I knew I was pregnant before I had even missed my period, I felt different, my boobs were tender and sore, my senses were heightened, and my appetite had changed. The months that followed were full of sick bags and lollipops. I couldn’t keep much down except for toast. I waited patiently for the first trimester to end, expecting it to bring an end to my vomiting, it didn’t. My morning sickness never really went away, it would die off for a little while and then come back, and it was worsened by horrendous reflux in the last trimester.
At 30 weeks, I was gardening outside on a warm day in the afternoon when I realised I hadn’t felt any movements since that morning. I decided to lay down and have a cold drink before contacting the hospital. After an hours wait I told my husband, MJ, I wanted to go in, I just didn’t feel right.
We went into the hospital that night, and they hooked me up to the CTG, and within half an hour, we were being discharged because she looked great. I told the midwives how sorry I was for wasting their time and that I felt a bit stupid for worrying; they assured me that it was never stupid to come and get checked.
In the same week, I had swelled up a bit in my face, hands, feet and legs. My boss encouraged me to try and get in to see my OB straight away and to take the swelling as a serious symptom; it was hot during my last trimester, so I was dismissing the swelling as a result of the heat.
My OB cleared the swelling, I didn’t have pre-eclampsia or any blood pressure issues, but he was concerned about the size of our girl, she was running small, about two weeks smaller than she was meant to be. I was sent off for a more in-depth ultrasound straight away.
The ultrasound was pretty serious compared to my previous ones, and the call I received from my OB following the scan was unexpected.
Our girl was confirmed to be measuring small, her size was around that of a 28-week old fetus, and we were almost 31 weeks gestational. The blood flow running from the placenta to her was only functioning at 50%. She wasn’t getting enough of anything. It was a really scary situation. We were told straight away to prepare ourselves for delivery soon and for a long stay in the special care nursery after she arrived. We were told that we would be looking at a c-section due to her size as it would be risky to induce as it would most likely cause her a great deal of stress and she wouldn’t cope. This was our first pregnancy, and my expectations of what my birth and first few weeks of motherhood looked like were all changed. It was a big mindset change, we had to be at peace with whatever happened, and each day that went by we were thankful that she was able to grow a little bit more. We were also fortunate enough to know that we had a stay at special care nursery in our future. It meant that we had time to get our heads around it all, by the time we got to special care the initial shock and sadness had passed, and we just took it for what it was.
My days were then spent at appointments and in the hospital, I was given one round of steroid injections, I had a lengthy CTG with the hospital three times a week, checking in with my OB three times a week and a doppler scan to check blood flow from the placenta two times a week. If at any time she stopped growing or the blood flow in my placenta dropped any lower they were going to need to take her out via c-section immediately.
Our OB and ultrasound technician didn’t think we would get past 32 weeks gestation. So, when on Wednesday 27th of November I was at 36 weeks gestation everyone was thrilled, we were at a good chance to get to 37 weeks.
But it wasn’t meant to be - our girl had other plans! We had been working late on her nursery Wednesday night and had only just got to bed around midnight when a couple of hours later at 2 am on the 28th I woke up suddenly. I could start to feel water trickle down my leg; I got up to go to the toilet, thinking I had wet myself. As soon as I stood up, water gushed out onto the bedroom floor. My waters had broke. I woke my husband up pretty disappointed, we both knew it meant that she was coming out soon, no more time for growing, no more time to prepare anything, we had so longed to get to 37 weeks, and that had disappeared very quickly.
I called the hospital asking if I should bring a bag with me when I came in, the nurse laughed and said I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital for a few days so yes. I didn’t even have a bag packed; it was a frantic and tearful hour while we got ready to head in. I was having mild pain, similar to period pain for the first few hours. Once we were in the hospital, they called my OB, gave me antibiotics, put in an IV in case I needed it later, I was instructed not to eat anything, and I was hooked up to the CTG.
The pain started to ramp up a bit, I could feel the contractions coming in waves, but they were irregular and manageable. I was more bothered by not being allowed to eat than the contractions. My OB saw us around 9 am; he said that if I kept progressing naturally, we could have a vaginal delivery if it didn’t put any stress on the baby. My mindset changed again; I had come to terms with a c-section delivery and felt unprepared for a vaginal delivery. Being connected to the CTG meant I was restricted to a bed or chair, definitely not ideal.
By lunchtime my contractions had died off completely, I was taken off the CTG and sent to have an ultrasound to determine where to go from here. There was talk that if my fluid was still okay and her growth was good that I could keep up the antibiotics just to make it through a few more days. The scan revealed that I had lost a lot of fluid and that our baby hadn’t grown enough since the last scan. Everyone had a discussion, and it was decided that tomorrow morning we would have a planned c-section, it wasn’t urgent enough to do it tonight, waiting until the morning meant more staff were on and we could go into it rested and calm.
I couldn’t believe I was going to meet my baby the next day.
We were taken to the special care nursery to meet some of the staff, see the area and get an understanding of what would happen. We were told to expect for the worst-case scenario, which was at least three weeks in the special care nursery and for her to have breathing difficulties. My biggest fear was how hard it would be to be separated from this baby I was already so in love with. The thought of her being taken away from me was really hard.
I was staying the night in the hospital to be regularly monitored. After dinner and our tour of special care nursery, I sent MJ, my husband, home to get a good nights sleep, feed the dogs and pick up some things we forgot.
I was settled in bed blissfully watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares when my contractions picked back up; they were a lot stronger and regular than what I had experienced that morning. It was 10 pm when I buzzed the midwife to let them know. I was put back on the CTG. The contractions kept getting stronger. My OB was called, I was given some pain relief in the hope they would die down, and I could sleep. It didn’t work. I would fall asleep briefly then wake up to a contraction. I started to cry with each contraction telling the midwife I just wanted to sleep and that I couldn’t do this. After what felt like hours, the midwife said she was going to move me to the birth suite and that I should call MJ. I hadn’t even thought to call MJ, all I could think about was how much I just wanted it all to stop so I could sleep and then have our baby tomorrow.
We got to the birthing suite, and I was given gas. It definitely helped. In the transfer from my room to the birth suite, I got to stand up, instead of laying on the bed with the CTG. Standing up helped more than anything, I could sway my hips, and everything felt more manageable. They couldn’t get a good reading on the CTG when I was standing so I had to lie down again. Within a few minutes, the room was filled with people everywhere. All of a sudden, my OB was by my side; he asked my permission to do an internal. I agreed. I was at 3cm dilated. This didn’t seem like a good thing.
There was a lot of rushing around, and my obstetrician put his hand on my shoulder and calmly told me that she was going to come out now.
I was then given forms to sign, and compression socks were being put on me. I turned to the midwife next to me and asked how long until she comes out, the midwife could see I was a bit out of it and explained that it was getting too much for my baby and she was coming out by c-section right now.
My husband was still at home, half an hour away from the hospital. I called my husband again a bit more frantically this time, explaining he needed to get here now. I must have asked the midwives 20 times if they would wait for him, they assured me they would, but things kept happening around me, I was being wheeled around on the bed when I saw my husband appear, his trip definitely didn’t take him the usual half an hour. He was scrubbed up, and we went into theatre.
I was given a spinal block all while still being monitored on the CTG. I was introduced to the head nurse of special care and our pediatrician. I think a mixture of adrenaline and pain from the contractions allowed me not to feel a thing when I was given the spinal.
This was my first ever surgery. I was pretty nervous and paranoid it would somehow hurt. My husband chatted away to all the staff, asking them how their day was as if nothing else was happening while I apologised for making everyone get out of bed.
The c-section wasn’t what I expected when people tell you that you can feel pushing and pulling, I didn’t expect to feel THAT much pushing and pulling, without any pain, it’s a strange feeling. It didn’t help ease my worries. I just focused on my breathing and repeated affirmations to myself that she was ready to be here.
Before we knew it, she had been lifted out! She was tiny and started crying straight away. I couldn’t have been happier to hear her cry, all I could say to MJ was, she’s crying over and over. We knew that for her to cry by herself meant her lungs and breathing were functioning well.
Minnie Marjorie Callea Williams was born at 2:26 am on the 29th of November, weighing 2.09kg. It had been a hectic 24 hours since my waters had broken.
The pediatrician looked her over and let us know she looked great, MJ went over to the table and cut her cord. She was wrapped up, and I was allowed to cuddle her while I was being stitched up. I was ecstatic. We had expected that she would have to be taken to special care straight away. As they were finishing up it was time for our girl to go to the nursery, MJ stayed with her, and after recovery, they wheeled my bed into the special care nursery, and we had skin-to-skin time and attempted a breastfeed. It was the most beautiful experience, and I am so thankful that we got that time. MJ had been taking photos of her and holding her hand while they had been waiting for me.
When I was eventually wheeled back to my room, and Minnie stayed in the special care nursery I was still on such a high that I could barely sleep, I kept checking the time to see if I could call people. My parents live in WA, so it was a long wait before Victorian time aligned to a decent hour in Perth. I waited until around 6 am Perth time before calling them.
She spent a couple of hours in an incubator but by the next time I saw her she was out in the open in the hospital bassinet. She had a monitor hooked up to her that read her heart rate and oxygen levels. She had a feeding tube put in the next day because she was becoming too tired for every feed. It was the best decision because it meant that she could stay asleep for a couple feeds a day, while still being fed, giving her more energy to breastfeed. We did a combination of breastfeeding, expressed breastmilk, formula and bottles, something that we still do today.
I looked forward to each feed when I would see her again. It was exciting when we got to take her out of special care for a visit in our room. We focused on all the things we got to experience and loved doing with her rather than feeling sad at times we had to leave her to sleep and eat.
We only spent a week in the special care nursery, it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the nightmare I expected it to be. It wasn’t the birth I had imagined when we became pregnant, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, it was meant to be and gave us our daughter. We were supported the whole way through during our stay in the special care nursery; the three of us felt safe and secure. We knew she was healthy and being looked after.