The Day She Was Born

It’s taken quite a while to write this blog. I’ve told this story so many times that it’s imprinted on my memory. But at the same time, little details are starting to drift away, so I think it’s time to get it down on paper.

Those who read Pregnancy Blog 8 will know that the day before our baby was born I went into hospital with reduced movements which was when we discovered the baby was breech! My last blog finished with Nathan having gone back to Aintree for the night while I stayed in the Countess just in case things got started overnight and we needed to do surgery sooner than planned.

On the day, I was woken up at 6.30 by a midwife who came to take some blood. They realised that there weren’t enough samples on record for me so some more needed to be taken. Unfortunately, I have very thin veins which like to hide and I hadn’t had a drink in over six hours -you always need to be hydrated to give a blood sample, my Great Aunt Marge used to say! So I was dehydrating and no blood could be got. By this point, even though I hadn’t got to sleep until 3, there was no getting back to sleep. It felt like Christmas morning as a child, but way more intense.

Soon enough Nathan turned up and we waited to hear what was going to happen. We knew that surgery was supposed to happen fairly early but we might be bumped down the queue a bit if something more urgent came in. We waited and asked for the occasional update. We messaged our families, who were also waiting with baited breath. We read our books, played bananagrams, checked and double checked and triple checked that we had everything we needed. I got increasingly frustrated as Nathan was offered cups of tea, toast and a sandwich. I was starving, dehydrated, nervous and excited. I started to get h-angry.

Nathan and a corned beef butty.

Eventually, at about 12, we were told that we would be going down to surgery soon. Dr Yasmin came and inserted a cannula, from which she also got the necessary blood samples. We packed up our things and waited to ‘go downstairs’.

When we got there, we went into a room which was where we would be before and after the op. There were various things ready for the baby; a cot, a machine to keep Dino warm, towels and various other things. We waited for theatre to be set up and we got changed, me into a surgical gown, Nathan into scrubs. It started to feel very real.

While we waited, they did another scan. Dr Yasmin asked if I thought the baby had turned overnight. No, I said, I really don’t think so. The scan confirmed that Dino was where Dino had been for some time. Nathan checked over the paperwork before things got underway.

About 10 minutes before we went in, the theatre team came and introduced themselves. I can’t remember everybody’s names, but I do know that our midwife was called Phoebe. There was probably five or six people who came in and spoke to us, and I thought, ‘wow, are all these people here to help us?!’.

A few minutes later we walked into theatre. I’ve never had surgery before, let alone been awake for it! The first things that struck me were how big the room was, how narrow the operating table was and how many shiny, sharp instruments there were on a table not too far away! But I didn’t have much opportunity to get anxious about anything. The theatre team were absolutely phenomenal. They made us both feel so relaxed. They were all confident and professional and yet put us completely at our ease. The radio was on and I felt like I was in such safe hands, which I absolutely was.

Stupidly, I skipped the online class called ‘Labour and Birth Part 2′ where The Honest Midwife talks you through the more complicated kinds of birth and delivery. It was Nathan’s birthday that night so we opted for curry with family instead. Anyway, apart from knowing that my head and stomach would be separated by a screen, I didn’t know much about C-sections. Here are some things about the experience that really surprised me:

1. My leg twitched as the epidural went into my back.

2. The technician said ‘do your best impression of Jesus’ as I lay down and many wires, tubes and monitors were attached to my arms. There are boards either side of you to rest your arms on, and you do this by stretching them out wide.

3. I was ‘with it’ enough to talk to the atheist anesthetist about Richard Dawkins and the merits and weaknesses of The God Delusion as people cut into my stomach.

4. I genuinely had no idea that the operation had started. While talking to said atheist anesthetist about Richard Dawkins, somebody else came our side of the curtain and said ‘so we’ve begun’.

5. It took 15 minutes to get baby out and 45 to stitch me back up.

6. Your birth partner can do whatever they like with their phone. Pictures, videos, live stream… apologies to our families, but a live stream did really feel one step too far!

7. I am a fan of morphine after just three doses.

8. I was absolutely starving afterwards – and so was the baby!

9. Having the cannula in was like having three extra, very useless, fingers.

10. I felt absolutely euphoric after hearing that first cry. It was unlike anything else I have ever experienced.

At 1.41, our baby was born. They lowered the curtain and showed her to us. They asked ‘can you see what kind of baby you’ve got?!’ ‘No…’ we replied. But we soon established that she was a little girl. Somebody asked us what we would call her. ‘Her name is Sophia’, I said. Sophia, meaning wisdom, had been top of the list since we discovered we were pregnant but we said we would see if the baby suited the name before deciding for definite. But when we saw that child lifted over the screen looking so alert and taking absolutely everything in, there could be no doubt as to her name.

I lay there and thanked God. I overflowed with praise for the baby, for Nathan, for the staff, for the care I was receiving, for the absolutely fantastic NHS.

I cried, too. As well as being so very grateful, I was relieved that she didn’t look like her 32 week scan (2 noses, three eyes and a very heavy brow!). I was chuffed that she was a girl, as that was her Daddy’s preference. I was delighted that she seemed fit, healthy and well.

After the delayed cord clamping the other side of the curtain, Nathan and baby were taken over to a table at the side for the cord to be cut. As Nathan got to the table, the crying died down a bit. I think she recognised his voice as he said hello.

Soon he brought her back to where he had been sitting and I lay and watched him cuddle her. I asked about her hair, which was hidden under her hat. I had a little peek and saw it – thick and dark. I talked to her and listened to the general hustle and bustle going on around us. I can’t remember much. I know I lost 400ml of blood, which is quite good going, apparently. I know that I had a second bag of fluids because my head was hurting. I know I wanted skin on skin and that it was in my birth plan, but in the moment I didn’t mind just watching Nathan hold her and get to know her.

About 50 minutes later, I was transferred back onto a hospital bed (that was fun, a bit like being on a roller coaster!) and taken into the first room where Nathan and baby were. I asked him how she was and he said that she was okay, but she didn’t much like the quiet! She had been crying when he stopped talking to her.

Nathan and Sophia

At this point, Sophia had been born for nearly an hour and was very hungry. There wasn’t much chance for a cuddle. With encouragement from the midwife we got straight on with the breastfeeding, a rollercoaster of a journey that I’ll post more about at another time.

My most vivid memory from those first couple of hours was feeding the baby while Nathan fed me toast and scones. The nurse brought in enough food for both of us but as I was so ravenous by that point, I think I had all of it! I hadn’t eaten for over fifteen hours and until very recently, I had been heavily pregnant.

The rest of the day passed sending messages, making video calls and eating more food! When I was up to looking at my phone, I sent this message to my family: Hello ❤ it’s me! That was definitely one of the weirdest things ever to happen, but also the very best. I don’t know how I’ll ever be sad again!

Because we didn’t do any labour, when she was born, Sophia was very awake. It was at least five hours after delivery before she slept, and I had been beginning to wonder if she ever would! At one point, I was holding her and felt like something wasn’t quite right. I looked down at her legs and saw that they were bent at the knee because the babygrow was too small! She was in her newborn clothes for a matter of hours because somehow Nathan and I have managed to produce a child with long legs! Being a bit uncomfortable might be another reason why she didn’t really sleep that afternoon.

We arrived on the main ward, the Cestrian Ward, in the evening and we were given such a warm welcome. There was something really special about being in the same place that me and my Mum and then my Mum and my sister stayed when we were born. It was very quiet that night and Nathan was allowed to stay a couple of hours longer because of that. We took it in turns to hold her and we were so well supported by the staff who answered our many questions and helped us to worry a bit less. Later on, the anesthetic was wearing off and I was starting to hurt. I was given morphine which helped but when it came to walking for the first time it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

After Nathan left to go to my Grandpa’s, which happily is just ten minutes away from the hospital, the sun was setting and I sang to Sophia; ‘from the day we arrive on the planet and blinking step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done!’

It was a special time, just me and Sophia. I’m so pleased she was born after the worst of lockdown which meant that Nathan could be with us for much of the day. A huge part of me was bursting to introduce her to all our family. But that night was so special, just me and her. The bay was empty too, so we were left in peace. Just me and my girl, me and Sophia. A new adventure, a new way of being, a new start, a new life.

Our family of three

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