It has truly been one of the most terrifying, traumatic and yet amazing weeks of my life and I can now say welcome home to my lovely little boy.
I make no apologies for the length of this blog, and have split it into days to try and break it up a bit. It all began last Wednesday...
My waters broke at half-past midnight and, having woken Leigh up and stumbled down to the bathroom leaving a trail of devastation behind me, rang the hospital. I wasn't expecting to have to go in then - contractions didn't appear to have started and the antenatal classes had been saying there was no need to go in until they are regularly 5 minutes apart. Rang the hospital anyway to let them know and we were told to go in for an assessment at 9.
Once my waters broke, the baby's environment is no longer sterile and I knew that if nothing further happened I would be induced in 24 hours. Went back to bed but too excited and anxious to sleep (and making sure I could still feel the baby move!) - L put on some G&S which we listened to. Have no idea whether I slept at all that night, but must have done for a while.
Went to the hospital for 9 - I was now starting to feel contractions and they seemed to be about 10 minutes apart. The midwife we saw strapped me to a monitor which showed the baby's heartbeat (lovely and strong) and could also record my contractions, and further examination showed I was about 2cm dilated! I was really pleased with that - only 8 cm to go (which, according to one antenatal class could be timed at approx 1 cm per hour)... went home again with instructions to ring later when the contractions were about 5 minutes apart.
I had a bath and L made us lunch and attached the TENS machine, and we watched some TV - got through Murder Most Famous which I had been following earlier in the week and also Diagnosis Murder, but by this time the contractions were much closer together. Rang the hospital again and they said to wait until 3-4 minutes apart! This didn't seem to take too long at all, and we were back off to the hospital very shortly afterwards.
The TENS machine was really helping with the contractions - it works by stimulating your nerve endings with pulses of electricity, helping to release endorphins and also by blocking the pain signals to the brain.
In the hospital saw another midwife - again the monitor showed every seemed fine with the baby and further examination showed that in the 6 or 7 hours which had passed since we were last in I had progressed to...3cm dilated! How annoying!!! Went home again.
Rested more, watched Torchwood and the first episode of Cranford and then tried to go to bed. Contractions now coming thick and fast and even with the breathing exercises (ably assisted by L) and TENS the pain was getting worse and I couldn't sleep. About half past midnight I decided I needed more pain relief, so woke L up and we journeyed to the hospital for what we hoped would be the last time!
This time got straight into a delivery room where I was assessed again. Turns out I am now about 5 cm dilated, and we're looking at 4 or 5am before I will be ready to deliver! The midwife also noticed that when my waters broke only the hind waters broke and the fore waters were still in tact so she broke those in order to move things along a bit.
I realised that there was no way I'd go another 4 hours with my contractions the way they were and talked about pain relief with the midwife. I had been planning to try and manage with just the TENS and entinox, but the midwife was very clear that entinox was really only appropriate for the transition stage of labour and I could not have any now! We talked about using pethidine and/or an epidural and although I was initially reluctant, knew that I needed more than the TENS and agreed to pethidine. It made me feel incredibly woozy and light headed, but also let me get some rest as the effect of the contractions was much more muffled. The midwife set up a foldout bed for L and we both managed to doze for a few hours.
Probably around half 4, the contractions changed and I knew that I needed to push. It was then all systems go and I suspect that L's hand got a bit squashed! And let's just say that the position the midwife was getting me in to push was less than dignified! L was great throughout it all, keeping me encouraged and motivated and being so supportive re choice of pain relief. It was very hard work needless to say and at some point, the contractions dropped off a bit so that my pushing wasn't as effective. The doctor came in to assess me as it had been so long since my waters had broken and started to talk to us about possibly having to have an assisted delivery (ventouse or forceps). The midwife was confident we'd get through though - she set me up with a syntocin drip to help strengthen the contractions and finally Zachary was born at 7.14am! All 8lb 4oz and 53cm of him!
He was put on my tummy immediately and my heart melted. He was absolutely perfect.
Zachary was whisked away for measuring and a bit of cleaning up and it appeared that as well as an episiotomy, I had also suffered a tear during labour which would need to be stitched in theatre. I had one final cuddle with my boys, some photos and was then nipped off to theatre.
Was given a spinal anesthetic for the procedure and it is a completely odd sensation to be aware and to see your legs being moved (enter the stirrups...) but to not feel them at all. The main topic of conversation among the theatre staff appeared to be the new shoes which had been ordered - which apparently are fastened by velcro and did not find favour with the female members of staff!!!
I was taken to the recovery ward for a half hour or so after the procedure and then eventually down to the maternity ward where I finally caught up with L and Zachary again. With some help (!) I managed to give Zachary his first feed and it was then time to relax!
Zachary was great all day, and I managed to get the feeling back in my legs by mid-afternoon, so could eventually sit up properly! By the evening though, the staff were getting a little concerned about Zachary as he hadn't fed again and didn't really seem interested in doing so - there was a possibility that he'd picked up an infection after my waters broke and a doctor was called down to see him.
L had gone home by this time and the doctor decided that there might be something wrong and Zachary should go up to the Special Care Baby Unit. This was really quite scary.
The nurses on the SCBU were absolutely brilliant though and very reassuring, although because he wasn't feeding well they had to put a tube down his nose which was not nice at all, and it meant that he had to be fed with formula. On the plus side, because it wasn't a bottle it shouldn't interfere with the breastfeeding, but it was very upsetting. He also had to have a canula fitted so that he could received antibiotics - I guess that the fact that he barely murmured when the needle was being inserted showed that he really was not feeling well.
L came back to the hospital, but apart from the initial admission procedures, there was nothing else we could do until the morning and we were sent away to get some rest.
We spent a lot of Friday up in the SCBU watching over Zachary. He was being well looked after, but was still not right. The tests they ran showed that he did have an infection, although they were unable to tell exactly what it was.
He was receiving 2 hourly feeds, extended to three hourly during the day and I was also trying to breast feed him to keep that going. We would go up to the nursery in time for a feed, change Zachary and then I'd try to give him a feed, which was then topped up through the tube. I was not convinced either he was taking anything or my body was giving him anything.
We had been hoping that Zachary would only need the initial 48 hours antibiotics and be able to go home on Monday, but unfortunately the latest set of tests didn't show improvement and we were told he'd need 5 days worth. This was a bit of a blow.
The next stage was for a lumbar puncture to be taken to rule out the more serious infections like meningitis, but the doctors weren't able to take a sample from him that evening. L had driven home but came back again to see his boy. Zachary was also put on a "billi" bed in his cot as he was slightly jaundiced. The billi bed provides phototherapy for babies with jaundice - Zachary only needed the bottom section and his jaundice was not severe, but I did see a baby with the top section as well on the ward a couple of days later. The baby looked as though it had its own little sunbed, complete with goggles!
During the day I was also moved down to another ward because my health was improving and I could go onto the ward where there had been no issues or difficulties with the birth or mother's health.
This was my worst morning and I was really weepy for ages. Had been moved into a single room, which although was great in the end, was awful to start with as I felt on my own and didn't even have Zachary with me. Breakfast was difficult seeing all the other mothers on the ward with their babies and I didn't think I'd cope with my mum and sister visiting later on. I had also tried to express the previous evening so that although I wouldn't be specifically doing a feed during the night, I kept my boobs active! The expressing was really dispiriting though as very little seemed to be produced.
But...we had a breakthrough that morning. I tried to give Zachary a feed - he seemed to be sucking much more strongly and the nurse was able to show us that he had taken milk from me! It was such a huge relief for both of us and reassurance that he was improving. He was also getting more active and we were confident that things were getting better. From that point, I was able to establish full feeding for Zachary and the feeding tube was removed altogether later that day. That did however mean the start of night feeds...
Because of the success with the feeding, and as Zachary had been moved onto 4 hourly feeds, we were able to bring him back down to my ward for my family's visit in the afternoon, which was great and much better than having to take them up to SCBU, as we managed to sneak all 3 visitors into my room (see, I told you it worked out all right in the end!). I think the sight of Zachary having a tube in his nose and being on the special bed upset my mum a bit, but L and I were both feeling much brighter by now.
The lumbar puncture was tried again and again without success, but the other tests they were running all seemed to show improvement, and the feeding was a big bonus.
Had a good night feeding Zachary - SCBU would ring down to my ward everytime he needed feeding during the night and I would drag my tired old bones up there! I also had my first experience of the joy of leaking boobs!!
Today was to be the visit of the Caple clan. I was discharged from my ward, but as I was by then feeding Zachary myself, was a priority for one of the Rainbow rooms they have on SCBU. These are mini flats which can be used by mothers and families for accommodation while their babies are in SCBU. It's a bit like university rooms - there are a pair of bedrooms with a wardrobe and cabinets (so more like a 'real' room than a ward bed) and a shared sitting room, bathroom and kitchen area. This was a complete godsend as we had been preparing ourselves to go home and then drive back to the hospital when he needed feeding.
Having the room meant that I could have Zachary in there with me all the time, except for when he needed the next dose of antibiotics (every 12 hours), so feeding at night was much easier!
The Caple visit went well, and again because of the arrangements we managed to squeeze in an extra visitor again!
Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th
The next couple of days saw us taking care of Zachary in the Blue Room, feeding going really well, and learning how to top and tail him (it's washing him!) and how to wash his hair. The latest tests showed his infection level had dropped significantly and the doctor confirmed that he would be able to come home on Wednesday - at long last! He had his Guthrie test, hearing tested and a new baby check over by the doctors to make sure that he was physically all in order. No problems there at all.
Home today! Spent most of the morning getting ready, attending the last ward round and going through all the discharge papers and procedures. The nurse had to escort us from the building, checking that the car seat was properly and safely fitted, but by just after lunchtime we were at home.
It was such a relief to be back home and to be able to come back with Zachary - I had been dreading having to come home without him.
We're all adjusting and settling into life with 3 of us at home, but so far (and fingers crossed) things seem to be going really well. The night feeds aren't too bad, and I'm certainly sleeping better in my own bed than I was in hospital! One of the other best things about coming home (apart from L's cooking!) is having my own things around, being able to use a hairdryer again and finally getting out of disposable pants!
And because I just can't get enough of him, here's a piccie of my two lovely boys!