Neonatal Journey

Part 3 – The Birth

The hospital room was huge! It even had its own private bathroom. The nurse behind me closed the door and the midwife passed me a hospital robe. As I looked at it puzzled, she asked me if I could change into it. I did. I felt like they had the wrong patient. I didn’t need to be here. What was going on?

I asked if I could ring Amy. Amy’s my best friend and has been since we were 13 years old. She was and still is, like a sister to me. I’d been exchanging messages with her since I’d arrived at the hospital and needed someone to help me navigate around this confusing day. She arrived within 20 minutes.

I wasn’t allowed to get up to visit the bathroom so I had to have a catheter fitted. Things were just going from bad to worse. The test results started to come back. Strange, I thought, they usually take much longer. The midwife advised that my blood pressure was continuing to go up. She said that my body was beginning to retain all the liquid that I put into it.

Amy called my mum and John. He arrived shortly after. My mum had experienced pre-eclampsia in 1985 (when I was born) and spent a lot of time in hospital. Because of this, she headed straight to the motorway and arrived at the hospital later that afternoon. My dad wasn’t far behind. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to worry people, especially those closest to me. Although I’d made both John and my parents aware of where I was earlier in the day, I never thought that things would escalate as quickly as they did.

With loved ones around me, the number of doctors and nurses in the room quickly began to increase.

I remember speaking with a nurse who asked me if I’d thought about breast feeding. ‘Not yet’, I’d said. After all, I still had 3 months of pregnancy left. Didn’t I? Her face said something very different.

A consultant advised me that that it was likely that I was going to need to stay in hospital until I gave birth, possibly following this. What? I can’t lie down for 3 months, I thought. She told me that it wouldn’t be that long. I think she could see that I was confused and spoke to me a little more. She told me that I had severe pre-eclampsia and that the medication they had been giving me for my blood pressure had done nothing to bring it down. In fact it was going up, fast. At that point I was at risk of having a stroke or a seizure. The placenta had likely stopped working and they were going to have to move fast to save both myself and Bruce.

I’d been told to stay still and relaxed to prevent my blood pressure from spiking. At this point I knew that what I had to do was quite simple. Stay calm, or risk the life of both myself and Bruce. When you’re backed into a corner such as this, your mind can do powerful things.

I had a drip inserted directly into the main artery in my arm, to try and stabilise the blood pressure. They added stitches to the line to prevent it from coming out. I won’t lie, it hurt like hell.

I remember looking at everyone in the room. John, Amy, Mum and Dad. All were so calm, speaking so soothingly. I knew they were thinking the same things as me, feeling the same fear. No one showed it though, not to me anyway. I don’t know how I’d have coped without them there.

By the time we reached approximately 7pm, I’d lost count of the amount of doctors, nurses and specialists that I’d spoken with. I was introduced to a consultant who I was told would be my surgeon. As lovely and professional as he was, he didn’t have the greatest ‘bedside manner’. By that I mean that he explained things in a very literal sense. He told me that I was going to have a scan to check that Bruce was ok. Following this, I would likely be taken to theatre that night for an emergency C-section. Goodness knows why, but he then added, “the only way to save you (me), is to either separate you and Bruce….or if Bruce dies”. At that point, I thought my family were actually going to drag him out of the room. Tears rolled down my face as the blood pressure monitor started to alarm. It was going up again and higher than I even knew was possible. At my last glance, the top number was going over 200. I stopped looking after that.

It didn’t take long to get to the scanning room. With John by my side, I travelled down a number of empty hospital corridors. As the cold jelly was applied to my stomach, I took a deep breath and held it in. I didn’t breathe again until the most beautiful image appeared on the monitor. My little boy was moving around quite happily. A moment of relief.

The decision was made to take me to theatre. I hugged my parents and Amy at around 8:30pm. I didn’t want to let them go. I was terrified. By 8.45pm, I was in the theatre with John dressed in a green gown by my side. “You’re so brave love”, he kept repeating. I didn’t feel it. I’ve never been so frightened, though his words and presence were soothing.

I had to stay awake because of my blood pressure, though I couldn’t feel any pain. Nothing hurt. I could feel the procedure but it was all very numb. I remember one of the nurses kept telling me to breathe. I was in shock by this point and holding my breath as a result.

At 9:12pm, I heard a cry. Bruce was alive.

The relief, the tears.

I really struggle to describe this moment. Imagine every emotion you’ve ever experienced, sharing the same space in time. That’s how I felt.

I wasn’t told at the time, but Bruce stopped breathing. They had managed to give me one steroid injection earlier that afternoon, to support with his lung development. However, they had run out of time to be able to do a second. He was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator.

I can quite clearly see the picture in my mind’s eye, of the first moment I saw him. He was tiny, 2lb 6oz to be exact. I’d never seen a baby that small, ever. But he was beautiful. It was a moment where time stopped. I was told that Bruce was being taken to the neonatal unit. As I lay on the theatre bed, the nurse who was transporting Bruce paused by my side. Bruce looked directly at me. His face was so small and his eyes hadn’t developed a colour of their own yet. I couldn’t speak. I tried to reach for him but he was just a stretch too far. I managed 2 words before he left.

“Hi Bruce”

I wouldn’t see him for another 24 hours.

My upcoming post, “My First Touch”, describes the moments when I was able to touch my child for the very first time.

Big hugs xxx

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