This has been a long time coming, 4 years to the day since she was born. In retrospect, i’ve been through worse since, but at the time the manner of Josie’s birth was profoundly shocking. It was weeks before i remembered most of it, as is clear from the difference between what is written below and what i wrote immediately afterwards. Of course, what matters most is the beautiful and healthy baby we ended up with but it is fair to say that both of us were profoundly shaken by the way events unfolded and that it had enormous repercussions for us in the following few years.
However, we ended up with Josie, born on 5th November 2004 – and very lovely she is too.
The short version of a long and tedious build up was that Josie was 2 weeks overdue and i came under immense pressure to have an elective c-section, which i simply didn’t want. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with either of us for any of those 2 weeks and i wanted it to happen as it should. Eventually i capitulated, on the condition they attempt to start my labour first in whatever ways were safe. The girls were collected by my mum and i had my first contraction as she sat there in front of me. I think i just needed to feel like they were gone and i could concentrate, much as had happened with Maddy, but as my sister had had a baby a couple of week previously and was needing some support, the family had been fairly stretched and the opportunity for them to be away hadn’t arisen.
Max and i went into town and had dinner early enough for me to stop eating before surgery the next day; at bedtime i recall threatening him if he didn’t manage to erm.. assist me in application of helpful chemicals… (He did manage, i’m not sure it was the best seduction technique i have ever used!) Shortly after that, my waters broke and were completely clear.
I still have no idea why i didn’t just stop and think and stay put; i was terrified of another presenting cord situation but i could have stayed home so easily. But i didn’t and we went to hospital.
For a while, not much happened except that i wasn’t even effaced, let alone dialating. But suddenly the contractions kicked in and by 6am they were offering me pain relief as even at 2cm i was seriously struggling with pain. It all felt good and positive though and i knew i was okay but i was SO tired and really a bit zonked, especially after 2 shots of pethidine. Max was great and i went on, with my favourite midwife looking after me; she was also present at Amelie’s birth and had looked after me the day before too so i felt very safe with her. I was around 6cm at 8am, half asleep on my side and really not able to think and do anything. I wish i had, as i’m sure things would have been different; i do remember that Lynne offered me a birth ball but i was just beyond the idea of moving
Somewhere during this time a scalp monitor was put on the babies head; this didn’t bother me and was far better than the monitor on my tummy; i know we were both fine and coping well and it is written in my notes that this was so right up to the moment we eventually went to theatre. I do remember really struggling, feeling pushy and groany and knowing i had felt like that shortly before Maddy was born and Lynne saying things sounded excellent and talking about the 3rd stage. But then the baby started to thrash about (this really hurt and was very new to me, i don’t have any other recollections of feeling a babies head banging on my pelvic bones) and the scalp monitor came off. I remember being reassured that she was still fine and me asking for an epidural so i could get my head together, rest and think straight. Of course, this meant i was examined again and i was still 6cm.
In retrospect i think this is typical of me; i didn’t dilate 1cm and hour with Fran and with Maddy i was 4cm from 11am to 8pm and then delivered at 10.55pm but unfortunately it set off a chain of fretting on this occasion and i didn’t think fast enough to stop it. Although i was now comfortable, a fairly bullying registrar started on the “you’ll kill yourself and your baby” talk and the consultant (from another room) sent a message to say i was to do as i was told. For some reason, i did and i was prepared for a section. I know the midwife was disappointed for me but she did say that she thought this baby was significantly bigger than Maddy had been. (She was right, Josie was 1lb heavier.) It is so frustrating to recall this as, had things followed Maddy’s birth, i think i would have delivered within the hour. I’m not remotely convinced that lack of dilation would have been fixed by me moving and calming down a bit.
In theatre, i was annoyed by a thoughtless nurse saying “oh you’ve arrived here at last, we’ve been waiting for you” but overall i was tired, fed up and wanted it over. I’d had a positive c/s with Amelie and just thought it would be the same.
The first problem was that they couldn’t get the epidural right and i was feeling all the pinprick tests; eventually the anaesthetist told me that if it came any higher up my chest as they tried to get it right, i might have to be put out an intubated, which was worrying. However, things then improved and Josie was born fairly quickly and simply. The theatre technician took photos…
I got to find out her sex myself and held her before she was wiped down and i am glad about that, though if there wasn’t the set of photos, i might not remember. I had to double check she was a girl, i wasn’t convinced!
Unfortunately the moment of this photo is about the last thing i clearly remember; suddenly i felt desperately sick and thought i was tipping backwards off the bed. Something that makes me sad is i have a very clear memory of suddenly feeling she was too close to my face and pushing her away. I remember gasping and clutching at the bed and also that i thought “i know this feeling, it’s my blood pressure dipping, he’ll fix it.” But no one did and i was sick over and over again, retching on nothing and just beside myself with this awful feeling that i was draining away. I remember a certain amount of flapping and the surgeon complaining i was moving while i was being sick and i think i asked if i was going to die. The anaesthetist said “no, but you aren’t very well, just try to stay still” and then i had no choice as all my vision faded and i could no longer speak. I was still able to hear though and i remember hearing Max say “i’ll take this baby out, Merry isn’t going to need me any more, is she?” and knowing he’d thought i had died. I was trying to call to him, but i just couldn’t.
I still don’t know exactly what happened, except that i’d lost a fair bit of blood, enough to only just avoid a transfusion and that i was in there for much longer than Max had previously been used to. I assume someone took care of him and told him i was still alive but he still hasn’t really ever spoken of it.
After that i really don’t remember anything except being wheeled passed the board that said i had lost 1500ml+ of blood and then being in recovery with all the elective section people. I was in there for a long time, looking rather like this.
We did, eventually, manage to choose a name and i was eventually moved to the ward, with a wound drain for the first time ever and no inclination to do much at all. After Amelie i was home in about 24 hours or so; after Josie i choose to stay in an extra 2 nights because i simply couldn’t face the idea of moving. I can’t remember any of the next 24 hours at all, except for a midwife trying to insist i cup feed Josie because she hadn’t had a long feed yet and me just giving her a look that made her back away.
I do know i was not remotely grateful for the “nice safe option” of a section and that i feel i went into the theatre fully healthy and came out significantly more unwell and damaged. I had bruises all over me, one particularly bad one from my shoulder to my elbow and i had weeks of the world rushing away from me if i overdid it. Most unpleasant. I was left with almost no bladder feeling, a serious inability to cope with even mildly stressful situations like being a car passenger and i really had to work at not thinking about it.
I’ve been told plenty of times that i brought it on myself by labouring; maybe i would have had a PPH had i delivered naturally (but i bet i would remember the birth more than that now), perhaps i would not have bled had i not laboured (though only today an old school friend told me of her identical experience when she had an elective) – maybe i would have been fine if i had been left to do what my body needed to do. I’ll never know.
I am grateful for the baby, but i don’t believe anyone “saved her life” and i don’t believe that section was necessary for me or her at that time. I think my carers bottled out and i let them, thereby setting in motion a chain of events that have been devastating since. It is difficult not to be extremely bitter about that. I feel like i ought to have a better recollection of way i let them push me about and i just don’t – and that makes me feel incredibly angry with myself.