Friday, May 19, 2006

Birthing Pain

Life sometimes has strange congruencies. A memory came to mind yesterday as I was writing an entry, then the good Dr Crippen wrote a piece that entirely reflected it. It is not a moral memory, nor educational, it is just one of those moments of horror that drop into our lives, though unlike Dr Crippen’s tale, this one does end happily.

Despite our ages, we’d had zero fertility problems. Far from it, other than a humorous episode when we were first trying with Pirate Pete (we got the female cycle wrong and were having far too much fun a few days after when we should have), its been a case of “Try again dear? Oh, pregnant already? We can pretend and keep trying though, can’t we?”

Originally we thought we’d stop at two, but having had two boys thought we’d throw the dice again and try for a third. True to form having decided, LL fell pregnant immediately. Now, LL is not an earth mother, she has not revelled in being pregnant, its been a means to an end. None of her pregnancies were hard, though she suffered from back and hip pain that, particularly in the later stages, made sleeping difficult, both were pretty easy. The boys were long labours, my poor girl had to put up with almost 30 hours of toil and trouble in the hospital each time before birth, but LL being who she is, both came out without much bother or even pain relief (though I do remember a few apt names I was called during some rather hearty contractions).

The third time was no different, perhaps even easier. We’d had her on a slightly different diet & supplements that seemed to ease the back and hip pain. So, as we approached the due date we expected a perfectly normal birth. Yet that Sunday afternoon is one that is burned in my memory.

I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready, LL had just popped upstairs for a moment. Then I heard this shout, one of pure panic. Rushing upstairs I found her standing a look of horror on her face, holding something that shouldn’t be there between her legs. In my youth I’d worked as a life guard on the beeches of Vancouver, so I have a touch more first aid training than both, and I knew pretty fast what this was likely to be, an umbilical cord prolapse (where the cord comes out first). What I couldn’t remember was specifically what to do.

LL’s mind had gone into a stall, and all she could think of is my driving her into the hospital. Trying desperately to keep myself calm I lay her down and got her feet up, then immediately called 999. What happened next is why I will never ever complain about the NHS, and will fight for it with tooth and nail.

The kind operator on the other side clearly thought I was a panicked father. If you read Random Reality, you’ll know the baby taxi service is one of those milk runs the ambulance guys shrug their shoulders about and get on with. Yet, even so, even though we live halfway to no where, within five minutes I could hear the distant wail of the ambulance, and within ten it was pulled up outside. During that time I’d got the neighbours over to take the kids, and had somehow managed to turn the stove off as my potatoes started to boil dry.

The two attendants stepped out, and smiling asked if this was a first time. The look on my face and the quick answer of “No, its our third.” Wipped the humour off their faces and spured them into action. We ran upstairs and the minute they say LL, one’s face went pale as he turned to his partner and just said “Prolapse.” Ever so carefully, but quickly, they got LL down the stairs and into the ambulance. With a roar they were off. I had to follow just to make sure I could do a final check on the kids and take care of the house, and call the warning to various relations. I did, though I don’t know how.

LL has told me of her experience, so I’ll repeat it. From my point of view, it was a half hour of pure panic as I drove to the hospital. All I can remember is the mantra going through my mind “Not again… I can’t loose her, not LL… This can’t be happening again…” (which brings to the surface a whole other memory stream, but that’s for another day).

For LL, the tale now is one of guffaws and laughter, but in the quiet of night she admits its was terrifying. Now, in many of the blogs here about, the topic of fisting is discussed with some relish, but ladies, think of this. On your hands and knees in the back of a speeding ambulance, being braced by the bright and bonny ambulance attendant who has his hand shoved firmly up there to hold the baby’s head. When I talk of a speeding ambulance, they were going top speed around the narrow and twisty pot holed roads that constitute our local highways. Then, on getting to the hospital, to be rushed, again on hands and knees, on the gurney, through the front doors of the hospital so they can get you up to surgery.

The had LL to the hospital in less than 10 minutes, its normally a 20-25 minute drive. All the while the ambulance had an obstetrics consultant on the end of the phone. A specialist emergency maternity nurse was waiting at the front of the hospital to assist the ambulance attendants. They had her into surgery within 2 minutes, it was fully staffed and prepped with maternity specialists. From the point of entering the surgery, they had our baby girl cut out within 3 minutes.

Some minutes later I arrive at the hospital and run into A&E thinking that’s where you go. A busy and harassed admissions clerk said she had no record of a Ms LL, but suggested I try the maternity ward. I ran, as fast as I could. Halfway there a smiling nurse, stopped me. “Are you Mr LL? Don’t worry, they’re both OK.” I almost crumbled into a heap on the floor in relief.

She was the specialist maternity nurse that works shifts in the A&E ward. That kind woman took my elbow and guided me up to the ward. My care was taken over by another nurse who guided me into an empty room, went away and walked back to hand me my baby girl. LL was still in surgery, there were complications not pleasant to describe, plus the speed of the operation meant it hadn’t been fully sterile, so they were now taking the time to clean her up, before sewing her back together. My dear wife was also fully under anaesthetic, so it would be a while.

It’s a funny thing though. With the boys I freely admit I wasn’t immediately filled with love and bonding. It took time to develop for me (though it fully did). Not so with Princess, with her I was deeply, instantly, immediately filled with love and care. Never had a small bundle been so precious to me.

However, we do joke that Princess is the one of our children that neither of us was present for the birth of…


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