January 24th, 2007 our second daughter was scheduled to arrive via repeat C-section. On the 22nd, our bags were packed and ready to go as I was delivering in my home town about 40 minutes away. I planned to drive in on the 23rd for my pre-op appointment where my parents could watch our 20 month old and then we would spend the night, my husband intending to join us at the end of his work day. The surgery was scheduled for first thing January 24th.
On January 23rd my husband left for work around 5:15am and I hopped in the shower to get cleaned up and tie up any loose ends before leaving. At 6am I felt the sensation to have a bowel movement. I did, it was normal, not diarrhea or anything odd and I went about my morning. Ten minutes later the sensation returned, about a minute after the sensation was gone. Ten minutes later, same thing. Then, the next sensation was a little sooner but felt much more like period cramps. Oh no, I thought...could this be labour??? My first daughter was breech so she was born via scheduled Cesarean and I never experienced labour. This was new to me.
I’m now tidying the kitchen and 8 minutes later the period cramps hit again! “Uh oh”, I think. Just before I think to go wake my daughter up and start making our way to my hometown she starts crying and I go in to find her in a bed full of vomit! Her first every stomach bug and I might be in labour! “Are you kidding me?”
I get her cleaned up, communicate with my parents what is going on and we hit the road.
Leaving my house the sensation is coming every 8 minutes. About 5km (3 miles) down the highway the sensation is changing again. Now it feels more painful than when you have your period and I think they are coming about every 6 minutes. This is when I realize that I am actually in labour! I have been communicating with various people. My husband knows that I “might” be in labour. My friend in Florida is urging me to get to the nearest hospital and my best friend is telling me her contractions were 6 minutes apart for 12 hours...that I have plenty of time! Another 5 km and I can no longer talk through the contractions and they are coming every 4 minutes. Oh, I’m in rush hour traffic and if you’ve ever been to the Toronto area you know this is not a good place to be while in labour!
I called my husband at work again. They had sent him home in case! Phew! He worked about 50 minutes in the opposite direction of our house, an hour and a half away from the hospital I’m driving too. Now I’m worried he might not make it. I called my parents and asked them to start driving towards me to take over driving my van. I couldn’t keep doing this. This is when my Dad suggested I called 911 and ask if they might offer a police escort! Apparently I came into the world with a police escort guiding us to the hospital so he thought this would be a great idea. The 911 responder didn’t think it was such a great idea. “We send an ambulance when a woman is driving in labour with a baby in the back seat” was her response and we made arrangements for where to pull over to meet the ambulance. I told her I needed to get off the phone and call my family so that they knew where to meet me and collect my daughter. The 911 responder said “Sure, I’ll let you go but just call back if you need to. I can walk you through this over the phone”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There was no way this baby was coming in the back seat of my van with my 20 month old child overseeing...NO WAY!
I was greeted by sirens moments later. Ambulance and police! It was quite the greeting. They wanted to take me to the closest hospital but I was requesting they take me to the hospital where my OB works and I had my first daughter. They considered it until they realized my next two contractions were 2 minutes apart and lasting over 45 seconds...NOPE, I was going to a local hospital that has a bad reputation, or so I’d heard!
En route I got the best IV I’ve ever received. If ever you can get one from a paramedic (instead of a nurse) I highly recommend it! They wheeled me in through the ER department and got me up to L&D. The nurse was walking next to me, gathering as much information as she could. She figured I’d be having this baby soon and guessed I would be 9cm dilated and could have the baby vaginally! That freaked me out a bit...I was mentally prepared for a C-section, not a vaginal delivery. Oh and it would have been too late for an epidural too.
The nurse got me to my room, hooked me up to all the monitors and checked me. I was only 1-2 cm dilated! Everyone was shocked. The OB on call happened to be the Chief of Obstetrics and a lovely older gentleman. He came in to chat and sort of laughed saying that I’d be doing this for a while, and since the paramedics were still at the hospital filling out their paperwork that he’d send me to my hospital and was personally calling my doctor to let them know I would be coming. But, before they could send me they needed to fill out some forms and monitor the baby.
Oh, my husband still isn’t here! But all four grandparents are, and so is my sister, my daughter’s favourite Auntie, so she’s quite happy despite being sick.
Monitor isn’t picking up any movement. Heartrate is strong, at 158, but is not fluctuating with contractions as it should be. They do an ultrasound and it doesn’t show anything abnormal but they are concerned so they pump my IV full of glucose to try to “wake up baby”. Nothing. Nada. Baby will not move. I’m on my knees, I’m on my side, I’m walking, I’m sitting and baby still will not move. After 30 minutes they determine baby is in distress. A resident comes in and informs me they are prepping the OR, baby needs to come out now!
Oh, my husband has arrived! Phew!
I have done this before. My first section was easy. I was anxious but not overly. This time I’m a ball of nerves. The OR is filled with all kinds of extra people. Pediatrician on call has been notified and is on her way. The NICU nurses are in scrubs and behind a glass and there is a respiratory therapist (RT) standing next to me. I have had four Cesareans and this is the only one that I cried during. I just knew something was wrong but we didn’t know what yet.
The surgery began and when they opened me up the OB announced “Looks like an abruption, there is a lot of blood”. They discovered meconium too and lifted my lifeless baby from inside me. For 9 months she had been warm and safe and secure and now in her last moments inside me and as she came out her life was at risk. She was blue, not breathing and limp. The RT started working on her and explained that she had ingested copious amounts of blood. They put tubes down into her lungs and her little tummy to suction all the blood and meconium out. They got a little breath and a tiny cry out of her before whisking her away. My husband quickly followed and they gave me something strong to settle my nerves. I think I slept a while, I do not remember leaving the OR or the first hours of recovery.
A few hours later they wheeled me into the NICU where I got to “meet” my baby girl! The pediatrician explained to us that usually when babies come out of this kind of environment they are no longer alive but that now that she’s out she has an excellent chance of survival and was doing very, very well considering what was probably going on for a few days prior to my body trying to evacuate her!
The team figures that my placenta started coming away four days prior when I’d had a little slip down a few stairs. I never fell but my body was jarred and it is the only conclusion anyone can come up with. They figure that she was loosing blood from the lifted placenta but not getting new/fresh nutrients. We were very lucky she lived and is a thriving 5 year old today! Definitely the toughest of my four girls! She is a fighter!
She spent 24 hours on a CPAP, another 12 on oxygen but had to stay in the NICU for 48 hours as she was on antibiotics for an elevated white blood cell count, attributed to the stress of the event, there didn’t end up being any evidence of infection.
For the first 24 hours I couldn’t hold or feed my baby. It was like torture but she was being cared for and all my thoughts of this horrible hospital were washed away! Every single nurse, doctor and other medical professional we had the pleasure to deal with was amazing, caring and doing an amazing job taking care of me and our baby girl! Once her CPAP came off we were able to see her perfect little face! We named her Stella and she continues to be such a blessing in our lives every single day!Stella now!