Well. This blog fell on its arse. I make no apologies, but wanted to come and ‘finish’ it off as there has been a slight tinge of guilt whenever I think about it.
My pregnancy was a dead good one. I say this knowing that I’m now someone who has a beautiful baby and is probably mis-remembering the journey it took to get here. When I think of pregnancy I do remember a certain glow, lovely hair and nails and a certain weird kind of energy that made me feel all light footed and springy on occasion. It felt as if the baby fitted me like a really good pair of jeans, I felt like I was the right shape for the first time in my life. If I add a little more reality to my memory, then there were also times of hobbling around walking like a duck because everything hurt, having to sit in my car for five minutes to catch my breath before switching the engine on, after walking minutes from my office to my car. Oh and the heart burn. Christ. One night I even had stomach acid trying to escape my nose. That shit was mean!
And then there was a birth. Oh god. You ready for this? Not sure I am.
I went in to labour on my due date. Like a magical fairy tale. It was a Tuesday. I lay my head down on the sofa for an hour in the afternoon, and woke up to contractions. Only nice mild “ouchie” ones to begin with but every five minutes and getting stronger with each one. I text Bec and told her not to get too excited, I was fully expecting a false start (I’d had a few ‘pains’ in the two weeks before and was convinced it would never really properly start!) It was about 15:30 so I told her to finish her day at work.
By the time she was home at about 6, it was fo’realsies labour. We had taken Hypno birthing classes and done a lot of practice to try make it work for us, so I was practicing my breathing and serenity and it was mostly calm and lovely. Candles and music and peace. Studded with me climbing the stairs every three minutes to empty my bowels, and the odd little cry as I momentarily lost hold of the calmness and got scared. My contractions were every three minutes from really early on but not massively high in intensity. I mean they bloody hurt. A lot. But I now know they were not at an ‘established labour’ level yet. The frequency of the contractions frightened me as I’d expected them to be three minutes apart right at the end, so even though the pain was bearable still, at 9pm I requested we go off to the birthing center as I was becoming nervous at home. I was scared it was going to ramp up too quickly for the 30 minute journey.
We chose a birthing center as we wanted a holistic birth. I wanted peace and quiet to practice my hypnobirthing, I wanted my own space and one-on-one care. That was a huge factor for me, I’d heard from so many friends who’d given birth at hospital about feeling ‘left’ because there weren’t enough midwives. People being turned away because the hospital was full. At the birth centre you get one-on-one care. I also didn’t want my birth weighed down with numbers and results and readings and centimeters. I wanted to be left alone to listen to my body with as little intervention as possible. The midwife would take heart rate readings every fifteen minutes but otherwise leave me to it and be there if I needed (and obviously for the pushing too!) “But what about if something goes wrong?” People kept asking me, when they heard there were no doctors there. And I repeated what I’d been told: the hospital is only a nine minute drive away by ambulance, they don’t leave anything to chance, the tiniest slightest concern and you’re transferred.
I had a ‘lovely’ labour there. A lovely big room to myself. I’d brought along flameless candles and music, we dimmed the lights and got down to business. I couldn’t sit or lay, I needed to be on my feet or knees the whole time which was a real problem as my legs were aching and shaking! My wife was AMAZING. I felt so looked after, yet she gave me the space she knew I needed. She was my protector. Hypno birthing really worked for us. Perhaps not in the way we planned it to; I wasn’t always able to practice the calm breathing during contractions (that shit hurts!) but was able to contain myself before and after and between contractions, and do a lot of positive self talking to keep me going and keep me feeling strong and brave.
At about midnight my waters went. There was meconium, which we believed to be a trigger for a ride to hospital and so Rebecca started gathering our belongings, but the midwife said she was happy enough that it was low enough grade that she would keep us there.
After midnight, there was a shift change and I got a new midwife. My body began pushing. At first I went with it because I was listening to what my body wanted to do, so with each contraction as my body started pushing I used the ‘breathing down’ technique and didn’t fight against my body, I relaxed my muscles as much as I could to let all the energy go to those muscles that needed to work the hardest.
The midwife examined me and said I wasn’t ready for pushing. Then it turned out I couldn’t stop. The labour became slightly more panicky as each contraction was all about my fighting every muscle in the lower half of my body that was bearing down and pushing. I have never not been in control of my body before but I felt I had no control over this pushing and lost the battle with every contraction. No amount of relaxation or panting or simply fighting with my muscles stopped my body from pushing.
The midwife wasn’t happy with the baby’s heart rate and wanted to move me to hospital and called an ambulance. We stayed pretty calm as we said we would do as we’d considered this scenario in advance. We felt it was a formality, being moved, a ‘just in case’.
Just before getting in to the ambulance the midwife had suggested I tried gas and air to help my body relax and stop pushing. I was a little disappointed, I didn’t really want it, I’d been saving it for the proper pushing stage but took it if it would help stop my body pushing. The first real worry I had was when we were getting in to the ambulance and the paramedic asked the midwife if sirens were needed, and the midwife said yes. I remember Bec and I exchanged a look at that moment and my anxiety levels rose. I went in to myself and concentrated with everything I had though, as it felt like the baby was coming, and I would NOT be giving birth in an ambulance.
When we arrived at hospital I was fully dilated. (Yeah, totes got to fully dilated with nothing but hypnobirthing! Well proud!) They took a blood sample from baby’s scalp and there was a moment of quiet as someone went off to test the blood, then they burst in to the room and shouted “6.9” and before I knew what was happening I was being wheeled from the room at high speed,and Rebecca was told to stay there. I remember trying to turn round to call back to her down the corridor that I loved her and that everything would be fine. Someone was running along beside me trying to get consent from me to put me to sleep for a c section and I just remember laying there crying “do it, do it”.
I won’t talk about what happened in theatre. Suffice to say what I experienced before I went to sleep reflected the level of emergency and was the worst few minutes of my life.
The next thing I remember is waking up in recovery. It was about 5.30am. I don’t remember very much, but I know Rebecca was there, she told me we had a son, but that he was poorly and in NICU. My memory is so hazy, a mixture of the anaesthetic and morphine. I remember Rebecca trying to show me photos on her phone and I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t understand what I was seeing, it was all just wires and tubes and skin. I remember trying to cry out that I wanted my baby but I had no voice, they must have damaged my vocal cords as they intubated me. I ended up in the High Dependency Unit because my blood pressure was too high. I remember telling Rebecca to go and be with our baby but then I was there in HDU for hours on my own with a nurse who wouldn’t engage in conversation with me, and I was upset that Bec had not come back. As it turns out, the nurses had told her I needed to be left to rest. She couldn’t be with the baby because the Doctors were with him. So she went and sat in the canteen while I continually told anyone who would listen that I needed to get up to go see my baby and asked where my wife was and where my phone was. I wasn’t getting any rest! I do wish they’d have rung Rebecca for me rather than just keep shushing me. But I understand why they tried to leave me to sleep.
Eventually Rebecca returned and she’d been back to the baby and taken video of him in his incubator with her hands on him so that I could relate to what I was seeing.
I finally understood what had happened. The 6.9 was his blood gas level, and 6.9 was the lowest number that particular doctor had ever seen. He needed to be born immediately. When they delivered him he went in to cardiac arrest. He was born at 03.47 and his heart didn’t start beating until 03.49. There was a high risk of long term brain damage due to lack of oxygen, so he was taken to NICU where he was ‘cooled’. It’s called Therapeutic Hypothermia. They brought his body temperature down to 32 degrees and would keep it there for 72 hours. The process is proven to limit brain damage.
Rebecca said we needed to name him and I remember that frightened me because I thought it meant he was going to die. I said I wouldn’t name him until I could see him. We talked about names though and for some reason a name that was never really at the forefront of our list of possible names popped up; Sebastian. It just felt right.
I managed to get myself in to an upright position and asked to come off the oxygen. My blood pressure lowered a bit and I told them I was going to NICU with or without their help. They agreed eventually and Rebecca took me there with a wheelchair and all of my IV’s.
I’m not going to try and articulate the first time I laid eyes on my son. How can you? It was about 1pm, he was about 9 hours old. Rebecca and I agreed that Sebastian was perfect. Middle name Noel, after my Grandad.
For almost 4 days the only contact we got with him was to poke our hands through the incubator and hold his cold little hands. He was doing so well though, he showed every sign of recovery and took over breathing by himself quite early. As his cooling ended, it took several hours for them to bring him back up to the right temperature and we saw him relax as they did. It was like he was sunbathing on the beach! Then we got our first cuddles when he was 4 days old, and he came home with us when he was 8 days old.
So that’s told as I remembered it – here’s the stuff we have found out since the birth… We arrived at the birthing centre at 9:40pm and at 10:30pm a tachycardic heart rate was recorded. We should have been transferred to the hospital then but the midwife decided she would keep us as his heart rate normalised. I barely remember this – I may remember her saying something about keeping an eye on his heart but it certainly didn’t seem a worry at the time. Then at midnight when my waters went and there was meconium we should have been transferred to hospital again. The midwife didn’t keep his heart rate plotted on the required chart on the file so when there was a handover of staff, it wasn’t quite as obvious as it should have been that there’d been a tachycardic episode. When an ambulance was called at 2am we waited 40 minutes until it arrived. I don’t really remember, to me the whole night felt like 5 minutes. From calling an ambulance to me actually seeing a doctor after all the messing about with arriving and getting to the right place in the hospital and getting attached to the right monitors etc, was an hour and forty minutes. So the “you’re only a nine minute drive from the hospital” was purely misleading. Had we been told there was a possibility it would take an hour and a half to get medical attention if we need it, we would not have gone to the birthing center, no way. We chose the birthing center because it felt safe. It turned out not to be.
We found all of this out because in the months following his birth we started having questions as we tried to piece it all together. We contacted the hospital to find an investigation had already taken place, as standard because a ‘Serious Untoward Incident’ had taken place. A report of which was awaiting approval before being sent to us. We went in for a meeting expecting to be told the same as we’d already been told, that it was “one of those things” and that there were no answers. To hear the hospital admit negligence was a shock to say the least. The realisation that that didn’t need to be his birth, that we may even have been able to have a natural birth, or at least that I may have been able to have been awake for it. That he would have been born hours earlier and shouldn’t have had to have spent the first four days of his life alone and without his mums, cold in that incubator. His brain wouldn’t have been starved of oxygen and we wouldn’t have to wait two years before we know if there is any lasting damage. I feel like I want to campaign to let people know about the possible dangers of choosing to give birth outside of a hospital – I mean, my labour was lovely, and I’m not pointing fingers at the midwives because protocol wasn’t properly followed, because I feel really satisfied that proper measures have been taken since to rectify those issues at that birthing center – but I want people to ask, in reality, how far are they really away from a doctor?
For the record though, Sebastian’s looking good, hitting milestones, “thriving”. He sees his consultant every couple of months for checks on his development and they are always happy with him. We’re not out of the woods yet though, any potential damage caused by the birth may not show itself until he’s turned 2 years old. Also for the record, if there are any signs of long term damage, we will sue.
For a birth announcement, this feels very negative.
After 8 days, we were allowed to bring him home, and life has been amazing since then. Genuinely. I have never laughed so much as I have every day since this fella joined us. And I’m so in love, a kind of love that I never ever could have understood before he was here. He’s a … (dare I say it!?) “good” baby. He’s the most smiley baby I’ve ever known, and I hear it from anyone whose path he crosses “goodness me he’s a happy smiley baby isn’t he!?” he wants to engage with everyone he meets. He sleeps so well, he introduced his own nap routine which includes three hour long naps in the day, and he goes to bed (his self imposed bed time) at 7pm and sleeps through (after we’ve given him a dream feed at 10pm) until morning, usually 5 or 6. If it’s more like 5, he’ll usually go back off to sleep after a bottle until 7 or 8. We know how lucky we are though, I have lots of mum friends with babies the same age as him and I thank my lucky stars every day when I hear about their awful sleep deprived routines. Don’t get me wrong, he has his fair share of grumps, but they’re few and far between.
We are loving being a family. We’re completing on our first bought home together this week and looking forward to making the house our own. Neither of us have ever owned a home before, and it’s exciting! We’ve bought a lovely big one for us to grow in to. And speaking of that, we have an appointment this week with the doctor who made Sebastian, to talk about getting Bec all lovely and pregnant soon. It’s soon. But we figured with this incredibly easy baby, we may as well strike while the irons hot … And before I start my downward spiral to 40 (there’s only 2 years left!)
So here’s the bit you’ve all been waiting for, here’s Sebastian Noel, who will be 5 months old next weekend.
And that, is it from us. I’m not going to say i’ll never post again, but I think the chances are probably pretty slim, just because I know I’m rubbish and will only be handing myself more guilt if I say i’ll post and then I don’t.
Thank you to those of you who started out following our journey, it’s been a crazy hard one. Sending out lots of love and happiness to all of you, no matter where you are in your lives now.