It began as weird “episodes” where I just felt off

As I hold my son in my arms, I’m eternally grateful to have him in my life. He and his sister are the greatest parts of my life, and I would do anything for them. 

I never finished writing my birth story for my eldest, her birth was not what I wanted (induced, epidural) but generally it was okay. Physically I recovered well. 

My son was more challenging. The one goal I had at the start was to do everything I could to avoid being induced. By the end, I was begging for the earliest induction possible. 

It was hardly an auspicious start to the pregnancy; I decided to take a pregnancy test to make sure I was okay to drink excessively during my father’s funeral the next day. Turns out I was pregnant, so I delivered the eulogy and dealt with everything that followed completely sober. The first weeks were incredibly hard, this was not the time or way I wanted to have this happen. My husband was excited about the baby, I just wanted to curl into a ball and grieve the shock loss of my Dad. Instead I got the double hit of morning sickness and grief to navigate. 

The first trimester ended and physically I started to feel better. Till I didn’t. It began as weird “episodes” where I just felt off, really tired and this odd heart rhythm. I ignored it as some weird pregnancy thing, till my midwife looked at me like I was crazy. Then one morning I was sitting on the couch as my daughter watched TV, it hit suddenly and it took everything I had to stay conscious. I contacted my husband so he could come home and take me to the hospital. By the time they saw me, I was feeling better and it wasn’t long till they sent me away, suggesting a follow up with my GP. 

Over the following weeks it got progressively worse, till the night my husband ended up calling healthline who then called an ambulance. It took over an hour for the ambulance to arrive, but once they arrived they decided I needed to go into the hospital. I spent almost 36 hours in the emergency department. That night was so scary and I felt so alone. My daughter was sleeping so my husband had to stay with her. My heart kept spontaneously going into an erratic rhythm while I struggled to breath, and every time a nurse sat with me. I was ultimately admitted for a night, but they never figured out what the problem was. 

In the meantime, my anatomy scan had to be postponed because I was in the hospital. The next week we went along to be scanned. There was a problem, something was wrong with our baby. 

At every stage there was so much work just to make sure everything was being checked properly, I had to recount the list of issues with both my son and myself at every appointment, there were endless phone calls to chase appointments, and ultimately one person made the decision that a delivery at the specialist maternal hospital was the best option. Far from the peaceful birth I had hoped for, I was going to be delivering in a city six hours drive from home. I needed to be there from 38 weeks. Suddenly the end of my pregnancy was going to be far from my husband, with my toddler and I staying with my mother while waiting to see if I would go in to labour. My baby was due April 1. My Dad’s birthday was April 6, and I was desperate to not have my baby and my Dad share a birthday. 

Then covid hit. It had of course been building momentum since January, and we had been trying to prepare but it wasn’t really prevalent in NZ yet. My 38 week appointment came, and my daughter and I flew north. My induction was booked in for 40 weeks exactly. I was in Christchurch a few days, then the Prime Minister announced the covid response was heating up. I was 39 weeks when we went into national lockdown. After multiple phone calls I had my induction moved forward at my request. I was terrified that my son’s possible surgery may be impacted by a surge of covid cases at the hospital. I had seen footage from overseas hospitals, even a couple of days seemed crucial.

My induction started on the Monday morning. I panicked about being late. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. I was left on monitors for extended periods due to my still erratic heartbeat. But it wasn’t causing me symptoms so everyone just shrugged. It took till the next day for someone to actually break my waters, and only after my midwife got involved. As soon as they were broken it got serious fast. 

My actual active labour was relatively short but it was hard. Contractions were maybe two minutes apart as soon as they started. My midwife arrived, I was doing okay on the gas and trying desperately to trust my body. It’s a blur now but I remember begging for an epidural because I couldn’t do it. But it was too late, and I needed to push. 

So I pushed, and I pushed. This was my second time, I knew I was doing better. I had read so much about second births, just a few pushes and baby was out. But he wasn’t coming. It was taking so long, and I was getting so tired. The midwife was trying everything but nothing was working. The decision was made to call in the doctors. 

I don’t know if anything was as painful as the internal examinations they tried. Two doctors did their best, and they stopped as soon as I asked. There was an ultrasound, I was still trying to push this baby out. The decision was made to go to the theatre. Forceps. An anaesthetist asking questions, my husband asking questions, people taking off my jewellery, all while the contractions kept coming. It felt like forever till they put in the spinal. I barely remember the next stages. The forceps were almost immediately ruled out and suddenly it was a c-section. One of my most dreaded scenarios was happening. I remember hearing him cry as he came out. I think they showed him to me, but I don’t remember seeing him. He was taken across the room, I could hear him crying and I just wanted so desperately to hold him. There were cheers when he peed (the big concern which led us to Christchurch was his bladder) and it felt like forever that I lay there. I was so cold, I couldn’t stop shivering and I couldn’t feel anything. Eventually my son was in my arms, but it was so hard to hold him. We moved to recovery and the midwife helped me get into position to nurse him. Once I had regained feeling and eaten something, I was transferred to the ward. 

I had to say goodbye to my husband at the elevator, he wasn’t allowed any further due to covid regulations. It was about 9pm at this stage. I was left alone in a room, caring for a brand new baby while unable to move. The nurses were generally responsive and helpful, but it’s heartbreaking asking a stranger to be the first to change your brand new baby’s nappy and dress him in the clothes you had picked out. I still don’t know who she was, but I was pleased once I was allowed out of bed and could do it myself. 

We were only in hospital for two nights in total before checking out. It was in many ways blissful. The hormones were helping me bond and I completely shut out the world. But I missed my daughter intensely, I had never been away from her before and I needed to be with her and my husband. So I left the hospital as early as possible and we made arrangements for travelling home. Ultimately, cancelled flights and general unknowns meant instead of flying with my new baby, our family traveled together by car. A day’s travel, during a pandemic where we couldn’t go to parks or get fast food to eat.