Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Longest Labour Ever

I know I'm doing these posts two weeks late and a little back to front. I should probably first tell you about the journey my pregnancy took me on, and then about the labour. Sorry. The truth is: the journey is a long story, and given the short bursts of 'free' time I have with a newborn in the house, I thought I'd get this abridged account out of the way first.

Sunday 24th September
I had been experiencing prodromal labour for about three week at this point. I was already overdue (something I had never experienced before), and I had made it to the end of the school term without having to take unpaid leave. Zac was away camping on the beach with some of our extended family for the weekend while we were home (because we had expected to have a newborn around already).


It was a slow morning. We were going to collect Zac from camp, and took our time heading out. It was actually really great to get some alone time with Sam, so we ran a few errands, popped in at a friend, and then had a bite on the road en route to the beach. We spent most of the afternoon there before heading home. We even went for a walk on the beach, and took a pic captioned "we are still waiting".

The last of my alone time with my baby Sam

By the time I got to bed, I was having those regular contractions that never amounted to anything and always faded by morning. Then at midnight I could not sleep; the contractions were still as they had been before, except that they were starting to hurt - enough that I couldn't sleep through them. I timed them for an hour while I paced our passage in the dark. They were 10 minutes apart - as they always were at night - but I could no longer lay down through them. I woke Andel to let him know (and he went back to sleep as soon as I told him I didn't think it was that significant).

Monday 25th September
By the time my family woke on Monday morning - which was a public holiday in SA, thank goodness - I had not been back to bed. I had alternated between pacing the house and squatting next to my bed through each contraction, still, 10 minutes apart. I told Andel I hadn't slept but that since the contractions hadn't got any closer together, they would probably fade, and I would be able to make up some sleep during the day. Except, of course, that by midday they hadn't faded. They also hadn't gotten any closer together. They were sore though, and I was not getting a chance to sleep.

We attended the first birthday of our friends' daughter that afternoon. I hadn't planned on staying, but the distraction seemed like a good idea. The contractions kept coming, wave after wave, every 10 minutes, and I had to catch my breath or crouch down as they did. Eventually, after I had had enough of smiling through the pain and answering all the "are you still pregnant?" questions, we head home. I had been (awake) dealing with contractions for 17 hours already!

By 18h00 I was on the phone with my doula trying to figure out what was going on. Contractions were getting mildly closer together, but at eight minutes apart, it still wasn't significant enough to go into hospital, I thought. After all, with Zac (the only other spontaneous labour I'd experienced) I went in with contractions five minutes apart (although admittedly not nearly as sore as what I was already experiencing).

By 19h00, we called the hospital and explained the situation, and the sister on duty told us to come in to be checked out. I was happy with that arrangement; after all, I thought, if I was not in real labour, they would send me back home.

We arrived at hospital, without breaking any traffic laws, in an impressive time given we stay half the world away from the hospital. I was immediately placed on foetal monitoring, and checked out.

After having been examined by the sister on duty (who also happened to be a midwife) my doctor (who happened to be returning from his weekend away) upon hearing it was me, decided he'd come check me out as soon as he was back in town. At this point I  thought I would be going back home.

The doctor arrived to check me out. Despite being 4cm dilated ten minutes earlier when the midwife checked (still in latent labour, and able to go home), when he checked I was 6cm, and officially admitted for the long-haul. I was also now on the clock: I had to dilate consistently, at least 1cm an hour, or things would be considered risky. At this point my contractions were five minutes apart, and while I had to still be constantly connected to the foetal monitor, I could be on my feet. The doctor said he'd come back to check on my around midnight.

I don't think I was ever really prepared for the onslaught my body would have to endure bearing each contraction. Add to this the fact that I had been awake and on my feet nearly 24 hours already, and I was not in good shape. We had been regularly losing the foetal signal while I was contracting, so I had been made to get back on the bed. In this position I was in some serious pain, contracting every minute or two, and my quiet, controlled, breathing-led handling of my labour had been replaced by some wild-animal sounds, and constant begging for some decent pain relief (the gas had not done the trick, and merely caused me to get sick) and/or a c-section. The sister checked me again. My labour had not progressed at all in the two hours since the doctor had been there.

Bed-bound and totally over it

Tuesday 26 September
Upon hearing that I had not dilated any further, I was prepared, willing and happy to do a repeat c-section. I was tired, and my body felt like it was shutting down. Being numbed up, cut open and spared from further pain was a welcoming thought. But when the doctor examined me, not even 30 minutes after the sister did, I was 9cm dilated. This should have been a celebration; knowing that the end was in sight. But I all I could do was beg for an epidural. So they gave me one.

Around 01h00
Getting the epidural in while having constant contractions was no joke. I remember wondering how the heck I was meant to sit 'perfectly still' while my uterus seemed to twist itself into a knot around every other organ in close proximity to it. I squeezed Andel's hands with insurmountable force that I had since not been able to replicate.

Being so close to delivery, I was not allowed to have a full epidural, and so when it eventually kicked in, I was still able to feel and move my legs. In fact, I could still feel the contractions - but I was eternally grateful for the measure of pain relief it brought, especially when my waters were broken. It allowed me to recollect my thoughts and concentrate long enough to hear the doctor tell the sister to prepare for delivery.

Finally I was fully dilated, fully effaced and baby was awaiting ejection. During this time though, what I haven't spent much time mentioning is that, there were concerns. Between me losing the foetal signal and the baby not quite enjoying the contractions, the sister was growing increasingly concerned about the baby's heart rate, and at least three times I thought I was going to be rushed into theatre. The doctor though - bless him! - if he had the same concerns, didn't let on except to tell me, "ok, we don't have hours to do this. You are going to have to push this baby out now".

I got the go ahead to push. I may have felt, for just a second, a little remorse at having the excuse for an epidural that allowed me to feel just about everything except the real urge to push, but that thought didn't last long. As each contraction began, I took a deep breath and bore down hard. Guided by my phenomenal doctor and the amazing sister, and supported by the peaceful reassurance of my wonderful doula and champion husband, this continued only 20 minutes. That was all it took.

The moment of truth

At 02h36, after 26 hours of awake labour, as my doctor lifted a small, squashy (surprise) baby girl for me to see, Bayley Cate Klaasen (who was still nameless at the time) was born.

Checking out of the labour room

Sunday, 17 September 2017

How To: Pack a Hospital Bag

Despite coming around this mountain a third time, when I finally got thinking about packing a bag (around 39+ weeks), I could not for the life of me remember what should be included. I don't know why, but it always seems to happen this way. Add to this that you get offered so many baby bags/boxes from hospitals, stores and medical aids, and you can feel even more confused (at least, I did). so you inevitably end up calling a friend or posting an online SOS asking what exactly needs to be in one.

So here, for future reference (probably not mine), is a list of what should be covered - and before I even start, let me just say that I have opted to pack a small (hand luggage size) suitcase instead of a bag, as it's much easier to see into and access without emptying the entire contents over the hospital bed.

For Mom

Unless you enjoy pumping that hospital soap dispenser twenty times per wash, pack your own shower stuff. Remember to keep it mild and fragrance free for the delicate areas, and to include a cloth or sponge as these are not provided. Also pack shampoo and conditioner, as there's a 99% chance you will want to wash your hair. And don't forget your toothbrush and toothpaste.

You'll need your deodorant, body lotion and hairbrush (don't forget extra hair ties). Lay off the heavy perfumes though. New babies prefer the natural smell of their mommy. Except for lip balm (that is essential when feeling dehydrated) I would also keep make up to a minimum (but that's maybe just me; I hear other mommies pack a lot of that in - for the visitors and photos etc.), and have a small nail kit handy to trim growing nails while working with Baby.

Maternity Wear
You'll need those lovely maternity pads - lots of them (you're likely to be using about three at a time). You can wear ordinary underwear, however, I found that the maternity knickers seem designed to fit those massive pads, so I go with those initially. You'll also need breastpads for when your milk comes in. The washable ones are pretty handy, but I'd go with disposable while in hospital to save you the hassle. A light pyjamas (hospitals are really warm inside) or nursing top (either the strappy kind, or something that is button down in the front) is great for after the birth. If you're planning to labour and deliver vaginally though, bring the oldest t-shirt you have to birth in. Socks also come in handy (compression socks if you're having a c-section), and you should have slops or slippers to walk around in while in hospital. You will obviously need something to wear when you leave hospital as well. Try to remember that while you will no longer have Baby in your belly, you may not be able to fit into those pre-preggie designer outfits just yet.

If you have one, pack your birth plan, and whatever else you need for your labour time. Don't rely on getting snacks and water during the labour period from the hospital itself. It can be time consuming and expensive (not to mention that it requires your birth partner to leave) to do it this way. Pack in some energy-boosters that are not heavy on the system, and that you easily just pop into your mouth to eat. Once Baby has arrived, you may also want a notebook and pen with you so you can jot down the one million things you'll have in your head and heart that you'll want to remember later on. You will need to pack in your phone charger, and very importantly a suitable adapter (hospitals don't readily give these out, if at all). The same goes for earphones so that you can actually get some sound for your middle of the night tv viewing. I found it also helped to have a book to read or crossword puzzle to do between visiting hours when - if you're not sleeping and Baby is - you can have something stimulating to do. If you have a feeding pillow that you plan to use, bring that too. I found it incredibly useful in the hospital.

For Baby

The biggest things are nappies (I highly recommend the Huggies newborn because of the super cool and convenience cutaway at the navel that accommodates the clamp) and wipes (sensitive and fragrance free). You will need surgical spirits and cotton pads to clean Baby's navel, but I wouldn't stress too much about all the other things like powder, aqueous cream, bottom butter etc.; they aren't essential.

With the hospital being as warm as it is inside, more often that not, babies will just wear a clip vest and get wrapped in a blanket. Some hospitals supply this, but if you'd rather have your own, pack it in. Also pack in a beanie and a pair of socks. Have a going home outfit option (or two), and an extra blanket for when you head outside. Once again, a nail scissor is handy (especially if your baby has baked a little longer than expected; their nails are usually longer too).

ps. Don't forget, when going home, you will need a car seat - hospitals will not let you leave without this, and rightfully so.