Sunday, 18 September 2011

She’s here! (Our birth story).

Actually 'she' arrived two weeks ago today, but things have been a little crazy so I haven’t been able to grab a moment to update this blog.

Between June (the last post to this blog) and the day our girl was born there wasn’t much of blog-level interest to report - Emma got more rotund and the baby moved about a lot more, and apart from a slight dip in Emma’s iron levels (which was swiftly fixed with spinach, dark chocolate and Mackesons stout) all concerned were in tip top health.  Anyhew, folk seem to like knowing the gory details of each baby’s birth, so here goes:

NOTE - if you are reading this post while expecting your own first-born I don’t want you to be alarmed at all; as scary as anything you’re about to read may seem I want you to remember that when you’re there in the moment (and surrounded by wonderful healthcare professionals) you will really have very little to worry about as you’ll be in the best hands there are!

How it all started.
For about ten days before the ‘big day’ Em started getting really powerful practice contractions, so powerful in fact that the Tuesday before the birth we rang the maternity ward to let them know we thought things were underway, they thought differently so we stayed at home.  So when at 8am on Saturday 3rd September 2011 Em’s contractions started getting so powerful she couldn’t stand (and when they were about five minutes apart) we were a little hesitant to call the hospital just in case this was another false alarm.  Fortunately Emma did call, and a few minutes later a very calm sounding midwife told us that she was on her way over to our house.

Because the pregnancy went so well we decided to try for a home birth, or as the health professionals called it a ‘planned home birth’.  By the time the midwife examined Emma (at about 2pm) she was already 7cm dilated, and so some sums were quickly done and it was declared that baby would be joining us in time for afternoon high-tea.

By teatime there was no sign of baby and my poor wife had endured an entire day of grunting, squatting and making the kind of guttural noises that any hard working Norwegian Black Metal vocalist would be proud of.

At 7pm the waters broke spectacularly, and credit needs to be given to Emma who despite being at the rough end of a long day managed to aim said torrent neatly onto a waiting absorbent sheet in front of the fireplace in our lounge.  Whilst it was great news that the waters had broken what the midwives (for we had two on hand by then) saw changed the game totally.  There was evidence of meconium (baby poo) in the waters, meaning that there was a chance baby was getting distressed.

Poo at this stage (unless it comes from the mother, and yes, that does happen) is quite common so isn’t something to get in a panic over, but it is a warning sign that things might not be progressing quite as planned.

After another few hours we found out that Emma had only dilated another centimetre, and more concerning was the fact that the poor lass was utterly exhausted and was struggling to push at all.  Another inspection revealed that baby was stuck ‘OP’, meaning Emma was experiencing a particularly painful labour.

The midwives (in their own uniquely calm and reassuring way) were getting concerned and the decision was taken to transfer to the consultant led unit at Ipswich hospital.  The midwife called for an ambulance and by the time I had grabbed Emma’s hospital bag (about thirty seconds later) the ambulance was already outside our house.  Emma took herself out to the ambulance and pausing only to collect my sister and honorary brother (Graham) from a couple of doors away I followed the ambulance to hospital.  At this stage you might be expected a high-stress tale of flashing lights and daring high-speed driving, but I’m going to have to disappoint you - the ambulance drove very slowly indeed.

I was determined to be waiting by the doors of the ambulance when they opened -  so that Emma could see I was there - and I made it without much more than a gentle jog across the car park.

A few big changes in a surprisingly short period of time.
Once safely installed in the biggest single-bed room I’ve ever seen in a hospital we met a very nice doctor who told us that Emma needed to be drip fed a hormone to assist her contractions.

Because the contractions were about to get crazy Emma was offered pain relief, and for the first time all day she accepted.  Emma was worried about feeling dopey during the birth so she opted for an epidural over pethidine, and when that wonder drug kicked in everything changed, and the relief was enormous, for Emma, me, and of course the baby.

After about an hour and a half the hormone that was supposed to be helping baby out started to distress her, and a quick inspection of the relevant area revealed that Emma’s cervix was swelling.

The Registrar came and spoke to us, and when he asked me to sit down I knew the news wasn’t going to be great.  Because baby had been stuck just a few centimetres from crowning (popping out) there was a very real chance that she might be getting starved of oxygen, and therefore a decision needed to be made very soon indeed.  The Registrar took some blood from the top of baby’s head and told us that her oxygen levels were fine for now, but potentially wouldn’t be for much longer.  The decision was made that we needed an emergency cesarean (c-section), and as scary as that moment was it was also something of a relief.

Within just a few minutes we had gone to theatre, I had changed into surgical scrubs and we were in a room full of people poised and ready to do baby a favour.  I was sat on a stool at Emma’s head and a fabric screen was hung across Emma’s chest so that neither of us could see what was about to happen.  Having the view obscured was a huge relief to me, until I noticed that the operating theatre windows were incredibly reflective - I don’t think I’m terribly squeamish but I concentrated on staring at Emma just to be on the safe side.

Emma was cool and calm as she lay on the operating table, and didn’t flinch once as the surgical team did their thing.  After just three or four minutes we heard a noise like a tiny (and very brief) gas escape and the anaesthetist grinned and told us baby was sneezing!  There was an almighty squelching noise (to which Emma sighed and declared a huge relief) and a few seconds later we both heard a noise that will forever bind us at the very core of our souls - we heard our baby cry.  The time was about 1.45am on Sunday 4th September 2011.

That first cry was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard - in an instant it healed every second of fear and frustration we’d been through that day.  Emma and I looked more deeply at each other than we have ever before, we’d made it, we really did have a baby.

After she had been checked and cleaned up the midwife who had stuck to us like glue since arriving at hospital placed her on Emma’s pillow and introduced us to our beautiful baby girl.  Now that came as a surprise; for no particular reason at all we had both been sure we were expecting a boy!

Emma lost about a litre and a half of blood and was quite poorly for a couple of days after the operation, but the care we all received was unbelievably consistent and gentle, and Emma has said the memory of the pain and worry is slipping away from her more each time she looks at our gorgeous baby girl.

If you are expecting your own child I sincerely hope you take the positives from our experience; it didn’t go quite to plan, but the support and care (I nearly typed ‘love’ because that’s how it felt) we received from the NHS was beyond reproach.  However you decide to have your child you can be sure that you’ll be very well looked after indeed.

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