Many new mums can recall their terrifying birth stories, I am no different. As the arrival of our new addition draws closer I realise the first time round had rattled me far more than I ever let on. Clinging to this experience is not helpful, so I’ve decided to share it and then let it go.
Let’s do this…
My pregnancy had been tracking along like ‘normal’. My biggest challenge was squeezing in the monthly, fortnightly and then weekly appointments with a midwife, the diabetic team and the obstetrics secondary care team at the Lower Hutt hospital. If that’s all I had to worry about, I was doing okay. As my pregnancy progressed I had a ‘run-in’ with one of the many obstetricians I’d seen. She was determined to make me go to full term (40+ weeks) rather than have an induction at 38 weeks, which is common practice for diabetics. She thought my blood sugar results were great and even though the diabetic team would have agreed, they saw the daily battles I faced adjusting my medication to combat the insulin resistance I was experiencing. I didn’t understand why she was so persistent. Perhaps a full-term natural birth looked better than an induction ending in a cesarean on the hospital statistics?
Only days later my midwife called to say I had preeclampsia and would need to be admitted to hospital that afternoon for monitoring. We were visiting our friends Hayley and Curtis at the time and it was strange saying goodbye knowing the next time we saw each other we’d be parents and have a baby! How grown up.
The only way to treat pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. I was admitted to hospital Saturday afternoon and would be induced first thing Monday. I had to take a concoction of medication in an attempt to lower my blood pressure and bubs and I were closely monitored over the weekend.
On Monday 13th December 2010 I woke in hospital knowing that today I would become a mum. Joined by my husband we made our way to the delivery suite, knowing we would return to the maternity ward with a baby. Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out that way.
My midwife began the induction process and left us to it. We played cards, listened to music and created pseudonyms to whittle away the time. At 1.30pm she returned to ‘turn things up a notch’ and inserted more gel. My contractions were strong and fast. My waters were broken manually and everything went downhill quickly. I threw up. That sounds like no big deal, but it sent my blood sugars plummeting. I was hypoglycaemic and even though I’d worked closely with diabetic experts throughout my pregnancy, they were nowhere to be seen. (The diabetic team support diabetic mums during pregnancy but are not expected to be at the actual birth.) It became clear that my midwife and the nurses knew very little about diabetes.
While my brain focused on staying alive, Hayden played the role of diabetes expert. He checked my blood sugars, fed me and explained to the nurses barking orders to ‘check her blood sugars again’ it would take longer than 30 seconds for the food to have an effect.
My midwife then noticed fresh blood and meconium, signalling something wasn’t right and the baby was distressed. The atmosphere in the room changed drastically. It was all on! Within minutes the room was packed with people. Delivering this baby naturally was off the cards. I needed a cesarean and quick. I overheard a conversation that an obstetrician was unavailable, which meant there was no one to administer an epidural.
Among the chaos Hayden continued to check my blood sugars and I had numerous consent forms thrust in front of me. I had no idea what they said. For all I know I signed and agreed to leave my house and my Michael Jackson, Thriller cassette tape to the Lower Hutt DHB if I didn’t make it. It’s odd to think that by law I’m not allowed to drive a vehicle when my blood sugars are low, but I’m able to sign theatre consent forms when my brain is in a state of disarray.
I was wheeled to theatre and even though I had no idea what was happening, Hayden was by my side so I knew I would be okay. He changed into theatre scrubs and we waited in a corridor. Only as I was being wheeled into theatre were we told Hayden couldn’t come in because I was going to be put under a general anesthetic.
I still remember his face, it was filled with panic, disappointment and fear. Hayden disappeared from sight and the room went dark.
I woke alone in a recovery room. A nurse appeared and I managed to ask nervously, expecting the worst… “Do I have a baby?” I was relieved to hear I did. “What did I have?” A girl! I fell back to sleep. My husband joined me later and brought me up to speed. Olive Mākere McGill arrived by emergency cesarean at 5.52pm weighting 9lb 2ozs. Her blood sugars were low and she’d stopped breathing for a short period when she arrived into this world and would need to spend some time in the Special Care baby Unit (SCBU). Over the next few days they monitored her blood sugar levels and could confirm her initial low readings were due to a traumatic birth and a T1D mama. She didn’t have diabetes! Thank goodness.
Five days later we were given the all clear to go home. We took the terrifying steps through the hospital doors into parenthood, our little family of three and never looked back!
As I reflect on this day and prepare for Baby No.2 I think about what, if anything I can do differently to help things run smoothly. It’s worth a try.
I’ve decided to use a private obstetrician this time to guarantee they’re available when I need them the most.
I’m taking daily aspirin to reduce my chances of developing pre-eclampsia.
I will have a scheduled caesarean at 38 weeks, as recommended by my obstetrician. (I could attempt to give birth naturally, but due to my previous history I have a greater risk of rupturing my uterus and I’m not prepared to take that risk.)
I’m currently exploring the cost to use a CGMS (Continuous Glucose Monitoring system) in the last few weeks of pregnancy to help predict and avoid low blood sugars.
That said, I know the best thought-out birth plan can fly out the window in a heartbeat and that’s okay. I hope I’m awake and able to share the arrival of our new addition with my number one diabetes supporter, Hayden. But we can’t lose sight that the aim of the game is always a healthy mum and a healthy baby.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough. 11 weeks to go!