Wednesday, April 16, 2014

my birth story

 Always with me. Both of my twins.
Someone pointed out a brilliant little blog to me yesterday, which covers everything pregnancy and birth-wise, as well as stillbirth.

A word that makes me want to be ill, much like most expectant mums.

Anyway, the post goes on to suggest some of the things people can do when their child dies in utero. We are doing most of the things they suggest, give or take.

One thing they suggested is recording your personal birth story. As everything is such a haze, everything is so intense and frankly, shit - labour and birth is not cool, seriously - that the mind easily forgets.

So without getting into too much graphic detail, I'll give you a rundown of what happened to me. Some people have easy labours - a couple of hours, two paracetamol and the baby just falls out.
The exact opposite happened to me - oh obviously - nothing is ever straightforward or easy when it comes to my reproductive system, and I can say (proudly?) that I have done it all when it comes to ways to give birth.

Yes I can. Here is why.

Very weirdly, I had almost exactly the same birth and labour my mother had with me. Down to the failed forceps and emergency c-section.

I was pretty set on having an elective c-section, which I eventually got and booked in for my twins to be delivered at 37 weeks and 5 days.
When everything changed, I then opted to be induced and have a natural birth. Sebastian was head down and the first twin, which meant it was the least risky way to get him out.
In the back of my mind, I still was conscious that I had to squeeze out two babies. But having him out and safe was my top priority - screw everything else.

I was in labour for 18 hours.
It was fucking exhausting. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I was induced, which first involved a sweep (obstetrician reaches up to touch baby's head, and try to figure out how large my cervix is - it hurts), and by this stage I was already sucking on the air and gas they give you to make you a little light headed.
Air and gas does fuck all for pain, but it does allow you to focus on your breathing and giggle every now and then.

As I was having tons of Braxton Hicks contractions, they thought this would be enough for labour to just start, but it wasn't. So I had the gel put in. Being induced means more painful contractions, BTW.

The gel worked too well. I was having contractions within the hour it was put up there (ouch), that they had to slow them down with a further injection. I was having one contraction every minute.

At this stage it felt like a wave of white hot pain - nothing for 30 seconds, you could almost continue your last conversation while sipping on a mug of tea - and then a surge of pressure as a contraction came. I had a few paracetamols given to me, which only really takes the edge off, and I was lying draped over a birthing ball in the middle of my room - beknickered - sucking on gas and air.

One has to find one's sense of humour when you're a pregnant, heaving cow draped over a fucking pilates ball with your ass sticking out.

It is literally, literally, the most undignified thing ever. The midwife I had was amazing in that she didn't bat an eyelid. Lucy was her name. She made me feel normal and at ease as I lay around in different positions, making pretty much the most unladylike noises one could ever hope to make.

Seriously. It hurts.

My mum was with me at this stage, she was tag-teaming with the Brit who would come in once I had my epidural.


Once they'd established that I had accelerated, no pole-vaulted into labour, they hoisted me into the side of my bed to put the epidural into my back.

Epidurals are put in via tube into your spine. You have to keep really, really still so that your spinal fluid isn't punctured.
Being still during a contraction is nigh impossible when the pain makes you scream to the point where the paint starts to peel off the walls - seriously, how women do this without pain relief is one of life's greatest mysteries - so they wait until you are finished.

Epidurals are wonderful things. You know it's all happening, like when my waters were broken, and the monitor shows big waves, but you feel nothing. Just a tightening. You can even doze off.
You can't eat anything big though. And the fact is, you need to eat - you need the strength. And all I had were a few sweets or a bite of an energy or cereal bar every so often. Lots of water, as your temperature rises.

My temperature went a bit high, so at one point they were putting cold flannels all over my face and body, and giving me paracetamol through a drip to bring it down. Having my face sprayed with cold water.

Fast forward to about midnight, 16 hours later. When shit started happening. I cold feel the pressure of Sebastian's head moving down and engaging. I was so tired, but was told I'd need to start pushing.

Jesus. Obstetrician, midwives, husband and mother all shouting push at the same time while I tried to seismically shift my son's head with nothing but my pelvic muscles.

"Twin 1 isn't moving as fast as we need it to," said the (seriously lovely female) obstetrician. It needs to get past a u-bend. I can see his head."

In my sweaty, exhausted state I said, "Does it have hair?"

"Yes it does. A lot of it."

"Oh that's nice."

More pushing. More sweating. Nothing much happening.


Unanimous "No."

"Jesus. This baby is really starting to PISS ME OFF."

By this stage I was starting to think about Twin 2 again. I wasn't done when this one was out. I had to push out another. And it wasn't even alive. How was I even going to do this? I was so frightened.

The obstetrician then reached for the forceps.
"We are going to have to pull this baby out."

"Fine. Do whatever you have to do."

Still pushing and she having to wrestle with the two steel forceps, I dreaded to think what was actually happening to my undercarriage. I didn't care much, I just wanted the baby out of me, but I still wondered what kind of damage was being done down there. (For the record, a fair bit, but nothing that hasn't healed. In case you wanted to know.)

Then Sebastian's heartbeat started to change. That monitoring machine again. I was wheeled into theatre, the Brit was told to put his scrubs and suddenly there were lots of people, doctors, nurses, anesthetists around. All frenetic and shouting things at each other.

"Dude, what's going on?"

Obstetrician: Don't worry. Just because you're going to theatre doesn't mean you're having surgery, OK? I just need better light to see with these forceps.

By this stage, after all the pushing, shoving, pain and sweating, I did not want a c-section. It felt like all this would've been in vain.

Well, it was. Mostly.

He had travelled enough down the birth canal that hopefully some of the fluid in his lungs had been squeezed out, as was the intention of a natural birth.

He still wasn't budging. The obstetrician looked at me really sadly and said, "I'm so sorry. We are going to have to operate. I'm really sorry."

"Fuck. Well this is annoying. But more annoying is that it won't come out, so let's just get on with it then."

It was frenetic in there. There must've been about 14 hospital staff in the theatre, and at one point I screamed, "Where's my husband? I can't see him."
 There was the Brit in his blues and a cap on his head, looking quite dashing if I recall, waving from behind the group of chaotic doctors.

There was so much noise. And talking.

"Oh my God, it's crazy in here. What is going on, can everyone just CALM DOWN?"
No one heard me though. They were too busy focused on cutting open my abdomen.

The screen was up right in front of my face, and now I just waited for the first sounds of life from Twin 1.

"Oh THAT'S why he was stuck!" cried the obstetrician from behind the screen.
"...and why is that? I panicked about the chord being around his neck.

"It's hands. It's hands are plastered to its cheeks. It's called 'compound presentation.'"

"What's the sex?"

"It's a boy." And I heard his cries. That's my child. It's a boy! That's my kid. Get me off this table, I want him here with me, where is he?

Oh wait. Now the hard part. I started to cry.

Suddenly the room was silent, save for Sebastian's crying and my weeping.

He was being weighed and the Brit was with him. They then bought him to me, bundled up in a blanket, with ectoplasm still in his hair. His shock of brown hair.

He was beautiful. I cried more.

Silence behind the screen as they pulled out my lifeless second twin.
"What's the sex? I managed to ask, wincing as they said "girl" as I knew this already.

The Brit and I both cried. I felt impatient and tired. They still had to sew me up, which took another 40 minutes. Meaning I couldn't hold my children until I was done.

I fell asleep. I had never been so exhausted in all my life. So much so, my speech was slurred, I fell asleep mid-sentence and my brain had ceased to function.

I was given Sebastian, who we named straightaway.  We also named Molly straightaway, only having chosen her new name a few days before.

I held my son skin-to-skin as his tiny little body squirmed against my chest. He was quite large for a twin, weighing in at 2.9 kilos. Molly was much smaller, having died sometime during week 34.

They wheeled her in, also in a see-through tub crib, except already bundled in a blanket and on a cold mattress.

They looked so similar. Even as non-identical twins. She also had a shock of dark hair, a sweet little nose, heart-shaped lips and long fingers. They were definitely brother and sister. What a beautiful pair they would've made.  

It was torture. I don't think I stopped crying for an entire day. We held her. We spoke to her, gave her her teddy. Took pictures. Spoke to a grievance counsellor who had been with us the week leading up to this.
It was all a blur, I was so tired. I wish I could've been less tired so that the details were sharper.

Even so, this is my birth story. Of having my twins. The memories although dulled by lack of sleep, are fresh and intense.

And to conclude? I'd still opt for a c-section. But given Sebastian didn't need to go to special care (he was born at 36 weeks), then for this birth, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

This might've put you off having children, I realise this. But it probably won't.


po said...

Thanks for sharing your birth story Peas, it is so personal. You are so brave.

Do you remember the blogger Caz? She also had a stillbirth daughter and she blogged about it years ago. It happened to her sister-in-law too. One of my friends from primary school also had the same experience. It is so tragic. I don't know if reading about other stories helps or annoys you, but if you do want to read, here is her blog. If not, please ignore! Take care xxx

Val said...

Thanks for sharing Peas. Similar to my birth story first time around. Second time, with planned c-section, was a piece of cake in comparison. :)

Unknown said...

I agree with Po, you are so brave. Thank you for sharing so much of this with us, I just wish there was something any of us could do to help in any small way.

I'm glad Po mentioned Caz - I actually came to comment specifically mention her, in case you needed someone to talk to who knows exactly what you and your husband are going through. She is also on Twitter - @thecaz

Coffee and Books Cape Town said...

Well done Boo... What an ordeal! But will keep you so close to Web having endured it together..birth is a miracle..the automatic switching over from your life giving system to his independent one..and all the rest! Love Dad xx

Coffee and Books Cape Town said...


Peas on Toast said...

Thanks guys for Caz's recoemmndation. I am now reading her blog. It is so sad but so many paralells xxx.