Ever since I became pregnant, I was keen to explore my options for childbirth. So when the classes finished, I had a great support network set up in the friends made through NCT, and was looking forward to a natural hospital-based birth. However my son had other plans! At my second midwife appointment after my due date, my son’s head was still bobbing up and down and in a side on side position and I was facing a sweep. This was despite my best efforts to sit on chairs backwards lean forward, and not slouch on the sofa. My cervix was declared posterior with no dilation.
Talk then turned to induction and I should have taken some time to re-adjust my birth plan. However I effectively put up the white flag and surrendered my labour to the professionals. Despite the wise words of our NCT classes to be prepared for changes in how your labour may go, I chose not to think about it. Therefore on the Sunday night I just lay in bed in the maternity ward with new mums next to me trying to get to sleep through their babies’ cries. I did not get any sleep as I lay there with mild period pains as the prostaglandin started to do what my body should have done weeks ago. After my second dose of prostaglandin and a very thorough vaginal exam (oww!) my waters broke at lunchtime Monday. On telling my family they were excited! My sister, who had had two 'easy' births, was telling people to expect news anytime now! Little did she know that her nephew had other thoughts. My waters may have broken but my cervix was still reluctant!
Later on in the day my waters started to take a more yellow green colour and there were signs of meconium, which means the baby had had a bowel movement inside the womb. The midwives said that I should not worry about it as the baby was showing no distress, but when you are exhausted and tired – it is very hard not to worry so that continued to play on my mind throughout the next 30 or so hours. By Monday afternoon I was still only 1 centimetre dilated. Late Monday is a blur, but at about 3am, I was offered the opportunity to sit in a bath. It was wonderful and made the pain slightly more bearable. After the bath, I was sure that I would have made progress to at least 6 centimetres and was looking forward to my vaginal exam and having it confirmed that at last my body had joined the party! However I was disappointed to be told I was only 3 centimetres. This got me down and I was exhausted. They decided to give me a third prostoglandin gel and I tried to keep positive, but I was in pain and down-hearted that my body and my son were not working together in the way they should.
At 8 o’clock on Tuesday morning I was offered Pethidine which initially I resisted as I was trying to keep to minimal pain relief. However what it gave me was a chance to rest and get some sleep. However, my body was still slow to dilate, and by lunchtime I was put on a syntocinon drip and an epidural. This provided both my husband and I some relief. It was made all the much better by the right midwife coming on duty. Never underestimate the importance of a friendly face and the ability to trust the person caring for you. The epidural was wonderful in masking the pain, and I was all set for a pain free end to my labour! I had a button I could press at least every 30 minutes to give myself another dose through the epidural, however at the back of my mind was still the fact that my waters were a yellow green colour and I knew this was not good.
By about 5pm on Tuesday I was dilating nicely and the midwife said I had nearly reached 9 centimetres, but she still could not feel the head the right position, and that I had an anterior lip (where the cervix opening is covering part of the head (like a partial eclipse!). I thought, “Great! 9 centimetres, that is so close to 10! By this point I was no longer receiving pain relief through the epidural as the machine administering it had, despite efforts by the doctors, given up. Shortly after that the level of meconium had increased and the midwife declared it was third grade meconium. This meant that a doctor would need to be on hand when he was born and they brought in a special basinet for him. However by 7pm it was decided that as I was not progressing well and my son’s heart beat had started to show signs of distress, we decided to have a C-section.
If someone had asked me at the beginning if I wanted to end up with a C-section, I would have said no, but after 30 hours of pain and dishearteningly slow progress I was so happy to hear those words and was all too happy to sign (using what little energy I had left) the papers. Shortly after 8pm Sebastian Eric Crane was born weighing 8lb 14oz. One of the first things the surgeon said was that Sebastian’s head was arched back and not tucked in ready for birth. This did not surprise me, as at one of my midwife appointments they said the same thing however when I asked about a scan to check his position and the reason for his head not engaging, they told us the policy is to see what happens in labour. After a brief look at him wrapped tightly in a towel in my husband’s arms, he was wheeled off to Special Baby Care (SCBU) because of the amount of meconium he had swallowed and breathed in. I was in turn wheeled off to the recovery room. I remember feeling this enormous sense of relief, and looking across at my husband and thinking how funny but good he looked dressed in medical scrubs!
Once I was deemed ready, I was moved back to the maternity ward to get some sleep. I was so tired that I don’t think the crying babies on the ward disturbed me. My husband had taken photographs for me of my son in his incubator in SCBU. He looked happy. It felt strange having not held him or really met him. It still felt numb. I was looking forward to spending some time with him in the morning. However it was not until after lunch that I was wheeled down the corridor to meet him. I was keen to breastfeed and I was concerned that he was being given the bottle and worried that he would not take to the breast, however he took to it like a duck to water. This made me very happy that at least something was working as it should! After an hour or so, there was a message sent that I needed to be back on my ward to be checked and take medication and most importantly have my catheter taken out!
The next morning at 5am after being kept awake by other women’s babies, I decided to take myself off to SCBU to be with my son, and soon found that time flew and I was being called back to the maternity ward as I had missed a visit from the doctor, and that I was in “trouble” as they had worked out that my iron levels were too low and that they were surprised I had not fallen over in the corridor! Over the next few days as I recovered and Sebastian was getting the medical attention he needed, this became a familiar pattern as I tried to juggle being a mother and being a patient with a corridor dividing us.
On Sebastian’s last night in hospital we were very fortunate to get the chance to stay in a room in SCBU, where Sebastian could still receive his medication, but I was able to breastfeed him and care for him at last. I can not put into words how important this was and how valuable these rooms are to parents with children in SCBU. Sebastian has and continues to be breastfed, despite being fed by bottle in SCBU. As my own milk had not come in yet, there was donor milk on offer, which I was very grateful for as it probably helped him stay a breastfed baby. I had no idea there was such a thing, and I don't think all hospitals have it.
My advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to me, is to:
- Keep your family informed. They can become worried as the hours go on
- If your child has to be apart from you in SCBU, then trust your instincts. These first days are important and staff levels in maternity wards means that at times it can be hard to work out when you are needed on the ward
- Not all babies who swallow and breathe in meconium have to be in SCBU, it all depends if it gets into their lungs and causes a chest infection