A heavenly baby and an unplanned C-section

I met Lianne and Danny in February in Amsterdam, close to Amsterdam’s RAI exhibition centre, where I was taking part in the ‘9 month exhibition’. We had tried to meet up before that but, because they were/ are to be found every other Sunday at an AJAX game, it hadn’t worked out yet.  During our discussion, Lianne explained that she wanted to give birth in the ‘Diakonessenhuis’ hospital in Utrecht because she works there herself in the maternity unit as a post-natal nurse.  She also adds straight away, ‘’if it’s a c-section, I can steer you in the direction of the operating theatre myself.’’  I’ve forgotten what my exact reply was, but it was certainly along the lines of “you mustn’t think like that!” But, Lianne wanted to be prepared for everything, she had seen enough in her work to want to be in good hands and to take all possible doom scenarios into account. It was already clear then that Lianne likes to be in control and wants to know what she’s dealing with 🙂 .  Danny will see what happens and lets Lianne enlighten him about all the possibilities. He says: “I just let it all wash over me.”

Their due date was the 19th of May but, as is so often the case, on that day no baby arrived. Lianne went overdue. Eventually it was agreed that she would be induced on Saturday the 26th of May, a week after her due date. Lianne was looking forward to it.

On Friday the 25th of May I wake up at 8am, I have a text from 6.58am; “Good morning, Lianne’s contractions have started. They are coming every 5 minutes and lasting 1 minute. Regards Danny.” Shortly after, at 8.20am, Danny rings to say they are going to the hospital. He says that the contractions started at 3am. We agree that he’ll call again if there is more news once they’re at the hospital. That news arrives at 9.35am: Lianne is 3cms dilated. Great, that seems to be going according to the book. I get in the car a 10am and arrive at the hospital at 11.30am.

As I arrive there I see Danny sitting on a bench (which will later be christened the ‘daddy bench’), with his foot in an orange plaster cast, and Lianne lying on the bed, having contractions and throwing in the odd swearword.  She had actually been selected to be part of a trial for a particular type of pain relief and stressed in advance that she really didn’t want an epidural. Now that she’s lying her herself, she’s thinking a bit differently, and they are on their way already from anesthesiology 🙂 . I keep hearing over again “me and my big mouth”, and in between that, some swearing.  Nonetheless, she does really well while they wait for the anesthetic.

They arrive in the room really quickly and Lianne is prepped. Danny, with his foot in the plaster, comes to stand next to her. It is midday. Administering the epidural doesn’t go too smoothly, but luckily Lianne doesn’t feel much of it herself. Just as another doctor is finally called, it’s in properly.  The pain relief can begin! Danny explains to me that he tore the ligaments in his ankle in a kick about and that he’s had the pot to walk on since the day before. This is lucky as before that he could hardly do anything. Not so handy when you’re about to become a father. At this moment he can manage, as long as he doesn’t stand up for too long. Now that the epidural is in place things settle down, or at least the pain settles down, because Lianne is anything but settled. She wants to be in control of everything and interferes with the decisions being made. It’s understandable; I think I would do the same. On the one hand it’s an advantage to know what’s going on, but on the other hand it really isn’t!

Lianne decided in advance exactly who she wanted at her bedside and she has precisely the people she wanted.  Bit by bit I understand why she has chosen them. One radiates calm (which she really needs), another is quite decisive (she needs that too) and the other has a great sense of humour. An excellent combination.

At 13.30pm ‘the pump’ is connected.  This is a system whereby you can regulate your own pain relief, to a certain level. You can give yourself a boost, a shot of pain relief so to speak, up to four times an hour by pushing a button. This is Lianne’s best friend although, thanks to her impatient streak, she abuses the button now and again 🙂 . Danny keeps an eye on the time, but often Lianne has already pressed the button in vain a few times before he says for certain that it’s time. He stays, understandably enough, on his Daddy bench and plays a game on his phone or Ipad now and again.

From the moment that the epidural is in place, dilation only makes slow progress.  At 13.40pm there is 6cm dilation and at 15.30pm 7cm. In the hospital, it’s shift change.  A new midwife arrives; level headed and full of jokes! At 17.45pm Lianne is 10cm dilated, but because the baby is still lying high up its not yet time to push.  An ultra sound is brought in to see how the baby is lying. It turns out to be a stargazer*……..

Lianne knows what this means and has a little panic. She absolutely doesn’t want the vacuum pump to be used, even though that’s often necessary to deliver a stargazer. She says things like: “If it has to be done, then a maximum of four attempts” This means that she doesn’t want the baby to be pulled more than four times. The doctor, a colleague of Lianne’s tries to calm her down and to make sure she doesn’t get ahead of the facts.

At 20.30pm Lianne is allowed to push.  Just before that, a new nurse, a good colleague of Lianne’s had arrived. It’s beautiful weather outside and she still has her pretty summer dress on under her white coat. This nurse restores some calm and settles Lianne down: hats off to her 🙂 . Meanwhile the baby is doing great, so Lianne doesn’t have to worry about that at least. Pushing is going really well, or at least Lianne is doing really well, but unfortunately there is not enough progress. Lianne mentions the word ‘section’ more and more often, but all around her everyone is trying to put it out of her mind.  Lianne doesn’t think it’s going fast enough and, every so often, makes her opinion known to the doctor who fortunately doesn’t take it personally and keeps on motivating Lianne. The ultrasound machine reappears. Lianne does her very best and Danny stands by her, keeping her cool with a flannel and keeping her spirits up. She pushes and pushes and pushes….but in vain. She is tired, it hurts and she doesn’t want to anymore. Logical. The gynaecologist is called in and Lianne just says “I don’t want the pump, I want a c-section.” The gynaecologist examines her and decides it will indeed be a C-section. At 21.30pm Lianne is prepped.

I have never seen such a relieved mother to be before. She knows exactly what’s going to happen, and there will be no vacuum pump involved. Because Lianne is now so calm, it is much easier to adjust to the fact that it will be a caesarian. Danny is understandably tense.  Lianne asks if I can go along and as a rare exception it’s allowed. Normally only the father is permitted in theatre. We walk towards theatre, put on our blue theatre robes and caps and we are ready. Danny says; “I don’t want to whine, but my foot is really hurting.’’ I understand that he doesn’t want to say it too loud in front of a wife in labour, but I understand too that he is in pain. He’s been standing during all that pushing, which has been a rather long time!

In the operating theatre, everyone is very friendly. Lianne knows herself what’s happening which makes a big difference. Danny is kept informed of the action ‘’below’’.  Actually, from that moment, everything goes very quickly and at 22.08pm a heavenly baby is born! Her name is Tess Josephine. She’s doing really well, very alert with her eyes wide open. Lianne and Danny are so proud. Tess gets a huge kiss straight away! But even this wasn’t Lianne’s plan because she’d said: “I want my baby washed first, I don’t want all that gunk on me.” But then, you see, your own child is always different! <3

Unfortunately, we have to leave Lianne in theatre for her stitches. Danny and Tess go back to the room. First she is weighed:  4175grams. Then Tess can have skin to skin contact with Danny because Lianne is not there herself. A precious moment for father and daughter.  Tess is already busy looking for the breast and sucks all over Danny’s chest. It’s very touching.

After a good hour Lianne returns. She is feeling well and Tess can come and snuggle next to her…a lovely moment. Luckily for Tess, Lianne does have breasts which she exploits straight away, a natural talent. From that point I lose track of time.  There are so many more special moments, I’ll capture them all: the visit from Grandparents, the colleagues of Lianne’s who come in with champagne, phone calls to other family members, Tess’s first outfit…

If you are in labour, you only want one thing; your baby! Once she’s there after all that time, then it’s all worthwhile. Lianne and Danny, I wish you all lots of happiness with little Tess.

 *A ‘stargazer’ baby is a baby with a normal position for the back of the head but who is looking up (nose pointing up) instead of down. This position takes up more room in the pelvis and it can be the case that it is harder, if not impossible for a natural birth to proceed.  For more information, read the story of Zoë the Star Gazer too.