Our first birth story – part two
I remember that my initial reaction wasn’t fear, but excitement. I didn’t think too much about the process, the epidural, the operation at that moment. I didn’t even think about what having a premature baby would mean. We totally trusted Michelle and after so long waiting at the hospital I couldn’t wait to meet our little girl.
Nurses came to shave and gown me in preparation for the operation and at 1.50pm I was helped onto a gurney in my room. The husband held my hand and kissed me goodbye – he had to wait while I was wheeled through a maze of corridors by an orderly. Lying on my back looking at the ceiling I noticed the broken lights and ceiling tiles and thought again how different this probably all was to what most Mums-to-be experienced back at home.
We went up to the fourth floor of the hospital in a noisy goods lift alongside an elderly man in a wheelchair, just inches from my almost bare body. Finally I was wheeled into a large white room and transferred to another table for my epidural. Michelle was there waiting for me, all prepared in her operating gown. The technician barked in Mandarin and Michelle translated that I needed to lie on my side and stay completely still. The table was uncomfortable and I felt like a beached whale. I’d put on so much weight by now that every little movement was difficult. Michelle told me that I would feel a little sting from the injection to numb the area before the epidural was done. Thinking back I can’t isolate the two things in my mind – all I can remember is the pain as the needle went in. And came out. And went in again. I kept thinking that this didn’t seem right. I don’t know how many times they tried to do the epidural but I do remember Michelle holding my hand so tightly and telling me to try and stay calm. I know now that it took 45 minutes.
Eventually they lay me on my back and I started to feel my legs go numb. I was wheeled into another room, the operating theatre, where thankfully Stewart was waiting for me. By this point I was scared. The curtain was put up between Michelle and us and he held my hand. I looked into his face with tears in my eyes.
I didn’t feel the incision. But we both heard the rush of water as it escaped out of me and hit the floor.
Then I started to feel again. Hands inside me, hands tugging, pulling. The pain started as a dull ache but grew quickly. Tears were running down my face and Stewart told Michelle that I could feel everything, that I was in pain. But she said that it was too late, she had to take our baby now.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. Was she ok? Was everything alright? I didn’t care about anything else as long as our baby was safe but the pain kept coming in waves.
And so my amazing husband and I went through the visualisation technique that we’d practised in case we’d been lucky enough to have a natural birth. He took me to our mountain at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. He made me feel the cold air on my skin, showed me the beautiful blue sky. He led me skiing down the mountain as he had done countless times for real and I focussed every ounce of my being on that ski run.
I know now that what I couldn’t see, what he could see as he lifted his head to tell Michelle what I was feeling, was our doctor kneeling on the operating table, her hands in my belly up to her elbow, wrenching our baby out of my body. And I’m all the more grateful for his cool head.
And then she was out. Our beautiful little baby girl, just 66oz, joined us in the world. Through the blur of tears I wanted to see her, to hold her but the nurses put her in an incubator before I had the chance.
We agreed that Daddy should go to be with her. Then… nothing.
I woke up out of a morphine-induced sleep back in our room. I had desperately wanted to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed from the start but as I looked over I could see Michelle sitting on the sofa feeding our baby girl her first milk from a bottle, showing Daddy what to do.
She was so tiny, so fragile, it broke my heart.
Please don’t think that I feel any ill-will towards the nurses and doctors in China. On the contrary without their help we wouldn’t have had our miracle. They did what needed to be done. It wasn’t the fairytale birth that I’d planned for, hoped for, but after five years we finally had our baby girl.