Sarah’s first experience of labour and birth weren’t pleasant. However, despite the stresses of having a premature baby, Sarah feels the experience did have its positives in the way in which it helped ease her into her new role as a mum.
My pregnancy had been pretty straightforward apart from a bleed at seven weeks. However, five weeks before my due date, my waters broke at about 8pm. My husband didn’t believe me at first and asked was I sure I hadn’t just wet myself! I was totally unprepared: I’d only had one antenatal class and hadn’t even packed my hospital bag.
I phoned the hospital and was told to go in after 9pm as there would be new staff on then so the care would be continuous. I spent the next 45 minutes rushing round with a towel between my legs, stuffing random things into a rucksack. At the maternity unit, the staff were lovely and reassuring. I was hooked up to the monitors, which was how I had to stay
for the duration of the labour.
I found it quite reassuring as at least I could hear the baby’s heartbeat as I was very worried he would die.
I was given one steroid injection and told I’d have another in the morning if nothing had happened by 10am. I was also given a canula (so they could run an intravenous infusion) in my hand, which, oddly enough, was the most distressing part of the whole experience as I hate needles.
After that it was just a matter of waiting till things kicked off and I went into the delivery room. Then I started to worry more. I had no idea what to do and as it was the middle of the night we were often left on our own for long periods and I had to send my husband to find someone. When it was obvious that things were speeding up, the midwife came in and stayed.
In the end, my husband ended up holding one of my legs, the midwife the other, while I pushed. I also had to have an episiotomy as the baby was starting to get distressed.
One excellent thing was that the midwife asked a consultant paediatrician to be in at the birth in case of complications.
“They brought me some Polaroids of him in his incubator, which I realised afterwards they had obviously taken in case he didn’t survive. “
When Alfie was born at 7.21am weighing 5lb 9oz, I got to hold him briefly before he was whipped off to the Special Care Baby Unit pretty much straight away as he was having breathing difficulties.
They brought me some Polaroids of him in his incubator, which I realised afterwards they had obviously taken in case he didn’t survive.
This was very important as it meant I had something to look at when I couldn’t be with him. I was obviously tired and dazed so to see him an hour or so later hooked up to machines with needles and tubes everywhere was very difficult. I couldn’t hold him for four days which was awful.
Alfie was in the SCBU for nine days. For the first few, he was on a Continuous Pressure Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine in an incubator, then just in the incubator, then in a heated cot.
“The hardest part was seeing him having so many blood tests”
Luckily, there were plenty of beds free and as I said I wanted to breastfeed I was allowed to stay in with him.
After the first few days of not knowing if he would live or what condition he would be in, it wasn’t too upsetting: more the frustration of not knowing when he could go home and having to wait until the doctors and nurses had finished their rounds before being able to go in to see
him (not easy with full boobs).
I expressed milk and tube-fed him for the first four days but then he managed to start feeding properly and I was allowed to get him out and cuddle him whenever I wanted.
I used to take a book and sit by his incubator and read to keep him company.
The hardest part was seeing him having so many blood tests. I remember crying for ages after watching one doctor unable to find a vein when she was changing his drip from one hand to the other and he was screaming.
There were actually some positives though. I had stitches after my episiotomy so to be able to lounge around in bed being visited and brought food was great, and I got a few good nights of sleep before I had to start doing night feeds.
I also felt eased into motherhood rather than turfed out of hospital after one night so had good help with bathing, nappies etc. Also we only live a 10-minute walk from the hospital so my husband could walk round after work to visit.
Now, Alfie is absolutely fine and is going to be two on 1 October. He was slow at doing some things (he didn’t roll over till he was nine months or walk till he was 14 months) but I haven’t noticed any long-term effects and he is very bright.
We have had another baby as well: a 19-month age gap, so no hanging about for us! I had my bags packed at 30 weeks and when I got to 35 weeks I started to relax.
She was actually five days late so I felt like I had been pregnant forever (and giving birth to a 5lb 9oz baby was a hell of a lot easier than giving birth to a 7lb 8oz one!).
Sarah mum to Alfie