I’m not doing so well.
I wish i was the kind of person who could switch off, accept things as they are, not question, not query, not wonder. I suppose i’ve headed on past shock and denial stages of grief (though shock seems particularly capable of re-emerging, i spent most of the last two days feeling much as i did in SCBU) and i’m on to anger and blame.
But who to blame? In the past, when births went badly and i was hurt and damaged, that was easy. The hospital and the people who cared for me got the blame. Perhaps that was a luxury of a live baby, a ‘good’ outcome. But they weren’t really good outcomes, they just had healthy babies who came home at the end of them; there is no doubt i found the aftermath of 2 of the births of the girls extremely difficult – debilitating and difficult – and i don’t look back and snort at myself because of that. And the other thing, oh anger and blame were easy in that – Max, myself, life, chance, fate, timing, myself, Max…. Mostly not fair, mostly pointless – but grief has anger and blame in it and it has to go somewhere, even if the places it goes aren’t fair.
When Max and i were in hospital, the thing that upset him most visibly, most clearly, was the thought of us going back to circles of blame and anger and distress. I promised i’d find a way not to do that and i’ve been battling against it as hard as i can. I keep telling myself i knew, KNEW that something was not right and finding this post the other day was a bit of a shock, even in the face of all the other things i listed the other day here. I even know that i spoke to both my midwife and a friend, panicking for some unearthly reason that Social Services were going to come into the ward and take the baby away before i even got out of the delivery unit. I cannot think why i would have been uttering such ridiculous fears if i hadn’t been absolutely physically sure that he was not okay.
There isn’t any explanation for why he was so dreadfully unresponsive at birth; brain damage due to low oxygen, critically, terribly, heart-sinkingly low oxygen in his blood. The paediatrician came up, at best, with “there are some unanswered questions about Freddie” and really, i can’t help but feel that is just to save my feelings. He didn’t try, not AT ALL, to breathe and yet i know that he was moving downwards with contractions in a way i never felt any of my others do. I did worry the night before, i did worry the weekend before when my blood pressure went up, i did feel he wasn’t safe but i thought i was being paranoid as is my wont. I did know, in early labour, that he seemed to be still quite still, not kicking, but not having had relaxed and ordinary labours before, that didn’t seem much different. I hunted for his heartbeat while i was still at homeÂ because i was worried, just a tiny bit worried, and found it and it was exactly the same as it was throughout my pregnancy.I don’t remember any of the others kicking about while i was in labour either so i don’t know that he was so very unusual. When i was in the pool he seemed happy enough and carried on moving downwards and that was only an hour before he was born.
At an appointment yesterday, where i spectacularly didn’t think to ask some of the questions it has made we wonder about, the only things that we really could say was that the blood gas results showed it happened chronically, in the hours before, not the minutes before his birth. The cord bloods were easy to get, his circulation hadn’t collapsed, but he wasn’t dead in the womb either, so it had happened recently. But if it wasn’t cord compression, what was it? I forgot to ask if my blood pressure could have been a factor; i’m hardly a candidate for pre-eclampsia but it did take a while to come down after, enough for thme to take blood, but i assume that was the circumstances of the post birth hours. I did have terribly swollen feet after, bad water retention from early on, but i’m not a tiny woman, so it didn’t seem that odd and afterwards, stood and sat in SCBU for hours, it didn’t seem odd at all. I never got discharged or had a 6 week check, i forgot one and begged them not to do the full scale “have you thought about contraception” discharge, so i haven’t thought about it since.
I forgot to ask, if not cord compression, then what? What else would cause his oxygen not to be there? The placenta was fine, his heartbeat was absolutely fine – so… what?
One little something, something i also knew and fretted about, was that although i never had critically less fluid, not enough to trigger a worry, i had a smaller bump. He was my second biggest baby, even at only 3 days overdue, but i was tiny by comparison to the girls and my bump was rock hard, painfully hard, for weeks. I let myself think it was because he was a boy, because i ate better, because it was longer since i had been pregnant, but something was different. There was just less fluid, less room for him to move. When my waters broke, while i was asleep, there was no gush of it at all, though i assumed that was due to him being more engaged. I did wonder briefly is a smudge on a pad was greenish waters but after that what little there was seemed clear enough, just very little of it. I got to the hospital and through a few hours at home with just pads – i wore a towel, a hand towel, in my trousers with Josie. We discussed whether, if his brain and heart needed all the oxygen, he diverted his blood away from his kidneys. I certainly feel there are some questions over his kidneys and liver – he needed lights for jaundice at less than 24 hours old and i know his wet nappies were just a bit bigger than they expected, but no one else seems to find that as odd as i do. I suppose i only know about well babies.
I’ve wondered whether we pootled about at home and he was dying all that time, but when i got to the hospital i had 20 minutes of monitoring before i went in the pool and the trace was fine, just fine. So if it happened in the hours before birth – when? what? how? why?
The trouble is, i’m struggling to hear my own instincts above the reality of the know-ables. I know that my anxieties got significantly worse after i got flu-ey. I had real problems with terrible coughs and colds from the end of October onwards and after one that began on New Years Eve, i never managed to get my nose back to being non-congested. breathing became a real effort but i put it down to extra blood flow in my nose and body; it cleared once i had him. And i do have issues with breathing; one side of my nose is permanently slightly blocked with a polyp or something and it was so bad that i had to use a nose spray, one i used with Josie too so no anxieties about that, to keep my breathing clear. I meant to go to the doctor about it all, but it seemed like one of those pregnant thing – full of baby, had dreadful cough and colds, low immune system, stop making a fuss. Did that flu start a string of events of him just not getting quite enough oxygen? Did my sedentary lifestyle make that worse? Was labour the last straw? Was the last couple of weeks the last straw? Would he have survived a c-section? Would he have survived an epidural? Would it be better or worse now to have a damaged in womb baby that half made it because i didn’t labour? Better or worse to have had him born flat by c-section and me stuck in a bed away from him? better or worse to know it couldn’t possibly be my fault because i didn’t labour?
There are some things here that ring true, not least the stuff about chest infections and colds and the mention of heightened activity in the womb during periods of distress. I know he did that, i know he scrabbled about but i wondered if he was lying on his cord. If he was, he’d have died. So what was wrong? (Don’t tell me not to Google unless you have also had to come home from a Maternity Unit without a full term, apparently healthy until the birth, baby. Please, just don’t.)
And in the end, the inescapable truth. Did my decision to give birth naturally kill him? Why did i do it that way, when the ‘easier’ option was a c/s? Did i put myself first? Did i think experience was more important than baby? Have i got my just deserts for railing against the way i had to have the girls? How ironic that after all those miserable and unsupported pregnancies and births, the one time i was supported, care for, listened to, included in my care – the thing had to happen that is the big fear in all labour wards. The one time i got to experience a beautiful, easy, relaxed and natural birth, it had to be the time the baby wouldn’t cry.
I just don’t know. I don’t know anything. If i had sensible feelings about him, why did he make it to full term, a good size, looking healthy with a good heartbeat? If he was damaged through the birth, why did his heartbeat stay good? If it happened that way, how was there time – from the minute i woke up, just before 3am and knew it was starting (with waters broken, which was my big fear) to the moment i gave birth to him at 12.30pm, it doesn’t seem long enough. There wasn’t a critical moment of panic, there wasn’t moreÂ “ooh, let’s just check this” than i’ve experienced in any of my other labours. I was 2-3cm at 9.30am and he was born 3 hours later. It was easy. It should have been easy on him. His heartbeat and traces suggest it was easy on him. So why the hell wasn’t it?