She wasn’t an easy labour. Hell she wasn’t an easy pregnancy. There were weekly scans and checks because she wasn’t measuring as large as she should. Maybe that should have been a warning sign, but I tried not to think about it. Told myself that everything would be okay. I needed everything to be okay, I couldn’t imagine it not being okay.
When my waters broke it wasn’t too far before my due date and so I went through labour, still hoping for my water birth. I laugh when I think about writing my birth plan and how it actually happened. After over 24 hours of labour I was begging for an epidural, I could have kissed the anaesthesiologist who came and administered it. Truthfully I thought everything would be okay. She wasn’t moving much as I kept telling them, and they were monitoring something but they didn’t really say and when we got to pushing all I could think was at least it will be over. My baby will be in my arms and I can rest.
But even then things weren’t as I wanted. Unbeknown to me, after an hour of pushing I began to bleed. Badly. I was rushed to theatre where they attempted to use ventouse to remove her because I had been pushing and she had moved down, but then horror: she was stuck. They needed to get her out and quick and so, thanking my lucky stars I had the epidural which was topped up, an emergency c-section began. She came out fast. She came out not breathing. I couldn’t even see her, she was rushed to a team of waiting doctors and there was the worst wait of my life to hear something…anything. A cry. There had to be a cry, that was what the TV programs showed. I didn’t care that the chief consultant herself was trying to stitch me back together and there were students there learning what to do when something like that happened. I wanted to hear my little girl cry.
And she did. She was brought over to us after the longest wait ever and we held her. But her breathing sounded strange…off. We sent her back to the doctors who said it would be okay. I think even in that moment we knew it wasn’t okay. Something was wrong.
Wheeled out of theatre I was beyond exhausted and a midwife came to help her latch on and feed but…she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t suck. Her head was bruised, no doubt she was shocked and traumatised and her breathing still sounded terrible. I told myself it was normal, surely the midwives would say if it wasn’t and as a first time Mum you don’t know. We got back to the ward and she still wouldn’t feed or suck. They came to run tests, took her to prick her heel. That was the last time I touched her for a few days, not that I knew it.
When they returned it was without Olivia. She had been taken to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) where she needed to stay. I was shell shocked. Everyone around me had their babies and I had an empty crib and a horrible sinking feeling. I wanted to be with her but I was still numb, couldn’t move so I sent my partner up to be with her as I sat alone and cried.
It wasn’t until later someone brought me a photo of her as I was trying desperately to get up despite a numb lower body. I was moved to a single side room where I didn’t have to see other people with their babies. I had a photo.
It was the start of several hellish days. No-one was sure what was wrong with her, they gave her a lumbar puncture suspecting meningitis but thankfully it came back clear. But she wouldn’t feed. Couldn’t seem to suck. I ignored the infection that had developed in my c-section wound as I sat with her all day. Those precious moments that other people took for granted we never did. Being able to change her nappy was the only time we could reach in the incubator and touch her. When I finally got to hold her again, covered in wires a few days later it was the most amazing thing ever. She hardly felt like mine. She felt like she belonged to the doctors and nurses.
Her breathing still sounded poor and it took us a week to get a doctor to come and look during one of its poorest spells. When they finally did they moved fast. She had a camera put down her throat to take a look at what was going on. Twice. They found her throat terribly red, burned from reflux and they found laryngomalacia which caused her noisy and ill sounding breathing. There was discussion of operations but first they started her on thickened milk and omeprazole to stop the reflux to see if that helped. Slowly she began to learn to suck and drink from a bottle full of thickened milk. She had to be bribed to drink with drops of sugar syrup. It was the start of her feeding issues.
Gradually she took more from the bottle and they removed the NGT that fed her and finally, finally she was allowed to come home with us. The moment we walked out of SCBU with our baby was one of the best. She was ours. I was thankful we hadn’t been there months, scared to death because she still struggled to drink and her breathing sounded terrible. But she was home. I hoped that everything would be normal from that moment onwards and we would get back on track to the plan I had made in my head. I was, of course, wrong.