Whilst I was writing my posts on Sorsha’s birth (part one and part two!) I would ask Allan to help me recall some information. It was always interesting to hear how and what he remembered, so I asked him to write a post on his view of the experience! Enjoy!
The labour began for me during the middle of the night when I woke up to Karen in a lot of pain. She’d clearly been like that for a while and I could tell from her response to my query that she was coping with it. We’d both been to antenatal classes and we had been doing quite a bit of reading up so I knew that in these earliest stages that I wasn’t needed as urgently as I would be later, so I took the chance to get a few more hours sleep. When I woke up around 6am Karen’s contractions were now much more pronounced and I could see the pain was starting to build. Karen called into the labour ward for advice and was advised to stay at home until there were 3 contractions within 10 minutes. I tried to comfort Karen as best I could and to help guide her through the pain but even at this early stage I was confused and astonished by how much pain she appeared to be in. Pain is such a difficult thing to interpret, it’s different for all of us. Was she really in agony or did she just have a lower threshold for pain? Should I be worried, was this normal?
We got her into a warm bath and that seemed to ease her pain and make the contractions more bearable and later the tens machine seemed to help by being a distraction but there was still an edge to the pain that made me uncomfortable. When we later found out that Karen had a distended bowel it all made sense.
After several hours of contractions we finally hit the 3 in 10 mark and headed to the maternity unit. The result of the initial exam was not what either of us wanted to hear as we found that Karen was only 2cm dilated and that we would have to go home. This was the point that was probably the worst for me as I felt completely lost. While I maintained a calm exterior, inside I was in knots. I knew how much she didn’t want to go home and how she was suffering but how could I challenge what the midwives were saying!?
I was trying to help Karen back to the car while she was being struck by contraction after contraction, waves of agony and vomiting after every few steps. Our saviour came in the form of a tiny nurse who rather than walking past us grabbed a wheelchair and took us back to the ward.
The midwives who had so recently sent us away looked anything but impressed. From their entire demeanour I could tell they didn’t believe Karen was in as much pain as she was making out. Thankfully however they did take action and gave Karen an injection of morphine.
From this point on things for me got much better. Now I could get into birthing mode! I let Karen rest for about an hour to try and regain some strength. Then we were dancing round the room and I had her bouncing and rocking on a birthing ball while rubbing her back and cracking wise!
Then just after the shift change our new 8 foot tall Glaswegian nurse took over and proclaimed that we were at the coveted 4cm! Thank goodness too as Karen was well on her way to being exhausted at this point. Onto the bed and lots of gas and air!
The rest of the labour is a bit of a blur… The baby had an elevated heart beat so we were moved to the main ward. Karen then also had an elevated heart beat. Then everyone’s hearts were too slow. Then after hours in labour we were only at 6cm. Then the placenta was cut and we found out that the baby had released myconium into the womb. Then the pain got worse and Karen got her epidural. Then it was morning and we were still at 6cm.
It’s important to mention how fantastic that midwife was, reassuring us and explaining everything. Really laid back and not adding any stress to the situation.
At this point a probe was attached to the baby’s head to see if it was in any distress. Thankfully it wasn’t and we were then given a choice, to either continue to wait for another four hours in-case we progressed or to go with a c-section. We would have been given time to choose but again the benefits of being well researched and knowing the increased risks of infection it was an easy choice that we both made together, instantly… much to the surprise of the doctor!
So off we went into surgery. Now when it comes to blood, cuts, anything gory at all I’m not fazed. I’m a first aider and I have had to deal with a few nasty things in my time. However when it comes to a loved one in pain or in distress I empathise to the point that I get caught up in it. Thankfully Karen was amazingly brave and stayed completely cool throughout the entire procedure.
Yet again we were in the presence of another star of the hospital, a deep voiced, handsome anaesthesiologist who calmly talked us through everything, reassuring us all the way.
It wasn’t long before I was asked to look around the curtain separating us from the surgery to see a baby pop out of Karen’s stomach, a cry and the words “it’s a girl” ring in my ear. I glanced patiently across the room as they gave Sorsha a clean and checked her over. I was still mainly focussed on mum at this point and making sure she was OK!
I was called over to meet my little girl for the first time and was greeted by a cute little pink squishy face… and a puddle of dark green poo! 🙂
She was being helped to breath by a mask though and I could see that she was having to put in quite a bit of effort and there was some green foam around her mouth. Everyone was very calm and reassuring and advised me that she would have to be taken to intensive care to be monitored and to be given antibiotics to prevent possible infection.
I was then asked to leave and get ready to meet Karen after they had finished putting all the bits back in! I decided to head down to the intensive care unit to see Sorsha and again was met with one of the not so nice people on our journey. A very rude woman who basically told me off for coming down without phoning in advance and that Sorsha was not ready to be seen yet. I’m not entirely sure how I remained composed at that point but thank fully I did. I knew what was going on thanks to the Doctor’s previous explanation but I had no idea of time scales or phone procedure.
I headed back up to see Karen and she arrived a few moments later looking very tired, beautiful and in good spirits all things considered. While Karen was given a bed-bath I headed down again and this time got to see my little elephant, at least that’s how she looked with a large breathing apparatus on her face! I chatted to the midwives to see how she was and then headed back to mum with a few photos for her to see.
I could see that everyone was OK so I took the opportunity to head home to feed the pets and get a shower before coming back. Karen had been moved onto a ward now and I was surprised to hear that she had little to tell me as an update.
I headed down to Sorsha again and found that my strong little girl was off the ventilator! I had got the chance to put my hand in to touch my fragile little baby and feel the warmth of her perfect smooth skin. It’s amazing though despite this how distant she felt.
When I returned to Karen the family had all arrived much confused around where little Sorsha was. After finding out what we’d been through everyone was understanding.
The following day I got to hold Sorsha for the first time as she had been moved to the high dependency unit. That’s when I felt it! It was like wave of warmth. I love this little thing with all my heart! It was funny listening to the midwife coo at me watching it happen. As I sat there feeding Sorsha I knew that this wasn’t right. Karen should have been the first to hold her and I knew it would hit her soon!
When I returned to the ward I found Karen had been given a large breast pump. A nurse had, with little instruction, told her to get on with pumping! I have no idea how someone could be so callous. Did she not understand that Karen might be feeling vulnerable having not seen her baby after a traumatic labour? That her tone might make Karen feel like she wasn’t doing enough, not trying hard enough for her little girl? It took me a few minutes to pull Karen together and reassured her and helped her and very nearly snarled the nurse’s head off when she returned to see how Karen was progressing. A few words with her boss and we didn’t have to deal with her again.
This is where I feel we were let down. They did a fantastic job of looking after Karen and a fantastic job of looking after Sorsha but they just didn’t seem to be motivated to get them together as fast as possible. Considering how much they talk about early bonding and establishing breast feeding I would have expected them to be pushing to get Karen to Sorsha asap.
Also despite being so preachy about breastfeeding they didn’t seem to be able to or motivate to help. Does every woman manage to perfecty breastfeed? Do they never have women who are trying to feed a baby who has been gorged on formula while they recovered? You’d think they’d be up to speed on contingencies!
As the day progressed we were waiting for a midwife to arrange to get Karen down and it was getting later and later. Finally Karen showed me that she was losing her composure and that was enough for me. I took her hostage and off we went down to see Sorsha.
Upon arrival we were again met with a baffling inability to get those two together and a midwife who seemed to think it was better to wait until Sorsha’s next feed. Thankfully she agreed to let Karen hold her own baby! This was it, the moment that I felt like a father. I was looking down at the two of them cuddled up both looking so content and Karen so happy.
Around a day and a half later we finally left the hospital with our new baby. I have learned so much from this experience and when we decide to have number two we’ll be so much more in control.
I felt that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary was a bit of a mixed bag and while there were several shining examples of great care and support the experience was damaged by a few who had maybe grown cynical with their many years.
Overall it was positive experience and I walked away with the most wonderful gift of my life! The little girl I always wanted.