (ahem...narky or what?) probably not endearing myself to her, give me a break, I was in labour.  Her response was "I need to shave you for a C-section, and I can only shave your bloody arse from this angle, which is completely pointless, so you do need to turn over, now" as at the time I was on all fours (I really should have waxed... yeah, right!). 
This was at the same time as someone was trying to insert a cannula into my right hand, and I was gripping the gas mask in my left. They did, only after huge gulps of gas and air, get me to roll over. Which also involved the doctor who was trying to put the cannula in my hand, running round the bed,  so the midwife could shave me...DRY shave me I might add.
Looking back, she may have been a little pissed off with me...Can't think why?

About 30 seconds into the wonderful DRY shaving experience, with me frantically sucking on gas and air, there was an extremely loud, clearly audible 'pop', and a huge spray and gush of water. My waters had just broken and sprayed themselves over an already pissed off midwife, yielding a razor! Everyone jumped...including me.
I suddenly recalled everything I'd read about prolapsed cords. Somewhere in my brain I knew I had to get back on all fours, head down, bum up. Sod BIC lady.  Because I knew my baby's head was now pushing down directly on my cervix, I could feel it, with the cord being pressed down, trapped. I needed gravity.

SHIT! Shit, shit no!....with a burst of energy, I turned over so fast, the people in the room were alarmed. I could hear murmurs..."What is she doing?" and " Why is she doing that??".
Then over the top of the murmurs came the shouting of the now not so gently spoken midwife who'd admitted me.
"Well done, lovely! she's right, now people don't just stand there gawping, move! Pull that bed out NOW! Get her up to theatre!". They dragged the bed, not bothering to unplug anything, out of the room on its wheels. I could hear plastic and metal dropping and clanging to the floor behind us as we left the room.

As we hurtled down the corridor toward the lift for theatre, she climbed up onto the bed with me. I was practically vertical, head down, bum up. She repeated, over and over, again so calmly..."Don't push". She then apologised "I'm so sorry, but you've lost your gas and air, so this will hurt. I have to put my hand inside, over the cord, onto your baby's head. I need to push back when you push"...as by now I was feeling that familiar, overwhelming, strong, strong urge to push... You know the sensation, it's impossible to fight.

We entered the lift for the operating theatre, one floor up, which of course chose this moment to go down instead of up.
I have a vividly clear memory of turning my head to one side, as the lift doors pinged open. To see a crowd of visitors, children, fathers and grandparents, holding a riot of flowers and bobbing pink and blue balloons, looking back in shock and horror at being confronted by the sight of a half naked woman in the throes of full labour, chanting "Don't push..Moooggrrr...Don't push.." Together with a tiny midwife, kneeling on the bed between her legs, with what must have looked like half an arm disappearing into....'No, children don't ask'...
I can only imagine the awkward conversations that little 'snapshot' started...

We eventually went the right way up in the lift and I was pushed, at high speed, into the operating theatre, still with my midwife pleading with me to not to push.

In the mayhem, everyone 'just how many people can you get in one room?' was talking at once, I could hear words floating past me "deliver?"..."could?".

I was confused and scared. 'What??..No? I CANNOT deliver this baby, no, he'll die'...I could hear my midwife shouting at them, as they physically lifted (no easy task!) and turned me from all fours, on to my back. In that instant, and to this day, I have never felt such intense, agonizing pain. I couldn't understand why it hurt so much; all I could do was scream. Then suddenly, no pain, nothing. It was a surreal moment, very quiet, peaceful even. Through all the chaos going on, I just felt calmness and serenity. I thought maybe I was dying. Everything started echoing, tunnel-like, distant, and then black.

I woke 3 hours later, in pain and bewildered. Not understanding where I was. Through the fog my mind cleared slightly. Baby. Where's my baby? Do I have a baby??
The ward was eerily silent. No babies crying, no conversations that I could hear. I thought the worse. I had no baby next to me, something must have gone horribly wrong. I panicked...I looked around and found a button/buzzer, frantically pressing it.

A midwife came, and spoke to me in hushed tones.

Apparently I had already been awake (groggily) an hour before and had been shown my gorgeous baby boy, who was 'perfect', fine and healthy. Born at 6.12pm (less than an hour after arriving at the hospital) weighing 8lb 12oz . Hubby had stayed a while, gone home and would be back tomorrow, after I'd slept.
...and I started to cry.

"Hush..Ssshh sweetie...it really is all okay...are you ready to meet your son now?"

The following day my Tiny Midwife came and found me. I needed to know every little detail. I felt I'd missed my baby's birth. I hadn't been there to say hello, to see him or comfort him when he needed me.

She explained that because I was in full labour, there had been, for a short time, a very loud, very heated argument between her and the surgeons about whether I could still, even then, deliver normally. She shouted them down, lovely brave lady. She still had her arm inside me pushing on my baby's head and she'd had to kneel on the floor while they rotated me, still on her arm, on to my back so they could operate.  And she had stayed there, crouched between my legs, only taking her hand out as they lifted him out through the incision.
She promised she had held him close for me. She had cuddled and whispered lovingly to him. Then wrapped him warmly and carried him out to meet his Daddy.

The pain I had felt, which she explained probably caused me to pass out (obviously I have no pain threshold) before the anaesthetic had a chance to start working, had been because I'd been swiveled on her arm, in her words, with her soft lilt..'Just like a Kebab'.

She'd been a midwife for 7 years, and admitted it was the first case of a prolapsed cord she'd encountered. She had only ever read about them. I was pleased she hadn't shared that little bit of info with me beforehand.

Even now, when I think of her, I feel huge, happy 'waves' of warmth.
Just remembering her makes me smile.
Marie, if by some fluke you're reading this, thank you. I am and will forever be grateful.

Grateful this wonderful midwife knew her stuff. That she spotted it early on and because her quick reactions and stubborn, steadfast refusal to allow me to delivery vaginally, which the surgeons had actually argued over(!), meant I have now had the pleasure of my 6'2", beautiful, healthy, humourous and gentle souled son, for 18 years.

Because I dread to think of the outcome had she not...

First photo...
Taken before we had even met.

'Hello there, beautiful wise one' ...
We had of course, by now, been formally introduced.

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