JJ’s Birth Story

I’m currently 38 weeks + 4 days pregnant, which is 11 days more (so far) than what I reached when I was pregnant with JJ. Understandably, labour has been on my mind a bit lately, and JJ’s pregnancy & birth story keeps replaying itself in my head, over and over again.

Let’s rewind to May 2010.

I was working as a medical representative, spending my days popping into doctors surgery after doctors surgery. A lot of the doctors joked with me that they thought I looked more like a patient than a rep. I’d been having a really uncomfortable third trimester. Lots of fluid retention (oedema). Literally if I pressed my finger into my ankle, the dent would stay about a minute. Whilst that was a totally cool party trick, it also meant that I could only fit into one pair of work shoes (that I’d specifically bought extra big), and thongs (flip flops). But the swelling didn’t stop at my feet unfortunately, I also had swelling in my fingers and around my wrists. The swelling in my wrists blocked the blood flow to my hands and fingers, called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which basically meant that I had a constant “pins and needles” feeling in my fingers. I couldn’t feel anything that I touched, and had to rely on visual cues a lot more. Typing, for instance, is something that I tend to do by feel, and so became much more challenging. Or holding a glass of water – I had to be careful that I didn’t loosen my grip and drop it. Quite surreal… While I was sleeping, my wrists had a tendency to curl over, making the blood flow blockage worse, and so I started wearing snowboarding wrist guards to bed at night to keep my wrists straight. Poor Mr Banya slept in fear that I would roll over and smash him in the face with the hard plastic wrist piece!

I finished up at work at 35.5 weeks. I planned to stay at home, with my feet elevated, for the last 4.5 weeks, trying to rest as much as I could before the baby arrived. (And perhaps play a bit of on-line poker & Evony at the same time 🙂

After a week or so of being at home, I was getting antsy. There were still a few things that needed to be bought before the baby arrived, so I made the trip out to Chadstone and walked it’s mammoth shopping centre to and fro for about 6 hours, gathering all the “still to be bought” items. Mr Banya kept calling my mobile every half hour or so, asking me to go home, pointing out that he could pick everything up on the weekend. Considering I could hardly walk at the time, this was sensible advice! But something inside my head said “these things need to be bought NOW”. Perhaps this was my “nesting”, or perhaps all the exercise brought the labour on, I’m not sure…

Then, that evening, I felt the baby “drop” into my pelvis. Funnily enough, it felt just like there was a head wedged between my pelvic bones! As I wasn’t “full term” at this point, I dismissed this feeling as another of the many uncomfortable parts of latter pregnancy.

The following morning, I had reached the magical 37 week “full term” mark. To me, this was one of those “relief milestones”, like getting past the first 4, then 8, then 12 weeks without miscarriage, and then getting past the 20 week morphology ultrasound with no abnormalities. But with everyone telling me that first babies tend to be over- rather than under-cooked, I was still expecting a fair few weeks of well-earned relaxing.

At around 9.00am, I went to the loo, and while I was there, my waters broke. A convenient place for it! So I popped on a maternity pad, called Mr Banya, and called the hospital. The hospital asked if I perhaps was just doing a wee. I explained that I’d already done that! And besides, I can tell the difference… Still, they suggested I wait an hour, just to be sure that it really was my waters breaking, and then call them back. I spent the hour pottering around the house, packing my hospital bag, with no real sense of urgency. After all, the prenatal classes had said that waters could break the day before real labour starts, and to expect to spend the first few hours (at least) of real labour at home anyway.

After the hour had passed, my waters were still breaking (in a steady leak, rather than the gush that the movies promote). I called the hospital back and they asked me to come in. So I called Mr Banya, and we agreed it would be quicker if I picked him up at work on the way through rather than wait for him to catch the tram home.

Mr Banya’s office was on the way to the hospital, so this wasn’t such a dramatic suggestion, until of course, contractions started about 5 minutes into the trip. And, oh my gosh, they were painful. And, oh my gosh, they were not spaced as far apart as the classes had promised. By the time I picked Mr Banya up, I was in fully fledged labour with contractions only 1 minute apart. By the time he dropped me off at emergency (less than 10 minutes from his office), I was already 5cm dilated, a point which could commonly take many hours (or days) for a first time pregnancy to reach.

From this point onwards, I’ve needed to ask Mr Banya for lots of the details, as I honestly can’t remember and/or was totally unaware of them at the time. My labour wasn’t very dignified. Perhaps there are some women who can labour gracefully, but I am not one of them.

Most of the next few hours were spent in the very large bathroom that adjoins the birthing suite, and is obviously designed to labour in. You might not want to picture me pregnant & naked, under a hot shower, hunched over letting the hot water hit my lower back, alternating between groaning and sucking on gas until I was drugged to the hilt. But that is pretty much how the majority of my first stage went. If I screamed out in pain, I was told to suck on the gas more. “If you’re screaming, you’re not sucking”, was their constant call. Easier said than done. Whilst it did do a great job of easing the pain, also sent my whole mind spinning.

Apparently the midwives were measuring the baby’s heart rate and examining my nether regions to track how my dilation was progressing, but I was so in pain / out of it that I didn’t even realise. Can you imagine not even realising that somehow has their hand in your kaput? Yeah, all dignity is out the window…

At one point, I grabbed Mr Banya’s arm and yelled “Fix It!  Fix It!” at which point the midwives told me that they could turn the gas up, as it had only been on half strength. In my dazed state, I didn’t see this as a positive at all. Instead, I felt as though they’d been holding out on me. I became completely irrational, and through clenched teeth starting screaming at Mr Banya, “I want an epidural!” The midwives suggested pethidine, which I jumped at. Within a minute, well before the pethidine would have kicked in, I again demanded an epidural, which in hindsight they quite rightly declined. They waited another hour, and then checked my dilation. I was already close to 10cm by that stage, so an epidural at that point would have only prolonged and added extra risk for very little gain. But at the time I was pretty livid.

After about 4 hours, around 2.30pm, I had progressed to the second stage. I had originally written the following, as I remember it:

The second stage was fairly straight forward. JJ allowed me to rest for a while. I waited for an overwhelming urge to push, but it never came. So after resting and regaining some energy, I pushed according to the midwives instructions, and out she came.

Apparently this is a slight simplification. I guess the pethidine must have kicked in at about this time 🙂 Mr Banya says that I was absolutely exhausted by this stage, was not able to stand up anymore, and kept asking to be allowed to rest. Apparently the senior midwife kept coming in every 15 minutes or so, asking if there had been any progress. After about an hour, she started to get a bit concerned, and after the 1.5 hour mark she wanted me to step up the pace. I still had no feeling of when to push, so they started watching (although Mr Banya isn’t sure what they were looking for, only what they were looking at), and telling me when to push. From then on it was textbook. JJ was great the whole way through; her heart rate never wavered.

And so, at 4.33pm, JJ was born. 2.8kg, 47cm. She was tiny, splodgy, and had a severe cone head, but that’s the reality of a vaginal born baby. She scored 9/10 on the Agpar test, with anything 7 or above being considered normal.

Just born.

The third stage of labour, the passing of the placenta, is supposed to be non-eventful. You are supposed to be so engrossed in your newborn that you hardly notice the midwives delivering the placenta. However, that wasn’t how it went down in my case. We knew from previous ultrasounds, that I had three placental lobes (instead of the usual one). But apparently only two and three quarters came out. Which means that there was a small chunk of placenta remaining in my womb that was drawing blood as though it were still supplying an unborn child.

The decision was made to perform a D&C (dilation and curettage) operation, which basically means clearing out of the placenta from my womb. For all intents and purposes, this is a straight forward procedure. However the operating theatre and staff were in use for an emergency caesarean. The hospital could have prepped another operating theatre and called in the on-call staff, however this would not necessarily be a quick process, and my situation wasn’t dire, so they decided to wait until the caesarean was finished. This ended up being a 2 hour delay.

Whilst waiting, the midwives would pump my stomach every 10 minutes or so, and the blood that had been pooling inside my womb would gush out. This was incredibly painful, as you can imagine how sensitive my womb was after giving birth. At one point I begged one of the midwives not to pump my stomach, but she had to.

The blood was collected and weighed. All up I lost 2.5 litres (0.65 gallons), not including the blood all over the floor. A loss of more than 0.5L is known as a primary postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). Without a doubt, 2.5L is a lot of blood to lose. It meant that I had to have two blood transfusions. If I had given birth in a different era or somewhere without modern medicinal facilities, I would have died. The blood wasn’t going to stop flowing. But at the same time, I don’t want to overstate the situation. I was in one of the best hospitals in the world, with some of the best doctors in the world. Labour is a risky business.

Waiting for the operation.

The operation took 45 minutes, but I spent another 1 hour and 15 minutes in recovery waking from the aesthetic. Mr Banya was waiting in the birthing suite, holding little JJ. He’d been told that the operation would take 45 minutes, so he was expecting me back after this time. No one updated him, so understandably he was worried as the hour mark passed, and then the hour and a half mark passed, and so on. It must have been quite scary.

After the operation, I was very weak. The blood transfusions helped, but didn’t replace all the blood that I’d lost. I was as pale as the fresh bedsheets I was lying on. I spent that first night in the birthing suite, as I wasn’t deemed strong enough to go up to the maternity ward until the next morning.  Even then, I was not allowed to get out of bed for another 24 hours. This meant that I had to rely on Mr Banya and the midwives to help me with JJ, as I couldn’t get out of bed to change her nappy, to bath her, etc.

In the maternity ward, but still bed-bound. I had put make-up on for these photos, as without it I looked ghostly…

But this story has a happy ending. JJ is a happy, healthy and gorgeous little girl. I was able to leave the hospital after 72 hours with a few packets of vitamins and instructions to eat a lot of red meat…

So what questions and fears do I have for this pending labour?  Well, let’s leave that for another day…

xx Danya

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