The Birth of Nahla Fox
I walked in the door after a long day in the office and was met by my husband asking “Nik, when are we going to have a baby?”
It caught me completely by surprise; I hadn't even put my bags down at this point.
We always knew we were going to have a family, but we were yet to place a timeframe on it.
He had tried initiating this conversation many times over the past year, but this particular night I knew he was serious, he had reached his limit and there was no way he was letting me leave without giving him a solid answer.
His approach worked.
He asked me to list three reasons why we couldn’t start trying; I couldn’t list one. I had been so caught up in building a successful business that I had forgotten about the actual point of working so hard - to live a beautiful life, and of course, that life involved a little human.
Once I stopped for a second and imagined having a baby with my soul mate, it was all I could think about.
We started trying and fell pregnant quickly, but sadly we lost our baby at ten weeks. This was the most devastating time of our life; we went from falling madly in love and picturing our life as a family of three to experiencing grief and loss that is simply indescribable. Chris and I talk more about our miscarriage experience here.
Pregnancy after a miscarriage is tough, and Google is not your friend!
It’s true what they say; ignorance is bliss. With our first pregnancy, we were blissfully ignorant, but things were incredibly different the second time around - it’s almost like we were waiting, anticipating that something was going to happen, trying to prepare ourselves for the worst, just in case.
I didn’t feel at ease at all during my pregnancy; I was so worried that we would yet again experience the pain of falling in love with a baby we would never meet.
My medical experience and all sense of rational thinking went out the door. Every tiny niggle or symptom, I googled. I was a paranoid mess.
Did I enjoy being pregnant? In a word, no!
I had this annoying all day sickness; I was deficient in everything I was tested for, I had hyperthyroidism and gestational diabetes - not a great combination when you're a woman determined to continue working at full capacity until the baby arrived!
At about 25 weeks, she measured small, around the 10th percentile. I was told this was normal and could change quickly from week to week. I was surprised she was small, since being diagnosed with gestational diabetes I was convinced I would end up having a huge baby and on the front cover of the news with a headline that read ‘Small lady, gigantic baby’.
I reached 32 weeks and began having fortnightly scans and monitoring three times a week in the hospital, she was sitting at the 6th percentile at this stage, but everything was only precautionary, and results were all positive. My obstetrician (OB) had briefly mentioned the possibility of an induction at 37 weeks but insisted on only discussing this closer if required.
It was 9 pm on a Thursday night, we were in bed, and our little girl was extremely active - more so than usual. You could see her body parts pushing against my belly; she was rolling around and moving from side to side. We laughed about how crazy she was.
Suddenly, she went quiet. I felt nothing, no kicks, no hiccups and no tiny little feet pushing in my ribs, not a peep from her all night.
I had met a lady in the early days of my pregnancy. She had experienced abnormal movements of her baby at 40 weeks. Sadly, her baby was born into heaven. She told me movement is the only way our baby can communicate with us. Because of her, I was very aware of my baby's movements. I counted her kicks, and I knew what was normal and what was unusual. Knowing this helped keep my baby safe.
I got up, I moved around, I drank cold water but nothing, she didn't move. Hours had passed.
I felt worried. I didn’t want to overact. I hoped she was sleeping and recovering from the impromptu party she held in my belly earlier.
I didn’t sleep that night. I tossed and turned. I laid still trying to feel something, anything.
I had a routine scan booked for 8 am the following morning; this was the longest night of my life.
During the scan I could tell something wasn’t right.
I had been getting scans regularly throughout my pregnancy. I was on a first name basis with the technician - but today she was quiet. In silence she scanned, she measured and asked me to move positions. She asked if I had felt any movements today and quickly added that that baby’s heart is beating, but she was concerned as she had not moved at all during the scan.
Deep down I knew something was wrong with my baby; she had told me in her own way the night before - through movement.
She now measured at the 3rd percentile, she wasn’t growing, and her blood was being redirected to her vital organs to keep her alive.
I was sent straight to the hospital for monitoring, and we quickly found ourselves discussing induction versus caesar with our OB.
It didn’t seem real. I hadn’t reached the stage in my pregnancy yet where I had spent much time thinking about or emotionally preparing for the birth and now all of a sudden we were told that we would be having a baby in the next 24 hours - we thought we had at least another month!
It was an unusual situation as we had been told that our baby was distressed, but there also didn't seem like there was a massive sense of urgency to get her out. We were still allowed to decide whether to go down the path of induction or opt for a caesar.
We decided to try induction. In hindsight, knowing what we know now, we would have chosen the c section straight away.
She was being monitored every hour, and her heart rate was high. The nurses commented saying that she must not like the monitor being on, but I had been monitored three times per week for the past month - I knew the heart rate spike wasn’t because she didn’t like the monitor, this was abnormal for my baby, she was trying to tell us something.
After a night of attempting to induce labour with no success, my OB tried to break my waters. Trust my husband to need to go to the bathroom at this exact time! It was extremely painful, uncomfortable and it didn’t work.
Still at this point, although she was showing signs of distress, the professionals seemed calm, like I had options and time up my sleeve. At one point even giving me the option of going home and returning another day.
I had an overwhelming feeling, its difficult to explain but quickly my thought process about the delivery and the birth of my daughter changed. It was like a light switched on and I knew what I had to do. It was no longer about what we had planned for her birth or what we wanted in an ideal situation. It was about delivering our baby girl safely, and as soon as possible.
Some might say this was my first experience of Mother’s intuition, a six sense telling me she was in danger.
Within 15 minutes I was in the operating theatre. I was lucky enough to have both my husband and sister with me.
The staff were incredibly kind and reassuring. They were relaxed and professional, all lining up and one by one introducing themselves and what role each would play in the c section.
I was in a good place emotionally; I was confident in my decision and the team that would be delivering my baby and more ready than ever to hold our precious girl.
After the spinal block, the anaesthetist used a piece of ice and held it on the side of my face and told me to concentrate on the cold sensation, he then placed the ice on my leg and asked if I could feel the coldness. I was paranoid that I still had feeling, I made him do the test 3 times just to be sure! It’s so strange as I could feel the pressure of the ice, but I couldn’t feel the cold - it's a difficult thing to get your head around!
With a sheet in front of my face, my sister behind me holding two phones and a GoPro, determined to capture every second and holding my husband's hand, the enormity of how life was about to change hit me. I looked up at my husband. His head was down. I reassured him I was okay, tears streaming down his face and completely overwhelmed he responded: "can you believe we are about to meet our baby?".
Within seconds we heard the sweet cry of our baby girl. She was here. 2.43kg and 42cm - she was beautiful.
I held her for about a minute, but suddenly I felt really unwell. I had this sense of ‘impending doom’ rush over my body, I thought I was about to die. My baby was taken and replaced with a vomit bag, and I wouldn’t see her again for almost 7 hours.
I was taken back into my room where I started to receive updates from my sister and husband who were running between both rooms.
Initially, she was doing fine, but then she started to become more and more unwell, and her condition became serious. First, her blood sugar levels were low, then her temperature was dropping, and her oxygen levels reached an alarmingly low level - to the point where my sister was asked to hold a tiny resuscitation mask over her face to deliver oxygen, while the nursing team prepared for the worst.
I felt so far away from my baby; I felt like we didn’t get the chance to bond with her like I had imagined and I that I hadn’t been given the chance to fall in love at first sight. I was emotional, in pain and exhausted.
Finally, the paediatrician came to see me and advised that Nahla had extremely low platelet levels and required immediate transfer to another hospital for a blood transfusion.
That was my breaking point. I was a paramedic; I knew what platelets do. I knew they prevent bleeding and I knew how lucky we were to have delivered her via c section. A vaginal birth with extremely low platelet levels could have resulted in bleeding in the brain due to the pressure. I was told that Nahla would be transferred but there was no bed for me and I would need to stay. It was like a nightmare.
My sister was incredible; she was our rock. She stayed by Nahla’s side, she sang to her, held her tiny hand, she kept me informed and was amazing. I am so grateful that Rach was there, we truly needed her.
Still, at this point, I had only held my baby for one short minute. Rach saw me crying, she knew just how much I wanted to be with my baby, and she made it happen. I don’t think the nurses even realised how long it had been since I had seen Nahla, they were busy keeping her safe and healthy.
Rach demanded a wheelchair, helped me get in and pushed me into special care. In a humi-crib, with a nasal tube, a heart and oxygen monitor, drips and leads connected, was my little love.
7 hours after giving birth, but what felt like an eternity, I held my little girl, skin to skin, with my husband arms wrapped tightly around us both. I have never felt more complete in my life.
Over the next seven days, our little girl went from strength to strength and showed us all how incredibly resilient she was. We were discharged home with a healthy girl and were more in love than ever.
I had imagined my first week with our baby to be completely different. My birth was certainly not what I had expected, but I have no regrets and no guilt.
My advice to expecting mamas is to trust your instincts and trust your connection with your baby. I truly believe it saved my daughter’s life.
The wonderful woman who spoke with me about being conscious of my baby's movements is the founder of a fantastic not-for-profit organisation called Still Aware.
Still Aware is driving change and working tirelessly to reduce preventable stillbirth through awareness and education.
I highly recommend you heading to their website and educating yourself about bonding with your bump and monitoring your bub's movements.