Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Breathe

Finally on March 13th, two days after being admitted to the hospital for preterm premature rupture of membranes, I received an ultrasound to measure my amniotic fluid levels. They were so low they decided to induce me that night. There was a mad scramble to try and set up an ultrasound for my heart and get a cardiologist to review the film before they set labour into motion.

Later that afternoon the obstetrician came to tell me she didn't think they would have time to do the ECG and they would just have to proceed as though I did have aortic stenosis. She said it would be tricky because they would need to control my pain without giving me drugs that could affect the heart and send me into cardiac arrest, or worse.

I remember feeling very little at that point. Everything had happened so fast. I wasn't registering anything anymore. I was past the point of panic. Two hours later the doctor came back with news that she had finally managed to get me in for an ECG. The test took a little over an hour and in the end they discovered that I did have an aortic, bicuspid, valve defect, but that it wasn't aortic stenosis and it wouldn't affect me during the birth of my child. My relief was short lived. I now had my son to worry about.

At 9 pm that night I was induced, and for anyone who has had an induction you know there is very little transitioning between prelabour to birth. My labour was hard and fast from the beginning and on top of it I was in back labour. I remember thinking that the pain was just too much to bear. I repeatedly asked for an epidural and they repeatedly told me that it was too early for one and that from the look of the contractions (which never got closer than three minutes apart) I wasn't progressing. So instead they gave me a shot of morphine and told me to suck back on the laughing gas. Now the reason they never checked to see how far I was dilated was because the obstetrician forbid it. If labour didn't take and the induction failed then the constant checking of my cervix could cause infection and I would have even more problems to deal with.

I think not knowing how much longer you have to be in excruciating pain for was the worst part of my labour. There was no jumping off point. I couldn't say okay, I've made it to seven centimeters, i can make it the rest of the way. The only way the nurses could tell if I was progressing was by how close my contractions were, and like I said, they were never any closer than 3 minutes apart.

The nurses were so convinced of my lack of progress that after 12 hours they sent my husband to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Ten minutes after he left I began to throw up, and a resident who had been following my case and had come to check on me, decided that she would check me against doctors orders. She soon announced that I was 9 centimeters dilated and the nurses better page the doctor. The doctor wasn't the only one called, Scott was also paged and he later told me how he sprinted up three flights of stairs to get back to my room. He made it before the doctor did, but I also told him that if he left my side again I would murder him. Needless to say with our next child he was not allowed to leave the room, no matter how tired or hungry he became.

After the doctor arrived he told me it was time to start pushing. It took five pushes and 20 minutes to get Gabriel into this world. Meanwhile four NICU nurses and the paediatrician, along with three of his residents waited in the back of the room to receive my son. There were also the two induction nurses, the maternity resident who had been following my case, the nurse who had originally admitted me and her two student nurses, and the delivery doctor all crammed into the induction suite. It was a regular birth party. After Gabriel was born he was rushed to the back so quickly I didn't even get a glimpse of him.

Now, I knew that I shouldn't expect him to cry. I was warned multiple times that he may not be able to breathe on his own, but as a mother you don't really have a choice to whether or not you are going to listen for your child's first breath. I remember peering around Dr. Preston as he tried his best to distract me while I was trying my best to ignore him. I knew then that it was taking too long for Gabriel to cry, I began to panic. All I could think was "he can't die". The word "breathe" became a mantra in my head as I prayed to whatever god might be out there. I looked at Scott and could see that he was listening for the cry as well. I never wanted anything so badly in my life but to hear my child scream his little lungs out. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we heard him. His cry rang throughout the room and I collapsed backwards onto my pillow from exhaustion and relief.

My baby was alive. He was alive.

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