After a week or so of decisions, Alan and I decided that I would give birth via c-section at week 38 and 1 day, according to the advice given by Spital Zollikerbeg. Baby was still breech and because of the complicated c-section for Markus, (Markus's birth story here the hospital did not want to take any unnecessary risks with this one. The consultant was adamant that we needed to have the operation as early as possible, so that there was no risk of labour starting. I felt sad to be ending pregnancy - I would have liked to have had a few more weeks with bump :-)
We were given the 10 0'clock slot, which meant getting to hospital at 0830, which meant an early start to get Markus into Kinderkrippe on the dot at 7. I got quite emotional saying goodbye to number 1 son :-) When we got there, we were checked in and the midwife did all the necessary prep - line and fluids in, blood taken, 30 minutes of monitoring. And then we waited and waited and waited. 2 hours late at just before midday, I was wheeled up to theatre. The delay did nothing for my nerves.
I hoped that the operation would go better than with Markus, but I had also mentally prepared myself for a difficult birth again. All the scans showed another big baby, plus the same presentation breech / transverse. To their credit, all the staff I met were familiar with my history and took time to reassure me.
Once I was in the theatre with all the preparations going on, I knew there was no going back and started to relax! The anaethetist nurse was particularly nice and kept me engaged and relaxed throughout. I was paranoid this time about seeing how long each stage was taking. But I couldn't see the clock for myself and Alan wasn't playing this game. However, every stage went by really quickly. I couldn't really tell when they started the c-section, and wasn't really aware of them pushing on my belly or getting baby out, but I suddenly heard the surgeon say "Bottom is out" and then almost immediately I heard a baby crying, which of course started me off. It was amazing, a very quick and gently birth (in so far as this is possible with a c sec).
They brought the baby round the screen, but no one at this stage told me what it was. Alan disappeared with the midwife to see the baby being checked and before he got back, the anaethetist congratulated me on the birth of our son! Alan brought Patrick back and I could awkwardly touch him. Very quickly Alan and the midwife left the theatre with Patrick.
The stitching up was also very quick this time - I hard forgotten the slightly disturbing fact you smell burning as part of the putting you back together process :-( I remember hearing the nurse counting the swabs back out.
As they wheeled me out of the theater, the surgeon came and congratulated me and said that internally everything was good. There was no scarring from the last c-section and everything is in good shape, he also said that a third pregnancy was possible :-)
This time round I left the theater and was wheeled straight back to my room, so eager to see baby boy Patrick, and of course Alan. As I got into the room, the Paediatric Dr was there. It was explained to us that Patrick's breathing was bit laboured. This was because he had fluid in his lungs, that hadn't been expelled during the birth. Apparently this sometimes happens with c-section babies and you can't predict this. In our birth room they hooked him up to a machine to measure his oxygen levels and warned us that he might need to go to the neonatal unit.
We stayed in the birth room for a few hours. We tried breastfeeding, but Patrick wasn't interested, probably because of the energy needed to breathe. The midwife gave him sugar water which he took. I needed quite a lot of pain meds and had an uncomfortable few hours as the spinal block wore off and I started to feel my lower body again. I didn't feel as sick as last time and wasn't sick. I even managed to eat lunch! Alan and I enjoyed just cudding Patrick and wondering at how like Markus he was.
We were wheeled to our room mid afternoon - I got an upgrade to a single room. This had really helped me last time. I met the nurse and we got settled in. Alan left to pick up Markus late afternoon and I was happy to just have time with my boy. He was still snuffling and snoring quite a lot, but I wasn't worried. By late evening however, things hadn't improved and we hadn't managed to breastfeed, although we had a lot of sking contact.. The nurse took him to the nursery to let me sleep but came back within the hour to say that they were sending him to the neonatal ward because he needed more help and monitoring. I didn't sleep well that night, I think the strong drugs didn't help.
I assumed that Patrick would only be away from me overnight, that the neonatal team would monitor him and give him some oxygen and then send him back to me. I waited all day Tuesday but he never came and the nurses were too busy to get me to the wards. It took all day to actually get me washed and out of bed and I finally waited until Alan arrived before we went to the ward.
The neonatal ward was only at the end of the (long) corridor, but in wheelchair and heavily drugged, it felt a lot further. Our first visit was a complete shock. The ward had 10 beds for babies. It was noisy (due to beeping alarms and busy staff), full of technical equipment and full of very small, sick babies. Patrick looked like a giant in comparison. It was upsetting to see him there. He wasn't in an incubator, but a bed underneath a heater. He had a feeding tube down his mouth into his stomach, plus cables attached to his feet and back. We couldn't pick him or move him, just stroke him gently. We couldn't understand the monitor either, so much data and no way to make sense of it.
We met the nurse and Dr responsible for Patrick. They explained that the situation was not serious, but that he did need to stay on the ward until he was breathing better/slower. They couldn't give us any indication of when this would be, but said that once he improved, it would all move very quickly. I cried and felt so helpless. We had never remotely expected this, we had been so fixed on the operation that we just assumed Patrick would stay with me afterwards. The staff were lovely but they were completely in control of his care. We could do nothing and it was very difficult to get any sense of bonding with him. Tuesday was a very long, uncertain day.
Over the next 3 days, it got easier. By the end of Wednesday, I was able to walk by myself to the neonatal ward. Weds evening we attempted the first breastfeed, since he was getting a bit stronger. Amazingly, he took to breastfeeding immmediately and fed well. The nurses weighed him before and after, so that they could be sure of what he had taken in. Tuesday and wednesday I pumped ever 4 hours to help my milk come in and to deliver the colostrum milk to Patrick. He was fed my milk and a special formula through the feeding tube into his stomach. During Thursday he was much stronger and the feeding tube was moved to his nose to make breastfeeding easier (although this made breathing harder). On Thursday we alternated breastfeeding with feeding through the tube. I was also able to spend much of the day with him on the ward. There was a family room next door and I was able to remove him from his bed and sit with him on the sofa, feeding him and then just getting to know him. The staff would leave me in peace, but would take him back for ward rounds. During Thursday they were so pleased at his progress that he moved from feeds every 3 to every 4 hours. Each time he breastfeed he took even more milk, from 50ml first time, to 90ml. Thursday night I came to the ward every 3 hours to breastfeed him and this was a very special time. Sitting in the dark ward, just feeding him, surrounded by bleeps and the activity of the ward. The nurses were so caring and even though it was a very stressful place, they never seemed to react to this, they just took care of their babies.
Weds and Thursday were probably my worst days. I felt "cheated" that Patrick wasn't with me in my room and eventually I had to let go of my expectations and live with the situation that we had. I had cancelled visit from friends, since they weren't able to see Patrick. But then I realised that I actually needed the support and in the end, I had several good friends come to keep me company. I was worried that I would be discharged and that Patrick would have to stay and even on Thursday, we weren't sure when he would be back with me on the ward. However, by Friday morning it was clear that his breathing was almost back to normal. It took a while but by Friday afternoon Patrick was back next to me in my room. I was SO happy and really enjoyed Alan and Markus coming to visit us. They had also come on Weds - Markus' first meeting with Patrick was on the neonatal ward, which wasn't ideal. We were both discharged on Saturday morning and left hospital at midday. My friend Karen picked us up. We took the first photos of us as a family, for example in front of the stork board in the main hospital entrance. I looked across and saw a receptionist watching us, she was just beaming at us from ear to ear!
I was so grateful that the operation had gone so quickly and smoothly. I felt much better immediately and in fact my recovery in hospital and at home was a lot faster than first time round. I felt guilty though, that the easy operation and recovery for me had contributed to Patrick's problems. I know this isn't true, but it is how I felt.
7 weeks on, Patrick is a very happy, healthy baby and it is hard to believe that he had a slightly rocky start!