Meeting Leo Joseph
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
My husband and I were expecting our first child in early April 2019. My pregnancy was textbook, and I feel very lucky to have had such an idyllic, first experience. Ideally, I wanted a natural birth with as little intervention as possible, and finally, after 41 weeks and 1 day, our little boy decided it was time.
My labour was brought upon almost immediately after sex (which my husband likes to claim as his accomplishment). I was having mild contractions but nothing out of the ordinary for me as I had regular Braxton Hicks and cramping from about two weeks before my due date. We went to sleep, and about two hours later at 12am, I got up to go to the toilet. I noticed I was still cramping, and after I had just done a number one, another moderate amount of liquid came out. I wasn’t quite sure which hole it came out of so I stood up, and it happened again. I yelled out to my husband, “babe, I think my waters broke! Something just came out that wasn’t wee!” He yelled back “are you serious? Or are you pulling my leg?” As I walked back into our room a lot more liquid trickled out onto our floor. He looked down at the floor and said, “guess not!”
We called the birth suite and were told to come in to be checked. When we arrived at the birth suite, I was told that I was 2cm dilated, so I had the option of staying at the hospital in the maternity ward or going back home to progress. It was about 2am at this point, and I chose to go home as this was what I had planned for and we lived only 15 minutes away. Almost as soon as we got back, my contractions became more intense, and I was working harder to get through them. My husband drew up a warm bath, lit some candles and put on a calming playlist. I stayed in the bath for about 10 minutes before it became very uncomfortable and I couldn’t deal with the contractions well. I was then pacing up and down the house leaning on the kitchen counter, hunched over the dining table chairs, bending over the side of the bed. There was no position to make the contractions easier to deal with! My contractions were confusing (not textbook), and my husband and I were unsure as to when the appropriate time to go back to the hospital was. I was barely getting any rest in between, and they seemed to come 3 at a time, lasting different times. At one point, I yelled out that I wanted to go back to the hospital and wanted the epidural. But because we were so confused about the contractions and my husband knew that the epidural was my last resort, he kept encouraging me that “I could do it” and to “stay strong!”. I wanted to throw the closest object to me at his head! But with lots of controlled breathing, a solid mental game and trying not to fight the contractions, I kept going.
Around 4.30am, I was on all fours contracting on our bed when I felt my body wanting to push. This happened twice before I turned to my husband and told him what I was feeling. He called the birth suite, and they told us to call an ambulance and get there NOW. While waiting for the ambulance, we both prepared to have a baby on our bed! The emergency operator was instructing my husband to get lots of towels, find some bobby pins (to clamp the umbilical cord) and to keep checking to see if he could see the baby’s head! I was beside myself thinking this was not how or where I wanted to give birth! Within 15 minutes, two ambulances arrived at our house, and we were quickly on our way to the hospital. My contractions were so intense, and the urge to push was strong. I thought I was going to give birth (again) in the back of the ambulance, but somehow I managed to hold on while trying not to fight my body too much.
Upon arriving at the birth suite for the second time, the midwife checked me and said, “you’re fully dilated! This baby is coming out right now, time to push!” There was no time for pain relief, but at that moment, I didn’t care, I was so internally focused with my eyes closed and preparing myself for the next stage. It was about 6am now, and I pushed for a good 30 minutes before the baby’s heart rate became challenging to read through the EFM around my belly. They asked to put a monitor on his head, and after agreeing, we all listened to his heart rate beating very slowly. I began to notice that my contractions were not very strong, and I wasn’t really feeling the urge to push anymore.
My husband tells me this was the point when the head midwife left the room and called a doctor. I finally re-opened my eyes to see that there were about 15 more midwives in the room and a doctor at the end of my bed. She told us she was worried about the baby and that he needed to come out right now. The midwives then put my legs into stirrups, and the doctor told me she wanted to use a suction cup to assist the delivery, as well as performing an episiotomy. I told her I didn’t want the episiotomy but accepted that I needed help to get baby out. The doctor and I then worked hard together to get my baby boy out. I don’t remember too much about the delivery apart from when his head crowned and then the instant release of pressure once his head was born. Thankfully, our son came out crying, and when they pulled him up, we saw that the cord was wrapped around his neck. They wiped him down and placed him on my chest. I looked down at him in awe and excitement. I couldn’t believe he was mine! I was so happy to meet him face to face finally.
I delivered the placenta after an oxytocin jab and was happy it was all over. I looked down at the doctor and asked her what the damage was. She told me I had a 2nd-degree tear and also an internal tear. She began to suture me up, and the midwives started their post delivery practices. One of those included pressing down on my stomach to feel if my uterus was contracting. It wasn’t. Every time they pressed into my belly, it was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt, and I would say it was more painful than the delivery of the baby. In addition to this, every push I felt gushes of liquid coming out of my vagina. I wasn’t sure what it was until I looked down and saw so much blood. I knew that bleeding was normal in childbirth, but I also had the feeling something wasn’t right. I never saw it, but my husband told me I was passing blood clots the size of my fist. I then received another jab to help with the blood clotting and a cannula in my arm. I usually hate needles, but I didn’t feel a thing compared to the pain in my stomach.
The doctors then had a change of shift, and when the new doctor came in and checked me out, I was still heavily bleeding. She offered to try and fix the internal mess there but said if she couldn’t, then I would likely need to go to the theatre straight away. The midwives put me on the gas (which did absolutely nothing), and the doctor whipped out these giant metal instruments that were inserted inside me. As she tried to repair things, I thought I was going to pass out. I was crying and yelling while desperately sucking on gas in the hope it would make the immense pain go away. After roughly five minutes the doctor said to me, “look we’re going to have to take you to the theatre. There’s not much more I can do here with you being awake and in so much pain”. I told her I was scared, and she replied that I was in really great hands and that I needed to go; otherwise, I was at risk of life-threatening complications.
I was then wheeled off to the theatre, leaving behind my husband with our newborn in one hand and a syringe of my colostrum in the other. It only took a few hours before I was happily reunited with my new, little family.
I spent the next four days in the hospital recovering. Night times were the hardest because I was alone and exhausted, but I had to try and express colostrum every 2-3 hours. During the recovery, my body went into survival mode, and my milk refused to come, my veins shrivelled away (making blood tests really challenging for everyone involved) and I ended up needing two blood transfusions. In total, I lost somewhere between 1.6 litres to 1.8 litres of blood, which is a severe haemorrhage. For someone like me, who is only 5’2 and normally weighs 59kg - that is quite significant. I looked like a ghost, and I felt like one!
It took me a good 8 weeks to start feeling “normal” again, and as though I had begun to recover. I had to remind myself religiously every day that it was going to take a little longer to recover compared to other natural births because of the different traumas my body went through. Postpartum haemorrhage was something I had never heard of before or during pregnancy, and the experience completely shook me. But I am so thankful that both our son and I came out the other end thriving and healthy. I am amazed at the female body and how resilient, adaptive and magical it is.
We named our son Leo, which to us means strong and brave. We actually picked the name before the birth, and I can’t help but think it wasn’t mere coincidence. His name not only reflects his own character but reminds us of his birth and the team of bold and dedicated people who brought him into this world.