You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
Never has there been a truer word spoken. And if you ask me, I wouldn’t describe myself as strong. Because truly, I’m not, I wasn’t; I didn’t feel it. Even now, after everything, I’m not strong, I just don’t have any other choice if I’m to make it through the day.
The midwife picked up the scan and shook her head. “I’m just going to leave you on he monitor a little longer.” With that she tried a friendly smile as she glanced back at the baby’s heart and darted out the door. With a moment to myself, I had time to think. But I quickly realised I wasn’t sure that I actually wanted to be alone with my thoughts. The ‘thump thump thump’ of baby’s heartbeat comforted me that baby was still ok at that moment, but no longer reassured me. I was 27 weeks pregnant, we should have 3 more months before we meet our baby! But after knowing how to read the tracings and knowing the expectations from the foetal medicine unit I was more than sure that delivery was imminent. As I felt my stomach and pressed the button on the monitor as I felt my boy kick. How I wished I was in this situation 3 months further down the line. As much as I wanted to meet my boy, I didn’t want to just yet!
My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. I expected the midwife to come back and tell me she has notified the doctor and that they would be round to speak to me soon. And that ‘soon’ would probably be a few hours away (as it had been previously). How wrong I was. The on-call obstetrician was there right away, along with other doctors, a midwife and a student midwife. The student midwife immediately came over and started measuring my legs I assumed ready for the stockings for theatre. Then she disappeared. The doctor spoke and told me she had already spoken to foetal medicine and they were adamant delivery should be today. Now. How I found my voice I have no idea, but is thought back the information pack from little heartbeats. I asked if I could be given a magnesium sulphate drip as this can help stop brain bleeds in premature babies. The doctor agreed as although baby was unhappy, and he was definitely better to be out than in, he wasn’t in immediate danger.
The next plan was to get the neonatal doctor in to talk to me. This had been promised to me the previous week, but the neonatal unit had been on ‘red’ because it was so busy.
After a chat with the neonatal doctor, I felt more reassured as there would be a full team there ready to work on baby when he arrived.
The doctor was informed that my waters had broken early so she could inform the team.
As she was leaving the student midwife came back with a pair of green stockings when she ripped open the pack and started putting them on me, I finally broke down. Not the full scale sobbing tantrum I may have expected, but more the glassy-eyed lip-wobble of a terrified child entering school for the first time- having no idea what to expect or who would be there to comfort them when they felt sad. I needed to pull myself together, and be strong for our boy but it was taking every ounce of strength. Occasionally it would overflow once again. But I couldn’t let myself fall apart, I needed to know exactly what was happening and if I was a sobbing wreck I couldn’t do that.
I realised so much had happened in a short space of time. In the amount of time it took the student midwife to grab a pair of stockings, it was decided that baby would be born, we had a plan for magnesium sulphate and the neonatal team were being prepped. It was too much too fast. She was amazing and really tried to keep me calm. I went to phone Day and I realised that I had no credit on my phone! I text him and he phoned me back, I told him baby was going to be born today, he didn’t stay long as he had to go and get a flight booked so he could be with me. But at the end of each phone call that day the, ‘I love you’s’ we’re thick with emotion.
The next thing I knew I was being whisked down the corridors in my bed to the dreaded labour and delivery.
In the blink of an eye I was hooked up to everything. I had cannulas in both hands, with various attachments going through them like a spaghetti junction! I was given a bolus of magnesium sulphate and then the rest was left to run. I was hooked up on a sliding scale for my insulin as of things did deteriorate I would have to go under general anaesthetic! I had begged and pleaded for this not to happen if at all possible, being a complete control freak with my diabetes- I just wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it for me! Obviously if it came to it I would have to for both of our sakes. But I wanted it to be a very, very last resort!
The magnesium sulphate makes you feel like you are burning, like actually burning! I had a fan that was blowing a force 9 gale of icy wind at me and I still didn’t cool down, but it kept it bearable. Now, I’m not an aggressive person, and not normally one to make a fuss, but a midwife came in to do something or other to me which required moving the fan… I felt like I’d she didn’t return it would spontaneously combust! I was not best pleased when she forgot to return it to where it was perfectly situated to cover as much of my body as possible. I closed my eyes for a brief second and she was on her way or the door when I opened them. Through gritted teeth I gently reminded her to return it to its prime location!
I’d been in contact with Day throughout, messages or he would ring me. I spoke to some family and friends. Baby had been happily heart beating away with the gentle chugging sound. Doctors popped in and out to check on baby and I at regular intervals. They seemed satisfied that his condition was stable enough.
Time went in the blink of an eye this time. Labour and delivery had a different feel this time. Yes, I was terrified, but I knew we had a plan. Baby was going to be delivered and I was going to meet my baby boy! This time it had been decided baby was better out than in. This time I had a plan to make peace with.
A strange feeling washed over me and I suddenly felt a tightening of my tummy. My natural reaction was to put my hands to my tummy, which felt rock solid, and turn to the screen… I saw the tightening of my tummy rise and baby’s heart rate fall simultaneously. Now I was worried. As I glared at the screen and went to press the nurses bell, the door was thrust open and in came doctors and midwives, I have no idea how many as I don’t think I moved my eyes from the screen or my hands from my tummy. All of them glared at the screen while each person had control of a different piece of equipment, I assume ready to be catapulted to theatre at a moments notice. Standing in their allocated spots, waiting. Baby’s heart rate began to rise as the tightening ebbed away to nothing. A collective sigh of relief echoed around the room. But the decision was made, Baby was being scrutinised and I would be going to theatre in the very near future.
I immediately picked up my phone to call Day, panic rising in me! I couldn’t dial the numbers. I didn’t know a single person over here, I was heading to theatre to deliver our baby. Alone. But I also thought of Day, getting his stuff ready to get to the airport. Ok I had the stress and worry of being here and what was going to happen to baby, but Day had the stress and worry of not being by my side and worrying about us both. My heart did go out to him! We are both the type of people who don’t sit in traffic, we are doers, we would rather find an alternative route than sit in traffic becoming frustrated. So I can’t imagine his frustration sitting at an airport waiting to be with us. Usually we wait till the end when disembarking a plane because we can’t be bothered being jostled around while people get their luggage. I could imagine Day this time with his face pressed up against the door eager to get off and get moving to see us. I just wanted him by my side. This was a moment we thought we would never get to, our baby actually being delivered and being given the chance to be saved. I felt incomplete without him there as we had travelled this journey together.
I was scanned very quickly by the doctor to check how baby was positioned as that would decide what type of c-section I would have whether it be horizontal or vertical. Thankfully our boy was head down so I was able to have a horizontal section. It was light relief to be honest, I wasn’t that fussed, I’d do what I had to do because baby needed out.
I walked down to theatre. It’s blurry, I remember flashes of it and that’s it. I remember someone holding my gown together at the back, because I was incapable with cannulas in both hands attached to goodness knows what! I think I was only with one midwife, I can’t remember her name, but she was just so lovely and had the most calming, reassuring voice! Maybe there was more people, I don’t know, but I’m sure she wouldn’t have managed all my attachments herself.
I hadn’t yet cried properly, I’d had some lip wobbles and a few tears, I think if I’m completely honest, I was scared to let go because once those floodgates opened, they wouldn’t stop.
Walking into that room was the most terrifying thing ever. I’ve always been a little scared of vast open spaces. And to me that is what the theatre felt like. Everyone was getting stuff ready around the table that was situated in the middle of a Holyhead operating theatre. I sat on the bed and was asked to hug a pillow and roll forward. It was then, right then I burst into tears. I also realised that every last part of my body was shaking uncontrollably! I remembered my c section with Alfie, all the family were at the hospital, Day looked completely ridiculous in his scrubs, and my biggest worry was that my friend’s dad was the anaesthetist and he was going to see my bum-cheeks through my bottom-bearing gown. He reassured me the whole way through and I was so glad to have someone I knew and trusted in theatre with me. I’d have given anything for those trivial worries now.
This time there was no one there I knew.
Not one familiar face. It took a long time to calm me down enough to give me the epidural, all I could think about was calming myself down as I didn’t know if this delay would be harming baby. I had to pull myself together!!!
After the epidural I lay down on the bed and waited. There were lots of voices and lots of check-lists happening.
I looked around the room and realised that not one voice was male. Everyone in the room with me was female! Except when the neonatal doctor came in. Total of one male! I don’t know I just found this strange! It had been heavily weighted the other way during Alfie’s birth. The amazing midwife described to me what it would be like and that the neonatal team would be working on baby and I would see lots of their backs!
The midwife took my phone in for me and she and he anaesthetist talked to me throughout to keep me calm.
At 13.57 our boy was born. He didn’t make a sound. Silence filled the room. I was honestly expecting the worst. He was brought over to the neonatal team and they began working on him. The midwife went over and look some photos for me and brought them to show me. He was alive and frighting! What a boy! After the doctors had intubated him to help him with his breathing, they brought him over to be and I kissed my fingers and stroked his face before he was whisked off to the neonatal intensive care.
All I wanted to do was to be with him! To help him fight this fight. But at that moment I was otherwise engaged. Too busy being sewn back together like a rip in a pair of jeans. I began to feel awful, a mumbled voice in the distance said something about me having lost blood. A bag of blood appeared, my own apparently, it was cleaned then put back in via a cannula. I had to wait in theatre till this was done, and they had finished with the situation beyond the curtain.
I was then slid from the table to a bed. A nurse lifted my head so I could sit up. Immediately I went dizzy everything began to go speckly-black around the edges, someone realised this and lay me back down flat. I don’t know if it was from the operation, lack of blood or the fact my legs were numb and when I was placed in a sitting position I felt I had no legs and I was going to carry on falling forward off the edge of the earth. Or a combination of all of them. I went into recovery and looked at my phone, Day had tried to phone and it was then I realised I had been in theatre over 2 and a half hours.
I had a couple of missed calls from Day, I phoned him immediately and garbled my way through the conversation. My body was exhausted and was shutting down I needed rest. I needed rest so I could get to my boy’s bedside.
I slept on and off, I woke at sporadic intervals because I was thirsty and I was desperate to know if there was any news on our boy!
The news while I was still in recovery was, “they’re still working on him!”
After everything that’s all I could hope for right now.
Back in the room at the delivery award sometime later (time was now a mystery).
Day arrived and said I sounded much brighter than earlier! I did feel better. I felt a little giddy almost! Our boy was here, he was fighting. He wasn’t the ‘miscarriage’ he was expected to be by those doctors, he was making his mark. Around 6.30pm we were given the news he had been stabilised, the incredible neonatal team worked on him for 4 and a half hours just to get him to that point.
We had deliberated over many names in early pregnancy, but nothing had been mentioned since our 20 week scan, too scared to even contemplate the future.
Day had always liked ‘Arlo’ from The Good Dinosaur. I wasn’t so keen. But now it fitted.
Arlo (pronounced AR-loh) is a given name for males. There are several origins of the name. From Old English, it is believed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon here ‘army, fortified, troops; war-‘ and hlaw ‘mound, cairn, hill,’ thereby meaning ‘fortified hill.’
(Copied from Wikipedia.)
And Arthur after my Granda, a true gentleman, as strong as an ox but with the purest heart. And the prankster who always played tricks and laughed the hardest at their outcome! Teaching 3 generations of the family how to cause chaos and have fun!
He was fighting and he was as strong as a fortified hill and our incredibly cute dinosaur who fought so hard to make his mark. With his Great-Granda’s spirit and zest for life.