It was a beautiful balmy night, one of the last of summer 2015. We were sitting outside with a handful of our dearest; ladies versing the guys at Taboo-taboo-charades (and absolutely annihilating them if I remember correctly). There was way too much laughing for a gigantic pregnant woman such as myself to be comfortable. Half way into the game, I noticed my vision started to go. I held my hand up in front of my face and it was completely invisible. A couple of the girls seemed a little concerned – and to be honest so was I. After a while my vision returned and it wasn’t long before our firstborn (nearly 2) woke up and not-so-quietly made it clear that it was time to call it a night.
This 2nd pregnancy had been really different to my first (my ‘unicorn pregnancy’). This time I’d battled hard in first trimester with an all-consuming nausea that left me defeated and unable to believe that the sun would ever shine again (if you’re in this season now, trust me, it does!) Thankfully I was on the home stretch, 34 weeks and feeling pretty good considering the bowling ball I was carrying around.
A few days went by, and my vision loss came and went intermittently. I tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away on its own but when I started to get headaches as well I remembered something about those symptoms being bad and knew I had to go up to Birth Suite to get checked out.
When I hit 33 weeks in my first pregnancy, I started measuring small and by 38 weeks the fancy growth-scan lady said “It’s time to get this show on the road!” – and I was booked in the next day for an induction. Harper did come out pretty little, 6lb 3oz (2.8kg) and they suspected that my placenta wasn’t doing it’s job properly towards the end.
So this time, with my second pregnancy, I was classified as high risk and had been only seeing doctors. I guess this played into it too, knowing that I had a higher than normal chance of things going pear-shaped.
I begrudgingly dragged myself into Birth Suite one morning after I’d had yet another bout of vision loss. I explained my symptoms to the midwife and she hooked me up to all the machines.
“Yeah, so your blood pressure is really high.”
Dang. I was REALLY hoping that they’d just say I was overreacting and send me home.
A couple hours and a few more tests later and a doctor came and explained that I was in the first stage of pre-eclampsia, called ‘Pregnancy Induced Hypertension’. Great. Just what I had in mind.
At that point I was 35 weeks and it became clear that it was on the cards to be induced within days if things got worse. I was NOT ready. I’m that weird pregnant lady that just wants to go overdue coz I haven’t finished all the things I wanted to do before having my baby.
I stayed overnight in hospital and despite getting some bad results on a few CTG scans, it was a glorious relief when the medication successfully brought my blood pressure down and I got a just-over-borderline CTG result and was sent home.
A few days later, I returned to Birth Suite for my scheduled checkup to see how bub was doing and lo and behold, we got another non-reactive CTG result. They wanted to see that over a 30-minute window, baby’s heart rate had a few periods of acceleration, which I suppose shows that she’s got enough energy to be active. Our babe however, seemed a little too chill. They sent me home and asked me to come back again that evening where we repeated the process and unfortunately came out with the same result.
A lovely doctor came in after that second CTG and explained that he needed to do an urgent ultrasound to measure fluid levels and some other important things. Ross was with me at this stage which was a huge blessing as I was starting to feel pretty raw.
The findings on the ultrasound were not good. The doctor measured fluid levels and told us that they were at half of what they were supposed to be. He was lovely and kind, and seemed very experienced. In that dark, quiet hospital room, he told us “I’ve seen lots of babies and this baby is not doing well. You may need to prepare to have your baby tomorrow and very likely by the weekend”. He gave us some time to ourselves and silent tears streamed down my face as Ross held me on the hospital bed. I wasn’t yet 36 weeks and even though I knew our baby would be well looked after and would probably be just fine, I still felt so scared and overwhelmed. I just wanted to have a normal birth. Even more so after being induced for growth problems with Harper.
I wanted to have that experience of my body going into labour naturally; to tell Ross, “Hey babe, I think I’m in labour!” rushing to pack the bags up and dominate those contractions at home until it was time to go to hospital. I was heartbroken that I wouldn’t get that opportunity yet again.
They transferred me back to the ward and booked me in for a formal scan with the same fancy growth-scan lady first thing in the morning to make a decision. I find that it’s often in those moments, when I feel scared and overwhelmed, that God shows me His loving-kindness the most, and it’s so, so beautiful. Even though there’s only a handful of single rooms at our hospital, I got one. The introvert in me rejoiced and we had much needed cuddles and time to pray together before Ross went home for the night with a list of things to bring back tomorrow for a potential birth. We contacted close friends and family and updated them, asked for prayer that God might turn things around, and grace if we were to have our baby. I got some sleeping tablets just in case I had a birth to participate in the next day, as I figured I’d need all the sleep I could get.
So the sleeping tablets didn’t work at ALL but when I woke up the next day I started praying and just felt this incredible WAVE of peace and joy wash over me. A sense of gratefulness rose up in me and was so strong that it brought me to tears as dawn began to light up my room. I was so happy that I might meet my baby today! Again, I felt reminded of God’s goodness and power to overcome fear and replace it with peace in our big moments. And the power of praying friends. Amazing.
I spoke with another lovely doctor on her morning rounds. She was wonderful and explained the whole situation to me; high blood pressure in pregnancy is a tell-tale sign that something is not right. Whether it’s a struggling placenta, it’s your body’s way of saying “Woah! Hold up! Something’s a little cray! We’re in struggle-town here!” (I may have paraphrased that part). She said that if bub is still showing signs of not doing well, it’s not worth the risk to wait. She told me to prepare to have my baby today and that it was also very likely it could be by c-section. Despite that news pretty much being my worst nightmare, I was again amazed by the blanket of peace I felt over me. And I knew it would all be ok.
I spoke with my mum on the phone and she told me that one of her friends had been in a similar experience that God had turned around, and was praying that the fluid from my body would know exactly where to go for the health of the baby. And that really encouraged me.
Ross rushed around that morning, spending some last special time with Harper at home and packing all the things we needed to start our new chapter. He arrived just seconds after the hospital escort came to collect me for the all-deciding scan. We were prepared for another “time to get this show on the road” and this time, I was determined to be ready.
In the ultrasound chair, the technician prodded and poked and typed numbers into the computer. We sat there nervously. Finally she looked up at us and said,
“This baby looks completely fine! The fluid levels have pretty much doubled since last night’s scan?!! I don’t see any reason to induce right now, she looks great.”
We couldn’t believe our ears. Well actually we could. It’s not the first time that God has completely turned something around for good. We were amazed, overwhelmed, full of praise and awe! Full of faith that God had it under control. After a long wait back in the ward that day, a new doctor reviewed the results and sent me home for a WHOLE WEEK! I nearly cried with happiness. I felt like I’d been given a new chance at LIFE. I was seriously over the moon and sooooo grateful. Glory!!
The next day was the last day of school term and I felt and knew it was the end of an era. I enjoyed my firstborn more that day than I think I ever have. I drank him in. I drank in that last day ever of ‘just us’. In the afternoon I took him to a beautiful park nearby and we watched the ducks and played together in the sunshine. I called Ross and suggested he come join us after work and relish this most glorious moment with us!
We sat down together on this sort of empty amphitheater, recapping the lovely day we’d both had. Harper was off climbing up the steps and thoroughly enjoying himself.
Suddenly, my heart stopped as I saw him out of the corner of my eye on the very top step, walking over to the edge. He was only 22 months and if we’re honest, not the most coordinated kid out. I didn’t know what was on the other side, but it was a good 3m drop – potentially onto concrete. My irrational mother instinct completely overtook me and I leapt up and sprinted over to him faster than any pregnant woman has ever moved before. Ross yelled “SHEZ!! STOP!!” But I didn’t hear it through my insane mum-fear. Up one step, two steps, and the final step to where he was standing. I underestimated how high I needed to leap to clear the step and my left foot didn’t quite make it over. I face planted HARD onto that top level and landed mostly on my belly. It knocked the wind out of me so much that it brought me to tears instantly. The nail on my big toe was completely crushed from impact and I just lay there sobbing. After I came to terms with what had happened, I had the chilling revelation that I’d just fallen ONTO my baby, with great force. I sobbed some more. My whole body ached and I could hardly move. Harper stood next to me, obviously completely fine and NOT lying in blood on the other side of the wall (surprise, surprise).
On the drive home I just felt numb. “I can’t get her to move” I told Ross. For a whole half hour after getting home I couldn’t feel our baby move. It’s in those moments my mind goes cray and I was laying there shivering, thinking “I just killed my baby”. Intense moment much. Then, I felt her do a little twirl and my world was brought back to life again.
The next days were pretty blissful, taking up curtains, making baby things and getting to do all the ‘nesting’ I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to do. At my next appointment I was told that they were cheering me on to go full-term and have a natural birth. I couldn’t believe a natural birth was even on the cards at this stage!
I hit 37 weeks (with much celebration!!) but bub seemed to be getting quieter. On Sunday morning I felt weird. I couldn’t feel many movements at all, even when I lay down on my side (this normally worked). It was pretty quiet in there and my mind went into overdrive. I read some article (dumb thing to do) about how reduced fetal movement is the earliest indication of impending fetal death. Heavy.
I became more and more nervous and decided that for my sanity, I had to go into birth suite and hook up to the monitors. Unfortunately I got a non-reactive CTG result (for like, the 6th time or something crazy!) and they told me to go home and come back later in the evening to see if we could get a better result.
I really didn’t want to go back in and do a re-run of the past 2 hospital trips, it just felt like an emotional rollercoaster I really didn’t want to get back on for a 3rd time. Plus, I’d organized a much needed catch up with Nina that night, and I really didn’t want to miss out. So I did what my inner self would NEVER do. I broke the rules.
I sat out on the steps with Ross and told him that I wasn’t going back in because I knew our baby was fine. We got chatting and I said “You know what? We’re ready. We’ve done everything we need to do. We’ve still got a week left of holidays and we may as well have our new baby girl safe and sound in our arms so we don’t have to keep worrying about her.” He agreed.
That night Nina came over as planned and I told her about my rebellious decision to ignore the midwife’s wishes to come back in. She’s a classic rule-keeper too but understood my predicament. We had a great last hurrah catch-up before the newborn stage would swallow me up and as she was leaving I started feeling some regular tightenings. I remember saying “hmmm, I’m getting a LOT of Braxton Hicks…I wonder if it means anything…?” She’d already agreed to be at my birth for a second time (she was such a good fan waver the first time!) so she told me “Well, I’ll keep my phone on loud and just call me if you go into labour!!”
It was 10:30pm. I got in my pj’s and crawled into bed, tired and SO relaxed and ready for a 10 hour sleep (broken up only by 36 trips to the toilet of course). Then it hit me.
“Owies. That hurt a little.” I thought.
A few minutes later,
“Ok OUCH. That’s like an actual contraction. Surely it’s just a weird one off thing. I’ll just relax and slowly drift off to sleep.
2 minutes later,
“Oh crap. I think I’m in actual labour. NOOOOOOO! SLEEP! COME TO ME! DON’T LET THIS COME BETWEEN US! I MISS YOU! I NEED YOU! I LOVE YOOOUUUUU…”
S: Hey babe. I think I’m in labour.
R: Woah. Seriously?
S: Yeah I think so.
(A pretty beautiful moment considering I’d dreamed of being able to have that conversation!)
2 minutes later.
S: Holy CRAP. I’m definitely in labour!! Wowzers.
R: Ok! You go shower! I’ll pack the car! Call your sister to come round!
I had a glorious (apart from contractions) shower and washed my hair one last time before I would have a newborn attached to me 23 hours a day.
Then I blow-dried and straightened my hair. Coz YOLO (you only labour once…)
My sister arrived and I was actually having to start breathing through contractions whilst I was still coming to terms with the tragic loss of my 10 hour sleep. Nina soon arrived after being rudely awoken (and very surprised) from a phone call saying “Guess who’s in labour?!!”
So there we were. Three pregnant women and Ross (Nina and my sister were both pregnant at the time!) sat around our dining room table at midnight having what Ross coined “a labour party” with a platter of nibbles and plenty of encouragement and laughter to keep me going. I was cranking my tens machine during contractions and dominating just like I’d hoped. It was awesome.
Every contraction went up a notch and by 1:45am we headed to the hospital. We met my lovely friend and birth photographer Clare Levett from Barebright Photography and were so stoked she made it in time to take some pics for us. We settled into the birth suite, and I was 6cm dilated. I think the midwife thought it was going to be a couple more hours but within minutes I started yelling like a cat hanging on a clothesline by the tail (that’s Ross’ description, so it must be accurate) which, from experience, told me that I was nearly ready to start pushing. At the sound of my very uninhibited wailing, two midwives and a doctor came rushing in, asking me if I was feeling the pressure (to which I replied YES I’M FEELING THE PRESSURE!!!!) and scuttling around the room getting delivery implements ready.
“I really feel like I’m about to start pushing” I mumbled, fully-clothed and with no seeming intention to move, mind you. At that point I was sitting on a chair, arms and head resting on the bed, just breathing in those few moments of relief between contractions. The lovely older midwife very wisely asked me “Sheryn, where are you going to give birth dear? Are you going to get up on the bed?”
Oh yes, I should probably think about that fact that I’m seconds away from pushing a baby out.
I hardly got up onto the bed before I started pushing. Everyone (including Ross) seemed to still be catching up with the fact that I was ready to get this baby out, after all it hadn’t even been four hours since my first contraction.
Ross asked the midwife (probably more for himself than for me) “When can she start pushing?”
“Whenever she wants to”. And that was all the encouragement I needed. I just went into my own little world of pushing this baby out. Within a few pushes I felt in my body and could tell from the reactions of the midwives and Ross that I was doing well.
“OH WOOW SHEZI!” said a surprised and excited Ross.
I kept going and after about a minute her head was out.
They all encouraged me to look and I had a quick glance before reiterating that “I just want to get her out!!” So that’s what I did. Another contraction and there she was, at 2:23am. I will never forget the feeling of all the pressure and weight and pain just melting away.
Before I could get my breath, a tiny warm, wet little body was lying on my chest. Crying. Safe. Healthy. Beautiful. What a miraculous, sacred, God-breathed moment. The moment you meet the little human that’s going to change the rest of your life. That moment you come face to face with the little soul you’ve been sharing your body with for 9 months. There are no words.
All the pain had stopped. The hard work complete. Our worries dissipated. We welcomed with full and so very grateful hearts, our beautiful baby girl, sister to Harper and our first daughter. Eden Joy. Delight; joy-filled; victorious in battle.
Happy 1st Birthday Eden. Today we celebrate more than just your glorious entrance into the world. We celebrate getting through a year full of hardships and battles, all of which you have been the brightest little star lighting up our home and our family. Making us stronger, bringing us new-found peace, stretching us to be more resilient, opening our eyes to a life with new colour and new joy.