I'm writing this in hospital while Ruby is just over 24 hours old so that I don't forget a single detail about what was the best and worst day of my life.
I started to labor on Sunday morning, which all came as a bit of a surprise as my midwife had prepared me that it would likely be another week before anything happened. I had lost my mucus plug (yuck!) that morning and although we were excited we also knew that this didn't mean anything was defiantly happening. Some women go weeks before going into labor after loosing their plug. So in order to help things along we walked to the local cafe and decided to build our energy stores with a massive carb loaded breakfast. Best decision ever. I could barely finish my breakfast and Arie (my husband) had to run home and grab the car because I couldn't face the walk back home. Once we got home the contractions were coming thick and fast so we knew this was really it! Arie (a photographer) was scheduled to take some photos of a car for a magazine and I told him I would manage alone while he went to quickly do the shoot. He was apprehensive but left. When he got home I could remember thinking that was the last time I'd let him out of my sight for the next few days, I wouldn't be able to do it without him. After a few baths and showers and sleeping pills (at the advice of my midwife to try and get me some rest) that didn't work we called my mum to come over and our midwife Michele who told us I needed to labor at home as long as we could. That unless I was crippled by the contractions they weren't coming strong enough. It was in this early stage where I bled quite a bit (first warning sign), we were told a little bit of blood was to be expected at our anti-natal classes so didn't push too much for answers, it was hard to know what to expect being a first time mum. Hours flew by and the pain was getting scary bad. I was in a state where I felt I wasn't really in the room, almost watching my labor happen like a movie. "Try last another hour" is all Arie and my mum were telling me and I kept surprising myself that I could keep going. I struggled to find a position or place that I felt comfortable or anything that eased my pain. I also was lucky enough to experience severe diarrhea for the entire time I was laboring at home, so bad that I used all of the toilet paper in the house! 6am on Monday came around and that was when I put my foot down and said we are going into hospital now! I had done enough laboring at home and I needed help.
Michele met us there, the room was calm and I felt so much more at ease being in a place where I knew they could help me with my pain. We joked away as long as I could, exactly why I wanted mum and Arie there, they find a way to make any situation light hearted and fun.
Michele checked me and I was no way near as dilated as we had hoped. Hearing her say that low number was heartbreaking, I felt like I had worked so hard and earned nothing in return. Michele decided in a heartbeat she wasn't going to send us home. A little against protocol as you have to be at least 3cm dilated to stay and work on your labor in the hospital, anything less you are usually sent home and told to come back in a few hours. We all had no idea at the time that this decision would be the one that saved Ruby's life. Michele went with her gut feeling that I needed to be there and boy was she right. It was the boost I needed, I was so excited, I knew that I wouldn't be leaving here without a baby! The contractions began to ramp up and I made the call to have an epidural. This was always a part of my birth plan. Arie and I had done so much research and had the attitude "you dont need to be a hero when something can help you" about labor. Before the anesthetist arrived to insert the epidural Ruby's heart rate was acting a little funny and Michele was concerned. She phoned, paged, and spoke to many doctors who shrugged it off. It was easy for them to try and justify it with simple answers like me being tired or the position I was lying in but her gut was telling her is was something more. Ruby's readings weren't in the danger zone of being low but enough to raise suspicion, something was happening down there but she wasn't sure what just yet. We will never be able to thank her enough for trusting her midwife instinct and knowing something wasn't right. Her persistence to find answers is what saved our baby's life.
The epidural came next, the first lot of medication they put through didn't take effect. I could still feel everything so I had to have a second lot of medication put through. A total of about 45mins until it began to kick in. Once it had and I was more comfortable Michele's plan was to attach a monitor to the top of Ruby's head to get a better idea of what her stats were and why they weren't sitting at a healthy level. To attatch the monitor to Ruby's head meant they had to do so internally, another examination type procedure (I had already had a few and found them very painful but luckily this time I was numb from my chest down)
As they went to begin inserting the monitor they we confronted by a frightening sight, a cord. Yes Ruby's umbilical cord had prolapsed (come out before her) and we were now precious moments and quick acting decisions away from either having an alive or dead baby. I had read about this super rare condition during pregnancy. Only briefly as it is considered a freak birth accident and only occurs in less than 0.1% of births. I had also read the survival rates for the bay, not very high. You see a cord prolapse means the cord has slipped is way out first and is now between her head and my pelvis. Each contraction pushes her further down the birth canal and as soon as her head pinches the cord her oxygen and blood supply is stopped. The emergency button was pushed. Within a minute every doctor and nurse possible was in my room and I was having to say good bye to everyone. The doctor who had discovered the cord was now in charge of keeping her hand inside of me holding the cord up as high as she could in an effort to help keep Ruby alive. I had to very quickly sign my name on a bit of paper and with tears rolling down my cheeks I let go of my mum and Arie's hands and was rushed away. All of about a minute later we were in theater and the screen was put up. The lovely doctor with her hand inside of me walked like that all the way to theater. My epidural line was pumped with loads of drugs to keep me numb, and I lay on the cold operating table shaking. I asked one of the doctors to tell me when they started to which she replied "they already have, baby is almost here". I lay there trying to wrap my head around what was happening. I could actually loose my baby. Michele was with me holding my hand and rubbing my head just like my mum would have been if she was there and I felt a strange combination of safe and calm and nervous and scared. Arie was whisked in just as they pulled Ruby out. They held her over the screen for me to see and she was a little pink ball of squish. She cried a little, a noise that I'll never be so grateful for hearing. The doctors had saved my babies life. She was taken to be assessed and cleaned and Arie went with her. Amazingly she had made it out without any adverse effects. He got to cut the cord, and brought her back over to me. I don't think my heart has ever been so full when I saw him kiss his daughters head for the first time.
He was worried about me though. Michele had let him quietly know that there were more complications happening. Little did I know I had lost quite a lot of blood and they had to work quite hard to stop it. I had an undiagnosed medical abnormality called a bicornuate uterus. When the doctors went to remove the placenta (as they usually would) they found that my uterus was a strange shape with a septum running down the middle of it and as they took the placenta out they ripped that septum causing me to bleed out. I lost a lot of blood. Poor Arie was torn between being so happy his daughter was here to worrying that I might not be. He watched as I bleed out so violently that there was blood on the overhead lights. My memory from this time is fuzzy as understandably I was feeling very light headed. This septum is why Ruby always looked lop sided in my belly, she had been shoved into a funny position the whole time. Michele had questioned this throughout my pregnancy, even sending me for lots of scans, if we had been able to pick it up sooner, they wouldn't have made the same mistake of ripping my placenta out and the septum along with it. It was also what her nose had been pressed against for her entire pregnancy so when I fist saw her she had a crooked little nose pushed to one side! After managing to pull Ruby's placenta out I was also told it looked as in bad condition as someone who had smoked 50 cigarettes a day all throughout their pregnancy. Being attached to the septum meant it's blood supply was really compromised. How Ruby was getting any nourishment from it we are all still a little dumb founded by, never mind her being born a healthy weight!
After an hour in theater I was taken to recovery when the scale of everything started to sink in. Any one of these "complications" could have killed Ruby. Or me. During our pregnancy, during our labor and during our delivery. If I had gone home like protocol stated the cord would have prolapsed without us knowing what to do and no medical help near by. If Michele hadn't pushed to have the monitor attached to Rubys head we may have missed our window to save her life. Had it not been for Michele continually pushing for answers, being in a hospital already, a fast acting medical team and emergency surgery our story would have been a lot sadder. We can't thank everyone involved enough especially Michele. Ruby is the mirror image of her dad and is doing well. She feeds like a champ and has been keeping Arie busy with nappy changes. She makes the cutest little facial expressions and has a mound of blonde hair! We already can't bare to think of our lives without her.