Isla’s arrival

With all the good intentions of blogging and journaling as things happened…it’s taken me seven weeks to write this. Seven, almost eight long weeks that have flashed by, so filled with a multitude of different emotions. I have so much to write about from this challenging, wonderful, scary, beautiful but overwhelming period that I could write a book! Instead – I’ll start at the beginning, it is after all, a very fine place to start.

When I first found out I was pregnant, my many pregnancy tracking apps that I downloaded told me that my due date was the 22 August, my Dad’s birthday! Our dating scan put us slightly later than that, but in my mind that was always “our” date, but as most babies don’t arrive on their due dates, I wasn’t holding my breath for a joint birthday party.

Even before I fell pregnant, I knew that I wanted to try deliver our second baby naturally. With Hannah, an incredibly long labour and awkward positioning put her into serious distress, resulting in an emergency c section. Although I know it saved potentially both our lives, I still held on to a lot of negative emotions and feelings of failure that I didn’t want to go through again with a repeat c section. Coupled with knowing the benefits of a natural delivery for mom and baby, a quicker recovery time – and an illogical drive to prove myself as a woman, I was determined that this baby would be delivered naturally.

We were all on track for this natural delivery, until our 37 week check, when the scan revealed that our baby had decided to turn from the perfect position for delivery, to being breech…..she was trying to come out bum first! (Hannah also got stuck on her way out….these girls must get their sense of direction from their father. 😛) Our gynae immediately scheduled a date for a c section, and I cried for about 3 hours straight, before getting on the google and researching every possible way to turn a breech baby. I’ll write more about that another time – it’s a whole story unto itself….but long story short, by our 38 week check, baby had turned. Hallelujah!

Thus commenced operation initiate labour….every old wives tale in the book. None of them worked. 39 weeks came and went, and my doctors opinion on the Wednesday was that she think it likely that things would start naturally on their own – and because here they don’t allow you to go past 40 weeks, or be induced if you’ve had a previous C section, another date for surgery was booked for the following Monday ….cue more tears. (Pregnancy hormones are fun guys!!)

Thursday went by, nothing. Friday went by, nothing. Every time my tummy rumbled or I stretched a muscle I was hoping it was the start of something. It wasn’t. Saturday morning, 22 August, I woke to go to the loo for the millionth time that night at about 3am, and as I climbed back into bed I felt a bit of a dull ache in my belly. Convincing myself I was probably just hungry and to ignore it, I went back to sleep.

Hannah woke me at about six the next morning. By then the dull ache was a bit more evident, definitely not hunger and getting stronger. Having been through almost 72 hours of labour with Hannah – I decided to follow the advice given to me by a midwife and doula and ignore the pain until it couldn’t be ignored anymore. I decided to bake some scones, it was Dads birthday after all and he deserved a nice breakfast!

Our last photo as a family of 3! Sitting at the breakfast table on our patio….the wheatie bag on my lap helping with the worsening contractions

By the time 8am rolled around and the scones were on the table, I was definitely in labour, no doubt about it. The contractions were quite literally stopping me in my tracks, and I finally had to use the Hypnobirthing breathing techniques I’d been practicing to get through. I still managed a scone and a cup of tea though! As Dad and Mara left, we made tentative plans that they would have Hannah that afternoon in case we needed to go to the hospital….after all, labour takes forever, I might not even need to go to hospital until MUCH later that day, or even the next day! Boy were we wrong!

Things escalated quickly from there…this must have been about 9am by now, the rainbow breathing wasn’t working anymore and I was mooing like a cow every time a contraction hit. I have no idea how close they were together, I kept trying to download a contraction timer app, but was constantly interrupted by contractions. Guess that should have told me they were pretty close!

I kept saying to Jared I wanted to stay home as long as possible – I was convinced I couldn’t be too far along and didn’t want my labour to stall by going to hospital too early. With my first labour, the contractions were all encompassing – they started at the top of my abdomen and worked their way down and around into my back. This time, I was only getting intense pain in my lower abdomen, and wasn’t even sure that they were real contractions because they felt so different to what I experienced before. Hannah was still home at this point, poor Jared must have felt torn in two, I was desperate for his help to get me through each contraction, but Hannah needed to be distracted and kept calm.

Eventually there was no amount of TV that was going to distract Hannah from the events unfolding down the corridor – and she became glued to my side. I was so proud of my little girl, despite being obviously worried that her mommy was in pain, she ran around like a little mini doula trying to help me. She kept bringing me my water bottle, rubbed my back along with Jared every time a contraction came, showered me in love and kisses, and ran to call Jared – who was by now packing the last of the hospital bag -every time a new contraction started. As I stood under a hot shower trying to manage the pain that way, she came in, kissed my tummy and said “Hannah Kiss better mommy” – and my heart just melted.

Somewhere along the way, after me deciding that hospital was a good place to be because thats where the drugs were (I wasn’t allowed an epidural because of my previous surgery, and the gas and air wasn’t being used because of the Rona – but pethidine was still an option) Jared had phoned his parents to come and fetch Hannah – and what seemed like an eternity later they arrived, which allowed us to leave for the hospital. I had three contractions in the time it took me to leave the bedroom, climb over the exposed septic tank in our front garden (a story for another day) and get down to the car. It then felt like we got stuck behind every geriatric driver and at every robot on the short trip to the hospital.

Eventually we got there, I fell out the car, desperate for a wheelchair to take me to maternity – terrified that I was going to be told I was not dilating and I should go home -or worse, be checked in to the ward and have labour stall. I forgot my mask in my rush, and as another contraction hit the bloody asshole incredibly conscientious security guard told me I couldn’t come in without one. Somehow I got a mask on and sat down in a wheelchair, and waited for Jared to park the car. Laden with my hospital bag and paraphernalia – he pushed me through to maternity- or tried to with his half a hand available after carrying all my things. Luckily we were rescued by a kindly lab tech who helped us reach the ward.

It was probably about 11:30ish by this stage and the contractions were almost on top of each other. All I could do was close my eyes and moo like a cow or repeat ow ow ow ow ow ow over and over again. I did try to breathe, I did try to relax, I did try to calm myself, it worked for maybe 20seconds each time. Yet, I was still convinced I wasn’t in proper labour. The midwives hooked me up to the CTG machine and did their checks. I was definitely in proper labour and 7cm dilated.

The next hour was a blur. I was wheeled into a delivery ward, Jared disappeared to do the admin, and the nurses kept trying to ask me the admission questions while helping me through the now almost non-stop pain, my gynae was on her way in. They gave me the drugs I was so desperate for, and they did absolutely diddly squat, but by now I think the pain had leveled out and was just more frequent rather than more painful. I thought, all things considered, we were going well! Until my waters broke. Meconium, lots of it.

I will admit at this point my mind immediately jumped to the fact that we would have to have a c section to get the baby out quickly – it was after all the ultimate reason that we had to have a c section with Hannah – and I was beyond relieved. I didn’t feel like I could do much more, and all I wanted was an epidural. This wasn’t the case – I was 9 and something cm dilated and moving fast, it was going to be quicker to get this baby out the way nature intended.

Just a few minutes later – my body was telling me to push. Guided by my doctor and gripping poor Jareds hand, (which he will gladly tell you has left a “scar”) it was time to get our baby born. I was a ninny. I cried, I moaned, I told everyone I couldn’t do it. Apparently I wasn’t pushing hard enough and had a good talking to from my Gynae who all of a sudden went from sweet and kindly to sergeant major in three seconds flat. It was an emergency situation, I had to pull myself towards myself for the sake of our baby and get her out.

Not long after, at 13:07 our second baby, Isla Alexandra was born gasping for air. The stories go that you’ll never forget the first time you hold your baby in your arms, or that time stands still, or it was a magical moment, but I can hardly remember what happened, I think I was so overwhelmed and stressed about her being ok.

Isla Alexandra – I had to pull my mask down to see her.

I remember the sound of the suction machine – the fact that she was really purple, the nurse maneuvering her on me so she could get the suction tube into all the right places, I remember seeing so much gunk in her nose. It wasn’t magical, I didn’t have the sense of achievement I thought I’d have – yes I’d birthed my baby, but she was in danger.

I held this beautiful little bundle for a little while, and looking down all I could see was a surgical mask. Thanks Covid. Not the fairytale moment of staring into my new baby’s eyes I had imagined, but when I pulled my mask down and was able to see her I was overwhelmed. I think the best way to describe what I felt was shell shock. Most of the blog posts and stories I’d read spoke of this unbelievable love and overwhelming joy at having your little baby placed on your chest…I was exhausted, overwhelmed and incredulous, but happy. I couldn’t equate the beautiful little being with the kicks and turns, the stretching and growing, the nausea, the tiredness and the seemingly unending pain that had come before her, and yet, miraculously, here she was in all her perfection.

Cuddles – finally without my mask for a while – while we waited for her oxygen to pick up

I held her for a little while longer before they took her away for her oxygen to be monitored. They laid her on Jareds chest, and hooked her up to an oxygen saturation monitor – and we watched those blinking red numbers 88, 89, 89, 88, 87, 85, 89, 89, 89, 88, 87 – just not reaching the minimum of 90 that it should be. She needed to go to the NICU.

We were able to video call our families – and typically nobody was answering their phones. Eventually we were able to “introduce” her before the nurses took her in her bassinet away to the NICU. I lay there like a spare part, waiting for someone to tell me what to do. The nurse arranged a sandwich for Jared and I, it was the strangest meal I’ve ever eaten. We sat there in near silence, trying to process all that had just happened, getting to grips with the fact that we had a second daughter, something we’re still wrapping our heads around nearly 8 weeks later!

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