I rarely talk about the birth of my third child. I did, however, include it in the book that was never published. And after Lana raised the issue of birth this week, I decided to haul it out and share it with the world. Be warned. It's traumatic.
My caesarean section was bizarre. There was no labour, no pushing, no transition, no process. One moment I was pregnant, and then, within a few minutes, I wasn’t. And there was my daughter, beautiful and healthy, emerging from the other side of the screen.
The baby was cleaned up, and shortly afterwards we both returned to my room. After twenty minutes or so my mum brought my big kids in to the hospital to meet their baby sister. Photos were taken and phone calls were made. I was light headed, but calm, and glad to have my daughter safe in my arms.
Then they left, and it was just my (then) husband, me and the baby. And suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so great. My stomach hurt, and it was grossly distended. And when the nurse came in to check my pad she noticed that my legs and my gown were soaked with blood.“We’ll need to keep an eye on this,” she said, and I felt a tinge of alarm.
“Is everything okay?”
“I’m just going to give your stomach a massage to help move some of these clots,” she told me.
“So I’ll be okay after that?”
The nurse just smiled. She massaged my stomach, but it was agonisingly painful.
“Stop!” I cried. “It hurts!”
“I’ll get you another shot of morphine,” she said, and left the room. My husband looked worried, and he never looked worried.
I counted the minutes until the nurse returned. By the time she gave me my shot, my pad was drenched again.
“I think we need to call the doctor,” my husband said.
“I’ll call the registrar,” the nurse told him.
“Call Kerri’s specialist,” my husband shouted after her, but she had already left the room.
Around twenty minutes later, an unfamiliar doctor pushed his way through the curtains. He looked about fifteen. I felt woozy, and my stomach was still sore.
“I’m Dr Amira, the registrar,” he announced briskly. “I’m just going to check your stomach.”
He felt around my stomach and I winced. Then he checked my pad. More bright blood.
The doctor chewed his lip, furrowed his brow and made some notes in my file.
“I want you to call Dr H,” my husband said.
Dr Amira paused. “We don’t disturb the specialists unless there is an emergency.”
“It is an emergency. My wife is bleeding.”
The young registrar looked profoundly uneasy. “Let’s give it another hour and see how she is, shall we?”
“Call him right now or I will go downstairs and page him myself,” my husband hissed at him.
Just then, my mobile phone rang. It was my son, calling me from my mother’s house.
“Hi Mum. How’s the baby?” asked my beautiful son.
“She’s good darling,” I said. “How are you?”
He answered, but I kept losing track of his words. I tried very hard to focus, but I felt like I was floating away. It’s the morphine, I thought. The drugs are making me fuzzy.
My son was saying something about homework and bedtime, but I couldn’t understand him. And I felt strange. Very strange. I was staring down a narrow tunnel, and I was being sucked into its vortex.
I was fading. I felt it. I was fading.
“I have to go now darling,” I said, and I let the phone slide from my hand.
Suddenly there was a commotion. People gathering around. Loud voices, needles being stuck into my arm, thermometers in my ear. I floated in and out of the scene, trying to stay awake. And yet, even though I was losing consciousness – even though my eyes kept drifting closed – I was panicked in every fibre of my being.
I was haemorrhaging both internally and externally and I could do nothing to save my own life. I was completely in the hands of the medical team, and they had not inspired me with confidence. I could feel myself dying. It was my worst nightmare coming true. I was dying. I was going to die.
I didn’t think of the new baby, who wasn’t even real to me at that stage. And I didn’t think of my husband, although he was standing there next to me. I thought of my parents, who had just lost their only other child. And I thought of my older two children, and how lost they would be without me.
“You don’t understand!” I screamed to the registrar. “You can’t let me die! YOU CAN’T LET ME DIE!”
The registrar spoke firmly, but I could hear the unease in his voice. “Please try to stay calm, Kerri. We’ve called Dr H. He should be here any moment. Just hang on.”
Hang on? HANG ON? What was I supposed to hang on to???
And then I saw the most wonderful vision appear before me. My white haired obstetrician materialised in my room. He was already in his scrubs.
“We’re taking you straight back to theatre,” he said briskly, and laid a reassuring hand on my arm as the staff began wheeling my bed out the door.
“Am I going to die?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Absolutely not. I won’t let you.”
Here is the discussion with Lana that triggered this post. More to come.