I had a quiet second pregnancy, the total opposite to my first pregnancy with Aron, who used my insides like a punching bag, 24 hours a day. Aidan was different – he was quiet, like he was sleeping for most of the day, and even some days I would worry and poke and prod my bump just to get a reaction out of him. So when my due date came and went, I wasn’t all too surprised or concerned. However, the conditions of my birth were going to be different to that of my first pregnancy. Aron’s birth was traumatic and I ended up with an emergency caesarean after his heart rate dropped to 54 at one point during active labour and I had suffered a small placental abruption after 3 days of back labour, 7 days after Aron’s due date. I had suffered from panic attacks for 6 weeks after Aron’s birth and had finally overcome what had happened, only to find that I was pregnant again when Aron was just 6 months old! This time round, I was handed a date for an elective caesarean (C Day) and, unless I didn’t go into labour naturally within 9 days post-due date then I was going to be back on that operating table and my baby was going to be yanked out. So I willed my relaxed and quiet baby every day from 37 weeks to give me a sign that he was ready to come out.
C Day was fast approaching and I wasn’t anywhere near natural labour – some regular tightenings had started occurring every ten minutes at around 40 weeks, but there was no other sign that labour was imminent. Up until my due date, I had gone to the hospital for regular heart monitoring due to reduced fetal movements – I knew at the back of my mind nothing was wrong because my baby was a quiet baby. He didn’t want to be bothered and he didn’t want to be prodded, but because of previous complications, everything had to be checked. Three days before the said ‘elective’ caesarean I was called in to my pre-clerking appointment where I was hooked up again to a heart monitor. This time Aidan was restless and I saw the consultant umm and ahh at the CTG, pointing to the peaks and troughs of Aidan’s heartbeat. After many, many hours of waiting and pacing the halls of the hospital, the CTG was signed off as acceptable and I was sent to discuss my caesarean with the anaesthetist who would be conducting the epidural and spinal block. He started talking to me about what would happen during the procedure and I started to hyperventilate a little inside. Thoughts of my previous birth had started flashing before my eyes. Blurred images of medical staff running around my hospital bed, sounding the alarms and rushing my bed into theatre was all I could think about whilst the anaesthetist was talking and I felt my blood pressure start to rise. Oh great! They’re going to take my blood pressure and think I have pre-eclampsia – ‘calm down, calm down!’ I kept telling myself. Funnily enough, my blood pressure was recorded as a little high that day…
The day before C Day, uncomfortable and restless, I went to Tescos to do a spot of shopping with my husband, Tommy, and Aron, and during a brief visit to the toilet, I had a bloody show. I started getting excited – was this it? Am I going into labour, albeit quite slowly as I hadn’t felt any pain yet? As soon as I saw Tommy I told him and he quite calmly told me to call the hospital who had advised me at my pre-clerking appointment to inform them of any progress, large or small, relating to labour.
We arrived at the maternity ward for the umpteenth time and had to wait an hour before we were, yet again, hooked up to the CTG. I was contracting every ten minutes but the contractions were not painful. After the CTG we waited for around 6 hours and then we were transferred to the evening ward, where we waited for a further three hours, before being hooked up to the CTG again. I was told in my pre-clerking appointment that I was to have no food 12 hours before my caesarean, which was scheduled for 8am. It was dangerously veering towards that time and I already hadn’t eaten for 6 hours. I sent Tommy out to grab me whatever he could and at 12am I managed to stuff myself before taking my tablets in preparation for C Day. It wasn’t until 3.30am that we were seen by a doctor who examined me and told me that my cervix was really far back and there was no way that I was in labour. Any hopes for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) was rapidly vanishing before my eyes. I stayed overnight at the hospital and hardly slept as I was so anxious at the thought of the impending surgery and had no idea what to expect. My last caesarean was such a blur and everything was so rush, rush that all I remembered was being held down by the anaesthetist and Tommy who were desperately trying to stop me from punching the blue screen down and running out of that room. And now I was voluntarily walking back into that situation!? Was I crazy? You would think that a major operation scheduled for a few hours away would scare my baby out of my body and into my arms, but sadly not… I had no more will left and finally gave in to the fact that I was having this baby the Julius Caesar way.
I must have slept because I woke up at 7am, scared and starving. I stared at my belly, like I was expecting Aidan to knock and tell me he was ready to come out, but nothing. What is it about boys and being statistically “overdue”? I know due dates are only 5% accurate, but it is now 9 days after due date, I am waiting for my fateful operation only a few hours away, and this baby has no desire to come out. In fact, no pains whatsoever indicated that he was coming anytime soon.
7am turned into 8am, which turned into 9am. I hadn’t felt Aidan move and I was famished. Tommy arrived shortly after 9 and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been carted off to theatre yet. In fact, no one had come to see me and I was becoming dangerously impatient. At that point a midwife came in and told me there had been a mix up and that I was scheduled to have my caesarean at a hospital an hour away. I really hadn’t expected her to say that and I couldn’t believe that anyone, at this stage, would have the gall to even say it to me. Not only had I waited over 9 hours to be seen after documenting my bloody show, but I hadn’t eaten for over 12 hours, on instruction from the consultant who waltzed in at 3.30am and rather casually told me that I was nowhere near ready to give birth naturally and that, if I wanted to (!), I could stay overnight to prepare for the c section, which was in 5 hours’ time. Tommy was so angry and walked off out of the room, leaving me speechless and wondering what I was going to do next. I was told that I couldn’t even eat otherwise I would have to wait until the next day for my operation. I was told that I needed to pack my things and get ready to leave for a hospital I had never been to before. Tommy came back and told me that he had complained about the whole situation and that he was totally surprised by the lack of communication, at which point a consultant came in and told me that a caesarean had been scheduled for 10.30 (half an hours’ time) and I was to get ready now. I was so confused and so taken aback at these sudden turn of events that I just put on my blue gown in silence and walked to the theatre room quietly, accompanied by a midwife and Tommy trawling behind me with all the bags.
The moment I had entered the theatre room, all thoughts of previous events had vanished. The room seemed much, much bigger and the operating table seemed tiny. I glanced over at my name on the whiteboard and noticed ‘Level 3/4’ under my name. I only knew what that meant because I was a Level 1 caesarean last time, i.e. a crash caesarean. I hadn’t noticed any of the high-tech computers before and couldn’t believe how many members of the medical team there were, most of them being women.
The medical staff introduced themselves to me and everyone was perfectly sweet and nice. I noticed music from a radio was playing in the background and was told to sit down on the bed, so that the anaesthetist could explain the procedure of the epidural to me, which was going to be administered first. I knew the lady was trying to calm me down as she told me to bend over the pillow they gave me and slouch my back. ‘Don’t worry this is the hardest and most painful bit’. Really? The hardest bit is sticking a needle in my back whilst I still have control over my legs and bladder? No, my dear, the hardest bit is getting me to lie back down on that table and willingly allow the surgeon to stick that blue screen up and slice me open. That’s the hardest thing to do, not a needle in my back. But I kept quiet and I breathed in and out deeply and, my goodness, I wasn’t expecting the sting! In hindsight, she was right, it was the most painful bit…
I felt the painkillers work almost instantly as I was guided down to lie on the table and was sprayed cold water over my body to check if I could feel the cold. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the painkillers had numbed my pain senses before they cut me open, so I kept telling them to keep spraying until I couldn’t feel it anymore. I looked over at one of the medical team and told her to please be sure and spray again and she told me she hadn’t stopped spraying the whole time. They were ready to begin…
The blue screen went up and everyone started shuffling around the table, talking amongst themselves. Someone was holding my hand and talking to me on my right hand side and Tommy was given a chair to sit down next to me on the left. He was talking to me about something, I couldn’t remember, I kept staring at him and I suddenly felt cold and tired. The lady on the right holding my hand noticed I was shaking and told me that my blood pressure would start to lower, which was perfectly normal, and inserted something into my drip which woke me up a bit. I kept thinking about coffee.
I remember why I thought about coffee in that instance, when the blue screen went up. During my first caesarean, when everything was so crazy around me and I was so scared for mine and Aron’s lives, this man – the anaesthetist – was so fantastic in calming me down that I wanted to send him something afterwards. During the whole traumatic process of Aron’s birth, he kept talking to me about going for a coffee because I hadn’t touched a drop throughout the whole of Aron’s pregnancy. ‘How does that sound, eh? A nice big cup of coffee after everything, where you can sit with your new baby and drink in peace,’ he smiled at me. If he and Tommy were not in that room that day, I would have succeeded in knocking that blue screen down and who knows what would have happened then. I will never forget that…
So there I was, thinking about coffee, and staring at Tommy and this lady talking to me about something to do with cameras and taking pictures. The lady even showed Tommy a picture on her camera which prompted him to start taking pictures himself. I had no energy to argue or tell him to not document this situation, but I, somehow, felt quite relaxed and kept thinking about what my baby would look like. The pressure on my belly wasn’t so strong either, not like last time, when I felt the medical staff rearranging my insides. But this time round, I felt some pressure, but not much. What a difference the spinal block makes!
I heard the surgeon say, ‘ooh we woke him up and he’s a big ‘Unclears,’ and asked me if I wanted to see him. Of course I want to see my baby, let me see my baby! They put the blue screen down for just a moment and this big beautiful dark-skinned baby boy came into view, with this beautiful head of dark brown hair.
Such an amazing wave of emotion came over me that I don’t believe there are words in the English dictionary to describe it. A mixture of, perhaps, relief, love and pride washed over me instantly and I couldn’t hold back the tears. There are three very memorable moments in my life, which I pin down as the happiest moments in my life – my wedding, having Aron placed in my arms after a traumatic 3 days of labour and birth, and the above picture, seeing Aidan held out in front of me, so relaxed and so, so beautiful. He looked so developed and his skin was perfect, like he’d had a nice scrub before he decided to meet his mum and dad.
Aidan started roaring – not crying – roaring. He was a beautiful beast at 9lbs 7oz and was taken to the room to be cleaned up, weighed and checked over. He was given an APGAR score of 9 and looked fit and healthy.
That night, Aidan didn’t leave my chest and I didn’t sleep, even though I was so tired. I kept staring at my new baby and told myself that there would be plenty of time to sleep later. Right now, I want to enjoy my beautiful baby boy who gave me such a perfect second birth, even if he was taken out whilst he was asleep.