Hollie's birth story
Sunday before last, the boys and I went for a picnic in one of the most beautiful spots near where we live. Little did I know that would be our last outing as a four. That Sunday I turned exactly 38 weeks pregnant, and was five days away from having a planned c-section. I’d finished work on the Friday and was looking forward to a few final days to myself to prepare for our new arrival.
I went to bed that night excited. The next 48 hours I would be knee deep in building my Lego Haunted House, and I would enjoy every last second. Or at least, so I thought.
In the early hours of Monday morning, I woke up to my hands cupping my lady bits. Ok, so reading that back sounds super-weird, but it was almost involuntary, as if I could somehow catch the what felt like a gallon of water falling out of me. Convinced I had wet myself, I hurried to the toilet.
After going for a wee, I decided it might be worth inspecting the liquid now covering my bed sheets. Crystal clear. However the liquid that was on the floor, was tinged with pink. It was at this point adrenaline kicked in as I started to think my waters might have broken. My suspicions were confirmed a few moments later when I flooded the bedroom floor. I wont lie, I shit myself at this point. Not literally, thankfully (the bedroom was soiled enough as it was). If my waters had broken, there was no way we’d be having this baby in five days time.
I rang the hospital at 0230, explained what happened and was told to go in for assessment. Chris' parents turned up and we grabbed my half packed "I'm not remotely prepared for c-section bag’ and headed to hospital. I felt quite scared at this point, the consultant had told me that if I went into labour, where my placenta was led meant there was a high chance I could start bleeding. Eamo wasn't allowed to come into the hospital with me, and walking in on my own, especially in the middle of the night, was pretty daunting.
I was met by one of the midwives, Libby, who was just wonderful at making me feel safe and at ease. She did observations on me and Hollie, took a blood sample, did a covid test and put a cannula in for surgery that she said I would almost certainly have in the morning. As someone with what I think is quite a high pain threshold, cannulas are the absolute worst.
On my arrival I was also visited by the on duty registrar, Nisha, who explained that while I wasn’t currently in labour, now my waters had broken there was an 80% chance it would start in the next 24 hours. If nothing changed before then, the plan would be to bring the c-section forward to later that morning.
For the next couple of hours I tried to get some sleep. The ward was super-quiet so I dozed on and off, before a sneeze woke me and prompted more of my waters to flow. Knowing I was close to soaking through another pad, I headed down to the toilet. It was here I found I was actually losing blood, and, as I went to sit down, a thick blood clot slapped on the floor. And I do mean slapped. Honestly, it was like my kidney fell out of my vagina.
It was hard not to have such a reaction. And it was then I wished so much that Eamo had been with me. I wasn't sure what me losing blood meant for me or Hollie, but it was scary and all I wanted was for him to be there.
Knowing Libby would want to see the kidney-like clot, I scooped it up with some tissue and waddled back along the corridor to find her. Clearly looking a bit pale from my discovery, she very calmly helped me back to bed. Libby examined the pad and clot (what a job, midwives really are incredible), and said she couldn’t see any placenta in it, but we would now need to monitor blood loss closely. Good news was Hollie was still moving around a lot and her heart rate was fine.
Minutes after I got back in bed, Nisha returned and explained now I was losing blood there was no point in waiting, and that we should get going with the c-section there and then. The next 10-15 minutes was a hive of activity – calling Eamo, getting a visit from the anaesthetist, having a lady measure and fit my super-sexy compression stockings and various observations taken on both me and Hollie. When the anaesthetist, Jonny, asked how I was, I couldn’t stop myself...
“I’m shitting myself, if I’m honest.”
“I understand," he said. "But I promise you, you are in good hands, we’ve done a lot of these and will take very good care of both of you." Jonny explained I would be having a spinal and everything that would entail. My blood pressure was slightly raised, and where my placenta was positioned meant I was at a higher risk of blood loss, but that they had everything in hand.
Eamo arrived and quite literally just had time to put on some scrubs before I was wheeled into theatre. Adrenaline had well and truly kicked in by this point, and I was shaking, excuse my French, like a shitting dog.
To begin I had to sit on the side of the bed for the spinal to be done. They started with a local anaesthetic (for when the big needle goes in, I guess) and that was weird. I remember Jonny saying something about nerves and where the needles go in, and a couple of times it felt like I was getting electric shocks in my lower back. Not hugely painful, just little flinches that were, let’s say, an unpleasant sensation.
Libby explained once the spinal was done and working everything happens quite quickly. I didn’t feel anything of the big needle, just a bit of pressure and then I had to lay down. Not long after Jonny asked if I could lift my legs up. I couldn’t. And I tried so hard. I realise that's the point of the drugs, but it's the part I found most unsettling. Being unable to move from my boobs and down was really not a nice feeling at all. But rather than that than being able to feel surgery, right?
Once the team was happy the spinal was working properly, Libby came at me with a razor. I remember thinking how I’d planned to shave my lady garden ahead of Friday, but had decided to leave it to closer to the time. I couldn't feel anything but it was weird to just lay there while another woman shaved my pubes and four or five other people looked on. It was also here that they put a catheter in. I couldn’t feel anything, which I was very grateful for, but again, this was all done as the world and his wife watched on – any dignity I’d had up to this point had well and truly left the building.
'ERE SHE IS!
Once they'd finished ‘prepping’ me, Eamo was then allowed to sit by my head. Jonny explained they would soon be starting and while I wouldn’t feel any pain, I would feel pressure and pushing as they got Hollie out. And to talk to him the whole time to let him know how I was feeling.
“Ok, they’ve started,” he said.
I clung on to Eamo’s hand tightly, doing my best to practise calm breathing. After a couple of minutes, I felt a really unpleasant amount of pressure just under my boobs, so much so it took my breath away a bit. Just as Jonny asked if I was alright, another member of the team said ‘would you like us to lower the screen so you can see baby come out?” I said yes and, well, there she was. Our little baby, covered in blood and white gunk. And I was in love immediately.
Hollie arrived in the world at 06:40, shouting quite a bit, bless her. I also burst into tears. At first it was relief. When Rex was born he was silent, certainly for the first few minutes, and it felt like a lifetime. But what hit me the most was the instant rush of love for the little girl in front of me. It was overwhelming, and quickly followed by an unbelievable sense of guilt that I hadn't felt it initially with Rex.
I'll be honest, I've beat myself up about that quite a lot this past couple of weeks. Was it the enormity of becoming a new mum, not knowing whether Rex was a boy or girl before he was born, not feeling ready, having no experience, a chemical imbalance in my brain or maybe it was all of the above that lead me to feel so differently when he was born? I guess I'll never know, but what I do know is the fact we had to work so hard to bond means we now have a relationship that is stronger and more full of love than I ever thought possible.
Road to recovery
Libby took Hollie away to check her over before placing her on my chest, where she stayed while the surgical team put me back together. As they disconnected me from various lines/machines, Eamo had a cuddle with her before we moved into the recovery room. Here Hollie was placed back on me as we waited for the spinal to start wearing off.
We were in the recovery room for a good couple of hours, with brilliant nurses and midwives checking all my observations at regular intervals. At just after 9am, Hollie and I went up to the ward and Eamo had to go home until it was visiting time in a couple of hours. We were met by Jade, the midwife who would be looking after us that day. It was then I also met healthcare assistant Jasmin, who I fell in love with immediately when she arrived with a heap of toast and jam and a cup of tea. Ladies, it's all about the post-birth toast, right?
I liked Jade instantly. Not only did she give me lots of pain relieving drugs, but she had the best bedside manner. Really supportive but obviously very keen to get my recovery going as soon as I was ready. I remember being told to not be a hero when it came to taking painkillers after surgery, and when the spinal wore off, you’d want to have some drugs in your system to help ease any discomfort.
The spinal wearing off properly took a good 4-5 hours, and the sensation when they came back was really weird. Like, I could move them but not really in the way I wanted, like they had a life of their own. At around 1300, Jade asked how I felt about getting out of bed for a short walk. I'm really not a fan of keeping still so readily agreed.
I carefully swung my legs off the bed, sat up and then took a very slow walk to the toilet and back. Jade, bless her, carrying a half full catheter bag the whole time. Standing up for the first time since surgery was a strange sensation. I felt the need to walk slightly hunched over as being bolt upright pulled on my stomach in an uneasy rather than painful way.
Getting back from the toilet, which was no more than a 10 metre walk, I had to sit down immediately as I felt faint. Having been led flat since about 6am that morning, getting up and walking about made me feel really light headed. I asked Jade if I could keep the catheter in for a little longer to give myself a chance to get used to being up. I set the bed into an upright position so my body could get more used to the idea of standing up. At 1530 we tried again and it was so much better. I could walk unassisted, albeit very, very slowly.
Now that I was up, Jade needed to take my catheter out, which I was also dreading. But she explained there was a balloon inside me that she needed to pop and it would just slide out. It was over in seconds and not in the least bit painful. Now I was mobile, I was able to get up and pick Hollie up out of her cot. And I made sure, even when she was sleeping, to get up every hour to help my body get more accustomed to it.
The first night in hospital was nowhere near as scary as I thought it might be. That said, Eamo leaving at 2 left a long time for me to be on my own until he could come back at 11 the next day, and I honestly counted down the hours. Hollie was super-sleepy, which was great for my recovery, but it did mean it was difficult to get her to feed. Cue me and one of the night shift midwives hand expressing colostrum into a tiny syringe to feed her. Nothing quite like a stranger squeezing your boobs as an introduction.
Hollie and I got through our first night unscathed, and in the morning I was told I could go to the tea room to help myself to some breakfast. It sounds ridiculous but having been confined to our tiny space on the ward up to that point, I was so excited to wheel my baby girl to the little room I remember so fondly from when I had Rex. I don't know why but mine and Hollie's first breakfast date is something I'll never forget. I loved every second of having tea and toast with her next to me, just the two of us.
Something else I'll never forget is the wind. In the limited time I had to research c-sections, I'd read trapped wind was quite common (which peppermint tea can help with, apparently). What wasn't included was that you have no control (or at least, I didn't) of when said wind, er, 'presents' itself. Honestly, I was farting like a trooper with what felt like little or no warning, and it usually, of course, came out when I was being visited by a midwife/doctor/healthcare assistant/all of the above.
Keen to save anyone else from any further farting onslaught, shortly after breakfast I asked the on duty midwife if we might be able to go home later that day. I was desperate to see Rex and just have us all together. She told me they would organise it so we could go home when Eamo visited at lunchtime.
Going home (well, trying to)
A few hours later, we were discharged and headed to the car. In true 'it could only happen to us' fashion, Eamo left the car running in a precarious spot in the car park so we could jump in and go, which would have been a top idea had the car not locked itself. We got outside, the car going, keys inside and us with no way of getting in. Honestly, you couldn't make this shit up.
Just as we were about to call Eamo's dad to get the spare key, he tried the driver's side door one more time and, by some miracle, it opened. I think the look on my face said everything he needed to know, bless him lol. "Sorry, I didn't know it would lock". Only us, honestly.
An hour later, Rex walked through the door and was introduced to his little sister. I almost burst when he told me he missed me, gave her a kiss and then, in true toddler style, all he was interested in was the present awaiting him from Hollie.
Now, almost two weeks on, I can honestly say the c-section wasn't as bad or as scary as I imagined. There's no denying going into theatre, especially at such short notice, was very daunting, but the staff were fantastic and I always felt both Hollie and I were in the safest hands. As much as the recovery has taken me longer this time (more on c-section recovery soon), I'm not going to lie, I'm just so grateful Hollie arrived safely and, yes, that my lady bits are still intact.