I had my 38week checkup on the last day of June, which was scheduled early in the morning so I could get it out of the way before continuing on to work.
My doctor did all the usual things at the checkup .... measured my tummy, did an internal exam, checked my blood pressure etc.... It was the last day of the school term. I told him it was my last day at work, and how I was looking forward to a couple weeks at home to finish setting up the baby's room, pack my hospital bag and relax a bit before the birth. He listened politely for a few minutes, took my blood pressure again and then excused himself for a few moments.
When he came back into the room he rubbed his hands together, smiled and said "You're not going to work today - you'll be going to hospital and will have your baby today or tomorrow."
I was so surprised I just stared at him. He hurriedly sought to reassure me that there was no danger, yet. Apparently my blood pressure had skyrocketed and I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia (also known as toxemia). Doctor said that as the cervix was soft and I was already about 4cm dilated, the best thing to do was induce the baby.
He also said that due to the possible complications of this disease I would have to deliver in the public hospital - which had an NICU and specialist doctors. He said I would be able to transfer to the private hospital after giving birth.
I was still in shock. I had to use the phone in reception (no mobiles then!) to call the school to say I wouldn't be in that day, call my mum to cancel all my after-school students, and call HB to ask him to pack my hospital bag for me!
Doctor told me to go straight to the hospital as they were waiting to admit me. So what did I do? I went shopping instead. I felt fine. I couldn't believe I would be meeting my baby so soon, and under such dangerous circumstances. I still had bits and pieces I wanted to buy for the baby's room, so I went to Garden City in Kotara.
After I had completed my purchases, which had entailed wandering around the shopping centre for a couple hours trying to make my brain accept what was happening, I went to the hospital.
The nurses were all so pleased to see me. They had been expecting me earlier and had even checked with Casualty in case I had been brought in by ambulance. Apparently pre-eclampsia can send a pregnant woman into convulsions and they thought I'd had a car crash on my way to hospital! I was rather embarrassed. And alarmed. The doctor hadn't told me that. I was really worried.
HB arrived shortly after I was shown to my hospital room. He had packed my bag, and had thoughtfully put in some of my favourite books too. I was glad of that as I spent the rest of the day sitting on the bed being monitored, blood pressure checks every 15 minutes, had to wee into a jug so the nurses could measure my 'output', many blood tests, and had a cannula stuck in the back of my hand. But inbetween all that, I read Pride and Prejudice.
Toward the end of the day the nurse came in and read my blood pressure results, checked the output jug and asked me a few questions. I was beginning to feel queasy and had a violent headache, which I attributed to all the reading and inactivity. The nurse just nodded calmly, pressed and button, and people started running from all over the place into my room. I was packed up onto the bed and wheeled up to the delivery room. No one told me what was happening. They just kept saying "Wait for Doctor."
Well, Doctor finally came and informed me that I would be induced first thing in the morning. My blood pressure was going even higher, which was the cause of the headache. They gave me a sleeping tablet, and I had my last full night's sleep.
HB arrived early the next morning. Doctor came soon after and broke my waters. The midwife was standing beside me with a hand on my tummy when he did so. She smiled and said "There, you just had your first contraction." I didn't even feel it!!
But I certainly felt it soon. They used a drip which helped the contractions increase in intensity quickly. It was not fun. After a few hours I couldn't take it anymore and asked the midwife for advice. She offered pethidine, and I accepted.
Not long after I remember saying to her, though tears, "It's not working!" She just smiled and patted my hand, and then offered me the gas.
I sucked on that tube of gas like there was no tomorrow, and between each contraction I told the midwife "It's not working!" She kept encouraging me by saying "You are doing so well."
As labour progressed I began to feel sleepy between contractions. I would suck and suck on the gas until the contraction eased, then I would doze off saying "HB, I love you." A few times I even laughed at the noise I was making with the gas. "I sound like a dinosaur." I chuckled to myself as I dozed off again. I heard the midwife say to HB "It's good that she is relaxing inbetween contractions. That means she is getting lots of oxygen to the uterus."
Now about 1pm the midwife called Doctor to come back as she judged it would not be long before I was ready to push this baby out. She also called the neonatologist because I had been given the pethidine not so long ago, and apparently it can affect the baby within a certain time frame. No one expected my induced labour to progress so quickly. Certainly not Doctor. He was supposed to be taking his daughters to a ballet recital rehearsal when he got the midwife's phone call. His wife left with his girls, and then he couldn't find the keys to his car. After searching for a while, during which time he received another call from the midwife, he decided to call a taxi.
Back at the hospital the neonatalogist had come into the room. Also in attendance was the senior obstetric registrar of the hospital, seeing as Doctor was not there yet. The midwife shook me awake between contractions and these two doctors introduced themselves. I remember looking at them, and then just closing my eyes again, wondering why these two strange men wanted to chat with me while I was so obviously trying to sleep (and escape reality!) I was way beyond introductions!
Suddenly everyone decided I needed to push. I did not feel any urge, but I was dilated and my blood pressure was climbing. I tried to push but it all felt too strange. Apparently I was so confused I was blowing through my mouth instead of pushing through my ... well ... youknow. I remember the registrar saying "Close your mouth, hold your breath and push."
I finally collected enough brain cells to do as he said, and HB said the room exploded into activity. Lights were flashing, alarms were beeping, and people came rushing in. HB was told to "Stay" in the corner while this amazing team of medical professionals went to work.
They performed an episiotomy and practically pulled Possum out of me. I remember yelling a bit. HB said it was the most bloodcurdling scream he never wished to hear again.
It was at this moment that Doctor poked his head through the door and saw what HB later described as "Controlled Mayhem". I remember hearing the registrar saying "Sorry Gerald...." I don't know why he was sorry - Doctor still sent us a huge bill to pay despite the fact he didn't deliver the baby!
Anyway, Possum started screaming the moment her little head was out. Doctor pronounced her a healthy girl, and the neonatologist declared that his presence was unnecessary. HB cut the umbilical cord, and the nurse gave her a quick rub down. I remember saying to HB, "Well I hope you are happy with your daughter because there is no way in the world I am ever going to do that again." (It became a tradition: I said the same thing after delivering each of the Half-dozen.)
Then she was placed on my chest ..... a sweet heart-shaped face topped with plenty of long dark hair, tiny pink lips and dark brown eyes, a cute little nose and long slender fingers - in short, I saw the most beautiful baby girl in the history of the planet.
Weight 3.3kg (7lb 5oz) - 49cm long - head circumference 36cm - agpars 9 & 10.
While Doctor was tidying up (ie sewing about a million stitches in my ... well ... youknow) he entertained HB and I by explaining why he was not there in time to deliver the baby. After the taxi had brought him to hospital he realised he had left his wallet in his other jacket (and I suspect that's where his missing keys were too!) and it took him a few minutes to sweet-talk the driver into letting him go without paying. Then when he ran to the elevators (delivery suite is on the 3rd floor) two of them were occupied and the other was out of order. So he ran up the stairs and, as already mentioned, arrived just in time to say "It's a girl." Doctor also explained that for a first-time mother, who was also being induced 2 weeks early, I'd had the speediest delivery he had ever experienced. (Ha! He didn't experience it. I did!!) He had left the hospital that morning thinking that it would be at least 12 hours before I would even be close to giving birth. Instead, it was just over 6 hours.
Doctor also explained why the birth attendants had burst into action when I finally managed to push. My blood pressure had soared to over 200 (hypertension) and Possum had gone into distress (cord entanglement). They knew they had to get her out before I started convulsing and before she started to lose oxygen.
Possum's first visitors arrived when she was just a few hours old. They were my parents and aunt, and HB's parents' Everyone got to hold her, and photos were taken. Mum said she looked just like me when I was born. HB's mum said she looked just like he did as a baby, except for the dark eyes and hair. I thought she just looked like herself.
Possum slept for nearly 12 hours after she was born. I was so excited about my new baby I couldn't sleep at first, and then when I wanted to sleep the pain kept me awake. I finally dozed off only to be shaken awake by a nurse who was holding a crying Possum. She plonked her down in my arms and said, "Your baby is hungry" and left. I tried and tried to get her to attach, but neither one of us knew what we were doing. My breakfast arrived. The tray was placed on the table at the foot of the bed. I was holding Possum, and I could hardly move as the pain from the stitches was just awful. I couldn't even reach the buzzer to call for the nurse. So I did what any hormonal, stressed new mother would do - I rocked my crying baby and cried along with her. During this, the breakfast tray was taken away, still full of food, and I was so hungry!!
Well, soon after that my Doctor arrived and organised my transfer to the private hospital. What a relief! I stayed there for 5 days and we took our little princess home on 6th July. Unfortunately she was only home for one night before being sent back to hospital for jaundice. Luckily it was not severe, but by this stage I had what the obstetric registrar described as the worst case of cracked nipples he had ever seen. (They were cracked to the point of being non-existant. I still had scabs 2 - 3 months later!) I also had severe mastitis. As this was a teaching hospital, he kept sending his student doctors down to see me. It got to the stage that whenever someone walked into the room I started unbuttoning by blouse to show them these dreadful nipples on my rock-hard breasts. (One student even took a photo.)
Anyway, the cracked nipple problem, the severe mastitis which required heavy duty antibiotics, combined with the fact that I was not producing any milk, which was why poor Possum was partially dehydrated and jaundiced, led the doctor to suggest I bottle feed. So the next day I was sent home with a much happier little Possum, and cabbage leaves stuffed down my bra to relieve the heat and swelling from mastitis. Possum drank so much formula through the evening and night! Poor thing must have been starving.
From that point on we were all okay. HB revelled in fatherhood. He had to do everything for Possum - baths, feedings, nappy changes, nothing was too much trouble for him ..... for about the first 3 months. We used to actually argue over who would dress her or bathe her. We were like kids with a new toy and like new parents all over the world we thought everyone doted on our little darling as much as we did.
Possum was a wonderful baby. Everywhere I went I used to be asked by everyone "Is she a good baby?" I could not understand what they meant. One day I was sitting in my GP's waiting room when the receptionist asked me the same question. I finally summoned up enough courage to say "Why does everyone want to know if she is a good baby? How can a baby be bad?" The receptionist explained that 'good' babies were those who slept when they were supposed to, ate well and grew accordingly, didn't cry for no apparent reason, and generally were a pleasure to be around. Possum fitted all this criteria, so thereafter when I was asked this strange question I could answer "Yes" without hesitation.
Except for that projectile vomiting thing she often did, usually when we were least expecting it. Up to the age of about 4 months she would violently expel the contents of her stomach, sometimes managing to hit the wall on the opposite side of the room! No one could figure out why she did this as it happened quite randomly, and thankfully she outgrew this phase. The community nurse was trying to find out the reason behind it one day when Possum put on a special performance just for her. While she was drying her desk with paper towels she commented that Possum was ".... a happy vomiter...." meaning, I was to discover, that the vomiting did not seem to upset her or cause her any pain. The nurse therefore concluded that it was nothing to worry about. I couldn't help feeling that while Possum may have been a happy vomiter, her parents were not happy vomit-cleaner-upperers.
I can still remember with crystal clear clarity the last time she ever projectiled. We had been away holidaying at the Blue Mountains with HB's parents. On the trip home we stopped at Batlow to buy some of their delicious apples. I gave Possum a bottle there and she did her super-charged formula-expulsion trick just before we were going to get back in the car. I remember laying towels and baby blankets around her car seat in case of a repeat performance, but thankfully that was the last time it ever happened.
Well I could go on, and on and on and on and on ...... but I think that's enough. I"ll just add that both HB and I are so blessed and thankful that we have our very special Possum in our lives.