Originally Posted on November 10th 2016
40 weeks seems like an eternity when you first become pregnant. The first 12 weeks feel endless, especially if you have decided not to tell anyone. However as time went on and D day came closer and closer, I realised that 40 weeks is actually a really short amount of time. Not only that but with all the sickness and pact making with Starfish to stay healthy and keep growing, not to mention trying to plan practically for our new very special house guest, I realised that I had given little or no thought to how Starfish would enter the world! Yes he was in his comfy womb with a view (though I shudder to think of what…) and he’d have to get out somehow but I really hadn’t given it any more thought than that.
I embarked on a hypnobirthing course when a friend recommended it. Hypnobirthing is a birth education programme, that teaches simple self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. It really is the embodiment of “mind over matter” and many women who use the techniques report a pain free and more importantly drug free birth.
I had always been told by medical professionals that there was no reason I couldn’t give birth but that it would be most likely via a c section if and when the time came. When I discussed this with my consultant however, she seemed taken aback by the idea and said it would be much better for me to “try and see what happens”. This coupled with the positive affirmations in hypnobirthing where all terms like labour, and contractions are replaced with “birthing process” and “surges” removing the tension and fear in the belief that if the mind doesn’t think it, the body won’t feel it. I started to believe that a “natural” birth might just be possible.
I was very aware however that my own birth was far from straightforward and my cerebral palsy was a direct result of lack of oxygen at birth. In the end, I just couldn’t allow any chances to be taken with Starfish, so in a frank discussion with our consultant, hubby and I explained that we weren’t willing to be lab rats to “see what was possible” and we wanted to be booked in for a c section. We listened to the warnings that it was “major surgery” a “high risk procedure” for me and that I needed to “be well enough to take care of my baby after delivery” and insisted that I was willing to take a chance with my own health and deal with any aftermath but I just wouldn’t compromise Starfish’s safety. We agreed that we’d do everything we could to make Starfish’s entry into the world and first hours as gentle and welcoming as possible to compensate for the section but our 6th sense told us it was absolutely the right thing to do.
With the weight of this decision lifted off my mind, it was replaced with 2 new concerns.
1 I’d heard all the horror stories about how vital it is that you stay still when getting the spinal injection. I am extremely jumpy and I mean, EXTREMELY jumpy. (When hubby first moved in I strongly considered fitting him with a cat style bell round his neck because I often forgot he was in the house only to jump out of my skin when he came back into the room after any length of time.) The last thing I wanted was to jump at the wrong time and end up paralysed.
2 I was all to aware after a meeting with the anaesthetist that the damage to the bones at the bottom of my back after years of poor gait which saw my bones rub off each other like a cheese grater; meant that the spinal would be difficult if not impossible. If it wasn’t possible I would have to be knocked out for delivery. The thought of this was unbearable to me. Not only would it mean that I wouldn’t see Starfish as he made his entrance but hubby wouldn’t be allowed to stay in theatre so he’d miss out too.
I prayed with everything I had and tried to trust my body and Starfish that we would work together to get over this last hurdle.
Just a couple of weeks later and Starfish’s birthday was upon us. It was such a strange feeling waddling out to get into the car that morning and seeing the car seat in the back. I think Starfish knew it was nearly check out time as he was kicking like crazy for the entire journey. So much so that I actually thought my carefully crafted plans would count for nothing and that hubby would have to be midwife on the roadside at one point! Happily however that was not to be and we made it safe and sound to hospital. It all became even more real when we entered our room to the sight of a little cot at the bottom of my bed. I still couldn’t comprehend that in just a few hours there would be a little person in that very cot, our little person.
The next few hours passed in a flash with a flurry of checks and re checks and information about what was going to happen and in what order. Thankfully I was pretty well versed in what would happen in theatre as my lovely cousin is training to be a midwife and she had very kindly talked me through the whole thing minute by minute a week or so earlier.
The midwife we had on the day was fantastic, friendly, happy, reassuring and professional. Things got even better when I met the consultant who would deliver Starfish and he assured me that they would all take great care of Starfish and I and, guess what? He beamed that the anaesthetist was not only good but “the best in Northern Ireland”. He explained again the possibility that the spinal may not be possible but stressed that if this anaesthetist couldn’t do it then no one could. I mentally decided that surely I couldn’t be that much of a medical mystery and we headed off to theatre in high spirits, me inwardly reciting my hypnobirthing affirmations and hubby in toe pushing afore mentioned cot!
Unlike any other trip to an operating theatre I’ve had, by the time we reached the double doors I was euphoric! I met the anaesthetist, one of the jolliest people I’ve ever met and the rest of the amazing theatre staff. Hubby was left outside the door while I was prepared for show time. I sat on the edge of the bed, back arched, hugging a pillow while the anaesthetist explained he would give me 2 general anaesthetic injections before the spinal. I braced myself and retreated inward concentrating on my breathing a la hypno birthing. I heard the anaesthetist count 1 and 2 for the injections but felt nothing. He the asked that I continue with my breathing and give him a minute to find the best place to administer the spinal. About a minute later I asked him to let me know when he was ready to do it, he laughed and suddenly I felt a tingle down my right leg, he’d done it! What’s more, the tingle was a good sign that it was working! I was numb, not paralysed and best of all, AWAKE! I felt like I had won the lottery. Moments later, with a spray of cold water which I couldn’t feel on my belly, everyone agreed that the spinal had been a success. By the time hubby came in the first incision had been made and just 6 minutes later Starfish was born!
It was beyond amazing! There were tears and snot (and that was just from me and hubby) Starfish didn’t cry in the way I expected, he just sort of squeaked to signal his arrival. This panicked me, what was wrong? why wasn’t he crying? Oh no, it was all going so well! Until the midwife brought him to me and as he lay momentarily on my chest I realised that everything was fine and he was just the most chilled out baby ever. Go Starfish!
All too soon I was told that Starfish and Daddy (how weird, hubby was now “Daddy”) would leave me for a while to get stitched and I could join them as soon as possible in recovery. I knew this was coming and we had already discussed that this was a lovely opportunity for some father son bonding time.
As I waited for the medical team to do their thing the anaesthetist congratulated me on my “text book delivery” and our beautiful son. He was so taken by Starfish that he suggested I name him after him. Right in that moment I loved him so much for not knocking me out that I briefly considered his suggestion.
Some time later I made my way to recovery and on the way round the corner I could hear what sounded like an Oscars acceptance speech. I soon realised this was Daddy and Starfish having a full scale (albeit slightly one sided) conversation.
After some more checks we were all allowed back to our room on the ward. Starfish was placed on my chest where he remained for 6 hours of blissful, uninterrupted skin to skin contact.
As I lay looking down at his beautiful big eyes and button nose, with his perfect little hand curled around my finger; it didn’t matter that I had been sick for nearly 7 of the last 10 months, had heartburn for the last 3, been cut open, nor that I was numb from the waist down and would remain so for the rest of the day… Starfish was here and I was the happiest woman alive.