For some time now I have been meaning to write down the details of Catherine's birth. Well, here we go:
In August, Andrew and I learned that we were going to have a baby. This was slightly earlier than we had anticipated, but this did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm. Our due date was April 29th, which was coming at us fast and furious.
I was a little lax in the early stages of the pregnancy in getting myself to the OB. I'd met him at the hospital when I had been admitted due to dehydration as a result of horrendous morning sickness. I didn't get to his office until we were nearly 18 weeks along. Slap on the wrist, Nikki.
In the time before seeing the OB officially we had met, and Andrew and I both decided that we liked him and that we trusted him with the delivery of our baby. At our first visit to his office he did a scan of the baby and showed Andrew all of the bits and pieces that could be seen. We had seen the baby on a scan done at the hospital, but this was so much clearer and having it all explained to us made a great deal of difference. There is just no time at the hospital to ask questions -- it seems like a factory at times.
Everything went really well during the pregnancy. I loved every minute of it. I haven't forgotten the 32 weeks of morning sickness or having to be admitted to hospital three times because of it. I haven't forgotten my para-umbilical hernia. I haven't forgotten having to waddle everywhere and literally lug myself from place to place or barely being able to fit behind the steering wheel of the car. But we had a good pregnancy, and I truly look forward to our next one.
Everything was going according to plan until early in April. Just three weeks before we were due the OB decided that he wanted to run my blood work again. The first time they were done everything was okay, so why would things change? I have a bleeding disorder, a factor 8 problem that means that I do not form clots normally and that creates an increased potential for hemorrhaging.
Pregnancy is meant to increase your clotting factors and so mine should have been better. But instead, my clotting factors decided to go backwards, meaning that the nice little local hospital that we were booked into didn't want us any more.
Three weeks out from D-day and we had to find another OB and go to King Edward for delivery. We decided to just go through the clinic at King Eddie. Three weeks wasn't enough time to try to organize a new OB. There would be no guarantee that the doctor we picked would be able to deliver us anyway.
The clinic at King Eddie was really good. As a high-risk patient I got to see the same doctor each visit and he was a consultant. I felt very comfortable with him. Still, there was no guarantee that he would deliver for us.
The week before we were due I had an appointment. It seemed that almost overnight my feet hands and face had swollen. My blood pressure had gone through the roof, and it was decided to admit me to try and lower it. I also had a positive result of protein in my urine. The diagnosis of pre-eclampsia was made and so the order for complete bed rest was given. I'd been told to take things easy prior to all of this, but to be honest; I just didn't have that luxury. With Andrew having been so ill and us living so far away, the daily trips to the doctor really took a lot out of me.
I hate hospitals. The fact that King Edward is a good hour and a half away from home did nothing to help that. I missed Andrew desperately and I worried about me not being there to take care of him. The daily journey into the city to see me was taking its toll on him and I knew that his migraines were getting worse.
"God, just let me have this baby so as I can get back home and get things back to normal." How many of us have said that? As if that is ever going to happen. Life is never normal again.
By Thursday morning my blood pressure was up to 160/125 -- not great news. The doctors had not been keen to induce for some reason, but this changed their minds. The medication for the blood pressure was slowing Catherine and myself down. Having nothing to do but sit and watch the walls, I became acutely aware of every one of Catherine's movements, or lack of movement. It seemed that for hours and hours she was still. The hourly fetal heart monitoring was somewhat reassuring, but still scared the living heck out of me.
Thursday night I was taken down to the delivery ward. What an uninspiring place that was. I was given a uterine catheter that would hopefully start the dilation process. That was 9 pm. At 7 am I was examined and told that the catheter had done nothing to encourage the cervix.
On to plan B. My membranes were artificially ruptured and I was hooked up to the drip. Thank God that the catheter was removed. I could pee again. Andrew developed a migraine around this time and we decided that seeing as nothing much was afoot that he should head off to the doctor to get sorted out for when I would really need him. My father took him off and he was back by 11:30 am.
Nothing much happened for a few hours, just the odd pain here and there. The decision to crank up the drip a bit more was given at noon. Labor was established at 2 pm. Regular strong pains were coming every few minutes. I was completely oblivious to everything. I remember the pain, sort of. Nothing that was hugely unbearable though. I could deal with this.
Due to my bleeding problem I was not able to have an epidural. The last thing I needed was the potential for bleeding into my spine. I was given a PCA and was to press the button when the pain got too bad. I have no recollection of this, but I have been told that at one point I threw the PCA at the doctor and told him that it was as useful as "tits on a bull." Oops!
I was re-examined at about 6 pm. Only 2 cm dilated. Catherine's heart rate was dipping with each contraction and we were getting nervous. Andrew asked the midwife how long did she think that "the next bit" might take. Silly question, or so I thought. The midwife said that it could be a couple of hours or it might be another eight. At that apparently, I sat bolt upright and declared that there was "no way that I was going to be able to do this for another eight hours!"
Twenty minutes later I was examined again. Yuck! I can't complain really, from conception to delivery I was only examined internally the grand total of four times. In those twenty minutes I had jumped from 2 cm to 10 cm. No wonder that bit hurt.
Catherine's heart rate was dipping again. All of a sudden there was a great mass movement. People everywhere. Doctors looking at the fetal heart traces and talking in hushed tones. If anything was going to scare us it was that.
Because of my bleeding problem I had said that I did not want to have a forceps or vacuum delivery. If this baby had the same bleeding problem as me the last thing that I wanted was any trauma to her head. I can remember someone saying quite firmly, "We'd better get her to surgery fast." And we were off.
The birthing classes that I took while pregnant were run through the Community Midwifery Program. It was an active birthing workshop and we had a blast. We learned yoga poses, massage, swaying and rocking -- none of which I could remember during the labor. The blood pressure medication rendered me stupid. I couldn't focus on anything or anyone let alone tie myself in knots and think of rolling green hills and meditate.
The only thing that I could remember to do was the low guttural moaning that was meant to relax the pelvic floor and help things move downwards. As they took my down to the surgery room, I have been told that you could hear me moaning on other floors. How embarrassing! Mind you, at the time I had no idea.
As I was wheeled out of the elevator and into the surgery room, the midwife told me that there was time for one last push, so I pushed. There was the doctor with his drugs in hand waiting to knock me out and then he looked and saw that Catherine was just about here. Where the heck was Andrew? I couldn't do this without him. Suddenly he was there and then, so was Catherine.
I can't remember the episiotomy, and I can't remember the stitches. Andrew cut the cord and was the first to hold our beautiful little girl -- all 4010 grams of her. Her apgar scores were an impressive 9 and 10.
While I was doing the rest of what needed doing, Andrew took our baby to meet Aunty Jo-Jo and Aunty Susan Jane. The girls had been there right from the start and were wonderful. Having an off duty midwife as a support person during labor is wonderful. Susan Jane stayed focused and calm through the whole ordeal. I guess that she is used to everything and it is her job, but she was a tower of strength to both Andrew and myself.
At one point the doctor wanted to use a cranial monitor. I said to SJ, "Do we want that?" She explained it to us and we decided no. Being able to get the information to make those decisions was really important to us. My sister Joanne was great too -- she sub-ed in when Andrew or SJ needed a break. I'm really glad that she was there.
After the delivery I was stitched, Catherine was checked and shown to everyone and I can honestly say that I can't remember a blessed thing after that. I woke up a few hours later in the Adult Special Care Unit after a postpartum hemorrhage. Not a big bleed, but enough to warrant special treatment.
My family made it soon after the delivery. They had been called when I was taken down for the Caesarean. Dad had wet the baby's head well before then. My parents in law were there soon after too. Everyone got a cuddle and said all of the right things.
Our birth plan that had taken us so many long hours to write went out the window. There was no swaying, no yoga, no baths, and no walks. The one thing that mattered happened though. We ended the day with the safe arrival of a healthy and beautiful baby.
It seems strange to think that she is already 6 months old. She is crawling already and loves singing. She has a smile that melts even the toughest of hearts. She is a blessing beyond words and we love her with everything that we are.
Andrew has another daughter from his first marriage. Because of many complicated reasons he was not at her birth and did not see her until a few weeks ago. She is now nearly five years old. He missed out on so much with his first daughter and I am determined that he will miss nothing with Catherine. I know that he wonders about how Augusta was as a baby and how she might be different to Catherine. Now that she is in our lives we will slowly get to know her too.
We named our beautiful baby Catherine Grace Louisa Burns Montgomery -- a long name for a little girl, but that is another story.
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