I had been labouring for the best part of 28 hours and I was at the end of my tether. I couldn’t escape the pain; pain that was so excruciating it took my very breath away. I was sweating profusely. Matt was sweating profusely. I gripped onto that hospital bed like my life depended on it and prayed that the torture would be over. Meanwhile, Matt was chirping away beside me ‘PUSH, come on Steph, PUSH! Keep going, you’re doing great!’ Dear love him, it had been a long 28 hours for him too. It had also been a long 28 hours for my poor mum. At the beginning of my labour she was with me, keeping me calm, giving me advice and ensuring me that I would do just fine and that I would be a brilliant mum. When I left her for the hospital, I could tell that all she wanted to do was come with me and make sure I was ok. She was entrusting Matt and I knew she would be pacing the floor at home, worrying and praying for me. As my labour progressed, Matt wasn’t as able to keep in contact with our family and my wee mum ended up phoning the hospital in a panic to see if I was ok. After reassurance, all she could do, like us, was wait. The doctor returned to assess the situation. My memory from here is a bit blurry - all I could think of at the time was the pain that seemed to be erupting from my very core and shaking my entire being from my head to my toes. Words cannot describe how I felt in those moments. Agony, exhaustion, anxiety and trepidation would be a start. I just knew that something was wrong. It was all taking too long. The pushing and pushing and pushing was yielding nothing. Why was my baby not coming?
One of the many contraptions that I was wearing was a foetal monitor with electronic sensors and straps across my tummy. As I was now on a Syntocinon drip, baby had to be constantly monitored as the oxytocin hormones could overstimulate my uterus, producing very strong, frequent contractions which could in turn, distress my baby. It was clear that things were also not going so swimmingly on the inside. After a swift inspection, the doctor declared ‘Emergency Caesarian.’ Those two words were like music to my ears. It took every ounce of will power left in me not to burst into tears. You might assume those would have been tears of fear, but no, they would have been tears of utter relief. In that moment I knew I would soon meet my baby and the pain would be over. There was a very quick discussion between doctor and midwives, something about my baby’s head being visible but very high. This was suggestive of her head being stuck in my small pelvis. No wonder there was so little movement. I was pushing and pushing this poor baby who was stuck and not going to go anywhere!!
If I thought I was in the midst of chaos before, I was wrong. The second the doctor uttered those two words, the commotion in the room became a frenzy of activity. I was still hooked up to the Syntocinon drip and enduring its endless, excruciating, exhausting contractions. It took everything in me to get through each contraction and I mean ... everything. Looking back, I simply do not know how I did it. I winced, squirmed and writhed on the bed as a lovely lady doctor talked Matt and I through the risks and procedure of the C-Section and another doctor shaved me down below so I was ready for the knife. I really tried to concentrate on what was being said to me but all I wanted was for the doctor to STOP TALKING, GET ME TO THEATRE and STOP THE PAIN!!!! She probably only talked for about 2 minutes but it felt like an eternity. Wave after wave of indescribable pain coursed through my body as one midwife (not lovely Shauna) continued to tell me to ‘KEEP PUSHING!’ and that I could 'still deliver this baby naturally before going to theatre.’ I wanted to punch her right square in the face. There was no way in hell that I was going to push for ONE SECOND more. Did she not hear what the doctor just said?? My baby was STUCK. I was going to have to be sliced open if I was ever going to see my baby. Pushing was achieving NOTHING, except making both mama and baby distressed.
In those moments, the thought of going through major surgery or being cut open didn’t phase me. To be honest, all I could think about was not having to push or deal with the pain any more. Until that epidural needle went through my skin, all I could do was continue to struggle to cope with the pain. Amidst all the hubbub, I was wheeled out of the Delivery Suite, headed for what was (thankfully) to be my last destination on my labour journey. At the doors to the Theatre, Matt kissed me, told me he loved me and that he would see me soon. When I asked him if I looked scared and did I appear to be ok he said I had a sort of ‘deer caught in headlights’ look on my face. This perfectly encapsulates what I was feeling right then. It had all become too much. I was being shouted at, informed, asked questions, prodded, wired up, encouraged, reassured, all while being wheeled round to Theatre. By the time we arrived all I could manage was to just about follow whatever instruction I was being given next. One was to sign the consent form for the Caesarian.
The moment Matt disappeared, I began to get scared. I was still in overwhelming pain and coping with only gas and air. I had to manoeuvre into a bent over, seated position so the anesthetist could administer the spinal block into my spine. There was a very particular place for that needle to go so I was instructed to be as still as I could manage and to stay in that position. For some reason, it took quite some time to insert the needle into the correct place and by this stage I was in utter desperation. I was struggling to breathe, struggling to move and struggling to adhere to instructions. The doctors and anesthetist were also struggling to get me in the right position and to then keep me in position long enough to stick that needle in. Once administered, the effects of the spinal block were almost instantaneous. Instantly the pain disappeared. Instantly I could feel my body relax. Instantly I began to shake. I got the shakes so badly, I was actually worried that I would shake right off the table! There was a team of about 8 doctors, nurses etc and it seemed like it took all of them to lift me onto the operating table. I was constantly being talked to while lying there, I don't at all remember what was being said. There seemed like there was a lot of reassuring and explaining going on. All I knew was I wanted Matt beside me and I felt such relief when he arrived. Gripping my hand, he told me over and over again that everything was going to be alright, while one of the doctors explained what was happening. Panicked, I kept asking Matt if I was putting the surgeons off with my convulsive shaking!
I felt a surreal sense of tugging and pulling in my abdomen as my baby was dislodged from my pelvis and all of a sudden, out came our little angel. She was flashed before us and whisked away to the incubator to be checked all over. The very second I heard those newborn baby cries, the tears began to flow. Simultaneously, I had a very strong feeling of fear. Was my baby ok? Where was my baby? I needed her close, I needed to see for myself that she was alright. At this point we still didn't know the gender, but all I cared for was getting my baby close to me. After what felt like an eternity, the doctors began to assure us that our baby was fine, that she was a GIRL and a big one at that! I looked across at my husband and cried out amidst tears and shakes, 'It's a girl, a baby girl. Matt ... we have a baby girl!' As I write this, I am completely choked up. I will NEVER forget that moment. It was truly amazing. I am so thankful that Matt eventually convinced me not to find out the gender. It was the best surprise in those chaotic, cathartic moments during our little Phoebe's entrance to the world. We had a sweet, precious little girl and I was dying to meet her.
Suddenly, there she was. This little squishy, warm, wet bundle. She was held close to me so I could touch my new daughter's soft, sweet little face. I was overcome with emotion as I laid eyes on my darling daughter. I felt disbelief that she was actually here and that she was completely ours. I felt overwhelming love like I cannot begin to explain. All I can say is that from that moment on, I changed. I became a mother. Since the moment I laid eyes on her, I would never view the world in the same way again. She was placed in Matt's arms and I felt complete. He moved close to me and I savoured some of the most precious moments with them before Phoebe was taken to be cleaned and checked some more. Matt stayed by my side a little longer as I was told I had to be given a shot to contract my uterus to deliver the placenta and warned that I probably would feel nauseated and most likely need to vomit. This was truth. For a while I kept convincing myself and trying to convince the doctor (between shakes) that I was fine. I wasn't. A wave of sickness came upon me like I've never felt and I vomited over and over into the kidney bowl pushed under my chin. Matt stayed right by me as long as he could as I gagged continuously and shook vigorously on the operating table. I was freezing cold and desperate to see my baby girl once again.
As the sickness began to ease, Matt was ushered out as I was stitched up layer by layer. I remember just lying there, shaking and shaking as one kind doctor reassured me that I would be just fine and would see my baby soon. After some time, and more shaking and more vomiting, Shauna, my midwife appeared. I was taken to the recovery room and was met with the sweetest sight that I will never forget. Matt was sitting waiting, holding our daughter in his arms. What I didn't know then was that he had been sitting for 45 minutes, absolutely freaking out and completely terrified that at any moment, the little lady in his arms would start screaming and he would appear to be some sort of bad dad, as he wasn't quite sure what to do if that happened! I kept one eye on those two and one eye on Shauna as she pulled some crazy tight, long socks up my legs (very surreal as I couldn't feel her doing anything!) and asked if I wanted some tea and toast. I was famished and forever grateful that she allowed me to eat so soon after surgery. While devouring my tea and toast, one of my doctors came in to see how I was doing and explain my recovery procedure. It was all very daunting lying there in the throes of becoming a new mum and going through surgery while she explained the often difficult recovery from C-Section. She also explained that if there ever were to be a baby number 2, they would also have to be born via caesarian as my pelvis is small and the next baby is always bigger - jeez! I think I’ll wait that one out for a while!! I was covered in a special blue blanket to raise my body temperature and as I began to feel the shakes begin to ease, Shauna gave us some time on our own.
Finally, it was just Matt, me and our new (unnamed) baby. And … it was ... magical.
Stay tuned for the final (I promise!) instalment in this Labour of Love series when I’ll document those first few days after Phoebe’s birth (inc. dealing with the c-section recovery, our early breastfeeding struggle and a journey home that I’ll never forget - and not for good reasons!!)