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Molly’s birth (Part 1 – the pregnancy)

Posted on: February 28, 2011

I have decided to write about each of my children’s births while I still remember all of the gory details! Don’t read this if it isn’t your thing. Personally, I love birth stories.

I have written about my pregnancy with Molly before, but skipped a lot of the detail. This is a more thorough version.

Okay, so you would think that after Tiernan’s shaky start I would have been at least a little bit nervous about having another baby. I wasn’t. In fact, I was so not-nervous that I became pregnant again when Tiernan was only eight months old. Then, suddenly, I was nervous! But not about the actual pregnancy part, really. After talking to the doctors when Tiernan was born, I came away believing that of the two conditions I ended up being diagnosed with, pre-eclampsia was the more serious, which was also the one I was least-likely to get again. I now believe that this isn’t quite true, although we never really got to the bottom of what happened with Tiernan’s pregnancy. Perhaps the undiagnosed obstetric cholestasis meant that I was more prone to pre-eclampsia, but who really knows? In any case, I was lead to believe that I shouldn’t have any issues with further pregnancies – if I developed OC again, it would be caught earlier (because I would know what to look out for), and managed effectively.

I was more nervous about how I was going to finish uni whilst also pregnant and trying to look after a one-year-old. My final subject of uni, which involved eight weeks of teaching and a million assignments, was my biggest hurdle (or so I thought). We upped Tiernan’s daycare to three days per week (he had been going once a week while I was working casually), and he spent the remaining two days with either his grandparents or with Tom.

It was extremely stressful. I was, in essence, working full-time, with the added bonus of then having to work from home of an evening, too. Because prac sucks – there is all that teaching, planning, preparing, evaluating, researching, reading, assignments, etc. etc. etc. I was also largely responsible for making sure Tiernan had food to eat and clothes to wear at daycare each day. I missed my baby boy terribly. I felt incredibly guilty that I had so little time for him all of a sudden. He coped pretty well, though. He loved his carer, Jillian (who is amazing!), and it also meant that he got some bonding time with Tom. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it was good for him to strengthen his relationships with some of the other, wonderful people in his life. Plus, the situation was also temporary. Prac would be over in a couple of months, and then, once my assignments were done, I would be able to have some quality time with him before the baby came. Or so I thought.

Throughout the pregnancy, I had been visiting the clinic at Nepean public hospital. Shared care was no longer an option for me, because of Tiernan’s complicated birth, so I was visiting the obstetric registrars (and if I was lucky, an actual obstetrician) each time. I asked, several times, whether I should be having any blood tests along the way to check that my liver was behaving, but was told that nothing needed to be done until I started to itch (the first, and often only, symptom of OC). So I waited to itch. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to eventually, but assumed that the worse thing that would happen would be another induction and another slightly early baby.

Everything went well until about week 30. I started to feel a bit run-down. I put this down to stress and exhaustion. My prac was nearly over, but I was starting to wonder how on earth I was going to get through the sheer workload. I didn’t want to do it any more. I must have known something was up, on a sub-conscious level. I started making noises to my prac supervisor about whether it would be possible to finish my prac a week early, due to being too tired and pregnant to continue. This lecturer had been extremely supportive throughout the semester, as had my prac teacher and the school principal, but she wasn’t sure whether there was anything she could do to ‘let me off.’

And then, at 31 weeks, the itching started. I woke up with itchy palms and feet. It wasn’t too bad and I was able to go back to sleep. So I let it go for one more night. When it came back again, I knew I would have to go to the hospital and get checked out. I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped maybe I would get away without any OC this time. I had a brief moment of panic that if I went to the hospital they wouldn’t let me out again, like last time (with Tiernan), but I dismissed it: I imagined I would have a blood test, be diagnosed, and then be sent home on medication, an order to take it easy, and to come in for monitoring more frequently. I was fairly sure that I would be allowed to finish prac early, now that there was a medical reason, so I could use my ‘resting’ time to complete my assignments, and then spend time with Tiernan and prepare for the baby. Maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad, after all.

Well, of course, that wasn’t how it went at all. I did go to the hospital, on my way home from school that day. I did have a blood test. I waited hours for the results. And then I got bad news. My blood results were through the roof: two enzymes that are normally at levels of less than 40, were now above 600! I wasn’t going anywhere.

Once again, I found myself calling everyone from the hospital to tell them that I wasn’t allowed to leave. Tom came with clothes and moral support. Before being sent upstairs to the antenatal ward, I was given a shot of steroids that would help mature the baby’s lungs in case she had to be born early. Even though I was assured this was just a precaution, it totally freaked me out.

That was a horrible night. I was terrified about what might be about to happen, and I really missed Tiernan. I hadn’t been able to see him because he was already in bed when Tom came with my clothes. While I lay in my bed, not sleeping, I managed to convince myself that all this talk of the baby being born soon was just ridiculous (why induce a baby at 31 weeks? Pretty drastic, thought I). They were more likely to try to keep me in the hospital until the baby could be induced more safely, at 35 or 36 weeks. Well, I decided that I wasn’t going to be kept away from Tiernan for that long, so I would try and negotiate to be let out until then, even if it meant daily visits. With this plan firmly settled in my mind, I eventually drifted off to sleep. (Yes, I slept – the medication they gave me, ursodeoxycholic acid, stopped the itch completely this time around).

My blood levels were monitored over the next couple of days. I had been admitted on Friday with levels of 600+. On Sunday, my actual obstetrican came and told me that my levels were now over 1200, which was getting dangerous, for me. At this point, I don’t think they were too worried about the baby. I don’t know what exactly I was in danger of (liver failure?), not having the presence of mind to ask at the time. I was in shock. You know that funny ringing sound you get in your ears when you’ve been at a concert and then go somewhere quiet? I was listening to the obstetrician rattle off the options: caesar now, or induction tonight or tomorrow, through that ringing sound. In the end, she decided it was safer to try an induction, as this was my second baby (so labour would be quicker), the head was well down, and my cervix was 1cm dilated already. Also, she told me, a ‘natural’ birth can be better for premmie babies (as well as full-term ones), because it helps squeeze some of the gunk from their lungs. She then left to make arrangements.

Tom and I were left reeling from this devastating news. If I was worried about having Tiernan ‘prematurely’ at 36 weeks, imagine how I felt now that I would be having a 31-weeker. A timely visit from some paediatricians answered some of our questions: they told us that babies born at 31 weeks have a 98-99% chance of survival; some babies born this early have learning difficulties, and/or hearing and vision impairments, but not many; that the biggest risk after the birth is infection; that our baby may or may not be able to breathe independently; and that the baby would need to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until some time around the due-date. It made us feel a little better, but it was a lot to take in.

Then we got another visit from the obstetrician, who told us that, as the NICU at our hospital was currently full, I would have to be transferred to Westmead that night, where my case would be reviewed by whichever doctor took me on. I hoped against hope that they would decide not to go ahead.

Then ensued the ridiculousness that is being transferred! I had to pack up my things, and then be wheeled out to an ambulance on a stretcher. It was so humiliating. The worst part was that I didn’t even feel the slightest bit unwell! I could have driven myself to Westmead with no problems, and here I was, being treated like an invalid. Actually, that was the part that stung the most about my baby being born so early – I couldn’t get over how well I felt. Run-down, yes. Stressed, yes. Tired, yes. But seriously ill? No way. I just wanted to go home, rest up, and have this baby in a few more weeks.

We finally got to Westmead at around 9pm (Tom drove and met me there). We were seen by my new doctor. She decided to do more bloods, but also booked me in for induction first thing in the morning. I held on to a glimmer of hope that the medication I was on may have kicked in by now, and they would call the whole thing off in the morning.

I was taken to the antenatal ward. Tom stayed with me for a while. We didn’t bother writing a birth plan, this time. We knew how it would go. There were no words to say. Eventually, he went home to get a few hours sleep before returning in the morning, and I went to bed feeling like a big failure.

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3 Responses to "Molly’s birth (Part 1 – the pregnancy)"

Enjoying the birth stories Anna. Looking forward to the next installments.

[…] This is Molly’s birth story, continued on from here. […]

[…] I hope it’s not too wordy for you. Skip this one if you like! This story continues on from Parts 1, 2 and […]

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