By Guest Blogger Chantelle Doulis (@chantelledoulis)
“Just push out the baby” whispered my husband during our prenatal classes, when the topic of creating a birth plan came up. “No shit” was my response.
What naïve little creatures we were.
I had a dream pregnancy, no morning sickness, I travelled overseas and domestically, and was able to do all my normal exercise right up until around 30 weeks. To be honest, I’d never felt better about my body – who wanted to have a baby? I wanted to keep rocking this pregnancy!
I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Child Birth, I’d practiced my breathing and after doing a half Ironman I knew what physical pain was and thought I could handle it. I was actually looking forward to giving birth!
After being told at 41 weeks the baby still wasn’t engaged I started to get a little worried. But later that day, I had my first little cramp. Excitement! The obstetrician was clearly wrong, this baby was finally on her way after making us wait and wait!
Fast forward 24 hours and no, she was still not on her way. My waters were manually broken at 3cm dilated and that’s as far as I got. At 3:45pm, after being in labour for over 27 hours, our baby’s heart rate starting dropping during contractions and so did mine. The midwives were getting a little concerned, and in went the internal heartrate monitor.
Five minutes later the obstetrician was explaining to me that we had to go into surgery - the baby’s heart rate had dropped too low and we needed to have a caesarean to safely deliver her.
I was quickly rushed through the hospital, with what felt like the entire cast of ER surrounding me reassuring me and shouting out at each other. It was chaos. I had a cannula in one hand, a catheter coming out of you know where, and the internal heart rate monitor also coming out of you know where. We actually crashed into another bed running down the hallway, and finally made it into the operating theatre where the cast of Grey’s Anatomy were waiting for us.
I’m not sure what happened to my husband Chris. He went off to scrub up, because we were told he could come and be in the theatre to cut the cord and do the new dad thing. He didn’t get to do that.
I was in tears, and was so fearful for my baby girl. Someone explained that as her heart rate had dropped so low they couldn’t wait, so they were going to put me under general anaesthetic and get her out now.
I wasn’t awake when our beautiful little girl was born.
It was probably for the best in hindsight. She was born “flat”, which means floppy and not breathing. The paediatrician worked on her for nearly two minutes to get her to breathe. She was covered in meconium, which she aspirated and swallowed, and had the cord around her neck three times. Chris got to be there whilst they suctioned the meconium from her lungs and oesophagus, and he held her little hand. He said she was all green and fuzzy.
Evie was born at 4:10pm, 3.2kgs and 51cm, after 28 hours of labour. The caesarean took 12 minutes from start to finish, which apparently is very quick. I got to meet Evie around 6pm, once I’d finished up in theatre and recovery. They wheeled me around to the Special Care Nursery (SCN) in bed where I met my daughter for the first time. I got to touch her through the arm hole in the crib.
Watching my baby girl laying in the crib and not being able to hold her is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It broke my heart. All I wanted to do was hug her, smell her, soothe her but all I could do was look at her and pat her head. It was so surreal laying there, watching our little human. I kept thinking to myself "surely they’ll let us have her tomorrow morning, we can cuddle her and feed her?" How on earth did this go so pear shaped?
She was in the SCN for three nights before we got to spend a night with her. I heard the other babies crying on the maternity ward during the night and ached for the same thing. It’s really mind blowing how strong the maternal instinct is so quickly.
So, I didn’t push out the baby – birthing plan fail.
For quite a few weeks (read: months) after she was born I felt like such a failure. I really battled to wrap my head around what happened. My body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I felt really pissed off that my expectations about labour got trashed, and that I missed her entrance into this world. I was so annoyed hearing about everyone else’s (relatively) quick, easy and calm childbirth experiences. Quotes like “your first breath took ours away” really pissed me off too, because I didn’t get to have that at all.
We had a debrief with the obstetrician at the hospital, and I leaned on my friends and family, talking through what happened and spending a lot of time with my daughter and husband. What I’ve since come to realise is that whilst I missed an hour or two at the start, and we had a crappy few days in the hospital, this kid is stuck with me forever. I get to cuddle, kiss and embarrass her well into adulthood, and that’s more than ok with me.