A sunny fall afternoon that was supposed to involve a quick midwife appointment, then a coffee and dog-walk date with a friend, ended sans latte or stroll. Here’s what happened.
Before meeting my friend, I had a standard 39-week appointment. I felt good, and thought I’d just pop in, pee on the stick, check my weight, have a nice chat and be on my way. The appointment seemed to be going normally. We talked about how I was going to spend my final days of pregnancy (cooking, cleaning, watching girlie movies in bed on Netflix). But then my midwife checked my blood pressure. Before I knew it, I was being instructed to go home and collect my hospital bag — and my husband — and meet her at triage in two hours. I thought she just wanted to run some tests, and suspected she was being overly precautious. I felt fine, after all. I didn’t feel like I needed a trip to the hospital. It took 20 minutes to finally sink in: I was going to have my baby. Today. Actually, now.
Since the baby was full-term, there was no sense taking any risks, my midwives reasoned. I supposed this made sense, but what about my coffee date? Should I text my friend that I’d be late? (Obviously, I wasn’t thinking clearly.)
Once Barry and I made it through admitting and up to triage, my midwives consulted with the on-call obstetrician. Within a few hours, I was receiving blood pressure medication and oxytocin to induce labour. At some point during the night — at about six centimetres dilated — my readings started to creep up again despite the meds, and I was encouraged to have an epidural, which has the fringe benefit of lowering blood pressure. I was happy to receive the help — and, frankly, the pain relief. Sadly, it didn’t totally take on one side and required several top-ups as the hours marched on.
By noon the following day, I was fully dilated but, after two hours of pushing, the baby’s head just wasn’t quite making it through. Another consult with the OB left me with two choices: forceps and an episiotomy, or vacuum and an episiotomy. I wasn’t thrilled with either but opted for the latter.
About a dozen doctors and interns filed in as my legs were unceremoniously thrown into the stirrups. (I thought this scene only happened in movies!) Over my knees, I glimpsed at their faces as they stood in a large semicircle around my vagina. I couldn’t stop thinking about how young some of them looked — like babies. After a new anaesthesiologist gave me yet another top-up, Barry held my hand while the OB and his crew did their work down there and I pushed baby Matilda out into the world. Barry cut the cord and and they brought our baby up onto my chest. I couldn’t stop staring at her scrunched little face and beautiful bow-shaped lips. I wept tears of joy as I felt her breathing. I was so relieved that the ordeal was over and our precious baby girl was here. Little did I know, we were actually far from the finish line.
The placenta was removed and the midwives were showing us some of its irregularities, which could account for the high blood pressure I’d experienced, when the room started to spin and the coconut water, protein bars and apple juice — power snacks Barry had lovingly fed to me hours earlier — started to violently reappear. I could literally feel the blood draining from my face as I started to hemorrhage. One of the midwives started performing contractions on my abdomen (which felt more brutal than the birth, by the way) to free any major blood clots or pieces of the placenta that may have remained. Then the OB reappeared. I cried for the second time, now out of fear, as I was suddenly being wheeled away, and looked back to see the look on my husband’s face as he clutched our newborn. We made a hasty trip down the hall to the operating room where I was scraped free of any final clots and packed to stop the bleeding.
We spent two nights in the hospital before we were discharged. I was so happy to go home, step into my warm, bright and newly cleaned house and sit down to a delicious meal. (Thank you, Debbie, the world’s best mother-in-law!)
This isn’t the birth story that I’d wanted to tell. For months we talked about how we’d labour in the comfort of home for as long as possible, deliver at the hospital and then, fingers crossed, be discharged under our midwife’s care just hours after the birth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to be, but in the end, we have a beautiful and healthy baby girl to show for it.
This article appeared in our Today’s Parent Pregnancy spring/summer 2013 edition with the headline, “Labours of love: My labour full of unexpected interventions”, p.44.