July 14th 2017 – 7:06am, Theatre 1. Rafi is born to a room full of people, 44 days after he first tried to enter the world (unsuccessfully, thankfully).
I had been expecting a quick and simple delivery. “They always shoot out after the 1st”, I had been told. “The induction will see this baby being born within the day”, a few midwives had speculated. “I’ve got a delivery pack attached to your bed”, another jokingly chirped from the antenatal ward. You get the jist: professionals putting ideas in fed up Mother’s head = ultimate sourpuss of a patient when the inevitable happens and THE BABY TAKES FOREVER TO ARRIVE. This Birth Story is a lot like Emilia’s really with the waiting, except much much worse in the delivery department.
Tuesday July 11th, 8am: Adam and I rock up to Maternity reception, having spent a good 20 minutes faffing over whether to leave the hospital bags in the car or not and wondered if i’d be popping out #2 in the tail of a heatwave that it currently still was. I’m given a sweep and stretch 10 minutes later and despite my best efforts of gorging on pineapple, self administering Raspberry Leaf Tea as closely possible in IV form & stuffing curry up my lady garden, there had been no change in my cervix since the last horrendous finger jabbing 4 days previously and this baby of ours had decided to move even further out of my pelvis. The decision to continue with the induction was put in my hands – I’d had enough and the thought of being in pain any longer was tear jerking; and so, we were led down the corridor onto antenatal (past a very cute picture of Adam and Mimi stuck on the wall next to a sea of tiny bald vernix covered baby heads) and set up camp in THE SAME BED as our last induction almost 15 months earlier. Immediately, i sensed trouble. If this delivery was anything like the last we were in for a looonnnnng 3 days and I was not having any of it. Onto the monitor I went, for a good hour or so.
12 noon: Pessary inserted and monitor once again. Adam goes to the local Saino’s to stock up on fruit, pink Lucozade and bicbics. After an hour I have the worst case of fanny fire and tell the midwives at the desk and they really didn’t take me seriously because over an hour later one of them comes by, has a look between my extremely clamped up legs and starts to apologise with the guiltiest face. The pessary had fallen out (ironically placed in by a midwife who claimed to be the most gentle at the job and the best at it) and was violently releasing Prostaglandin all over my poor unsuspecting vagina and none of it had reached the cervix. Back in it goes, at which i definitely yelped and after another quick monitor we went for a walk…back to the car…and went home. No way was I going to labour stuck to a bed in a sweaty ward where it takes an hour for paracetamol and no way was Adam going to sit with me whilst there was a Tour de France to watch (obvs). Once home, I’m a nesting freak and check, re-check and check again that the house is in perfect shape to bring our baby home to. I even change Emilia’s cot sheets for the third time that week – and she hadn’t even been sleeping in them.
5.15pm: I awake on our sofa, the smell of bacon sandwiches wafting in from the kitchen and realise I’m in agony. Far more grumpy than excited, I start monitoring the contractions that made me take the nap an hour and a half beforehand with a handful of paracetamol and realise that I’m contracting 6 in 10. BATTLE STATIONS, THIS IS IT I REPEAT, THIS. IS. IT!!! I waddle like a crab to the car (after our bacon sandwiches, thank you very much partner), where it then takes me a good minute to squat enough to get into the passenger seat, all whilst gritting my teeth and making noises all too familiar for a couple who had a baby only a year previously. After 15 speed-bumps, 4 laps of the hospital car park and a few crabs up and down the stairs of the Maternity Wing we arrived (me a sweaty shaking mess, Adam eager to see his new baby boy), only to be examined immediately and find out i was only 1 more centimetre dilated and that baby’s head is no further down into the pelvis. Meanwhile, contractions have suddenly jumped to 8 in 10 and I’m definitely not the happiest bunny on the block.
By 8pm my contractions are constant and I’d been hooked up to the monitor for several hours. I’m in too much pain internally to be examined and through gritted teeth and a lot of tears (not my finest hour) I’m given some Pethidine so that I can rest. I’m not so sure this wasn’t to stop my whining though. Meanwhile as I drift off, I can hear Adam debating with the midwife over whether the pessary should come out or not. The Dr is called and it’s decided that they’ll keep it in for a few more hours as they monitor baby’s heartrate and see how he copes, however by 10pm it’s taken out and i’m given another dose of Pethidine, except by the time it starts to kick in and i’m feeling suitably snoozy, another drama is happening in the bed next to me and I hear something that i never ever want to hear again – a woman give birth less than 3 ft away from me!! In a way I expect i’m mentally scarred from this experience because i can remember her baby’s entrance to the world more clearly than my own children. In the space of 10 minutes she went from bouncing on a ball with no gas & air to screaming through gas & air as her baby crowned and shot out into the world, between the doors of our ward and the labour corridor. For a maternity unit that was severely understaffed that evening a lot of midwives came flooding in the room at once (no clue where they all popped out from) and I’m not even sure which labour room she was rushed into because they were all occupied. I remember looking at the curtain separating our beds as she screamed that she was pushing and saw some pretty awful things fall to the floor beside her bed which i won’t go into detail, but those memories will be with me forever, along with hearing the most gorgeous freshly born cry as her baby boy was born in a brightly lit corridor. Waiting impatiently for my own baby to arrive, i suddenly felt a serene lift of relief as mother and newborn were taken away, crying with happiness. Tomorrow would be better.
Wednesday 12th July: Tomorrow was not better.
At 7.30am a Junior Dr came to my bedside to examine me and for the first time I was offered Gas & Air. I declined although immediately regretted that decision; this cervix intrusion was the worst one yet and I came away cursing, sweating and no further dilated. The future promise of having my waters broken later that day however powered me through but after wasting my day in bed waiting desperately for a curtain twitch of hope to take me down to labour ward, I had had enough and cried whenever Adam went home to potter about. My contractions continued until 8pm and having only been given paracetamol once in the entire day, I was not in the best mood. I had been told consistently that I was first on the list to go onto the ward, however as every hour passed the number of women on the antenatal induction bay diminished and soon I was the only lady left – first on the list but last to go. I began to mentally yell at my unborn child for not wanting to spontaneously enter the world. As the end credits to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy rolled on our borrowed portable DVD player (thank you Amanda!), our midwife came to do my obs and a quick monitor, and I decided I’d go spend a penny before I went down for the night (it was almost 11pm by this point). To my surprise though I came back to the wonderful sight of another midwife in scrubs who was there to take me down to delivery! I could have cried; by this point i was already emotionally and physically drained and I knew far more was to come but I just did not care. We would be meeting our baby very very soon! We packed up our bags and down the corridor we went.
A Little While After Midnight: Adam & I have almost demolished a Papa John’s (my very first and oh what a welcome snack that was as labour prep) and the remaining 2 slices are put out of reach above a cupboard in our delivery room as our two midwives come in to break my waters. As the breaking of my waters had gone so smoothly with Emilia’s delivery I laid back and tried to relax, thinking of our baby all snug and cosy, completely unprepared for his warm fluidy bed to be drained and to have to make his way into a bright new world. Gas & Air was needed after two attempts and by the fourth they had all gone, leaving we feeling like I needed a pothole between my legs filling in. We went for a walk to jiggle the child out and an hour later we returned, having lapped the hospital car park several times and me having crabbed more than a crab can skuttle sideways in a year. For all that time I focused on feeling any possible twinges and contractions but alas as I waddled back into the delivery room I was far more ready for a sleep than to have a baby. It was decided that at 3am I’d have a Syntocin drip inserted and Adam would go back home for a sleep. Hopefully he’d get a good few hours in before I reached established labour but once again we were warned that second babies and Syntocin can make babies fly out in no time so he shouldn’t make himself too comfy. Drip in hand, monitor on and room darkened, I went to sleep.
Thursday 13th July 7am: I wake to our midwife clocking off on shift and two new midwives entering my room. Adam is sitting in his Useless Dad chair and I get the run down of how I’ve been out cold for 4 hours and the monitor is showing no sign whatsoever of any contractions happening. The drip intensity has even been whacked up to full blast and it’s looking like I’m immune to the drug. Baby however, is a textbook child and his observations are perfect. At this point i realise that I haven’t been to the loo in about 9 hours and suddenly have the urge to go, except I’m strapped to the bed by a drip one side and a monitor the other so a bed pan on wheels has to be scooted in for me to relieve myself (far from glamorous & far from the birth experience I’ve dreamt about). At 7.30am The Medical Director of the hospital comes to see me and assess what the plan is next. We chat about how she was excellent at making our baby stay in the womb when he tried to escape at 30 weeks gestation, so she needs to be just as good at coaxing him out. She says she’ll do her best but the fact that I’m not reacting to the drip so far is puzzling and it’s decided that they’ll go for round two of the drug, this time making sure she watches a midwife inject the potent bit into the bag of solution. There could after all, have been an issue with the batch of Syntocin. I reluctantly agree to this plan and the first of many teary examinations happens to check if I’ve dilated any further (I haven’t) – I hate being stuck on a bed permanently, I hate having to use a bed pan and I hate just waiting after already having waited for 2 days already. I also hate that I was in agony a day and a half prior with non stop contractions and now nothing was happening…what a waste of tears. I’m allowed a quick stretch of my legs for a fleeting few minutes before the drip is reinserted and there I stay, all the way until 1pm, when I’m reassessed. By this time I’ve wasted half a day trying and failing to get Adam to agree on a baby name and used the midwives in the room as helpful persuaders. I’ve also started to feel utterly rubbish and constipated beyond belief, so we know that Syntocin was working some effect on my system – just not the right effect. The reassessment brought in a room full of Doctors this time. Word had got round that there was a woman in room 24 whose uterus was uncooperative and ironically the one time I didn’t want to see any Obstetricians was the time when they all wanted to congregate around me and have a look. I’m examined again – no further along. This time the pain is so bad that I can’t breath in the Gas & Air and Adam and a midwife have to hold my hands to stop me from clawing at my face. “We’ll give it a few more hours, until 4pm”. Ok, a few more hours, I can do this. So I start clock watching.
3pm: By now I’m in mid Crohn’s flare and the clock has been taken down from the wall. I’m crying out in agony and someone (I can’t remember who) suggests calling my Gastro team but all I really want is to pull out all the wires attaching me to monitors and screens and run out the hospital and never come back again, just grin and bare the horrendous pregnancy I’ve had and keep my tiny little lamb tucked safely inside forever. An hour and a half goes by and whilst my pain has reduced significantly, my mood hasn’t improved with it and Adam gives me a serious pep talk just as the medics waltz in again, this time with 4 junior doctors to peer at the freak show I am, closely followed by a portable ultrasound. I beg them not to do another examination – I just know i haven’t dilated any further and the pain from the previous few times terrifies me still. I’m starting to feel like a cow giving birth with a load of different hands sticking up my hoohaa ready to pull out the calf, except the calf won’t budge and I’m pretty sure the next person to even try holding my hand will get a “MOOOOO” in their face. I think my face must have crinkled and creased with tears when I was regretfully informed I did need to be internally examined “but just once more!” (it was a lie) because after the ultrasound showed an unidentifiable pulsing something ontop of my cervix and the doctor in charge loudly exclaimed “what the hell is that??”, 2 further midwives ran in the room and with Adam held me down on the bed, tightly squeezing my hands and stroking my face whilst stuffing gas and air into my mouth, as the consultant less than gently shoved her had through my birth canal up to the baby’s head in a bid to identify this unidentifiable something. It felt like I was in pain forever and at that moment I decided I’d had enough and stopped breathing, stopped shaking, just stopped crying and let dribble cascade out my mouth (not my finest moment) until I began to feel like i was a human being again and could hear Adam talking in my ear about how great I was doing; I really, truly, did not feel like I was doing great.
That examination concluded that the cord hadn’t slipped down, thankfully. Instead, a blood vessel in my pelvis was being squashed somehow, despite baby’s head being nowhere near it and so up went the knitting needles once more, “just to make sure that all the waters have gone”. They had. A long long time ago, and we’d later discover poor Rafi endured the blunt force on those water hooks head on. It was decided that the next plan would be to repeat the Syntocin drip once more (I was livid) and then if by midnight nothing was happening I’d be taken down to theatre. I remember being more than hesitant at this – I knew the drip wasn’t working and just wanted my baby in my arms, so why couldn’t they operate then and there? Adam then suggested that we try a different form of inducing labour (back to the pessary), which the consultant agreed could work and that i’d be back on the antenatal ward for that, and that’s when I full on lost it and broke down more than i ever have before. My emotions really took over with this delivery and I wasn’t helped by the fact that i could not use a bathroom for a full day and that I hadn’t showered for almost 5 days or even walked around for over 24 hours. I was full on fed up and at that out of character outburst it was suggested that I have a bath and try to feel like myself again, and then we’d attempt round 243 of the induction drip.
Bathed, clean, fresh haired & with eye brows looking far less feral, I changed the bed sheets with some spares I found in a cupboard (apparently not what they were intended for) and the drip went back in. I made myself comfy and tried to feel zen, repeating the words “I will see my baby after midnight” in my head until I was back to my happy self again. Adam and I spent the evening chatting with the new midwives on shift about potential baby names and I joked how I preferred Rafal over Oskar as I could call him My Little Raffa Cake. It was given the thumbs up by the medics in the room and then Adam’s suggestion of the middle name Synto derived from Syntocin (lol) got a majorly massive thumbs down, but both ended up sticking and that’s how we would later decide on our little boys name. I began to feel sleepy at 10pm but was too uncomfortable so asked for a cheeky shot of pethidine. It knocked me out for about 4 hours and I woke at around 3am to Adam having gone home to sleep and my Antenatal Consultant coming to check on me. He shocked me by mentioning that at 5am they’d review me again and that the drip was staying on further. This wasn’t the plan I’d been told or agreed to and so for the first time in my life I told someone what I really want and why I wanted it and that I wasn’t taking no for an answer. The relief when he smiled and said, “I completely agree with everything you’ve just said there and I understand your reasons, and so I’m happy to deliver this baby for you.” just washed over me and at 5am once I’d been reviewed (and examined ONE. LAST. TIME) I called Adam and told him to come and meet his son with me.
Friday 14th July, 6:15am: I’ve never had to walk into an Operating Theatre before.
Actually I have, one time 3 years ago when I had a routine Cystoscopy and I remember it had been snowing that day so my Dad had dropped me off at the hospital in the 4X4 and I was in a Down jacket and Wellies. I had walked into the theatre with my Wellies on and seen out the corner of my eye a table full of scalpels and scissors and I’d been nervous, but as soon as I lay down on the bed I felt fine. This time round was different. The Theatre was old, the walls yellow and there were forceps, leg stirrups and strange hooks hanging on the walls. The smell was incredibly sterile and seeing 5 surgeons dressed head to toe in blue scrubs, aprons and masks was terrifying. I’ve never shaken so much before and it was cold, but not cold enough to have to hold someone still as they’re being injected with local anaesthetic. I think I found it so daunting because I had never been prepared for this scenario – only by fellow Mum friends who had had Cesareans unexpectedly too. The spinal block worked far more quickly than I thought it would. Within seconds of injecting the drug I was being pulled back on the bed, angled at 45 degrees and my dead body weight just felt like it was slipping to the ground. At one point I was slipping so much that the Anaesthetist pulled the sheet under me over and it slipped from his hands, causing him to topple backwards. Cue chuckling from his colleagues and Adam and crying from me as I wail about being a beached whale. The laughter really helped to calm me and my pulse dropped from the over 100…to 90…to 80…and back to normal, as they began to deliver our second born.
Rafal (Rafi) Synto Przedrzymirski was born to a room full of people at 7:06am, weighing 3.31 KG.