Sunday, May 15, 2011

Confessions of a Mom whose Baby Arrived 5 Weeks Early

© Li 2011. Li provides perspective on how even the best plans can change in a moment due to premature birth. She goes from expecting a normal, medication-free birth at a birth center in Australia to experiencing posterior labor in a hospital 5 weeks before the estimated due date. 

“My eldest daughter was born five weeks premature. It being a public holiday and not having to heave my big bump to work, I slept in that morning. My husband was up at 5 o'clock. I leisurely got up at about 8.30 to brush my teeth and then, my water broke. I was confused! Intuition had told me she was going to come early but everyone had tried to convince me that first ones are always late, so at first I wondered if my bladder had broken. Pregnancy had vanquished every other working part of my body so why not this too?!

My midwife was currently overseas so I paged her backup and the backup called me at about 9.30. By then I had experienced a few more gushes. There not being any other complications and contractions not really starting yet my substitute midwife told me to stay put and she would call back in an hour or two. My actual midwife was due to return from the states that day and the substitute had two other ladies in labour at that point so would not be able to help me.

I was thinking that it could be a day or two before I had to get to the hospital anyway as they say it does take 12 - 24hrs before full blown labour (regular, close, strong contractions) actually starts and then some before the big push. I was strangely calm. My husband was deliberating whether to go to work, but decided not to at the last minute. Then he invited some friends over as he does in his usual quiet way without even telling them I was in labour! In the meantime he took to his mission of fitting the baby capsule [infant carseat] in the car, and I took to mine, which was packing our hospital bags and timing contractions. 

When our substitute midwife called back she told me that I had to get to the main hospital right away as they needed to put baby and me on monitors to make sure everything was okay. She also said that it was necessary to get antibiotics as my waters broke prematurely and could pose a a risk of infection to baby. I was devastated as I was planning on having her at the Birthing Centre.

In our minds "The Hospital" is such a dreary place. We had also had such unpleasant, tear-inducing experiences there when I had some complications in my first trimester, waiting for hours and hours at a time, mixed up appointments and disorganization, topped off with a consultant who was the most insensitive, rude, boorish person we had both ever encountered that I didn’t want to visit again.

But because baby was premature "The Hospital" was the only place that would admit me. I was still thinking that I would be out of there in the usual day or two and packed accordingly. By that stage my contractions had started as annoying uncomfortable cramps similar to bad indigestion. The hospital was over an hour away and the passenger seat was jammed right up to the dash and straight up as the baby car seat was right behind it and the seat belt could hardly fit around me. I was very comfortable.

I'm sure that I was a delightful passenger. So off we drove: hubby, me and bump, and the Labrador (who was off to granddads for a “couple” of nights).

By the time we got to the hospital I was in pain. It was not pleasant to walk but I was still able to do it. I remember spending ages looking for a parking spot and doing my best to remain calm. They never have these problems in the movies. I wanted to shout out, “Help! I'm in labour!” And wanted the whole damn hospital to come and pamper me and whisk me away! I don't think I was a bumpzilla because it all seemed so surreal. I was a bit stunned. I was not expecting this to happen for another 5 weeks. I was not mentally prepared to deal with it.

Anyways, by the time we got to the hospital and were seen by a hospital midwife it was about 3 o'clock. She checked the bump and said that baby was in the right position, head down, ROA [Right Occiput Anterior]. My contractions were only 15 minutes apart and I was only 1cm dilated. She said, "Don't worry my dear, labour hasn't even started yet - you still have plenty of time."

I had been left flat on my back attached to an IV drip for antibiotics and fetal monitors and Dopplers. This is all supposedly "necessary" because of preterm labor. I was frustrated at not being able to move around and get off the bed. It made the contractions very painful.

By this time the contractions were so painful that I was vomiting each time. The hospital midwife said that labour hadn't even started so I just shut up and dealt with the pain. Inside I was terrified of the pain that was to come if this is what it felt like already so early on in labor.

I was then sent to the ward just before 5 o'clock to wait it out while still flat on my back. They gave me lemonade ice blocks to suck to help with the dehydration from all the vomiting but I was in too much pain to suck on them. I was allowed to get off the bed and stand next to it, but I had no support and I was in too much pain to even stand on my own two feet.

Eventually I had to get off the bed to go to the loo down the hall, which was a mission. My husband says I was in the loo for along time and that there was blood in the toilet. I finally convinced a nurse to get someone to check my dilation as they had not checked since 3 o'clock (1cm) and it was now 7 o'clock. The last 4 hours had been torturous for me. Each hour a random nurse would step into the room to tell me I was not in labor yet. I was more of a watched pot, rather than them trying to soothe or support me. When they finally checked me I was fully dilated and baby's head was almost at my perineum. I think the hospital midwife was quite shocked.

I must add that in the hospital you get to see different faces every time some one comes to see you. My midwife had landed back in New Zealand from the USA that day and was on her way to attend to me. I couldn't wait for a familiar face and some efficient direction! She had a 3-hour drive home followed by an hour and a half to the hospital to see me.

I was wheeled into the delivery room at 7 o'clock and contractions were every 2 minutes lasting 40 seconds. My husband did a great job at recording them. Looking back, I think it was his coping mechanism.

I was still vomiting and very dehydrated. I was trying to drink lots of water. The pain had control over my body. Then my midwife arrived and took control of the situation. Get this, it was too late for pain relief and they didn't want me to even have gas as baby was right there and they needed me to be fully alert to get her out! I was determined prior to have a natural, pain free birth. I’m an incredibly strong willed person who does not break easily, yet this pain had broken me and I was willing to surrender.

I had already been through what was meant to be the hard part. My midwife got me off the bed and into all sorts of positions. I was pushing and baby's head was showing but she just wouldn't pop out. Throughout this, I had no urge to push. I tried with all that was left of me. The midwife said that my daughter had a deflexed head, which means she didn't have her chin tucked in so the larger part of her head was trying to get out first. If you think of an egg - instead of the nice pointy bit of head I was getting the blunt un-cooperative side. They couldn't do a venthouse (suction cups) due to the angle of my daughter’s head.

Eventually by 10 o'clock my contractions were getting farther apart. My body was exhausted and the only position that would keep the contractions at all was flat on my back that is also the most painful and damaging. The pushing phase of labour is only supposed to last from a few minutes to an hour or two. I had pushed for over 4 hours. The consultant said a couple of more pushes and then I had to go into theatre.

I was begging them to just "get her out." I didn't understand why if her hair and head was showing why they couldn't just pull her out. Honestly at that stage I didn't care if they yanked her out by the hair, (it would grow back!) I was exhausted beyond exhaustion, and I think that is what got to me more than the horrendous pain. That’s how awful of a place I was in, as if I was hanging off a cliff, holding on with one hand and knowing that somehow, weak and broken, I had to pull myself up and repeat. I was suicidal from pain.

If I had access to a scalpel, in that mindset I would have done some damage to myself, anything to make it stop. My midwife tried to manually manoeuvre my daughter’s head and she must have just slightly tucked in her chin and she just shot out like a bullet.

The placenta was delivered shortly afterwards and then I started to hemorrhage. I lost a recorded 2 litres of blood but was told that was a very conservative estimation and my midwife (who was covered front and back in my blood) said she thought it was more.

My husband cut the umbilical cord which apparently was tough as it took him two goes! I only got to look at my daughter for 2 seconds as I was bleeding and they needed to get me sorted out. Also I was so exhausted that I felt as if I would drop her so I didn't protest. I had nothing left in me. Hubby got to hold her which was cool.

Can I just mention that the consultant attending me was the very same rude lady who did my pre-natal care! I was not impressed that she was gazing down at me and giving her commentary along with half the hospital. But I didn't say anything as I knew I would just loose it if I lost focus. I had to hold strong. 

Anyway in a cruel twist of fate she was the one who had stitched me up as my daughter had done some bad damage on the way out and it needed a surgeon's hand. I politely asked her how many stitches to which she spat back, "Ha, I don't know, do you expect me to count all of those." I had third degree tears. When I had my six week check up my midwife told me that I might require reconstructive surgery as I had been butchered. It was a comment that had a very negative impact on me for along time.

Anyways, they gave me Syntocinon, then Syntometrine, then Carboprost. Bleeding wouldn't stop. Again I was given the threat of theatre (god knows what that means) and more people crowded around for a look. By now there was quire a crowd. Finally the bleeding stopped. The after-contractions were just as painful as labour pains, but this time I was allowed gas, and boy did I suck on that gas. I was pretty spaced out. It doesn't take away the pain, but you are so spaced that you don't care about the pain as much.

They took my baby away to weigh her and said that she was grunting and not breathing properly and had "a period of turning blue" so she was promptly whisked away. I told hubby to go with my baby girl. She needed her daddy more than I needed him. I am aware that they gave her vitamin k injection just prior to her breathing issues and I question if she had a reaction to it.

Suddenly all was quiet and I was alone in the delivery room. A student midwife attended me throughout the night as the drugs that they gave me to stop the bleeding had some terrible side effects. She was an absolute angel; I cant express how grateful I am to her. She allowed me dignity whilst she cleaned up my soiled and bloody self with love and compassion. They allowed my husband to stay in the delivery room overnight as it was two in the morning and we lived so far away. Later hubby returned to sleep on a mattress on the floor. I didn't sleep a wink because I was so charged up with adrenaline, but he slept like a baby, poor guy had been up almost 24 hours.

It still didn't feel as if I was a mom and had given birth. I felt that I had gone through a terrible accident, or had been a prisoner at war, but since I didn't have my baby with me and had only seen her for 2 seconds, it just felt really empty. I had no other family. I sent hubby up with the camera to get a photo of her so I could see what she looked like! She was on CPAP to assist her breathing, in an incubator and was covered with wires. I didn't know what was going to happen, or whether she was okay. It was just awful! It was 24 hours before I got to see her and another 24 hours before I got to touch her and another TWO weeks before I held her for the first time.

My daughter and I spent the longest, loneliest 2.5 weeks of our lives in hospital NICU. After a few hiccups and challenges we took her home and we have been doing better ever since. Although I have been quiet honest in my initial opinion of the hospital, and it was no walk in the park, overall I appreciate the excellent facilities there so that my daughter had the best start to life under the circumstances. Amazingly, my daughter was the most charming, alert, happy, healthy, beautiful baby. You wouldn't have guessed the clever little chubbie baby was a preemie. I managed to exclusively breastfeed her (via pumping and nasal tube feeding) and she remains vaccine-free. She is four now and a strong, health girl. 

I have since read my birth notes only to realize that my girl was not only brow presentation but also posterior. I later realized the unbearable pain during contractions was the infamous “back labor” pains from a sunnyside up baby. I suffered for a long time with feelings of inadequacy. I had terrors from the pain endured and had post traumatic shock. It was only after the birth of my second daughter that everything became clear for me. (Check back in tomorrow to read her next birth story!)

Every now and then I come across a picture of my big girl, when she was not so big and strong. It makes me remember how close we were to losing her and how amazingly strong she is to this day. Love my big girl and all her energy! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. You describe exactly how I felt after my birth. I didn't feel like I had given birth, but as you described, more like I had gone through a terrible accident. I'm glad you shared and that your daughter and yourself pulled through!