NEW MUM DIARY
Despite a delivery she hadn’t counted on, Helen Luxford finds it is magical to be home with baby
Helen Luxford’s gratitude for options when intervention skews her best laid plans
Day 1, March 27
I am feeling great – just finished work. I’m so pleased I’ve managed to get to 38 weeks working. I’ve been eating so well and exercising 2-3 times per week. At work I’ve been walking up five flights of stairs most days. My midwife has been looking after me really well, but she’s starting to worry. When she plots baby’s growth (taking into account I’m only 153 cms) baby measures on the top of the chart. She refers me to the hospital outpatient clinic as she thinks I should be induced early, but the specialist says no. I’m healthy with no diabetes or blood pressure or any other signs baby needs to come early. He says baby is engaged and the famous last words from him are: “...usually when they can get into the pelvis, they can get out”.
Day 12, April 7
My mum went late with me and I’m now a week overdue. My mind is torturing me. I have thought I was going into labour a few times with cramps and then contractions that get more regular, then die away. It feels like our precious baby will never arrive. The beginning of the pregnancy is playing on my mind. We’d only been trying for a few months and I didn’t dare take a pregnancy test till I was already seven weeks and intense morning sickness had set in. We were beside ourselves and so were our parents, this baby is the first grandchild on both sides of our families! We didn’t find out the gender, we are so excited about the surprise. Both of our families started with girls so I’m pretty sure it is a girl. Tragically, a
friend had a stillbirth when we were 18 weeks pregnant. Now that I am 41 weeks I wake up in cold sweats with awful visions. I am petrified. My dad and my midwife reassure me and send me into the maternity assessment unit for checks when baby’s movements decrease.
Day 19, April 14
The team at the assessment unit feel I need an induction as there are signs my placenta is shutting down. I’m sent home to pack and remember leaving home with my bag in awe, thinking ‘The next time I come home we will have a baby’. We’ve heard so many horror stories about inductions but the gel works really quickly for me. I am soon in established labour and when I’m examined a couple of hours later I’m already 6cms and transfer to the delivery suite using some gas. Within another couple of hours I feel I need to push. Then it all goes pear-shaped. The midwife examines me and I’m only at 8cms and there is some issue with my cervix. I am advised to have an urgent epidural to ‘slow things down’. It seems odd, having wanted everything to go fast! It feels weird going from feeling every contraction to not feeling much. I get to 10cms and I push for over an hour and a half. I try so so hard, but baby won’t budge and can’t move down the birth canal. The team recommend a caesarean. I am desperate for a ventouse but baby is too high to even try safely. It takes hours to get to theatre, ‘real emergencies’ go in front of me. We lose our baby’s heart beat at one point. My husband nearly collapses and calls in our parents. Then we get our turn. I sign the informed consent thinking that it seems ridiculous – I don’t want to consent to this procedure but I have no choice. There are signs of impending uterine rupture by the time they get me in. They ‘top up’ my epidural so I don’t feel anything and a healthy baby appears. We’re over the moon to have a healthy 3.8kg boy! He gets thoroughly checked over before he comes to me for skin to skin. We are in tears, he is finally here.
Day 20, April 15
We cuddle and hold him tightly while they close me up and move me to the post-op area. I am so scared he won’t be able to feed, I put him close to my breast and ask the nurse what to do and then realise he is sucking already! But then I start noticing a headache and odd vision and my blood pressure goes through the roof. An anaesthetist comes and tells me I am ‘just’ having a panic attack. It’s not surprising with all we have been through but he is so rude I ask for someone else. The next person is more concerned and I stay in post-op for some hours, being monitored. Our parents are so worried standing around outside not knowing what had happened. When we’re finally wheeled through the doors they are elated to see us and so excited to hear they have a grandson. I hold him for nearly 24 hours straight, I can’t bear to let him go. In any case, as the epidural wears off I can’t move much anyway.
Day 21, April 16
These few days in hospital are so hard. I barely get any sleep between the pain, the feeding and nappies and they make my husband go home to sleep. The nights are scary because I can’t lift him and care for him on my own. The pressure to breastfeed is so strong. Thankfully it seems to work okay with us. The obstetric team come in and tell me I’m lucky to have a big healthy baby. I don’t feel lucky and can’t imagine why anyone would ‘choose’ a caesarean. Having a shower for the first time with a health care assistant helping me is bliss.
Day 22, April 17
I am finally walking and feeling a little less painful. Baby gets his first bath, he looks so little. He’s lost some weight despite feeding seeming to go well but I am reassured this isn’t uncommon. I go home on three types of pain relief (Panadol, voltaren and tramadol). My husband drives home so carefully, we have such precious cargo on board. Walking up the stairs and having him have his first sleep on me on the couch is magic. It is so nice to be home and feel calm in our own surroundings.
Day 40, May 5
We have so much love and support coming to us from family and friends. Meals dropped round, visits – everyone wants to meet him. I am incredibly lucky that my husband takes leave and ends up having six weeks off work to spend time at home with us. Our little boy is very unsettled and likes to feed every two hours and barely sleep. I am plagued with clusters of migraines from the sleep deprivation. Because he is our first, all of our time and attention goes to him. I start having awful nightmares about something bad happening to the baby (this can happen with sleep deprivation) and it is frightening. The pain from the c-section takes a good 10 days to improve and then is almost gone by three weeks. I have terrible constipation and haemorrhoids to boot, which takes weeks to settle.
Day 45, May 10
When baby is three and a half weeks old, my husband’s grandfather dies and he has to travel out of town for the funeral. I am in no fit state to go anywhere and feel so vulnerable without him. It is a horrible feeling to have our little family torn apart so soon after our precious boy was born. My mum comes to stay and then we lose power the first night! I have to pack up in the dark and move to my parents – I have no idea what to even take. I am stressed out but thankful for being taken in. Baby has his first long sleep that night at the grandparents, so he certainly isn’t bothered by it! He is growing well, which is a relief. Soon after hubby returns we get our first smile, what a precious delightful moment that is! However, the day before my husband goes back to work I collapse in a heap of tears and exhaustion – I have no idea how I am going to manage with a screaming baby who won’t sleep.
Day 50, May 15
Walking around the block for 45 minutes and baby is still screaming, driving in the car and he is still screaming. None of the normal tricks work. On reflection I realise he is over stimulated and I was missing tired signs but these are the things a first-time mum has no idea about! My Dad drags me out of the house for a hot chocolate and some time out. I ask him why no one ever told me it would be so hard. He didn’t really have an answer, he worked 80-100 hours a week when I was born so I’m not sure he really remembered how hard being a first-time parent was. It is so weird being out in the world, everyone else looks the same but everything has changed for me now with a little baby ruling my life. My Dad has a natural touch at settling our little boy. He will hold him so gently, rocking him in his arms for however long it takes to get him to sleep. It gives me a much needed break at times. Plunket helps me learn about settling baby. I learn about tired signs and how to cope with a crying baby. Slowly he settles and by three months the house seems calmer again.
Throughout all of this, right from Day One, I am besotted. When people ask how I am managing I can honestly make corny statements like, ‘He loves me so much he wants to see me every two hours and I love it!’ The birth wasn’t at all what I had expected. Naïve perhaps, I just really thought I’d have a normal birth, ventouse at worst. I knew a couple of people who’d had ventouse deliveries but hadn’t really heard from anyone who had an emergency caesarean. At the antenatal classes my husband had been chosen to sit up the front and have the instructor demonstrate how many bits of plastic were involved in having a caesarean (the IV line, catheter, fluids, epidural…) little did we know. My body took time to recover. Psychologically, I took a lot longer. I cried a lot in those first two weeks, I was so tired, so sore, so overwhelmed. My husband said he felt suddenly like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, the intensity of the responsibility of having a child came down heavily on us both in the beginning. The events played on my mind, a lot. I dreamed of a smaller baby and a normal delivery. I dreamed of a more peaceful start to our little boy’s life. I dreamed of an easier recovery. Caesarean delivery is actually really common in New Zealand but I had suffered from an ‘it won’t happen to me’ syndrome. There is so much pressure on women to have a ‘normal’ birth. Those weren’t the cards I was dealt. I am grateful that I live in a country where I received excellent obstetric care. In other countries, ladies with obstructed labours can die, the babies can die and if the mum survives they can be left with fistulas. It certainly changed my view of birthing and our health system.
Baby shower fun at 36 weeks. At 38 weeks, the countdown was on.
Tracking baby’s progress in his Well Child book
Getting some skinto-skin time with Daddy. Sharing a sleepy moment with Grandma
Enjoying bathtime at nearly three months. Activity time on the play gym.
In his first outfit from Mummy, hanging with his favourite panda.