· By Tiny Hearts Education
"When I was 22 weeks pregnant with my second... my 3-year-old was diagnosed with stage 5 cancer." 💔
My birth with my first, much to my (and my partner's) surprise, was much quicker than we had expected. After attending antenatal classes, we were mentally preparing to go overdue and have a long labour. When my waters broke at 37.5 weeks and with three hours of active labour, we were told not to mess around getting to the hospital if we ever had a second.
When I was 22 weeks pregnant with my second, three days before we were due to do our gender reveal, my 3-year-old was diagnosed with stage 5 cancer. We were flown five hours from home while he underwent 12 weeks of pre-surgery chemotherapy. As I ticked over to 39 weeks, he was then due to have a major 11 hour surgery to remove the tumours. This involved removing his right and 2/3rds of his left kidney, followed by weeks in hospital for recovery.
We had assumed that this baby would make an early exit like her brother, and we had feared that I would go into labour on the day of his surgery.
Three days before surgery, we made the gamble to have a stretch and sweep done in hopes of avoiding our feared situation. The surgery day came with no sign of baby, and we started our time in hospital, doing Mr 3's post-surgery recovery. Several long overnighters sat awake in ICU, followed by two weeks in the ward, with still no signs of baby.
The pregnancy insomnia definitely assisted the all-nighters! I was well overdue at this point, with all the nurses saying, "oh, you're still here?" At every changeover since we had been admitted.
At 41 weeks, I went for my check-up to check my amniotic fluid levels, babies heart rate etc. We decided to have another stretch and sweep to hopefully avoid the need for a hormonal induction that we had booked for four days time.
My partner and I had been taking turns spending the night at the hospital with Mr 3, uncomfortably sleeping, on the hard, fold-out parents beds.
It was supposed to be my night at Ronald McDonald House. I told my partner I'd stay at the hospital because if I went into labour, he might as well get a decent sleep. I'd ring him if he needed to come over (to the hospital).
I woke up about 3.30 am feeling like I had tightenings. I decided it'd just try and go back to sleep, assuming they were just more Braxton Hicks, just like the ones I'd gotten daily since 22 weeks. I started to realise that they were definitely the early stages of pre-labour after it didn't go away.
I began feeling too uncomfortable to stay lying and being confined to a small hospital room with a sleeping three year old. Without anywhere comfortable I could sit, I hopped up and leaned my back against the wall while I watched Netflix on my phone.
I continued to get period pain like cramps that ranged between 4-5 mins apart and lasted about 45-50 seconds. I didn't bother ringing anyone as I didn't think I was anywhere close to active labour. I decided to give my partner a call at about 4.45 am just to let him know it would be some point that day. I was calm as a cucumber and told him to just go back to sleep and come over when he woke up in the morning and had had breakfast.
Mr 3's nurse on duty popped in to do his 5 am obs and was wondering what I was doing awake, "oh, I'm fine, I think I'm just in labour" she failed to hide her facial expressions as she had a mini freakout like I was going to shoot the baby out then and there. "I don't know how to deliver babies," she said, "do you need a wheelchair? I can get someone to take you over to the adult's hospital!" I laughed and told her I was fine, and when the time was right, I'd walk over to the birth unit (about an 800-meter walk).
Five mins after she left, I had two other nurses come in to check on me, with them popping their heads in every half an hour to keep making sure I hadn't pushed out a baby while they were gone. "If you feel the need to push, press the emergency button, and we will come running with towels", they laughed. It was quite entertaining watching them excited but somewhat nervous, having me in no rush to leave their care.
The tightenings were pretty steady, so at 6 am, I rang my girlfriend. She was 1.5ish hours away, and I asked her to head down, so we had someone to be with Mr 3, so my partner could come over to the adult's hospital with me.
After wandering around the hospital room until about 6.30 am, I rang my midwife to see what her thoughts were. The contractions weren't very regular or very painful, so she told me to wait it out until they got stronger. The contractions started to get closer but still weren't worse than bad period pains; I wasn't the slightest bit concerned at this stage about going to the birth unit.
I didn't feel in active labour, even though contractions were close to 3.5 mins apart. The nurses weren't happy that I hadn't headed off yet, "I'm fine! I'll go when I feel like I'm ready".
I became one of the briefs in the 7.30 am shift changeovers, with every nurse popping in to see how I was going. My partner arrived with my friend arriving about 30mins after. I still wasn't really having painful contractions, but they were definitely beginning to ramp up time-wise.
Mr 3's surgical team walked in at the same time my partner did, "you look cranky", the doctor said, "oh no, I'm just in the early stages of labour, and it's starting to hurt a little" "Oh finally!" he said. They had also been seeing me every day since 39 weeks.
They said Mr 3 needed an ultrasound on his abdomen, which his dad needed to go with him as he didn't enjoy staying still for ultrasounds. I spoke again with my midwife at About 8.30 am, and she told me to come over, and she'd head into the hospital too.
We had made the plan that my girlfriend would come to the birthing unit with me and switch over with her partner after the ultrasound was finished. "Yes!" I thought I had been so stressed about having to give birth alone, and all my concerns were pointless. My partner will be able to be there for the birth of his daughter. Yay!
After walking across to the adult's hospital, slowing up a little as the contractions grabbed, we arrived at the birthing unit. They had been extremely busy the night before and had no clean birthing suites. "Come into the assessment room while we wait for a room to be cleaned," my midwife said - " I'll just prepare everything, just in case she decides to make a quick exit- I like to be prepared," she said.
The contractions slowed right down and still weren't overly uncomfortable or regular, "Urgh! I swear they were regular," I said, "don't worry, this happens a lot," my midwife said, "if you want, I can do an internal. We might be able to send you home for a few hours". She did an internal, and I was 5cm! "Ah, yeah.... You're not going anywhere!" she said, "I was worried I was going to get a shower of amniotic fluid just then!" She laughed.
Not long after, the contractions ramped right up pain-wise. We decided we'd play it safe, and my friend would go switch over with my partner, so we had enough time for them to get over to the children's Hospital to Mr 3 and back before I started pushing.
"Yeah, if you leave now, he'll definitely be back in time! I was pushing for 45mins with Mr 3, and I'm not yet, so it's no rush!" Within minutes of her leaving, my contractions became extremely painful, and the need to push hit me like no tomorrow, and my waters broke. "It's okay; That's just your waters breaking," my midwife said. "I need to push!" I said.
I was standing leaning over the sink. My midwife took me over to the bed and helped me climb up in between pushes. She noticed meconium in my waters, so they called for a paediatrician in case the baby needed resus.
I noticed after the urge to push hit I was avoiding pushing too hard... "Are you trying to wait for your partner?" My midwife asked, "ooohhhhhh no! I'm just scared for my 'lady bits'" I painfully laughed.
After two pushes, they checked babies heart rate, and it had dropped. She had crowned, so they told me I needed to push hard to get her out as quickly as I could. The next push, I was able to get her head out. They were optimistic as they could see she was trying to cry, and we're hoping there was no need for medical intervention after she was born. "Just get her out!" I thought to myself! Next, push her shoulders and body were out, and she started crying straight away. "She okay! No need for the pead," My midwife said I made the biggest sigh of relief, "Thank god she's okay!" I thought, all while still in the assessment room.
I looked behind me, and my girlfriend had just walked back in the room, "*Your partner* had to go to an echo scan with Mr 3", she said. "Oh well, she's here!" I laughed. "I was only gone for 20mins! Far out," my friend said.
I tried to ring my partner, but he was in the scan and couldn't answer. Then when he called me back about 30mins later, "how's it going over there? Everything going okay?" He asked. He was shocked when I told him she was already here and I had been waiting about 40mins to tell him. I had only left them 3 hours earlier.
My friend headed over to the children's hospital and switched over with my partner so he could come and be with bubba and me.
Skin to skin, Showered, hearing check completed and passed, 4th-hour obs completed, we were then able to be discharged, and we walked back to Mr 3s room, in the children's hospital I left his room at 8.45 am and was back at 3.45 pm.
A total of 1 hour and 6 mins of active labour, including the after birth, and a total of 6 hours from admission to discharge.
The nurses in the children's hospital couldn't believe I was back so soon and even before they knocked off for the day. It was such a whirlwind happening so fast, with so much going on.
I was so lucky that I was placed under caseload care when I transferred from my rural hospital to one of the largest hospitals in Australia. I was cared for by two amazing midwives from 23 weeks until two weeks postpartum. Bub and I had daily check-ups for the first four days, GP check-ups at one week, then two more check-ups before the two-week mark. I'm so grateful for my midwife being such a calm, reassuring presence. And after all my stress about birthing "by myself," I managed it.
Our little girl is now nine months, and our little man was given him three month, all clear in October.
I am so super grateful to God, that you were extremly blessed with all outcomes. There certainly was a lot of prayers coming from me.
Kate Mainey on