How Ripley entered this world

I had the opportunity to share my birth story with Mother & Baby magazine. It was really scary to have it in a national magazine but I’m glad I shared it. I hope that it might help some people who experience something similar, or at the very least let others know how lucky they are when it all goes smoothly.

The pregnancy was mostly easy with no major problems. Telling family and friends was exciting as no one knew we were planning to start a family. I changed jobs, we renovated our bathroom and started planning other renovations. I stayed active doing Pilates twice a week and walking every day.

I really wanted a ‘go with the flow’ birth plan but being scared of needles, I was not keen to have an epidural or caesarean. Our plan was for me to be at home as long as possible, to use the TENs machine and to be active during birth. At 37 weeks my OB noted my fundal height measurement was closer to 33 weeks. She wasn’t too worried but wanted a growth scan just to be safe. It revealed my son was small for gestation, measuring in the 6th percentile, and so the OB recommended induction two days later. My husband works overseas regularly and was in Scotland. It was a massive shock but I went into crisis mode, got him on the next flight home and started organising to have our baby!

No one at any point mentioned my baby could be unwell and might need care in the nursery, nor any of the risks. The only thing my OB said was that a caesarean was highly likely.

The induction process wasn’t as bad as I had expected; I had four doses of the prostaglandin gel before finally being told I was in active labour after 24 hours. I was dilated to 0.5cm and was able to have my waters broken. Four hours later, there was no progression so my OB recommended syntocinin and an epidural to manage the intensity.

It was my biggest fear, and being as exhausted as I was, I had a bit of a tantrum. But I was actually surprised at how little it hurt. My teeth and jaw started chattering but I was able to rest a little. After 2 hours, the midwife examined me and I had dilated to 4cm. My OB came in 5 mins later, and I was 6cms. Within 20 mins, I was shaking uncontrollably and wanting to vomit, and the midwife told me I was 10cms dilated.

She started setting up for the delivery, and told me to start pushing. My OB arrived moments later and was so excited that it had worked, she told me I was a great pusher, which made me push even harder.

They had a lot of trouble tracking my contractions but I could feel them through the epidural so I would tell them ‘here is a contraction’ and they would tell me to push. After a short time they were not able to track Ripley’s heartbeat so they started to get concerned. They were only tracking it externally so hard to say whether there was a true issue or not. The OB decided on a episiotomy and using the vacuum – I didn’t feel like I had a choice but then again, I was on another planet.

Our son was born at 8.37pm.

I was exhausted after 36 hours of labour but when I saw our son Ripley, I was so ecstatic. At first the OB and midwives thought he was fine; just small at 2.47kgs. He screamed and screamed, wouldn’t latch onto the breast at all. After 20 minutes the midwife noticed his colour – he was dusky and obviously not breathing well. He went to the special care nursery finally after a lot of messing around and there he was resuscitated. He was put on 90% cot oxygen.

After many visits from the paediatrician over 6 hours, it was declared that he was struggling more than they thought. So he was transferred to a higher level hospital, where he spent 24 hours on CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) to help his lungs develop. But it wasn’t enough and so at 2 days old he was transferred to the Royal Children’s Hospital and given a rest on a ventilator. He was taken off the ventilator and extubated after 30 hours but remained on CPAP until day 6.

Then he was diagnosed with meningitis which although asymptomatic, required 3 weeks of IV antibiotics cefotaxime. At 7 days old, he was transferred to a hospital closer to home.

We started breastfeeding at 10 days and while it took some effort and time, he did take to it extremely well which was a huge relief. The hardest part was leaving him to go home and sleep, as well as trying to look after myself when all I want to do is be at the hospital with him. He spent the first month of his life in hospital.

It was a really harrowing experience, and certainly not what we expected.

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