I almost died on the table having you, but I wasn’t scared for me, I was scared for you”
It’s been suggested by my psychologist and (back) pain specialist that I write about the night of the girls birth in order to heal both mentally and physically. It was traumatic and terrifying but probably one of the most wonderfully joyous nights of my life too.
As these tales tend to go, it all started with a storm. Well, kind of.
I’d been admitted to the hospital a few days prior – on the Friday – with some slight bleeding. (I’d gone into labour come Saturday morning but it had managed to be stopped). A meagre four hours before Fenella’s (AKA Little Red) water broke I had had an ultrasound showing that her placenta was separating. My OBGYN, Dr B, thankfully made the decision to not send me home, but keep me in hospital until thirty four weeks, where he would then do a C-Section. Hubby left me at the hospital around 8pm, when the rain started pouring, and I went off to make myself a cup of tea in the common room. I got chatting to my previous room mate who had had her baby boy a few days previously. It was just before nine when I got back to my room, I went to the loo and saw a slight spotting of blood and nonchalantly pressed the buzzer for the nurse. I hadn’t really understood the severity of what a separating placenta actually meant, but I was told to let them know so that’s what I did.
Before I knew what was happening four midwives had surrounded me and was trying to locate both of my babies heartbeats. Belinda, an awesome midwife who had cared for me her past couple of shifts came to the foot of the bed and told them not to bother, to get me to the birthing suite where there was a better scanner. I asked her if I should let my husband know and calmly she said yes, so I texted him asking him to come back to the hospital. The next thing I recall is being wheeled down towards the lift and into the birthing ward. We arrived in a room, it was 9pm and I was introduced to Jules, she had just started her shift and was making up the bed. I braced my hands on the handles of the wheel chair to heave myself out and WHOOSH…
I remember looking at Jules, eyes wide and frightened and simply said, “I think my water just broke”. I looked down and saw bloody water on the floor which I mistook for meconium. I started crying like I’ve never cried before, short laboured and panicked breaths. I managed to get on the bed and text Hubby again to tell him where I was and that my water had broken. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and an older midwife came to my side and asked if I was crying because it was hurting. I replied “no, I’m just scared”. She told me to breathe deeply and somehow I managed to regain some composure to calm myself. Belinda said she didn’t think it was meconium, that it was blood from the placenta.
Suddenly my labour pains started coming thick and fast (just like when I laboured with Little Man) and Hubby appeared at the door. Jules was trying to find their heartbeats and Little Red had already moved from being up high on my right side to low on my left side. Naomi (AKA Copperhead) was where she always was, head down and ready for her grand entrance.
Belinda explained that I would have to be transferred to the public hospital because the private hospital nursery is only equipped for thirty-four week babies and above. I was scared about that, I didn’t want her to leave me. I asked if they could stay with me and they said they couldn’t but Jules will go with me to do a handover. They said an ambulance had been called for another lady already but that I had to jump the queue and go first, Dr B had been called and would meet us there. At this point shock must have kicked in, I asked if I had to have the babies tonight, couldn’t they stop the labour like they did on Saturday? Jules delicately replied that yes, I’d be having my twins that night.
Between a mixture of breathing through contractions and being loaded into an ambulance I felt like I needed to push. It’s a bit of a blur but at the same time I can remember snippets so clearly.
By 11pm I was in the operating theatre. Hubby had to wait outside so an anaesthetist nurse held my hand through the contractions and would tell the two anaesthetist’s who were attempting a spinal of when they were coming. The first anesthetist had several goes at trying to get the needle in, all the while I was breathing through contractions, feeling the need to push with approximately fifiteen people watching. There were two midwives, a peadatrician (Daphne), a nurse practioner (Mark), two Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses, Dr B’s assisting OBGYN and other operating theater staff… possibly a janitor too. Who knows?
Around 11:45 Dr B came in and held my other hand. I told him I needed to push and the mood in the room seemed to change. Hubby said when he was waiting, Dr B had told him it was unusual for a spinal to take this long and that he was going in to get it moving. Hubby said he saw him give the anaesthetist a tap on the shoulder and next thing the second one took over and it was done in around thirty seconds. I was obviously used as practice since it’s a teaching hospital but that’s a post (or several) for another day.
When I was eventually lying down, I looked at the clock – 11:50pm – and said to Dr B, “I don’t want them born on different days, are we going to wait until after midnight?” He said, no, they’d both be born before midnight. Hubby literally sat on the seat next to me and Copperhead was pulled out.
“WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS IT?” Dr B was holding her up…
“IT’S A GIRL, IT’S A GIRL!!” cried Hubby.
And that’s when I felt the need to vomit. A fact Hubby said he would never let me live down due to the timing!
Seriously, I lost approximately a litre of blood instantly and Hubby said my face just went white. I vaguely remember Little Red being pulled out but all I could focus on was the fact I couldn’t breathe and the stabbing pains in my shoulders. I kept thinking, “this is wrong, something is wrong, they’re going to have to put me to sleep”. (It was only a day later, during Dr B’s visit, that I was told my body had gone into shock due to the blood loss and placenta pretty much exploding). I felt like I couldn’t see with the mask over my face, I passed out and only saw Little Red briefly when Mark kept saying my name trying to get me to look at her, I simply didn’t have the strength to open my eyes properly. Hubby said he heard the doctors talking about me hemorrhaging and that I was having a blood transfusion before he went to NICU with the girls. It wasn’t a piece of cake for me by any means, but it must have been incredibly scary for him to see me like that.
The next thing I knew I woke up in recovery, shaking from the drugs and feeling more terrified than I ever have before. It makes me want to be sick when I go back to that moment, I’ve never felt so scared, I had no idea if my babies were okay or even where they were in the building. There’s something pretty unnatural about it all, even though it’s all to do with saving lives. The fact I never got to touch or really look at my girls brings tears to my eyes as I write.
There was blood in my urine bag and so various calls to my OBGYN and specialists were contacted to try and establish if my bladder had been, for want of a better word, damaged during surgery. I never thought I’d say this, but thankfully it was only due to the sheer force of the catheter. The anaesthetist and Dr B came to see me – with the latter telling me he’d snuck into NICU and that the girls looked beautiful. Then Mark and Hubby were there, telling me about what had been happening.
When we were eventually by ourselves, back in the birthing suite, Hubby told me how the staff hadn’t had enough time to get two cribs next to each other and so he was going back and forth as two separate teams worked on them. He said the girls seemed to cry for each other, one would cry out and then the other would answer. I felt such excitement and longed to see them both.
When we got to our room on the ward it was early morning, Hubby was given a thin mattress and blanket and made a nest for himself in the corner. I took a photo of him because he seemed to sleep with a smile on his face, he looked so content.
Even though it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life it was also indescribably beautiful. Hearing their little lungs at work in the OR was enough to comfort me. Our NICU journey had only just begun and I didn’t know that we were actually at the foot of the mountain. My miracle babies were here, kicking and screaming, and that’s all that mattered.