I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look back at THAT Sunday without the angst and sudden rush of dread as if I’m experiencing it all over again. I’m not sure my body will ever forget the shock and feeling of pure terror as we embarked on the unfamiliar journey before us. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to ‘let go’ of the hurt I felt in my heart as I stared straight forward to the realisation of what the future could have held.
It was an ordinary plain Sunday, the nondescript kind where it feels as though nothing is accomplished and nothing is gained. I was 31 weeks pregnant to the day and, having a 9 month old Son, I was needy for a rest. I remember waking up with him at 6am and almost crying with tiredness ‘please baby boy, give mammy a lie in’ I uttered as I attempted to bribe him with a bottle. He took the bait and I recall thinking that he must have recognised just how badly I needed the next three hours. I crawled back into bed and was amazed when we next woke up at 9.
Feeling somewhat rejuvenated, I set about tidying the house before my husband came home (he’d been out celebrating the night before and, as I could no longer tolerate his drunken snoring, I’d persuaded him to stop at his mother’s). As I scrubbed the kitchen work tops, I thought to myself ‘imagine if I was nesting’ but then brushed the thoughts aside as I was only 31 weeks pregnant. I had at least another 9 weeks left, there was no way on Earth I could be. I look back now and wonder whether instinctively I’d known.
As I said before, it was an ordinary plain Sunday. Once my husband returned, I left him to curl up on the sofa and nurse his hangover while I tackled the grocery shop. It was there that I begun to think that this wasn’t going to be the nondescript day I’d hoped for.
I’d been pushing the trolley but pausing every few minutes in agonising pain. Stupidly, I continued round the store’s entirety to complete the task at hand. It was only 9 months prior that I’d experienced labour, I recognised it immediately yet I tried desperately to convince myself that I was overreacting, that the pains were simply down to over exertion and as soon as I rested, they’d pass. The journey to the hospital was the slowest 6 minutes of my life. My Husband and I sat in silence as he drove, my son sat snoring in his car seat oblivious to the emotional rollercoaster underway in the front.
What bothers me most about THAT Sunday was the blasé attitude of the Midwives when I arrived at Hospital. ‘I’m in Labour’ I explained calmly. ‘Well we’ll see’ replied the sixty something nurse as she walked me to the assessment suite.
I was hooked up to the heart rate monitor for 45 minutes before they would check to see if labour was underway. In this time, my labour elevated to an irreversible state. Eventually panicking as much as I was, The midwives whisked me straight to the delivery suite. It felt surreal and straight out of Hollywood as I was wheeled along the corridor. I screamed and screamed, pleaded with the midwives, begged to God that someone would prevent me from having this baby. I squeezed my legs tightly together and tried my utmost best to keep my baby girl safe within my womb.
Once settled in the delivery suite, I was told that I’d have to wait for a consultant before I could receive pain relief. I was also told that my contractions had slowed and my body was only 2cm dilated. Labour could be stopped at least for 24 hours so that my princess could have 2 steroid injections to help her lungs cope with prematurity. I never saw the consultant. My baby never received her injections. When I started screaming that I was pushing, the midwives didn’t quite believe me. ‘you can’t be, you’re only 2cm’ one uttered. That was, of course, until she saw the head.
The next three minutes of my life passed so quickly that I can’t really remember the order of events. I remember glancing at my husband who was sat on a chair at the opposite end of the delivery suite, head in hand, tears in eyes. I remember the midwife frantically plying me with diamorphine even though it would take 20 minutes to enter my system (time I didn’t have). I remember my mother’s strength as she held my hand and reassured me through gritted teeth that everything was going to be okay. I remember one midwife preparing me for the worst scenario. ‘She might not be breathing’ ‘her lungs might not work’. I tried to remain positive and focused on the statistics that 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, 14 million of those babies survive. However, in that situation, you can’t help but think that you could make up one of those remaining million. Your baby could easily become one of those awful statistics.
The cry was quite profoundly the most amazing sound I’ve ever heard. Her tiny little lungs allowed her to croak and squeal just enough that I was allowed a 30 second cuddle. Then she was gone. Stolen from my chest and taken to Neonatal. It was over. Labour had ended. My baby girl was here and she was strong. As the diamorphine began to caress my body, I laid back and closed my eyes. My husband followed Siena to her new home, my mother watched me sleep.