I just love reading other woman’s birth stories…. they always take me straight back to mine. Even though no two stories are the same, there is the beautiful common thread that runs through, we are bringing life into the world!
This is Michelle’s story……
“I remember the day we found out I was pregnant as if it were yesterday. I’d taken 4 pregnancy tests that week, all negative. Or so I thought. I took the 5th one after work one afternoon, then my phone rang. I rushed to answer it, and fifteen minutes later returned to find a very clear, positive test! I ran to our little bathroom bin, took out the other four . all positive! (I guess you really do have to actually wait 5 minutes!!)
So many thoughts crossed my mind, getting hubby to come home from work was one, but hanging over my head was a massive cloud . I would have to stop taking my multiple sclerosis medication immediately. I knew what that meant, but I also knew that most women with multiple sclerosis experience little to none of their symptoms during pregnancy! This was a double blessing!
We went through our scans, and checkups, and at 13 weeks, we were told we were having a little boy! I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited! I immediately messaged my mom and told her NOT to go shopping just yet . at 13 weeks, the fetal health specialist could only say with 70% certainty that it was a boy! (Note: she did not listen to me and went shopping anyway.)
(Note: throughout my first and second trimester, we were building our new home!)
As I lay there listening to his strong heartbeat, little did I know that just one week later I’d be hospitalized with a multiple sclerosis relapse! Before admitting me, at fourteen weeks, my neurologist informed me that the medication I receive to treat my relapses may cause a cleft palate in an unborn child, if administered before the end of the first trimester. I was admitted on the first day of my second trimester! I felt anger, fear, but most of all, I felt cheated . what happened to the no symptoms deal?
I recovered well from my relapse, and looked forward to a healthy, happy pregnancy. In the meantime, my husband and I had sold our house, and started construction on our new home. As we packed up some things during our last weekend in our house, I started having severe cramps. I brushed it off as ligaments stretching, but after 12 hours, I truly had no choice but to phone my gynae (thank goodness for awesome health practitioners that are available to their patients 24/7!)
She told me to immediately go straight through to the maternity ward at Milnerton Mediclinic. I arrived, and was taken to one of the delivery rooms. I was hooked up to a monitor, observations taken, and then she arrived. My cervix was softening. I was 18 weeks pregnant.
I overheard a conversation between my doctor and one of the nurses, saying I had to be admitted . what if I aborted that night! I broke down into tears. This wasn’t part of my plan. This is NOT what I signed up for. In that moment, the grave realization that I could lose our child hit me like a freight train. I lay there in tears, praying, crying out!
I was admitted, carefully monitored and given medication. All I wanted was for my little boy to be ok. After a few days in hospital, when my doctor was happy that baby was doing ok, and I was no longer at risk for miscarriage, I was discharged, with strict instructions to take it easy.
Fast forward 11 weeks: At 29 weeks I arrived at my doctor’s rooms for a routine checkup and scan. She took my blood pressure and said calmly Ok, your blood pressure is a bit high, and I’ve found protein in your urine. I am going to admit you. I had read up a lot about preeclampsia, so I knew exactly why I was being admitted. But I still had one question, So what will happen if it is preeclampsia? My doctor looked at me, and with confidence said, Well then we’ll deliver your baby!
Again. Anxiety. Sadness. Fear.
I was admitted in order to complete a 24 hour urine sample. It’s amazing how many crazy things run through your mind when faced with such a situation. It’s amazing how many crazy things turn up when you google in such a situation.
I decided to remain calm and have faith that if it had to come to that . I was in good hands, and so was my baby. I was given a shot of steroids for baby’s lung development, just in case.
After numerous tests, it turned out, it was just a UTI, and not preeclampsia. At this point I was pretty certain things would be ok for the next 11 weeks. It had to be.
At 35 weeks, I woke at 5am with severe contractions. I woke my husband and said to him this can NOT be happening! We immediately packed my bag into his car and sped off to the hospital. When I arrived at the maternity ward, I was greeted by familiar faces. All the nurses already knew me by name!
The doctor confirmed that I was definitely having contractions, but that this time, my cervix was still totally intact, no ripening, and no dilating.
When I was given another shot of steroids for my little boy’s lung development, I started getting concerned. Yes the shot is good for him. But I’d been given so much other medication during my pregnancy . was he going to be ok?
I was in hospital for three days, and given medication to stop the contractions. I felt tired, listless and my blood pressure was low. I was booked off work, and so my maternity leave began a week early.
As I lay in bed at home for the next few days, I became more and more relaxed and at ease. Surely labour would be ok given everything I’d been through with this pregnancy?
I remember meeting with our birth photographer. What an angel. Her spirit was so warm, and I knew that (dispite all the a birth WHAT? comments from friends) she was the right person to document our story.
On the morning of the 23rd of October 2013, I woke up with a slight contraction. Just one. I woke my husband who comforted me and said we should monitor it for a bit. I picked up my phone and was chatting to a friend whose sister had given birth in the early hours of that morning. As I typed a congratulatory message, I felt another contraction. (It was an hour after the first one.)
I told hubby to go off to work, and rather come back after his big meeting. I stayed in bed all day, having about one contraction every hour.
When my husband returned from work, I pretty much forced myself out of bed, took a shower and got back into bed. I checked my blood pressure (after the preeclampsia scare we acquired a BP monitor for regular checks.) Blood pressure was 116/65, I will never forget. Then the contractions increased. In strength, not in frequency. We packed my bag, baby’s bag and his stem cell storage kit into the car and for what we hoped would be the last time . we set off of the hospital.
I arrived and was immediately hooked up to a blood pressure monitor and fetal heart rate monitor. After the nurse had taken my blood pressure, I looked up, looked at my husband, looked back at the machine, and with confidence said, I think this machine is faulty! 158/90. How was that even possible? I had taken my blood pressure at home an hour earlier!
Little did I know, my elevated blood pressure would be the least of my worries?
When my doctor arrived half an hour later, she gave my fetal heart rate graph one look, walked out and then came back in. Ok she said, You are definitely having contractions, but your cervix is closed shut. But during every contraction, your baby’s heart rate is dropping. He is in distress. You’ll easily be in labour for another 12 hours, but baby won’t make it even 4 more hours. You know what this means?
Fear. Anxiety. Uncertainty.
Once the realisation sunk in that my perfectly planned, natural labour would not be happening, I felt peace. I felt quiet. I felt safe. Having a Caesar was my worst nightmare, my doctor knew it was. But I experienced an odd sense of calm, a reassurance that THIS was going to be my perfect birth. Better than what I had planned.
Before I could say We’re having a baby, hubby was out the room, did all the admin at reception, fetched the bags and the super important stem cell kit from the car and arrived back in the ward.
At this point I had made two of THE most important phone calls of my life. First, my amazing birth photographer . who wasn’t even on call yet, as I was only 38 weeks! Secondly, my parents. I spoke quickly to both . my battery was dying (I was NOT planning on giving birth that night!)
I was prepped for surgery and wheeled into theatre. I quickly met the paediatrician (will be blogging about the importance of having an awesome paed soon) and had a chat with my doctor. The longest talk was with the anaesthetist. Being an MS sufferer, she had lots of questions, about my mobility, symptoms, relapse history and pain.
Seeing my husband in scrubs, giving me the thumbs up was really all I needed to get me through the next 30 minutes.
The spinal block was administered, and again, that sense of calm came over me.
The vibe in the theatre was unbelievable. We chatted, we laughed, I cried: I remember talking to my gynae about where she studied, asking the anaesthetist if she ever gets nervous in theatre, and just trying to keep my mind off the fact that I was about to be cut open, and bring life into this world.
That cry. That cry that will forever stay in my mind, and will forever bring me to tears when I think about it. The cry that said I’m here, everything is ok, mommy, we’re all going to be just fine!
3.555kg. 47cm. Healthy, happy, whole.
Whenever friends ask me about my birth, and for any advice I tell them three things. First, make sure you have an excellent, supportive medical team. Your gynae could be the person who saves your or your baby’s life, make sure you feel confident that you can trust them with that! Secondly, if you can, store your child’s stem cells (full blog post about the stem cell storage process soon.) As an MS sufferer, I am met daily with the realisation that there is no cure for my disease. I am glad I could give my son a little life insurance policy of sorts. And finally, if you take none of my other advice, take heed of this: GET A BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER! I regret nothing about my pregnancy and birth. It was pure, it was beautiful, and it was perfect. And having Marysol Blomerus there to capture all those raw emotions and special moments, was the absolute cherry on the cake. (Still trying to figure out how she made it from Muizenberg to Milnerton in 35 minutes, but oh so glad that she did!)
The moment they put my little angel on my chest, those 38 weeks of uncertainty, anxiety and fear didn’t matter. The next 100 years did!”