I had complications with my first pregnancy. Well, I say that, but I never ever considered them to be complications with my actual pregnancy. Just something they picked up on at my first scan which was a complication with my own body. I had a large cystic mass on one of my ovaries (which is another post waiting to happen) and was monitored closely from my second scan onwards.
I also measured 6 weeks ahead of my dates. My mum did too with both pregnancies. She said my brother and I grew large quickly and then slowed down in the last few weeks. But the chances are, my extra size was due to the cyst, it was pretty large. This didn't concern me at the time. The cyst was to be dealt with separately, once the baby had been born.
On a Sunday morning, just two days after I finished work and went onto maternity leave, I woke at 6am for a toilet trip. This was probably the second one of the night as at 34 weeks pregnant, there isn't much room left for your bladder to fill up - and that's without a huge ovary getting in the way too.
At 7am, I sat bolt upright in panic as I felt liquid escaping from between my legs. How could it be wee, it couldn't be wee, I'd only just been to the loo. My husband woke and asked me what was wrong. "I think my waters just broke."
"What?" he responded.
"Well it can't be wee, I only went for a wee an hour ago."
I waddled off to sit on the loo. Nothing else happened so I texted my Aunt who is a midwife to ask how I could check if it was my waters or not (other than smelling it, as your waters are odourless. Your wee, generally, is not!).
A bit worried, we went back to bed, with a towel underneath me, just in case. As I settled myself back against the pillow, GUSH. "Oh my god, it IS my waters, oh my god."
I hobbled back to the bathroom, dripping across the landing. My aunt called me but I didn't answer as we were already ringing the hospital. I texted her to let her know and she wished me luck.
The most classic moment of the day, had to be my husband telling the triage midwife "my waters have broken, err, I mean my WIFE's waters have broken". Bless him, it was all a bit unexpected and we'd only just woken up too!
Anyway, I maintained my calm demeanour, knowing that breaking waters THIS premature didn't necessarily mean baby was on its way out. I might in fact be stuck in hospital for weeks to protect the poor mite from infection now its sack was open. So I packed plenty of entertainment into the pre-prepared emergency version of my hospital bag.
We set off for hospital around 8am, having called or texted or parents and siblings, but no-one else. I hadn't had any breakfast, mainly as I was too shocked to eat, but also as a just in case style precaution. In the car, I felt two minor back ache type pains, like the dull ache of a period pain and I felt a slight need to poo too. Hmmm, this could mean I'm going to give birth today, I thought.
The midwife in triage was lovely. She had a look and said she thought it was my waters but they'd have to get a doctor to come and check. In the meantime, I was strapped up for fetal heart monitoring and to measure contractions. Paul and I started to play a little game, called 'guess when and IF I'm having a contraction'. I would say "I think I can feel something now" and he'd watch the numbers rising on the monitor. I was pleasantly surprised at how painless this all was, but I guess most people don't even realise they're in labour at this stage.
The doctor checked and confirmed that my waters had gone and I was about 3cm dilated. I was going to give birth... maybe not that day, but nevertheless, 6 weeks early. I ran Paul through a verbal version of my birth plan as I hadn't got round to writing it yet.
After a couple of trips to the loo for bowel evacuation (which I insisted Paul accompany me on, poor guy), we were transferred to a delivery suite at midday. Thankfully, they had managed to find a space on the neonatal ward for my premature baby, otherwise we would have been sent to another county to give birth! Eeek!
The contractions started to get painful around 1pm. Our new midwife, who had banned me from eating (cow, I was very hungry), gave me some paracetamol to take (seriously... paracetamol???) which I nearly vomited straight back up. Shortly after this, a nice man from neonatal came to try to explain what potential complications might arise with a baby this premature (I'd been given a steroid injection to help his lungs finish developing, but it didn't look like he was going to be staying inside long enough for this to take effect) and what care he might require. I confess, I heard none of what he said as I was contracting the whole time he was talking and gripping onto my chair for dear life.
I tried having a bit of a walk around (and risking the monitors slipping off) but actually found it was much more comfortable sitting in my big chair with the arms to squeeze whilst I concentrated on breathing my way through my contractions.
By 2pm, I'd asked for the gas and air and was happily puffing my way through each contraction. It didn't have quite the giggly effect on me that it did when I broke my wrist way back when. But it certainly did the job for taking the edge off the pain.
By about 3pm, the midwife suggested I might like to climb onto the bed and she would fetch a doctor to re-examine me. It must have been 3.30pm by the time this happened and I was told I was 10cm (thank god, because I was not going to put up with someone inserting their hand that far inside of me again, thank you very much). (Honestly, how do they do it?).
The urge to push followed swiftly. I like to blame this next fact on having only made the first of my antenatal classes (the second class was due the next day), but my first push was a bit pathetic. Well, really, I'd never done this before. With a bit of gentle coaching from the midwife about putting my chin on my chest, holding my breath and pushing everything down into my bottom area, I started to make some progress. I may also have squeezed the tube to the gas and air a little too hard and broken it. Never mind how Paul's hand felt, he deserved to share the pain.
Another hard push and a burning sensation and there was a head between my legs. As exciting as this was, I have to describe it as one of THE most unusual experiences of my life. Apparently there were quite a lot of people in the room at the time, neonatal nurses and the like. I only knew there was me, Paul, the midwife, and a head between my legs. It turned. I can't blame it, I wouldn't want to be staring at someone's anus either. Another push (or two? do you really expect me to remember THAT much detail?) and he was out (4pm on the dot), cord snipped, bundled into blankets held by the neonatal doctor and whooshed off to the other side of the room.
For what seemed like a very long moment, I forgot about the baby and just grinned from ear to ear. I did it. I just pushed a baby out... I gave birth. I AM AMAZING. Ooh, how's the baby? Is he ok? Is he breathing? God, is he... ahhhhh, my baby just cried. Ahhh.
It was about 20 minutes before they brought him over to me for a cuddle. They explained he had a little bit of a grunt as he breathed but otherwise seemed pretty healthy. Hubby took 3 photos and then he was taken off to special care. It was nearly 3 hours before we saw him again. Possibly the only downside to having a premature baby in my honest opinion.
I loved the way I was gradually eased into being a mum by the constant help and support of the nurses. I loved my stay in hospital for the rest of the week, being cooked for and cleaned up after. I didn't love leaving hospital 5 days later and leaving him there, but on the upside, I got a full night's sleep in my own bed. For 4 nights actually. A little chance to recover from the birth before 'rooming in' with him on the neonatal ward and finally bringing him home 12 days after he was born. I have no idea how people cope if they get sent home the day, or the day after they give birth. How do they know what to do? I can't fault the care we had and I truly wouldn't change it. I would only ask, to be able to hold him straight away and to get stitched up, washed, notes completed (my midwife was in no rush) and upstairs to see him again a little faster.
Back to the delivery suite. My little Felix was wheeled off to the neonatal ward and the midwife jabbed me with my Vitamin K. Holding on to the umbilical cord, the midwife told me to push. I'd already forgotten how. She let go of the cord, unfortunately, just as I remembered how to push. Husband couldn't stop laughing at the way she had to catch the flying placenta that came at her. Easy. My job was done.
I had a minor tear, so she said something or other about stitching me up and I felt a bit confused when she thanked me for allowing her... then as I saw the shaking hand with needle and thread rising from my genitals, I began to realise, she was still fairly inexperienced at this. Oh god. She's shaking with nerves. I'm going to be a complete mess.
I am not. My husband claims she did an excellent job. I try not to question him too much on this. I think you should leave it there too.
I waited around for them to finish cleaning the bathroom before I took a shower, cleaning myself very tentatively. I felt no pain, just very tender. What does one expect?
Then we waited. And waited. Until eventually we went off upstairs, me milking it in a wheelchair, to see our little boy. Where someone jabbed a needle in his foot and made me cry.
I feel very lucky that I had such an easy birth. Just 8 hours from the first contraction to Felix's introduction to life outside the womb. And a nice small 6lb 2oz baby (not small for his prematurity, but small for pushing out). Finger's crossed, this one isn't too much more difficult. I know I've had practice now, but another amazing experience would be much appreciated. I have never been more proud of myself.