Our son Lucas Scott Cornelius was born via an emergency cesarean section on Monday 5 May 2014 at 1.50 a.m.
I had started to have irregular but painful contractions on Saturday morning around 9 a.m. (And since our midwife had told us that our baby was likely to come any day when we had our regularly scheduled checkup on the Wednesday I was not surprised when the early phases of labour began).
The contractions continued throughout the day on Saturday although they remained irregular, but they did increase in intensity. We headed off to Riaan’s folks in the afternoon for a braai. During the course of the late afternoon my contractions began to get more regular coming around every 8 minutes or so. We left Riaan’s parents place around 7, where I turned around to Riaan and said, “your wife is in labour, and wants to go home.”
Since Riaan had packed the car earlier in the day with most of the things that we needed to take with us to Genesis we were able to have a nice relaxed evening, but we decided to get in bed and try to get some sleep, fully expecting to have to get up in the middle of the night with labour well under way.
However, we managed to get a full night’s sleep. I woke up at 5 and could not stay in bed any longer, so I spent some time walking around and some time bouncing on a yoga ball knitting. Riaan managed to sleep in until about 7.
We decided that it would be a good idea to do some last minute grocery stock up shopping, and so we headed off to the supermarket for some bread, milk and eggs. However, on the way home in the middle of a contraction Riaan asked me whether I was in pain, when I told him that I was, he replied that it was good. I was not amused by this comment even though he meant it in the best possible way.
At 9:30 our doula, Mariska van Niekerk, arrived and started to walk with us to get our labour moving along. By the end of the day we had walked over 16,000 steps. Over the course of the day my contractions did get closer together, although at 6:30 they were still 5 minutes apart, and so our midwife, Karen van der Merwe, told us to meet her at the clinic for a non-stress test.
We arrived at Genesis Clinic around 7:15, and did our first non-stress test and it was established that I was definitely in labour, although having a prolonged latent phase. Karen got in touch with our backup obstetrician who recommended that we move things along with some syntocin, which definitely helped. Karen also did a stretch and sweep to try and get things to progress faster.
We continued to do lots of walking around – going up the stairs 2 at a time and then walking slowly back down. After a while walking up the stairs was too painful, even with using a tens machine to help with the pain. (Incidentally the machine needed a 5.5 mAmp setting – 5 was just too low and 6 was too high when I was not having a contraction).
Karen then did another non-stress test somewhere between 9:30 and 10 as well as another internal exam and was happy with the way that things were moving along and administered a second dose of syntocin. At this point Karen suggested Riaan and I spend some time together, getting cuddles. I said that I would also like to get some sleep, Karen turned around and told me she did not think it would be possible. I was confident in my ability to sleep through pretty much anything and made her a bet that I would be able to get some sleep. (I lost).
Later, just after midnight, Karen came in and checked on us again and was quite happy with our progress, and Mariska began setting up the birth pool. Karen also did another internal exam and was very impressed with our progress, and set up another non-stress test. Initially everything was looking good on the NST, but then it looked as though Lucas was showing signs that he may go into distress. A short while later as I was crossing over into active labour things started to go a little bit pear shaped, and Karen was concerned that we had a prolapsed cord. Since earlier on she had felt Lucas’s ear (and managed to get him re-positioned) she had another feel to make sure that she could not feel the cord. Karen told me that we might be looking at a cesarean birth. Then Lucas’s heart rate dropped and we changed from a maybe to a definitely. Karen got on the phone to Dr Mia and spoke to Janine (the staff midwife) to get the theatre team ready.
Karen put me on some oxygen, and when I asked what I could do, she told me to breathe slowly for both myself and my baby. A few moments later she came back with a bitter little potion in order to neutralize my stomach contents, she first told me it was 5 or 6 sips worth. When I told her that I did not think I would be able to drink it, she suggested that I treat it as a shooter — which worked and I downed it really quickly.
Riaan phoned my dad to let him know that we were going to go to theatre, and filled in all the necessary forms for them to cut me open. Karen shaved my pubic hair and Mariska and two of the Genesis staff nurses packed up the birthing pool. Mariska then went to put on her scrubs and get Riaan into his.
Dr Mia arrived and re-explained the procedure (we had previously discussed it at our final ob consult). Within a few moments they had brought a transfer trolley to the room. Karen went to get into her scrubs and said that she would see me in theatre. Janine and Mariska then helped me onto the trolley, with some help of a step stool.
I was wheeled to theatre, and Mariska helped me to keep totally still while Dr Mathabane administered an epidural anaethestic. The initial cleaning of my back was really cold (lots of little cold shocks were a theme of our delivery). Mariska helping me breathe and holding onto me made a tremendous difference and within moments the epidural was administered and I was laid down on the table.
Dr Mia then came into the theatre. I also saw that our one scrub nurse was an old friend from high school, and we joked about the fact that this was something that we had never seen coming. Sherry saying that in a few moments she would be seeing my intestines.
Dr Mia checked that I was not able to feel anything other than slight pressure, and Mariska told me that she was going to take pictures. Riaan came into the theatre and sat next to my head. Karen came over and explained to him that after Lucas was born he would be taken to the crib and he was welcome to come around at that point.
Dr Mathabane told Riaan to get ready to take some pictures (which he did not need to do). Within a couple of moments, Dr Mia had made the incision and took Lucas out of our my womb and handed him to Karen. A few seconds later he made the most adorable bengal-like sound, it was the best sound that I have heard in my life.
Karen quickly brought Lucas round to me and placed him on my chest. I could not believe how soft he was. I simultaneously saw two things: that he was a very cute blue-ish purple colour and that he has my mother’s ears. (Karen has since described them as pixie ears and we now call him our little Vulcan, among other names).
After a short timeless moment Karen took Lucas to the crib so that Dr Pitso could have a look at him. Riaan asked me whether I wanted him to stay by my side or to go to Lucas. I told him to go and give Lucas the love and touch that I couldn’t. He went to the crib and Dr Pitso and Karen began to give him his initial checkups. His birth apgar was 8 and at five minutes it was 10. (Our little boy past with flying colours).
At this point I was shaking and Dr Mathabane told me that he was going to make the shakey-shakes go away. I can’t quite remember what happened over the next few minutes, but then Karen brought Lucas back and put him on my chest and began encouraging him to try and find my breasts. He nearly managed to latch before we went back to the room.
Dr Mia finished stitching my wound. It was time for me to get transferred back onto the trolley. This was the most nerve wracking part of the experience to me because I was moved to the edge of the bed so that they could get the transfer board under me and because I could not feel anything below my chest it felt as though I was going to fall and have no control. I grabbed onto the edge of the bed and as they shifted me onto the board I grabbed onto Dr Mathabane and hung on like a limpet, despite him re-assuring me that they would not let me fall.
I was wheeled back to our room, and Riaan was trapped in the theatre for a few moments (before a kindly nurse let him out).
Back in the room, Karen and Mariska, placed Lucas on my chest and helped him to latch. Karen instructed Riaan to keep an eye on Lucas’s nose and press my breast down as needed to let him take some clear breathes. They then went to go and prepare their notes and have some tea and chocolate.
The next 45 minutes were timeless and amazing…where we spent time as a family. A little while later Karen came in and it was time for Riaan to get some Lucas cuddles, and Lucas to have his recovery sleep on his Daddy.