When my waters broke at 28 weeks in the early hours of a Sunday morning, I can’t say I was overly surprised. I guess I spent most of the pregnancy waiting for something to go wrong. IVF will do that to you. Anyway, there it was, a definite trickle of water gathering on the bedroom floor. I had not peed my pants as my partner, Kate, kindly suggested when I woke her. A couple of frantic phone calls later and we were on our way to the hospital I was booked into. My poor obstetrician. He was really hoping for an easy ride this time. Oh well.
We called my midwife once the clock ticked over to a respectable hour and she talked us through what would probably happen – a quick transfer to the Royal Women’s and quite likely a baby within 24 hours or else several weeks confined to a hospital bed. I’m not sure which was the worse option. I hadn’t even had a proper appointment with my midwife, but thank God we had her on board (she delivered our first son, born without incident 4 days overdue to my partner). My obstetrician wasn’t able to treat me at the Women’s and it is so, so important to have someone you know and trust on board, especially during such a stressful experience.
I did not have the baby that first day, just a lot of monitoring and information about what to expect should he come at such an early gestation. The paediatricians came in and talked us through various percentages of swollen brains and blindness and lung disease and other common problems which was frankly just a blur of numbers. I remember one – 93 per cent chance of survival. 7 per cent chance of not. Given the list of problems with far worse odds than 7 per cent I had been through during my “getting pregnant” journey, this was not a reassuring number.
I spent the first night waiting for contractions sharing a room with a very bitter new mum and her gaseous newborn. When I started having what I thought were contractions at 3am, Kate got the first of many middle of the night calls to come in to the delivery suite. Morning came, no baby, no sleep. More stress, and then the blood started. Kate was beside herself with worry and neither of us was holding it together at all. We called my midwife in because I needed someone to be strong and make some sense of everything. As I was to learn over the next 10 days, nearly bleeding to death is in fact not a big deal, unless of course you happen to be the person losing the blood.
To cut a long, sordid story short, I was up and down to the delivery suite every night for 10 days. The separation from my 2 year old son was nearly unbearable. The worry over whether the baby boy inside my rapidly shrinking stomach would make it was intense. I met so many doctors and midwives with different opinions it was mind boggling. Kate and I were so sleep deprived we were kind of delirious. If there was ever a better advertisement for having a private midwife on board, this was it. She talked us through every option and was there to listen to our worries every step of the way. The roller coaster finally derailed nine days in when I finally had a proper contraction (I thought I was dying). We were near breaking point when morning came and the contractions petered out. The constant drain of thinking, okay, this baby is coming now, took its toll. I was exhausted and the doctors still insisted on waiting. I knew something was wrong and I couldn’t continue much longer. By the afternoon, I finally spiked the fever they had been waiting for and it was time to have the baby.
I thought for sure I’d have a caesar, probably an emergency one. My midwife said I might have to fight to have her in there. When I made it to the birth suite and the midwife said I could labour if I wanted to, I nearly died of shock. Kate was induced with Hugo so I’d seen the horror of an induced labour. I’d had 3 hours sleep in 48 hours and was not feeling up to such a scenario but I wanted a natural birth and of course it was best for the baby. My midwife arrived and talked me through what to expect as they hooked me up to the drip. I recall two things she said – the first was that I’d have to labour for four hours and if I was 5cm dilated then I could have an epidural. The second was that the only thing I could really do to help the baby’s outcome was to remain calm or blood would rush to his brain (extremely dangerous in a premmie).
My private midwife and the hospital midwife worked beautifully with Kate and I to get us to that four hour mark. It was extremely difficult, but I did my absolute best to remain calm and breathe nicely, like on the movies (I had not yet made it to a birth class!). By the time the (very young) obstetrician came in to do the check at the four hour mark, I was really, really exhausted and at the end of my tolerance. All I could think about was that wonderful needle in the spine that I had formerly dreaded. He said the magic words, “5 centimetres”. I was so happy – the torture was about to end. Kate told him we wanted the epidural now then please. He said, in my earshot, “okay, but it’s an hour away”. An hour??!! My calm inner chi went immediately out the window as a tirade of pleading and panic left my lips. There was no way I could survive an hour. I think the doctor was a bit shocked. As my (and the baby’s) heart rate skyrocketed, he went away to see what he could do. Apparently within ten minutes an anaethetist arrived on the doorstep. He didn’t make it in the door though because I had already started pushing.
I remember my midwife asking me if I felt like pushing and me just looking at her and yelling like a banshee. I was already pushing. It was wonderful. The paediatricians must be quick runners because our little boy arrived within 15 minutes of that yell. I was in shock that it had happened so quickly – so happy and excited to see him and so terrified he might not make it. When Kate said she could see his head, it was amazing. Then a little black cone head and a tiny, tiny body emerged with the most wonderful sound in the world – a cry. They said not to expect a cry, that he’d probably go straight onto a breathing machine. But he cried, and kept crying. I couldn’t see anything because they had him under the special lights as they examined him. Kate kept reassuring me that he looked great, he was breathing by himself. My midwife fought like a Trojan for me to hold him and they gave in. A perfect little baby was put on my chest and he wriggled and looked up at me with big, bright eyes. I knew in my heart that he was fine, and thankfully I was right. We didn’t have a name chosen or a bedroom made up or any clothes to put him in. But he was alive. At 1.5kg, with legs the size of fingers and a thumb the size of a rice grain that he tried so hard to suck, he was perfect.