I've been thinking about writing up a couple of blog posts about the birth of my beautiful boys for a while, and I figure what better time is there to do it than while they are both having a nap. I'll start off today with the birth of Seagull and post up Wombat's birth story another time.
I woke up one fine Saturday morning when I was about 28 weeks pregnant with Seagull to find that my wedding and engagement rings were digging in to the point of cutting off my circulation. I figured it was time to take them off and after sucking on my finger a bit to loosen it up, the rings were off. I put them away in a safe place so I would be able to find them again at a later date. Seriously, my house is like a black hole. If you don't make a conscious effort to remember where you put something, there's a good chance you won't be finding it again any time soon. I had an appointment with my OB the following Monday and he noticed that I had taken my rings off.
As my pregnancy progressed, so did the amount of fluid retention going on in my body. My blood pressure also started creeping up. I started to put on a ridiculous amount of weight. For the first time in my life, I had a double chin. I was absolutely mortified. Thankfully, people were kind enough to notice that it was excess fluid.
My work makes us go on maternity leave at 34 weeks gestation. By about 32 weeks, I was falling asleep at my desk by 2pm. I tried to sneak in a lunch time nap one day. My boss found me and kindly told me to go home for the rest of the day, where I promptly acquainted myself with my pillow for the rest of the afternoon. When I started to fall asleep again the next day at 2pm, I decided it was time to pay a visit to the doctor. My doctor was really good about it and told me that I probably just needed to be taking it a bit easier. He gave me a medical certificate to say that he only wanted me to work half days until I went on maternity leave. Work were really good about it and we got a good arrangement in place.
I was so relieved when I finally finished up at work. It was getting harder and harder to drag myself out of bed every day. It was early December and starting to get warmer. My house doesn't have air conditioning, so if it all got too much for me, I would drag myself down to the local shopping centre for a while. Mostly, I just sat on a seat and enjoyed the air conditioned comfort. Sometimes I ate an ice cream. Sometimes I went for a wander around the shops looking at things. I also did a lot of sleeping back at home.
In the week leading up to Christmas, I started having weird sensations in the wee hours of the morning that weren't settling, but weren't regular. I wasn't sure of what was going on, so Thunder Maker called the maternity ward at the hospital and they suggested that I come in so they could check me out. It turns out that I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. While I was there, they asked for a urine sample so they could check for protein and I tested positive. They gave me the option of staying in hospital until my OB did his rounds that morning or going home, then attending my scheduled appointment with the OB for that day. I went with the going home option.
At the OB's office, I spoke with the midwife there and told her about what had happened, and specifically the protein in my urine, so she did another test that also came up positive. The OB thought at first that I would be showing a positive for protein because of the midwife at the hospital doing an internal examination. When I told him that I hadn't had an internal examination, he organised for me to do a 24 hour urine collection.
I don't know if you've done a 24 hour urine collection before, but it involves collecting EVERYTHING that passes out of your bladder for a 24 hour period. You don't realise how often you actually go to the toilet until you have to collect every drop. I know that it was summer and I was nearly 37 weeks pregnant, but I'm sure I went to the toilet more times than what was normal for me at that time. Thunder Maker asked me if I wanted to go for a swim with him down at the local pool that day. I actually thought about it until I realised that I was going to have to take my urine container with me. No way in hell was I lugging a container of pee around with me. I was so relieved when I got to drop it off at the pathology lab the next day.
A week later and I was back visiting my OB. The results from the urine collection had come back in and my protein levels were elevated. By this stage, my blood pressure had also increased a fair bit. It was at the very upper end of the normal range, but my blood pressure is normally quite low. My OB did an internal exam and told me that my cervix was 1cm dilated, was softening and he doubted that I would make it to 40 weeks, even if left to go into labour spontaneously. In light of what was happening with my fluid retention levels, my blood pressure and the presence of protein in my urine, he told me that he wanted to induce me. I was so relieved to hear it. I'm sure my blood pressure dropped, just knowing that it was all going to be ending soon.
Thunder Maker and I showed up at the hospital the next day at the scheduled time and the OB met us there shortly after. I had Cervadil tape applied to my cervix, then we sat back and waited. Cervadil is a tape that contains prostaglandins. The way it was explained to me, in some women, it is enough in itself to induce labour. My OB was hoping that that would be the case for me. Otherwise, it is meant to ripen the cervix enough to make an induction more favourable.
At about 5:30pm, I started to get some mild contractions. OK, I thought to myself. I can do this. They were getting a bit more intense and a little closer together through the late afternoon/early evening. The midwife sent Thunder Maker home because she didn't think anything was going to happen that night. I was offered a sleeping pill, but declined. I figured that I didn't want to be feeling drugged out if something did start to happen. By 11pm, the contractions were 5 minutes apart and I was starting to regret not having taken that sleeping pill. The midwife suggested that I go have a shower so I went and had a shower. It felt really good and the contractions were feeling less intense. I got out, dried off and went back to bed. The contractions started to pick up in intensity again. The midwife offered me a TENS machine. I was a little worried about putting something on my back that sends electrical shocks into you. As an electronics tech, I've kind of always avoided doing things that involve electrical shocks. Eventually, I decided to give it a go and it actually helped a bit. After a while, I pretty much had the thing maxed out and it wasn't doing much for me anymore. At this point, the midwife suggested that we move to the labour ward because I was getting a little noisy. She called Thunder Maker back in because I wanted him with me. Thunder Maker had only been asleep for about 30 mins because he had stayed up watching TV and walking the dog.
Once in the labour ward, the midwife offered me some gas. I took about five sucks of it and pushed it away. It made me feel sick. I got back in the shower, but the water temperature kept alternating between cold and scalding hot, so I went back to using the TENS machine. The midwife offered me some pethidine, which I gratefully accepted. For the next two hours, I was sleeping for the five minutes in between contractions. Whenever one started, I'd hit the button on the TENS machine, ride it out, then hit the button again to lower the intensity. Once the pethidine wore off, I asked for more, only to be knocked back. The rest of the early morning passed in a bit of a blur, in that I don't really remember what happened.
The next morning, the OB came in to see me and said that I was about 3cm dilated. He suggested that it might be a good idea to have an epidural as I had been awake with contractions all night and it was only going to be more intense once he induced me. I agreed and he went ahead and broke my waters, then administered the syntocin. As soon as my waters were broken, the contractions became more intense. The OB went to get the anesthetist. He came back after about 20 minutes to tell me that the anesthetist was in emergency surgery and that it was going to be a while before he could come to administer the epidural. Great, I thought. Why didn't he check this BEFORE inducing me. I spent the next two hours hinting at the midwife that I really wanted something to help relieve the pain. I think she was being deliberately dense. :) Finally, I said "I can't take this any more, please give me something" and she gave me some pethidine. Right after she gave me the pethidine, as I was sitting on the end of the bed feeling lovely and woozy and being supported by Thunder Maker, the anesthetist walked in.
To be honest, I'm glad that I had just had the pethidine as I was at the point where I was starting to panic because of being at that level of pain for that long. When I get to that point, I actually tend to tell anyone who wants to give me medication to relieve the pain to piss off because I get paranoid that what they are going to give me will make me sick/worse/die. Irrational, I know, but anyway... As it was, I was able to sit there, listen to the anesthetist through my haze, answer his questions reasonably coherrently, tell everyone that I was going to be sick, throw up into a sick bag, then lay down on my side and tell the anesthetist not to use me as a pin cushion and that he gets one go and one go only. Fortunately, he only needed one go.
Not long after the epidural was administered, I fell asleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up, I asked where my lunch was. Thunder Maker told me that he'd eaten it. I asked why and he told me that the midwife told him to eat it. I told him that I was hungry and he offered to go get me a sandwich. Just after he left, the midwife realised that I was awake. I told her that Thunder Maker had gone to get me a sandwich. She told me that I wasn't allowed to eat. "But I'm hungry!" I wailed. She wouldn't budge. No sandwich.
After about 20 or 30 minutes, the midwife started having difficulties picking up Seagull's heart rate on the CTG. She also made a comment about how my contractions were no longer regular and started talking about failure to progress. I was a bit worried about this and asked if I could be checked to see how dilated I was. She said that, yes, it was about time to check anyway (apparently they check every four hours), but it was only 10 minutes to the shift change, so she would get the oncoming midwife to check.
When the oncoming midwife checked, not only was I at 10cm, but Seagull's head was half way down the birth canal. She said that it was time to turn the epidural off. Apparently I would be able to feel what was going on, but not be in pain. As I couldn't feel anything, she was telling me when I needed to push. After an hour, my OB came in (he'd actually been delivering my friend's baby) and told me that we needed to get my knees up higher. I'd moved them as high as I physically could, but with a bit of assistance, I had my left foot braced on the midwife's hip and my right foot braced on the OB's hip. Thunder Maker was sitting at the non-business end giving me sips of water in between contractions and generally making soothing noises and telling me how well I was doing, etc.
After another hour, I was finally being told that Seagull was crowning. He'd actually crown while I was pushing, then slip back a bit when I stopped. I decided that I needed to try to push just that little bit harder during a contraction to get him far enough through that he wouldn't slip back. With the next contraction, I gave it everything and Seagull's head came out, followed by his body. I was expecting to have to push his shoulders out on the next contraction, but he came out all in one go. Of the whole thing, the only thing I actually felt was Seagull being born, followed by the umbillical cord rushing out.
Seagull was handed to me, crying away. I said "Shh, shh, it's ok mate" and he immediately stopped crying. He looked up at me with this look on his face as though to say "Oh, so you're my Mum". It was just the most magical moment.
Seagull was born at 4:57pm on 31 Dec 08 weighing 2.87kg (6lb 5oz). He was actually the last baby born in our local hospital for 2008. Within minutes of giving birth, the dinner cart came around and I was finally able to eat something.