Thank you for coming out of me!
This day last week we were waiting and waiting for you. We’d thought, since Friday when my waters had broken on the threshold of Mothercare, that you were imminently arriving. I’d been contracting all day after a few stop starts and once again they had suddenly stopped about 3pm so, for the second time, we reluctantly agreed to a hospital visit for a trace…
I was so desperate to have a home birth as I’d had with your big brother and not have to risk a hospital over night, something I’d hated with your big sister, but a trace seemed like a harmless visit if they let me go home again to carry on labouring long and slow as I had assumed was my fate having been the case both times before.
We were allowed back home and promised if nothing had started by 10pm that we’d be back. My waters had been gone over 48 hours, the hospital staff were twitchy but I felt sure that you would start moving, I just had to relax and be in my own environment. Sure enough by the allotted time and contractions were back with a force so the home birth team were called and Amy, a midwife from the delivery suite came with the community midwife on call. But by the time they arrived the contractions were slowing down again and I reluctantly and exhaustedly had to agree it was time to give in and go to hospital. Amy said she would be with me once we arrived and I knew I liked her a lot already so it made it easier to go.
We had a few minutes of hilarity at the hospital doors which were locked and I, with contractions back in town, kind of slid down a wall while shouting at Jonny to FIND someone. Then we were in our room, which Amy had prepared for me before she’d left for my house, knowing it was likely we’d be back and I was touched that there were twinkling lights and a home from home feel making me slightly less anxious at not being in my own environment. I was still so hopeful that I could have my natural, drug free labour even though it would be in the hospital. I was still confident that I knew my body, knew my labours, knew my babies… But… Oh Raffie, as with everything in my pregnancy with you, you had other ideas to me and surprised me at every turn.
I could handle my own contractions but when I was given an Oxytocin drip to ramp them up the pain was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I gave birth to Jimmy with no pain relief and he was back to back but pushing him into the world was a walk in the park compared to these super sized contractions and after what seemed like hours of pushing, your heart beat dropping all over the place and my cervix refusing to open despite me dilating, albeit slowly, I had to agree to some pain relief and when the anaesthetist came in the room he said he wanted me to have an epidural. I cried, I felt like such a wimp but he said it was in my best interest and I was in SO much pain that I agreed.
Shortly after I was able to take a break, they took away the Oxytocin to give you a break too as you had been pushed, effectively, against a brick wall with every contraction but after some more time still it became apparent that I still wasn’t going to contract properly. Back on the drip and we started again. Me pushing, me dilating slowly, me with a cervix that wouldn’t open and you bashing your poor little head against it.
Amy’s shift was over and I was so sad to see her go. She was so interesting with a side career as a make-up artist for the Pixiwoos and I just liked her. You know, when someone just clicks… But in came Hayley who, like everyone else was just lovely. Slowly the room filled with more and more people. Carmel, the head midwife, the anaesthetist was back, a consultant, then two… Hayley had a paramedic shadowing her so he was in the room with us too and then the atmosphere changed. They were all worried about you and though I cried and cried and couldn’t stop the water falling from my eyes I agreed to go to theatre for a full spinal block and for you to be delivered by Cesarean Section. It was blurry then for a bit. Failure. I felt a failure…
Your Daddy was gowned up, we were wheeled down a corridor and people wearing scrubs with kind faces said good morning to me. It was Monday morning by now of course. I was so very scared. Scared of the operation and of being this failure and of what was about to happen but mainly scared for you. Had I put you through too much wanting to have this natural birth? Should I have just known you needed something different? The whole pregnancy had been different. I’d been sick and felt rubbish all the way through… Why did I assume things would work as they had before? The consultant had said how strange it was that my body hadn’t recognised labour and after two children, where labour had been natural, it should have done; so was I crazy to have assumed the same?
There were so many people in the theatre, even more than in my labour room. A Doctor, Hayley the midwife, the paramedic, two more anaesthetists, theatre porters, nurses… And the lovely consultant I had just days previously joked about being Dougie Howser on my Instagram Stories. Mr Bircher actually turned out to be 34 so not as young as I’d thought and this day he had a kind handsome face which told me he knew what he was doing. As my tears fell he reassured me and told me he would do everything he could to help me have the most natural birth. He said he would examine me again and if I was 10cm dilated we could try forceps. This made me stop crying and although it was a far cry from my candlelit home birth, it was, I thought, better than being cut open to rip you from my womb rather than let you be born the ‘right’ way.
True to his word, when it was found I had dilated all the way this is what Mr Bircher tried and for a while he did his very best to make it work but my body still hadn’t done what it should and you were too high up, my cervix blocking you. It was decided that a section was the only way. Mr Bircher told me I wasn’t silly to have wanted to try everything, that he wouldn’t have done it if it absolutely couldn’t have worked but that now it was time. And I trusted him entirely.
Lots of things happened in all this theatre time, tests to find out how numb I was and all sorts but at all times I felt looked after. Scared but like I had the best people in the world on my side and therefore on yours too Raffie. The operation was hard and I lost a lot of blood, nearly 4 pints. I felt very poorly and I was sick, drifting in and out. I kept imagining that I was dying and felt like I was in a film, watching but not taking part. Frightened yet trusting. They spoke to me the whole time. Explained things to me, why I was feeling like this, just conversation to reassure me at times, and for your Daddy sometimes too because he was just as frightened as me. It seemed to go very serious when I lost the blood but they knew what they were doing, thankfully, and you, my darling you arrived at 9.36am.
You were taken to be looked after, meconium in your mouth which had been hidden and stuck so no one knew it was surrounding you. I knew you were a boy by this point, we had been so shocked having thought you would be a girl with no reason just a feeling, yet again you surprised me and your daddy was blown away too as he told me the news! I told your daddy to go and be with you, I couldn’t handle not seeing you and it seemed like that went on forever. Then finally, finally you were in my arms.
I was tired and weak and the operation had been hard but you, my beautiful you, were here and nothing else mattered.
What went on afterwards, the recovery, the being in hospital for days, your sister and brother having tummy bugs and us being put in isolation, trying to cope with the pain, understand how serious it had all been, being visited by Mr Bircher, the midwives who had looked after me… they even came on their breaks… We were treated so beautifully. On the last day when Gemma, another midwife, looked after me, I totally realised the magnitude of how lucky we’d been. To have such an amazing team giving us our care. One midwife told me ‘everyone is in love with Mr Bircher of course’ and I thought, yep… Of course! How lucky you and I were Raffie, how lucky.
I’ve heard about birth trauma many times and thought it couldn’t and wouldn’t affect me. I’ve laboured twice before, I’ve done this, I’ve got it covered I thought. Birth trauma wasn’t something that would happen to me. But then… It did.
And I had assumed you couldn’t have those words, ‘BIRTH TRAUMA’ and there be a positive at the end of it but because of Mr Bircher, Carmel, Amy, Hayley, Gemma, my anaesthetists, everyone who looked after me… My birth trauma, our birth trauma, and it was a trauma, one I am still processing, was indeed positive. The team at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital just knew how to deal with everything even down to Gemma explaining that I needed to talk about it, to keep talking about it and in a few weeks I needed to come and see Mr Bircher again to talk about it some more.
And I will talk about it some more. There is more to say in fact. But for now I just need to say this. Tomorrow morning it will have been a week since you came. I feel sad that I didn’t get my perfect home birth but so happy that you are here and that I am here too. Because years ago we wouldn’t have been. I am sore and feel wounded but I am home and safe, a blood transfusion was given to me when my iron dipped super low and then we came home together, as it should be. YOU are safe Raffie. This is the main thing. THIS! Thank goodness for the NHS and people like the people who treated us. I said to the community midwife that I would remember them all forever and the crazy thing is that they, of course, wouldn’t remember me – because they do this every day, they are every day heroes. She assured me that staff don’t visit patients on their lunch breaks and that actually my birth was a tricky operation for them so they would absolutely remember me and then, just as with ALL the other midwives, she went a bit gooey talking about Mr Bircher! I hope they do remember us Raffie but whatever the truth of that is, they ARE every day heroes, they are my heroes and they are yours and we are the luckiest.
You have made us all so happy, just as I knew would be the case even when I couldn’t imagine you because we didn’t know you and I love you more than I can explain, you just fit right in. You are perfect and wonderful and you have made our family so much richer.
I want to thank all the staff who helped us somehow so we will have to get our thinking caps on, you and I, for how to do this best. But just for now let’s revel in the glory of you being our little three is the magic number baby, and look forward to our hopefully less traumatic than your birth future as a family of five. Thank you for coming out of me darling Raffie, I can’t wait for what’s to come!
Love from your Mummy xxxx