I come from a long line of strong women. My mother gave birth to a beast of a brother, just shy of 4kgs, she was in labour for 8 hours with no epidural. As a result I was pretty desperate to give birth to Luke the natural way.
As we came to realise however, we had no control over any aspect of this pregnancy, including the way in which Luke would make his entrance into the big bad world.
My contractions started the evening before my active labour– I hardly slept a wink that night but I did not realise that I was actually in labour. The next morning I popped to the shops with a great need to stock our deep freeze, this should have been a warning sign! Whilst shopping I phoned my Gynae to describe the pain I was feeling and was told that it was likely that I was in labour and that I should come in at one for a check up. I drove myself home, had a shower and casually loaded my hospital bags into the car. If this is labour, then this is easy – I thought to myself!
I was in labour for 8 hours. When I was 6cm dilated my Gynae informed me that I needed to make a decision regarding an epidural as time was running out. I phoned my Dad desperate for some veterinary medical advice. I was sure he would draw an analogy between myself and a cow giving birth, but after explaining that I was feeling strong and that I didn’t feel that I needed the epidural his exact words were “Pinky, no one needs to be a hero. Take the drugs”. 5 minutes later I had the epidural.
I stayed 6cm dilated for a further 4 hours.
A wise woman once told me that giving birth was a similar pain to that of running Comrades and as a result I was pretty relaxed about the birthing process, the one thing however that caused me great anxiety was a caesarean. The thought of my stomach muscles being sliced open, pulled and yanked filled me with dread. When my Gynae informed me after being 6cm dilated for 4 hours that an emergency C – section was the only option, I was gutted.
Due to the fact that I had already had an epidural the anesthetist could not administer a spinal block. The only option was to continue to top up my existing epidural, as a result I felt like I could feel every slice, every tug and every pull. This pain was NOTHING like running the Comrades.
After what felt like an eternity Luke was pulled out of my womb. As they rushed him past me all I saw was a swollen, navy blue little grub. Due to the fact that he had been fully engaged in a prolonged labour he was exhausted and lacking oxygen. He also wasn’t breathing properly.
The pediatrician and midwife quickly moved him through to the NICU with Jon swiftly behind. As I lay being stitched up, I had no idea what was unfolding. But I also saw panic in Jon’s face as he left theatre.
As the nurses wheeled me through to recovery, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and I was deflated that I had not yet been able to hold my son.
Later in my room it was explained to me that the doctors were not happy with Luke’s oxygen levels and that he would have to remain in the NICU so that they could monitor his absorption rate. They also warned that this was often a sign of a heart defect, a common occurrence in Down Syndrome babies. That night was excruciating. Despite being drugged up on pain meds I did not sleep a wink.
The following morning brought further bad news. As I hobbled to the NICU to see my son, I was overcome with emotion seeing this tiny little babe riddled with tape and pipes, hooked up to machines monitoring his every movement. We were informed by the pediatrician that they were still not happy with the absorption rate and as a result we would have to be transferred to a specialist heart hospital in order for the necessary heart scans to be performed.
I had still not had any sleep and seeing my little boy being loaded by paramedics in his incubator into an ambulance was heart wrenching. Jon was to follow Luke’s ambulance and I was to be taken to the heart hospital in another ambulance.
Waiting for the ambulance felt like the longest hour of my life. I was worried and angry at everything and everyone.
At the specialist hospital, almost 24 hours later I finally got to hold our son. It was really only at this stage that the fierce, uncontrollable love for my little boy was truly felt. More good news was to follow when the specialist Paed broke the news to us that after scans of Luke’s heart, no defects were found. I almost tackled that poor doctor out of relief and gratitude.
Luke through the whole awful labour process taught me a number of different lessons. He taught me how to be brave when I was scared. He taught me that pain was temporary and that through patience the greatest joy can emerge. He taught me how to be patient when I thought I was losing my mind. He taught me to have courage. He showed me all of these traits through the incredible bravery, courage and patience that he had displayed in the first few hours of his life.