It’s hard to remember and write about Markus’ birth because it’s impossible to remember a time when he wasn’t here and the centre of our lives! It’s impossible almost to remember how we felt before hand. I can’t really now remember how I felt being pregnant, it just feels like a distant memory! I have been putting off writing this, even though I want a record of the birth. Maybe I’ve been worrying that I will miss something if I try and write it down. Yet I feel that I need closure, that I need to record this first and most important part of his journey with use. As you know, it all ended well, but along the way it was a bit of a bumpy ride!
The short version is that the c-section took a lot longer than normal to complete because Makrus turned in the womb into a horizontal presentation. He got stuck and the chief surgeon was rushed into the theatre without scrubbing in. To let Markus be born, they had to make a large T-incision in me. I lost a lot of blood and wasn’t very well afterwards. He was eventually born a little bit blue, but bounced back quickly, as did I.
We were asked to arrive at the hospital (Spital Zollkerberg) between 11 and 11.30 on Friday, 14th August. We had been given this date a few weeks beforehand and initially it freaked me out, being given a date for the birth. We had known by this point that the baby was going to stay breech. Detailed scans had shown that various factors would not allow us to try the external manipulation technique to turn the baby – ie my heart-shaped womb, the location of the placenta (on the front wall of the womb) and the fact that the fluid was not equally distributed.
On the one hand I was okay about having a planned c-section, and on the other, I was disappointed that the date was fixed. In fact, I wanted to ring the hospital and delay the date to the following week (I am such a project manager / a control freak) because I didn’t feel ready! Alan luckily talked some sense into me. I was disappointed a little bit that I wouldn’t get to wait for a spontaneous birth, but was so proud and happy that the little one had stayed and grown inside me, despite the lack of space!
In retrospect, the down side to knowing the date and time of the operation and (perhaps mistakenly) telling all my family and friends about it, was that I had lots of phone calls on the Thursday evening. It was nice to hear people wishing me luck, but I sort of wanted a normal “last” evening with Alan!
On the journey to the hospital I think I was a bit nervous. I think I was excited, but mostly nervous. Although I knew this was the day I would met our child, I don’t think in a sense this had really hit me. I took photos of us en route, plus of our arrival at hospital. It seemed important and now I’m glad that I have a full record of the start of the journey. I remember standing at the door to the birthing wing, disinfecting our hands under the flying stork mobile and Alan making me say out loud “I can do this”. We met the midwife and were shown to our birthing room, flowers from my team at work had already arrived in my room, which was so nice! I got into bed and was hooked up to the machines again for half an hour to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and any contractions that I was having. They did a final scan to check that baby was still breech (it was) and I had an IV drip put in, and bloods taken. We were wheeled up to theatre a bit early at 12.45 – Alan had to wait outside and get changed whilst they prepped me.
This was perhaps the hardest part for me. The anaesthetic staff and nurses were nice, but the theatre was cold and it was all a bit clinical and impersonal. I really wanted Alan there at that point, but they don’t allow that. I don’t remember every single preparation that they did, but gradually you have less and less control of the proceedings, until you realise that they really are going to surgically remove baby from you! The spinal injections were very odd. As promised by the anaesthetist, I did feel a very strange warm sensation in my bum and gradually I couldn’t feel my feet or legs. They did an ice test up to the top of my rib cage, to check that everything was numb. Annoyingly, even though I had had an extreme bikini line wax in preparation, they still shaved me. I also had an oxygen tube up my nose and both arms were pretty much tied down with tubes and stuff.
I was so glad when Alan was back at my side, all gowned and masked up! I think just before it all started I felt calm, but neutral, not particularly excited. In retrospect, although I was fully conscious, I do think the drugs combine to make you feel not all there, not completely aware of everything that was going on.
I had been told that the operation was probably be 30 to 45 minutes in total, with baby being born in the first 5 to 10 minutes. I guess for anyone that has a c-section, there is a sense that this is a dramatic way to give birth, certainly not a natural route. I find this hard to write about, because it’s difficult to asses what really happened. I concentrated on keeping calm, but became aware that baby hadn’t appeared as promised in the first 10 minutes - I could see the clock on the wall.
The atmosphere in the operating theatre started to change – I could hear panic in the voice of the surgeon in charge, I realised that something seemed to be going wrong, but also thought that I was just being a drama queen. The operating table could be tilted and they were constantly changing the position of it. I couldn’t obviously see what was going on, but Alan was more aware, but was keeping quiet. I remember seeing the clock and realising that the operation had been going on for 25 minutes and still no baby, even though the anaesthetist had been leaning and pressing really heavily on my bump for an eternity, and the operating table was still being tilted and the surgeon was yelling “quick” to her staff. I remember the anaesthetist telling me to breathe more deeply and afterwards Alan said that he could see that my stats were deteriorating, pulse rising, but blood pressure dropping. Alan said afterwards that a third surgeon had rushed in, and hadn’t had time to scrub in properly. At one point, everything seemed to go quiet and no one was still telling me anything, at that point I think I started to panic properly, that something had gone horribly wrong, but I was too scared (and too out of it) to ask what was going on.
Markus is born!
And then, I heard a baby’s cry and I thought “oh, is that my baby?” Suddenly I heard someone said that it was a “bube” (boy) and a bundle of baby was handed over the screen to us. My right hand was released so that I could cuddle him, and Alan then put his arms round both of us. Before the birth I imagined that I would instinctively know what to say, that my first words to my baby would be meaningful and memorable. Instead, all I could do was to stroke his cheek – the little bit of his face that was visible – and cry tears of relief. Alan stayed with me whilst they checked him and when he was ready, they took Markus and Alan back down to the birthing suite.
Being stitched up was horrible. It took forever and I just wanted to get out of the operating theatre, plus I felt ill, really sick. The whole operation took well over an hour. I had been told that after the operation I would go straight back down to the birthing room to see baby and to start breastfeeding. The surgeon and anaesthetist weren’t happy with my condition and I had to stay on the recovery ward for close observation for well over an hour. The midwife brought Alan and Markus back up to me, so that we could try breastfeeding. I can remember really wanting to instinctively feed, but the midwife was obviously more practised as getting baby M and my boob connected. I didn’t feel that he had really fed, but she seemed happy enough, and then all three of them disappeared again.
After about 2 hours I was finally discharged back to the midwife and was back in the birthing suite. I don’t remember much about this time. Alan took a photo of Markus and I - I remember asking him to take the photo – I look happy, but completely pale and out of it. The rest of the time I tried to cuddle Markus, but was really unwell. Was violently sick three times, which didn’t do my middle any good, and nearly threw up over baby, which would have been a nice role reversal! At one point I turned round in bed and Alan was just in the “dad’s chair” next to my bed, cuddling Markus, bending over him and just crooning! I was finally taken to a ward with 3 beds and once we were settled, Alan went home. This was probably between 9 and 10pm. I was sick again and was having anti-emetic drugs pumped into me, as well as antibiotics because of the fear of infection because of the surgeon who hadn’t scrubbed in. Alan was finally able to call the most important family and friends once he got home at about 11pm – they had all been panicking. My mum had rung everyone to demand whether they had hear something and even left me a voicemail on my mobile. Not sure when she thought I was going to answer that call! Alan also updated lj for me before he finally went to bed
The evening shift nurse actually suggested that they take Markus to the nursery for the night, so that I could sleep. I was worried that I needed to breast feed him more, but they said the first night he would probably sleep through, which he did. I of course didn’t sleep, because of the other babies in the room. A nurse came to check up on me at 6am and I remember asking about Markus. She said he had had a good night, but was still sleeping and that they would bring him to me when he awoke. Those 2 hours of waiting for him to be brought back to me felt like waiting for all my birthdays and Christmases at once!
What really happened
After the birth I talked to the lead surgeon twice and she filled me in on the details, plus I also got the midwife’s point of view and Alan’s. The operation had gone quite badly and the surgeon said that it was the most difficult c-section that she had ever done, and was so relieved that we had both come through it.
As part of the start of the operation, my waters had been broken by the surgeon and Markus decided at this point to start to turn. He ended up lying horizontally across my womb (most unusual presentation of baby) and as the waters broke, the uterus contracted round him, so that he was stuck! It was impossible to get him out from this position – at one point the surgeon had one leg and one arm, but couldn’t pull baby out. This is why the head surgeon was rushed in, because my surgeon just didn’t know how she was going to deliver baby. They made extra incisions in my uterus, in order to give them more space to manipulate baby. This would be when they were tilting me and getting the anaesthetist to lean on me. Eventually after 28 minutes, baby was born, but was quite blue and was 4 on the Agpar scale, which is quite low. This is why he was rushed out of the operating theatre to get oxygen and to be checked. However, at 5 minutes he was 8 on the agpar scale and then 9 after 10 minutes, so he recovered well.
The same surgeon (who was lovely!) said that she was so relieved that he recovered well and called him a “taper Indianer” (brave little Indian) every time she saw him during her rounds afterwards. She also said that I had lost an extreme amount of blood, about 2.5 litres and they were really concerned that I would need a blood transfusion. My bloods at the start had been 12 (14 is average) and then dropped to 7 after the operation. This is why I was kept in the recovery room for so long. During the night they kept taking blood to check how I was doing, but after a few hours the values had risen to 10, so I didn’t need blood in the end. She was also amazed how quickly I had bounced back! The midwife who had been with us, said that she remembered that I had stayed really calm through the whole process and that this had certainly helped the baby and me to recover so quickly.
I certainly didn’t feel calm inside. I had been convinced that my impressions of the operation had been wrong, that I had just been “imagining things” or making a fuss. When I found out exactly how serious things had been it really shocked me. In conversations afterwards I learnt that in the past when babies had got stuck in this horizontal position, these births had killed both Mother and baby. I think the delayed shock from the operation contributed to my baby blues, which lasted about 10 days. The hospital were great – once they saw what was happening, they made sure that the surgeon and the midwife visited me again and talked things through. I was also moved to a single room to help my recovery. The longer operation, the extra incisions and the loss of blood meant that I took longer to recover than normal after a c-section.
And then we were three!
All in all I was so happy at the expertise and care of the staff. All three of us felt so well looked after. Alan and I were also so proud of our son, who battled to be born and who turned out to be such a tough cookie with a very healthy birth weight.