Thursday, 21 June 2012

Welcome to the World Edward!

...or Ted.

So much for my maternity leave plans...  Ted surprised us, and confounded the 'first babies are always late' theorists, by making an appearance 2 and a half weeks before his due date.  I'm not sure I could say that we were 'ready' for him, but then are you ever?!

Lots of friends have asked me about the birth - so here goes.  Please feel free not to read if this kind of thing doesn't interest you - I'm sure I wouldn't have read about it before I was about 6 months pregnant (I spent that long being completely 'head in the sand' about the whole process!).  In fact, definitely don't read it if you're in any way squeamish or simply don't want to know.  I understand completely!

Last Wednesday, 13th June, we went to bed as usual, but the last thing I remember saying to Rob was 'I have a funny pain at the top of my bump'...  I thought no more of it and went to sleep.  At 12:40 I woke up needing the bathroom, and as I stood up there was literally a gush of liquid as my waters broke.  I remember standing there saying 'BLOODY HELL' to a comatose Rob, and then rushing off to the toilet.  It really was quite dramatic!  Of course, we then couldn't remember what we were meant to do - stay at home and wait?  Call the midwife?  So I rang Salisbury hospital who asked me to come in to be monitored as I was over 2 weeks early.  They put me on a foetal monitor for an hour or so and once they were satisfied that all was OK they sent me home 'to rest', telling me to come in to the day assessment unit the following morning to have a scan (I had one scheduled for the following week to check the position of my placenta and the size of the baby as my bump was so small).

So we came home and tried unsuccessfully to get back to sleep - me because I had begun to have contractions, and Rob because I kept asking him to massage my back!  It was at this point that the NCT massage techniques we had practised were really useful and soothing.  By 7am I started to time the contractions as I knew that once I got to 3 per 10 minutes, for a consistent length of time, labour was really beginning to be established, and by 9am that's exactly what had happened - I was finding it hard to talk through a contraction, and when I called the hospital again they said to come straight in to the labour ward.  Massage now fast became pretty useless!

I think we were the only people on the labour ward at that point so we were taken straight to the biggest delivery room that also had a birthing pool as I had said that I'd like to use water during labour.

The consultant came and told me she wanted to insert a drip into my hand as they were concerned that the baby was small and that the placenta was in the way of the cervix, but at this point I was able to put up a coherent argument for a lack of medical intervention and begged instead for her to find a portable scanner and check on the baby/placenta that way.  She agreed, saw the placenta was well out of the way and that the baby looked fine, and let me off without the drip.

A quick internal exam showed I was only 2cm dilated which made me cry as it really didn't seem much after 7 hours of labour, however 'mild', but the midwife was really encouraging and said it was all going well.  She said she'd examine me again in 4 hours time ('FOUR HOURS?!?' I was thinking... 'surely it'll all be over by then?!')  They said it was too early to run the water in the pool, but before long I decided that I wanted to be in a bath, so they ran one for me in the room's en-suite bathroom.  They also wheeled in the bottle of Entenox (gas and air) so I could carry on using that to help with the pain.  I wasn't really sure if the gas and air was doing much, but I do recall some nice 'trippy' moments in the bath whilst sucking on the Entenox and listening to a Sting CD!  Incidentally, I did find that music helped me get into the zone and focus on working through the contractions.  Nothing can really prepare you for the experience, but for me music helped, as did counting my breaths through each wave of pain.   It was about 10 breaths per contraction and I knew 6 and 7 were the worst, then it would subside.  I also managed to eat some tea and toast, and then later an egg and cress sandwich for lunch, which Rob fed to me as I was sitting in the bath.  Yes, that's right, no matter where I am and what I'm doing, I always have my appetite for food!

I've just re-read that and it does make it all seem rather calm and collected, whereas I was feeling anything but...  The pains just got so intense, I began to make some rather strange involuntary noises (like a cow, apparently!), and then I clearly remember deciding that SHOUTING would help, so I started yelling OWWWW!!!  and quite possibly some other, rather riper, phrases as well!  The labour ward is on the ground floor, and lots of the windows were open, so I dread to think what the people walking past were thinking...

When I was examined 4 hours later I was 5cm dilated, but at this point the 'natural birth-plan' was out of the window and I was asking if we could possibly consider some pain-relief options.  Well, they might not have been my exact words, but that was the gist of it!  They said they'd give me some pethadine which I had hoped to avoid (not wanting it to affect the baby) and they said they'd get me some.  With hindsight this should have been the time to fill the birthing pool but I guess as I'd just got out of the bath they didn't think there was any rush.  They also attached foetal monitors directly to the baby's head as the ones on my bump kept slipping off.

Time, in my memory, is rather distorted at this point, but I do know that they got back with the pethadine, did another internal exam and announced that I was - ta-da! - fully dilated so it was 'too late' to give me the drug.  Did I really finish dilating that quickly, or did they just take hours to get back to me?  No idea!  Whatever, this was a real mix of emotions.  Some real 'I did it!' feelings, that I had got that far on 'only' Entenox, and also the (sadly misguided) idea that I was 'nearly there'.  Surely it would now be only a few pushes and I'd meet my baby?!

Er, no.  That's when it all started to go wrong.  My contractions all but stopped.  In a way this was good as it did give me a chance to rest (and everyone else in the room got a break from my torrent of abuse!).  However, it soon became clear that this baby wasn't going anywhere without some help.  They tried the natural way first - I was offered a choice of essential oils for an aromatherapy massage (clary sage, jasmine and rose all apparently help to speed up contractions) and I chose jasmine.  I remember laughing because they made up some massage oil with it, and put it in a urine-sample pot!  Nice.  I enjoyed some massage with it, and it did help to bring the contractions back, but they weren't strong enough for me to push hard.  After a while (er, about 3 hours...) it was decided that the Doctor really needed to see me to 'make a plan'. He eventually arrived, a rather brusque chap, and had a rummage around (God, it's all so undignified).  He pronounced that the baby was lying back-to-back (as opposed to facing my back) and that I needed to go to theatre for an epidural and forceps, and failing that they would prep me for a C-Section.

From hereon in it became like a scene from ER as I was lifted onto a trolley and literally run through the corridors to the main operating theatre.  Suddenly I was surrounded by people in green scrubs - all of whom were the most wonderful kind, smiling, caring, lovely people who literally held my hand throughout the entire process.  Rob was left outside the theatre to change into scrubs while I was wheeled in, lifted onto another bed, rolled over and given an epidural in between contractions with me shouting 'PLEASE TAKE AWAY THE PAIN!!!'.  And from then on - wow!  I really started to almost enjoy the process!  My legs quickly went numb and the only way I knew I was having contractions was when the midwife told me, and I watched my stomach contort.  I was determined NOT to have a C-Section after a day of labour, so I knew I was going to push this baby out.  The doctor inserted the forceps and turned the baby round - this involved an epesiotomy, but I knew nothing about it by then.  The midwife told me when a contraction was starting and said 'Push like you're having a big poo!'  She said 'Your baby's head has been born!' and I asked 'has it got hair?' (meaning of course 'is it a ginger?!') to which she replied 'yes, a bit'.  Then another contraction apparently came, I was told to PUSH and suddenly there was my baby being held aloft.  They asked Rob to tell me what it was... and I heard him say 'It's a boy!' 

Put me back!

He was briefly taken to the side of the room to be wiped down (he was covered in blood and vernix) and then brought over to me wrapped in a blanket with a little woolly hat on.  In hindsight I wish I'd asked for the immediate skin-to-skin contact, but at the time it didn't matter.  He looked so scrawny and pale - and angry, poor little chap - but it was amazing how quickly he became pink and beautiful.  I think I was being 'sorted out down there' while this was all happening - I do remember seeing a bucket with the placenta in it (ick!) which was apparently huge, meaning I lost a whopping 800ml of blood during the delivery.  I must have been stitched, and I remember one of the staff whispering that they'd put a suppository in (while they were down there I guess...  should have asked for a bikini wax too!) but I was blissfully unaware of it all.

We were soon wheeled down to post-op recovery where we were the only mother and child, so got lots of attention from the cooing nurses.  Later still it was back to the post-natal ward where we finally got that famous post-birth tea and toast.  And yes, it was awesome!

That night is a blur - he was born at 7:30pm, weighing 6lb 8oz - but that's about all I can remember. He was very fractious all night (and who can blame him?!) but I recall just holding him and rocking him and smiling like a lunatic.

The next day I felt like I'd been run over by a truck.  I had to keep a drip in, and a catheter, so I was confined to bed, but Rob was back first thing to deal with the first meconium nappy, and supply me with constant cups of tea (and dried apricots - I was determined to keep things moving 'down there'!).  By the afternoon I was allowed to have the drip and catheter removed so was able to move around gradually, and my recovery in the week since then has been pronounced 'excellent' by the midwives. 

Before I finish, I'd just like to say that the midwifery and medical care I have received in Salisbury has been absolutely superb.  The midwifery team, both in the hospital and the community team, are incredible.  I have never met a more caring and supportive group of professional people.  I have had home-visits every day since I got home from hospital, and numerous offers of help and support from people such as breastfeeding counsellors (we've had a rocky start on that front).  I couldn't have asked for more.

So that's the story of Ted's entry into this world.  He's the most delightful baby, I feel very blessed to have him.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Goodbye Brunei, Hello England!

Well, it's been 6 weeks since my last blog post and - no apologies for not blogging sooner - it's been a somewhat hectic time!

Leaving any posting is hard.  Hard work physically, packing up your life into boxes, but hard work emotionally too, saying goodbye to people who have become fantastic friends often within a relatively short space of time.  It's military life I suppose, but it's not something that ever becomes any easier as time goes on. 

Brunei was the hardest place we've ever had to leave.  Of course there were things about Brunei itself that were hard to say goodbye to - the climate, the travel opportunities, the Yacht Club, etc - but mainly it was the people.  I think it's a function of being abroad and so far from home, but we had found ourselves part of a small and close-knit community amongst which we had made some extraordinarily close friends - lots of colleagues from my school, and also the rest of the British Loan Service community of which we were an active part.  We had also recently joined a choir, the Serunai Singers, and as much of our final fortnight in Brunei was taken up with rehearsals for 2 concerts, this too became a new group of people to whom we had to say a sad farewell.

So here's some photos of our final couple of weeks in Brunei:

Goodbye to the Serunai Singers.  The concerts were fantastic.

A lovely farewell tea at Pantai Jerudong hosted by Rob's OCS colleagues.

Plenty of 'final lunches' at our various favourite local restaurants.

Celebrating Rob's birthday amongst the chaos of our final few days in the country.  Luckily it was also the Loan Service Quiz Night so a very sociable occasion!

Goodbye to Berakas Camp, our home for the past 21 months.

Our final night in Brunei, and a lovely party hosted by our wonderful neighbours.  We stayed until after midnight, despite my pregnancy tiredness - we just didn't want to leave.

And our last day in Brunei spent, of course, at the Yacht Club.  The lovely Reggie gave us our final meal 'on the house' and we spent the day chatting with both ISB and LS friends.  A fitting end to our time there.

But now, 8000 miles and a 17-hour flight later, we're back in the UK.

We landed early in the morning and went straight to spend the day with Rob's nieces and their families.  It was fantastic to see everyone again and we were really touched by the effort they had made to welcome us home.

Banner, bunting and balloons!

Sneaky pre-lunch trip to the pub - ahhh, bliss!

 Gorgeous Sunday lunch.

Four nights in a hotel in Salisbury followed, during which we enjoyed reacquainting ourselves with this beautiful city and its wonderful historic buildings.  Not something we had been used to in Asia.

To give ourselves a break from the unpacking of the boxes that were delivered to our house, we took a few days to visit my parents in South Devon.  The weather was stunning so we were able to enjoy the glorious coast and countryside, as well as having lots of great meals cooked for us of course.

We managed to see pretty much everyone else in Rob's family over the Jubilee weekend when we went to visit them in a holiday cottage in Corfe Castle, Dorset.  All very sociable, and a great place to celebrate.

But now we're at home, waiting for the next excitement to come...  Baby Norm is due in just over 3 weeks and we're slowly getting things organised.  In the meantime I've set myself a little maternity-leave project to fill in some of the gaps in this blog.  Looking back through my photos I realise that there are lots of things I didn't blog about - our trip to Australia for example, and the National Day 2012 parade which was such an impressive Brunei event.  So hopefully several more blog-posts to come over the next few weeks.