Waking up on Wednesday 3 October 2007 was like any other day, but now I had to wear a pad, the discharge was thick and I did not want it showing through my clothes. I had a busy day planned at work co coordinating the antenatal classes. I walked through birthing suite; it was packed with more women coming in. Of all the days I needed this one to be quiet.
I went to the loo again and was scared to see green fluid on my pad. This was it, we were in serious trouble and it was happening today. It wasn’t long before I started having pains, actually I had been cramping on and off all morning. I called the obstetrician who saw me immediately. Another mother with her new baby were sitting in his waiting room and commented that I looked like I wanted to be anywhere else but here. She will never know how right she was. I couldn’t even sit on the chair properly because I was so frightened. I had a scan and was reassured that all was ok, but needed to have more tests done in birthing site to be sure. I knew what they were and what they would show.
I had to wait for a room as it was so busy. I’m sure the other midwives had no idea what was happening to me as demonstrated by the look on their faces when the saw me half an hour later. I couldn’t sit down; I was contracting every three minutes and felt like I needed something to help me with the pain.
I hadn’t called Kane who had taken allocated day off and was at home. I didn’t know what to say nor do other then go with what my body was telling me. Have this baby – it’s ok – you have known that this was happening – I told you. The midwife finally got me on the bed. I hated pulling my pants down in from of people I worked with but I knew it had to be done. The obstetrician examined me and was trying to get the midwives attention, she respected my privacy enough to turn away but the emergency at hand took over. I had bludging membranes and was in labour.
I screamed so loud the midwives heard me in the other rooms, now it was clear to everyone what was happening. Not again, not again with another baby, not Ben is all I could think and howl into my hands. Then a thousand thoughts ran through my mind including the class I had taught that last weekend, the first woman I had looked after who lost her baby at 22 weeks, how young I was and realise I had no concept of what these women went through, until now. I came to the sudden realisation that I needed to make some calls. I called Kane and disturbed him about to hangout washing as I found the next day with it sitting still wet in a basket on the floor.
The midwives went into overdrive as you do with anyone in this situation. In fact it was getting worse as I felt the warmth of fluid running all down my legs, it was green fluid and it was running like a tap. My waters had broken as they tried to stop the labour and transfer me to the tertiary hospital where they could resuscitate babies born from 23 weeks. Kane arrived to a disaster and he held onto me the whole time reassuring and protecting me the best way he could. He would just hold me through the contraction pain and let me squeeze him as hard as I liked without complaint.
It wasn’t long before I was in an ambulance and at the birthing suite of the other hospital. I knew the room as they wheeled me in, it was the bereavement room. I knew this from a previous tour I had done when considering which hospital to work. The drugs to stop the labour no longer took effect and the pain was intense and ongoing. Not long after I screamed the baby is coming, the obstetrician examined me and informed me that I was only two centimetres dilated and had no presenting part of the baby in my pelvis and finally advised I could be like this for days. I pleaded for an epidural and was told no, then for a caesarean again no was the answer. I couldn’t express my exasperation through the pain; I could only stare at the midwife with the knowing look of impending birth and wishing for someone to put me out of my misery.
All through this Kane was holding me and trying to speak with the nurses and doctors who were going to resuscitate Ben. We decided to allow him to choose if he wanted to be resuscitated for it was just too confusing for us. If he showed signs of life, then it was ‘go ahead’. The resuscitation table was set up and neonatologist and nurse consultant called. I went from two centimetres to feeling like something was coming in one hour. Ben was breech and his feet were presenting first. This was not unusual for a very premature baby. As the obstetrician examined me again I nearly went through the wall with pain as he literally stretched my cervix. He had a very concerned look on his face as I finally had a break in contractions. He leant over and said you really need to push with the next contraction. Christ, I wanted someone get me out of here, I hate being here; this can’t be happening is all I could think as I waited for that final contraction.
It was the longest break in pain I had through my labour. This was Ben’s way of saying let me sleep. As the next contraction approached I braced myself for pushing and with one push he was born and silence filled the room. The quiet voice of the neonatologist informed us that his heartbeat was feeble and 60. As Ben chose – we let him sleep and assumed that he died at that moment.
It wasn’t until three days later that we discovered he lived for 57 minutes. If only I had known, I would have held him until he drew his last breath. Instead he died alone on a resuscitation table.
It will haunt me for all the days in my life.
PS - I have gone on to have another son, Tom, last year and am always happy to hear his cry.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem