Mine and Michaela's Journey - LONG
*** DO NOT READ IF YOU ONLY READ POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES ***
I do promise a happy happy ending though :)
I had been having early labour symptoms for a number of weeks - contractions that never established into a pattern, bloody show and loss of mucous plug from a couple of weeks before, not to mention hormones flying everywhere. However, my 41+4 weeks appointment rolled around and no labour. I was very anxious by this point due to the experience of induction I had with my son, which was so intense, painful and prolonged that my birth plan went out the window and he was then very poorly at birth. I had shared these fears with the OB early on and been told I could delay induction until 42 weeks and try with a new pessary induction drug which is supposed to be gentler than the oxytocin drip. However, at my 41+4 weeks appointment I had a very young doctor and had to argue the toss with her to get them to keep their end of the bargain, which sent my anxiety through the roof. She called in the senior registrar who agreed to my plan. Induction was scheduled to start the morning of 23rd August. As I had hoped for a natural birth using TENS and a birthing pool for pain relief, I continued to try every natural induction method available to me, but to no avail.
From Induction to First Cuddle
The morning of 23rd August, Shaun and I went into hospital and I was admitted to the pre-labour ward and kitted out with my hospital tags. A midwife came to talk to us about the induction process. She explained that the point of the Propess was to dilate me to the point where they could break my water, and that it can take 1-2 days, and that most women need the syntocinon drip to follow to do the rest of the work. Well, that was it for me. The floodgates opened. I had been under the impression that the Propess gave me a real chance of avoiding the drip I had suffered with so much last time. The midwife then refused to insert the pessary until I felt happier about it and said she would get a doctor for me to speak to, despite my protests that I wasn't ever going to feel any happier about it and there really was no point. The doctor told the midwife to go ahead. I was examined and I was 1-2cm dilated and posterior though still completely effaced. They inserted the pessary at about noon. I had my lunch and then we went walking the hospital grounds hoping to start something up.
Within minutes of walking I was having cramps I had to breathe through, and Shaun began to time them. He said they were about 3 minutes apart. I didn't believe they were contractions because I said they shouldn't be that close together already. However we went inside because I was struggling to keep walking. I perched on the bed when we got back and we continued to time the contractions. We were thinking of rigging up the TENS machine. I still wasn't sure they were actual contractions but Shaun was pretty convinced by then because they were so regular and he was about to ask the midwife to put me on the contraction monitor. Then I felt a small gush and told him I thought my water might have just broken but wasn't sure. Straight after the next contraction, I was in no doubt as it flooded out all over the bed, floor and my clothes in true movie style. Shaun called the midwife over. It continued to come out as I went to the bathroom, put on a heavy duty maternity pad and my nightie. I couldn't believe how much water! With Daniel, it went with a trickle and then the main sac of water broke much later when I was more dilated and had had an epidural, so I wasn't really aware of it. It felt absolutely gross. But I was relieved it had broken by itself and it was clear, because at this point I felt there was hope to avoid the drip and that was all that mattered.
We wanted to put the TENS machine on then, because the idea is to start with it before the contractions become painful, as the stimulation builds up with use. But the midwives wanted to examine me because the pessary had come out with my water and they wanted to work out whether to insert another one. I was 4cm dilated and my cervix was anterior. They decided I didn't need another one. However Michaela's head was quite high, -3 station, and I started to feel like things weren't right because they just seemed to be going backwards - she had been at -2 station for weeks prior to induction. By the time they were done examining, the contractions were 2 minutes apart and I was in quite some pain with each one. There had simply not been time to put on a Hypnobirthing meditation and they wouldn't let me put the TENS machine on because they wanted to monitor baby for signs of distress as they told Shaun there was a chance the pessary had overstimulated me. They wheeled me down to the central delivery suite at that point.
Within half an hour of being down there, I was re-living the same nightmare I did with my son. The pessary had stimulated contractions which were by this time 1 minute apart giving me absolutely no break at all. I could not lie on my back or my side, it was so painful. I had to be on all fours on the bed, swaying my hips and moaning through each one. I was crying for Shaun a lot and he was doing his best to comfort me, letting me hold on to him through them and trying to coach me to breathe through them. He kept asking if I could have the TENS machine but they wouldn't let me until they'd done their obs. They couldn't get a trace on baby's heart and wanted to insert the internal monitor, one of the things I really had not wanted. In the end I had to consent though because they were sure by now that I was overstimulating and they really had to check that the baby was ok. It was absolute agony lying on my back while they fixed the internal monitor and took bloods off of Michaela. I asked for diamorphine - the one pain relief method I said I would try if things didn't go to plan - and got the shot. For me, it did nothing. But the midwife said afterwards it did seem to settle me for about half an hour and Shaun said the same, so it must have taken the edge off. Michaela's heart rate was decelerating with each contraction though nothing that concerned them at that point, and her first bloods came back ok, so they let me continue to labour. I was 5-6cm at this point. Sorry I have no awareness of time span at all, it was just one great big blur. They had not had time to read my birth plan, so Shaun just had to keep advocating for bits of it that he could remember - he couldn't go through it with them because I needed him so much. After about 45 minutes on the diamorphine, the effects were obviously wearing off, because the contractions were so intense my body was pushing with each one. They would come in three surges, and with the third it felt like my body was breaking in two. I was making the most horrendous moaning noise and the midwife informed me that doing that was making me push and I had to breathe through the contractions instead. She and Shaun tried to coach me, but I just couldn't. I knew at that point that to stop what was happening I would need an epidural despite my misgivings, and in my calmest and most reasoned voice I asked for one. Shaun asked me a few times if I really wanted one as I had, to be fair, told him the day before NOT to let me get one. He was brilliant despite everything going so haywire. He tried to carry out what we'd planned to the letter, and then every time it didn't work, he would simply go with the flow and find another way to help me. He kept telling me he loved me. I said I was sorry and I knew I'd said I didn't want one, but that if they needed me to calm down for the baby I would have to have one as I just couldn't cope, there was no break between the contractions at all to get calm. They sent for the anaesthetist.
The anaesthetists came in quite promptly but an OB arrived at the same time and needed to take fetal bloods again as they were monitoring the oxygen in Michaela's blood due to the decelerations. By the time she was done, the anaesthetists were called away to a crash emergency. I was told it could be another hour before I got my epidural. I wished I hadn't been so stubborn and had asked for one sooner, especially in the knowledge that the TENS was out of the question. Again I am not sure on time, but I know we were into the evening by then. They did what they could, sending for a different anaesthetist from another part of the hospital, but all the time I was waiting the pushing contractions continued to come and I simply couldn't control them. In all honesty, I thought I was going to die. I wanted to do the best for my baby, but I couldn't help what was happening. I started to pray in my head while moaning through them, and calling on Archangel Michael for strength. For those who know little about my working with angels, Archangel Michael has really and truly seen me through the latter half of this pregnancy. Michaela's bloods were starting to show signs of decreased oxygen. When the second team of anaesthetists came in - and it was a good hour later - again an OB came at the same time to take bloods and I had to wait even longer. They finally put the epidural in, just enough to take the edge off the pain without leaving me numb, since my main misgiving was not being able to feel to push. So I could still feel the contractions, but at this point they started to space apart, maybe 2-3 minutes apart again, and the dilation rate had slowed down as I was still 5-6cm. Sadly the damage was already done. When the blood results came back they showed Michaela's oxygen levels were continuing to drop and the OB made the immediate call for an emergency cesarean section. I was so completely and utterly relieved. I signed the consent form immediately. I had known for many hours that this "wasn't right" and in my heart I think I knew it would end in a section. The anaesthetist tried to top up my epidural to make me completely numb so I could be awake while Michaela was born, but it didn't take, and I had to go in under general anaesthetic, which also meant Shaun couldn't come in with me. It hardly mattered at this point. All that mattered was Michaela.
After scooching over to the theatre gurney and having the gas mask put on my face, and the anaesthetist saying "see you afterwards", the next thing I remember was coming round to see the anaesthetist and Shaun standing by my bed in the recovery room. Shaun was so white-faced and teary-eyed, but I didn't really register his fear, just emotion. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Shaun told me we had a daughter and he had given them the name Michaela Pixie. She had been born at 10:25pm and was 9lb 5oz. It's likely that the labour was partly difficult and delayed despite all those signs that my body was gearing up due to her size, especially given that I'm quite small-boned. The anaesthetist told me I had hemorrhaged and lost some blood during surgery due to a uterine rupture, so I was hooked up to bloods and had morphine in my system. He also told me that Michaela had had the cord wrapped tight around her neck and had had to go to NICU. Shaun told me that he had been allowed to see her and she was breathing as she left the theatre room, so my heart immediately filled with relief - I knew she wasn't in as bad a way as Daniel had been at birth. It broke my heart that I knew I wouldn't be able to meet my baby immediately, but at the same time I was able to let go, thank God and Archangel Michael, and allow myself to just drift. They took me through to the critical care unit.
All I remember through the night was drifting in and out of consciousness. It was like some strange surreal alternative world, I was aware of other ladies being brought in and a midwife doing checks on me from time to time and bringing me the news that Michaela had come off oxygen and was just resting now in NICU, but at the same time I was unaware of having a thought of my own in my head. My first real compus mentus moments came in the early hours, when I was offered tea and toast. And then when Shaun came in he showed me the photographs he'd taken the night before an hour or so after her birth before he went home. But I continued to drift really for most of the day. It was Shaun who had texted the birth announcement and I had just selected the recipients; it took me over an hour Friday morning to text Molly and Sarah with something more detailed because I would write a bit, then drift away, repeatedly. I was in a lot of pain, couldn't feel my legs for most of the day, and had a button to press for morphine, which I tried not to press too often, but did need it some. My temp was spiking as well and they were worried about infection so put me on antibiotics. I spent the whole afternoon asking when someone could take me round to see Michaela. They were so busy it kept getting put back and back and back. Eventually at around 5pm, they gave me a bed bath and got me sitting up. It was so painful, but I just wanted to hold my baby, so I didn't say anything. I got a wheelchair and they took me round to the NICU with Shaun. Of course, when they placed her in my arms it all seemed worth it, and again I sent prayers of thanks to the universe and the angels for bringing us through the other side. She was perfect and beautiful and looked like her brother. They told us she would be next door in special care instead of intensive care the next day as she no longer needed the oxygen machine. It's likely that she needed oxygen due to the shock and trauma of her birth. They had started her on a course of antibiotics due to risk of infection so she had to remain in the NICU but I could come down and see her whenever I was mobile. I was taken on up to the post-natal ward.
The Long Journey Home
So we are now on Saturday. When Shaun came in that morning, he told me that I literally lost half my blood during the surgery, a "small detail" that the medical staff had masked from me. For the first time I started to see how traumatised he had been by the experience. I felt like I had to apologise to him after planning for a natural birth and not being able to deliver on it at all. But at the same time I didn't feel weak for what had happened at all. I actually felt stronger physically for coming through it and stronger mentally for having drawn on my spirituality to help me through. I began two days of hobbling down to NICU to sit with Michaela for as much of the day as possible, trying to establish breastfeeding, while returning to the ward intermittently for meals, meds and my own obs. She struggled to latch on the breast and was incredibly unsettled down there on her own. Shaun began to ask whether she might join me on the post-natal ward, and since she was only down there for antibiotics in a regular cot, the ped okayed it. In the meantime, a midwife and a lactation consultant had tried to help me and Michaela with the feeding and we had pretty much figured that she was struggling because she'd been bottle fed on her first day and was now trying to latch onto inverted nipples. We tried nipple shields which helped her a little but it was still a struggle, and eventually decided to try a breast pump so I could express and bottle feed. By Sunday night, Michaela had been discharged from NICU and was able to be with me, and we started to establish some semblance of a routine with expressing and feeding, though with interruptions for both her and my obs and meds.
From Monday morning things began to get easier. I was no longer under monitoring, though I still had to have an anti blood clot injection each day, antibiotics, paracetamol, and strong iron pills as my blood count had come back as anaemic. No surprises there. Shaun brought in some ready-made SMA so I could supplement with my formula of choice while establishing the milk supply. The hospital only had Cow & Gate and I knew from experience with Daniel that it doesn't do for my babies' tummies, it's too rich. Shaun was an absolute hero. Not only was he a rock during labour and recovery and never left my side that day I was in critical care, he came in every morning and stayed til evening, and ran around shopping for me and bringing things in from home as we needed, and did most of Michaela's feeds and changes while he was there so I could catch up on sleep, express and eat well. He was running on empty himself but did everything to make our hospital stay easier. I loved him before, of course, but I love him in a way I never knew possible since, and was so glad and so grateful and felt so blessed to be laying beside him in bed last night. :wub: I am thinking of getting flowers and chocolates sent to the house for him, and some for my mum who has valiantly been Daniel's lone carer for a week, to show them both how much I love and appreciate them and could not have got through this without them. :wub:
Being in hospital gave me a lot of time to reflect. I had time to read through all the debriefing notes they gave me and understand why things happened the way they did. The reason for my uterine rupture was a weak uterine wall, which the community midwife had picked up on later in my pregnancy but insisted it wouldn't cause me any problems during labour. Maybe that's true for some women, but I saw patterns between Michaela's and Daniel's births. Both times I wasn't able to establish contractions without drugs, and both times the baby was high in the pelvis and reluctant to come down, and both times I was overstimulated by the induction medication. It seems clear to me now that in the same way some women have trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term, I have trouble delivering, and this could well be one of the causes. This realisation actually absolved me of a lot of pent-up guilt and wondering whether I could have done anything differently with Daniel and whether I had "caused" his autism due to his difficult birth. I had always wanted 3-4 children. I have now made a clear decision that this was my last pregnancy. Daniel came off worse with his birth; I came off worse with Michaela's birth. My two babies are perfect, I have a boy and a girl, and I am not risking leaving them for anything. I have been told I would be offered an elective section next time and not have to go through induction, but I feel like even that would be a risk with the bleed I had this time, and I have had to let go of the dream of the natural birth I wanted. It ain't over til the fat lady sings, though. ;) We may still consider adoption one day. ;)
However, for now, my family is complete. I have a baby with my soulmate, and her older brother absolutely adores her. We were discharged fairly early on Wednesday following Michaela's blood oxygen levels returning as normal, and had to wait around most of the day for medications to take home and of course paperwork. We were home by evening and she is settling in to her new surroundings. The last week of August will be special, but expensive, every year from here on in, with Daniel's birthday on the 22nd and Michaela's on the 23rd. My Michaela Pixie, our little pixie girl, named after the Archangel who saw her into this world, is so beautiful she heals my heart and my spirit every time I look at her. I recognise this time that I have a bit of a road to heal emotionally from both my babies' births. But I am at peace with it for the first time since Daniel was born. And so grateful to the universe for all that I have. :wub:
Born August 23rd 2012 at 10:25pm by emergency cesarean section
Weighing 9lb 5oz
10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes, a beautiful face and a beautiful soul :wub:
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