A bumpy start to motherhood (birth story part 3)

Sunday:

I was exhausted after a night in the high dependency ward, being disturbed every 15 minutes from my cloud 9 drug coma so they could check I was still alive and kicking. Sometime during the morning I was declared OK and moved to the regular ward, a cramped room with 8 beds closely surrounded by curtains. Between the still very numb legs, the IVs and the catheter I was bed bound, struggling to change Squirt and failing to breast feed, despite lots of help from the midwives. The new grandparents arrived for visiting hours and left shortly after. The day passed in a quick haze and I had a reasonably good night’s sleep, only waking a few times to change and fail to feed Squirt.

 

Monday:

The morning doctor checks declared me reasonably fit and well but the nursery nurse said she though Squirt was jaundiced. A paediatrician later confirmed that he was jaundiced, although not enough to require treatment…yet. By late afternoon I was released from my bed and my pee tube and able to take possibly the most enjoyable shower of my life and hobble around in a way which made me miss my pregnant waddle. I was still failing to feed Squirt and had been told it was important he fed every three hours to recover from the jaundice. Neither myself nor the midwives had been able to get an increasingly sleepy Squirt to latch on successfully so it was suggested that I express and cup feed in order to meet his demands. My first attempt produced a paltry 11mls which was celebrated by the staff, apparently anything over 7 is good in the first stages. That night I expressed every 3 hours and laboriously fed Squirt with the cup, glad he was finally eating, even though he only drank a few mls before he fell back asleep.

 

Tuesday:

Again the doctors informed me I was fine but Squirt was still had an air of tumeric about him. I continued to express, with my enormous boobs finally proving their worth with their production impressing the midwives and leading to jokes about me being a wet nurse for the whole ward. I was still cup feeding but became quite stressed when the Dr told me he should now be having 30mls every 3 hours. He never had more than 10 before nodding off again. This led to a day and night of hourly feeds with my 45 minute opportunities to sleep being thwarted by one of the many noisy, colicky babies on the ward. It was quite interesting to ear-wig on the other patients around me. There were lots of members of staff passing through and they all, almost always said the same thing about the babies. Squirt was always called gorgeous, bonnie, cute or handsome (naturally), the kid to my right ‘has a great head of hair, hasn’t she?’ (I heard at least 6 people say exactly that) and the baby opposite ‘was very long’. I also enjoyed watching and listening to the new mums and dads interacting with each other. It was a little like watching a dramatic, hormone intensified soap opera. I had to find some way to entertain myself between feeds when my kindle battery died.

 

Wednesday:

By this point I felt like I had boulders in my colon and was terrified of going anywhere near my stitches. I had heard horrible stories about women’s first poop following childbirth and I can whole heartedly concur. Regular readers will be aware that I occassionally have a slight tendency to overshare ;-), but even I cannot bring myself to share this experience. Suffice to say I would rather give birth again than go through that ever again.

Squirt was still jaundiced and his levels were still rising. I was now failing to meet the required 50mls every three hours and starting to struggle with the week of fairly extreme sleep deprivation and a flood of hormonal emotions. Eventually I tearfully explained my predicament to the nursery nurse and she told me to use bottles rather than the cup to feed. I almost lost it when Squirt immediately gobbled down the required 50ml in 3 minutes flat. Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me before? I was convinced that he would have recovered from his jaundice already had I done this immediately. I had no idea I was making life more difficult for myself by trying to cup feed. After he started receiving proper quantities of milk Squirt perked up considerably, happily farting away and filling nappies at such a pace that I went through a whole packet of wipes and half our nappy supply in one day. I had another sleepless night, disturbed by a 10 pound, inconsolable baby next door who SCREAMED for long enough for my tired and uncharitable self to being making mental suggestions involving open windows, while my own little cherub whimpered for less than 30 secs when he was ready for another feed.

Thursday:

Again I was pronounced fine (although I was quite shocked when I caught sight of my wan, drawn complexion in one of the few mirrors on the ward, and every midwife who came to see me asked if I was always pale- answer: no). Squirt was still jaundiced when the doctor checked. She seemed to be taken longer than normal when she was using the stethoscope. She gently told me she could hear a murmur and I disintegrated, post-partum hormones, stress and sleep deprivation finally getting the better of me. I sobbed through a huge, snotty bout of ugly crying while she gave me a wealth of information I wasn’t really capable of absorbing. Sometime during her explanation WW arrived with the beginning of visiting hours and so the doctor started again. The gist was it was common and could be nothing or it could require surgery and she was booking us in for an echo cardiogram as soon as possible. We had the scan done, little Squirt continuing to be on his best behaviour, not wriggling or protesting at all. Later the doctor confirmed that the scan had shown a Ventricular Septal Defect, a hole between his ventricular chambers that was supposed to have closed after birth and hadn’t. It could eventually close by itself or it might require surgery to close it. We are booked in for another appointment with a cardiologist in 6 weeks and were told we can’t fly back to Thailand until he has been checked in case the change in pressure affected his heart. I continued to breakdown on and off all afternoon, unable to sleep for worrying. WW stayed late with me and minutes before my dad arrived at 10pm to take her home we got our first piece of good news: Squirt’s jaundice levels had finally plateaued and we could go home. After I checked there was no immediate risk because of his heart condition there was no way in hell I was risking my remaining sanity by staying by myself trying to hold my shit together over another sleepless night. So I jumped on it and started a two hour fight to get discharged, calmly listening as they suggested it was a too late and I should wait until morning, then firmly telling them I was leaving regardless. We eventually escaped and arrived home at 1.30am, with WW taking over for an evening so I could concentrate on just pumping and sleeping.

Now our life as a new family could finally begin.

Continue reading

Drugs, glorious drugs! (birth story part 2)

After having half the hospital explore my vagina I was considering clamping my knees shut by the time we made it back up to labour suite. A brief discussion with the midwives downstairs had swung me quickly round to the idea of an epidural. When I expressed my concerns about having my waters broken they suggested that I have the epidural before. Now an avid fan of pain relief, I leapt on the suggestion and requested it as soon as my butt hit the sheets on the bed upstairs.

Thankfully the anaesthetist reassured me that the epidural would be placed much higher that the site of my back problems so I could have one. I’d heard horror stories about receiving an epidural but I found the insertion of the drip much, much more uncomfortable. Then again I wasn’t trying to sit still during horribly painful contractions at the time, so perhaps that had something to do with it.

Dr Big Hairy Fingers reappeared, wielding a crochet hook, ready to break my waters. My legs were placed in stirrups and I was completely numb when he declared that I had progressed to 3cms, the first good news I had had in 3 days. My waters were popped and the drip was started and we settled in to wait…again.

The epidural was checked periodically, in between naps, by the midwives running ice cubes up my stomach to tell how high it had travelled. I was also asked to lift my feet, bend my knees and wiggle my toes, something which I could do less and less after a few hours. This was a concern and the decision was made to turn off the epidural for a while.

It took some time for the sensation to return. I started to feel uncomfortable with the contractions and the midwives offered me gas and air, the only drug I hadn’t played with yet. What fun! Everything thing from this point on is a little hazy. I will say that although I don’t think the gas and air helped much with the pain at the peak of the contractions it did bring back my sense of humour in between the pain. At one point I snapped at WW to take the gas away and they thought I said I was going to be sick. After the contraction I was annoyed by the cardboard bowl being thrust in my face (and really freaking high) so I took it and placed it upside down on my head, like a hat. Don’t ask. It seemed like a good, funny idea at the time. A few minutes later I sobered up a little and realised I was lying there with a vomit bowl on my head and took it off, catching a few glances being exchanged by WW and the midwives.

I was in a lot of pain and the anaesthesiologist was called back a couple of times to try and speed up the return of the epidural. It eventually did kick back in, with the reappearance of a lovely midwife who was covering breaks. In my drug induced haze I credited her with the sudden absence of pain, telling her she had a really peaceful and soothing aura and she had a healing presence. Again, I think looks were exchanged but this time I was too tripped out to notice.

At 7pm, 7 hours after my waters were broken I was examined (painlessly) again and they gently told me I was still 3cms. I took it well, barely waking from my nap, still enjoying the epidural. The epidural checks started to go badly again as it became evident that I had even less movement in my legs than before. A new anaesthesiologist appeared who I unashamedly begged not to take away my epidural again. She agreed but suggested the midwives not use the top ups.

There was another shift change and my third set of midwives arrived. This time there were two, a student midwife and her supervisor. They assured me I was in good hands as the student had delivered lots of babies, in fact I might be her 40th– the magic qualifying number. She was lovely, kind and very gentle. Some feeling had returned but I experienced discomfort rather than pain during the contractions and the student was so gentle during her examination at 11 o’clock, I wondered what happened between student days and qualified midwifery to make them so brutal. She was nervous to tell me that I was fully dilated in case she was wrong but it was confirmed by her supervisor. I couldn’t believe I was finally there.

It was policy to wait two hours before beginning to push (something to do with the Pitocin, I think) but after 45 minutes Squirt’s monitor started to show some decelerations and the decision was made for me to try to push. Darkness had finally fallen and the room had been gently lit, as per my request. The whole situation had a slightly surreal quality to it, the warm gloom, the drugs and the realisation it was almost finally over.

My legs were completely unresponsive so they pushed them up and told me to pull back on my thighs while pushing. When I let go my knees flopped uncontrollably back together. They had to keep reminding me to hold my breath as I had spent days practicing the deep hypnobirthing breathing and kept letting it out at the wrong times. It also took me a while to get the hang of how to push. I knew where because I could feel the contractions (painlessly) but wasn’t always getting enough force behind them. I was almost falling asleep between pushes and was starting to get disheartened.

They suggested I use stirrups so I didn’t have to concentrate on holding my legs up.The student asked if I’d like to use a mirror so I could see when my pushes were successful. At first I was horrified by how swollen I was looking down there but when I saw a small oval of dark hair on my next push I was able to focus. It made me work harder and better to see the head creep forward on my pushes and slide back when I stopped. At one point it looked like I was almost there and a few choice expletives were muttered when it disappeared, accompanied by a little giggling from the midwives.

The next push saw his head stay put. There was a sudden flurry of activity, a doctor appeared, the mirror was whisked away and things were prepared in the background. I gave one more push, was told to pant and felt a ‘pop’ as his head emerged. In stunned amazement I felt down and touched his head, hearing gurgly, muted cries. One more small push and out he came, a gory mess, and was immediately placed on my chest, 45 minutes after I started pushing.

As I stared down with WW I was amazed by how perfect he was. He had a lovely round head, not squished and wrinkled. His nose and lips were in proportion. He had ten fingers and ten toes. He was perfect. ‘He doesn’t look like a potato! I can’t believe we have a son!’ I drunkenly told WW. I had asked for delayed cutting of the cord and after a short period of time WW did the honours.

As I focused on Squirt I heard the student ask, ‘Does this blood loss look normal?’

I determinedly concentrated on the gorgeous bundle on my chest and tried to ignore the drama going on below my waist. They worked on me for a long time during which worrying phrases such as ‘1 litre and a half’ and ‘incomplete placenta’ slipped in through the baby-joy haze.

After an hour they decided I needed to go to the operating theatre to have all the placenta and membranes removed. I was feeling very sleepy as they handed Squirt to WW and moved me onto another table. WW and I mouthed ‘ I love you’ to each other and I was whisked off down a long corridor, already aching at being taken away from my family.

There were lots of different people in the operating theatre and I felt scared, shivery and vulnerable, suddenly thrust into the harshly lit room. A very kind anaesthesiologist comforted me, topped up my epidural and administered a local anaesthetic. Next thing I knew I woke up, feeling very nauseous, was told I would be fine and they had also repaired a small tear. I was returned to WW and Squirt, who were waiting for me in the high dependency unit. I felt too ill to hold Squirt but was reassured by WW that he was fine.

My son was born at 00.48, July 27th, weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces/ 3.925 kg (after being induced for being small!), 74 hours after induction started.

Photo: Introducing Danai Samuel Donsophon, born at 12.48am on 27th July, 8 pounds 10 ounces. Two happy but tired mummies with Kwanchit Donsophon

To be continued….

Hurry up and wait (birth story, part 1)

(Written 30th July)

So I’ll start by saying that this post is being written at 12.20am on the back of a sanitary towel disposal bag in hospital, where I have been for the last week. Needless to say it might not, therefore be the most compos mentis post I have ever penned. Also this is a birth story, guts and all in my usual style so go ahead and have a big, fat TMI warning.

My story starts on July 22nd, my due date and also my next midwives appointment. Despite cleaning, ironing, fast walking, muttering ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’, spicy curries and other techniques Squirt was defiantly clinging on. At the midwife appointment my belly measured small again and worryingly unchanged from the last measurement, 2 weeks ago. She also felt a drop in fluid around the baby. Her concern led to another scan in hospital and an induction booked for 9.30pm that evening. Swings and roundabouts, thought I. Not what I was hoping for but at least it would mean no more waiting, which was slowly driving me, and everyone I live with insane.

So that night I checked into hospital, nervous and bummed to be spending the first night in 3 years without WW. I had a not very nice digital examination (not the nice, technological kind of digital but the fingers-up-the-mole-hole kind. Fingers, plural) and a pessary was deployed. I was declared 1cm dilated with a thick posterior cervix and left to sleep, an absolute impossibility due to the racket made by people coming and going, groaning, moaning and vomiting all around me. Then the cramping started.

By morning I was tired but positive. I used the hypnobirthing techniques to breathe through the pain, was skewered by another set of fingers and was informed I would be heading up to the labour suite to have my waters broken. I was a heady mix of excited and have-I-just-pooped-in-my-pants terrified.

Upstairs in the labour suite WW and I discussed all my crunchy granola requests with the midwife who seemed happy to accommodate me. I was especially excited to be told I could drag my stretching vajayjay into the pool almost straight away. Then more fingers, a lot of extraordinary guddling about, my third membrane sweep… to be informed actually they weren’t able to break my waters yet and I was kicked, unceremoniously back downstairs.

Then followed two more torturous days, 2 more pessaries, 4 more digital examinations (the worst of which was delivered by a male doctor using his enormous, hairy fingers to make a motion similar to that which you’d make if you were trying to quickly bung something in a hole and stop a leak, while muttering ‘gently, gently’…..and I was informed I was still thick cervixed and 1cm dialated.

My crunchy, granola plans were dropping by the hour. By the second day of no sleep and constant useless contractions the drugs cabinet was starting to look good. I escalated quickly from paracetamol to codeine to diamorphine as tiredness robbed me of my ability to do the bullshit breathing techniques and visualisations. Diamorphine was AWESOME and I was finally able to get a little, guilt-ridden rest.

By Saturday morning I was tearfully considering asking the next person with their hands in my vagina to yank the bugger out or get slice and dice happy with a scalpel and my tummy. The Docs were a step ahead and a ‘Ah, fuck it. Let’s get this show on the road’ consensus was reached. Back up to labour suite we went, amidst some parental tension as to whether then was an appropriate time for my dad to squeeze in a quick round of golf. Apparently, despite maternal disapproval, it was :-).

 

To be continued….