Friday, April 27, 2012

&$^#*@(! (Famous Last Words!)

Of course, I had it all down with delivery number four and child number five.

"I can't believe you are on the way to the hospital." said my friend Gabby, as Damon and I stopped by her shop for a quick hello.  "Aren't you scared?"

Scared?  I was being induced (at 39 weeks for a possibly large baby that ended up weighing in at a healthy and reasonable 3.7 kgs / 8 lbs 3 oz after all).  That meant plenty of time for an epidural, didn't it?  I was actually looking forward to 5 to 10 hours of relatively comfortable labour - I'm one of those dumb-asses who really DOES forget the pain! - on this, my day, probably the last day to be mine for quite a while.

Not that I hadn't had to work for this day.  At 10:30 AM, as we were getting all the kids into the already packed van to head to the shops for some last minute shoe shopping and groceries, before having lunch and delivering the kids to Tracey and Neil's for the night, the car battery died.

No kidding.

So we packed the kids, illegally, into our other car and went shopping anyway.  Meanwhile the car dealer, knowing we were expecting to deliver that day and expecting child number five himself, sent someone over to replace the battery.

At 1 PM, shoes and groceries bought, lunch (McDonald's takeaway eaten out back) eaten, the children ready for their sleepover, I called the hospital to make sure they weren't too busy to receive me at 3PM.

Knowing Brisbane Royal as I do now, I have to laugh at my innocence. 

"We're awfully busy at the moment, love.  Be a dear and call us back at 4:30."

Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital continued to be awfully busy for the following week, with 16 birthing suites in continous rotation, 36 discharges per day, and 60 infants in the NICU.  My ward had 60 beds, mostly filled and there was at least one other maternity ward, also with 60 beds.  Filled as well.  Supposedly this had something to do with it being spring, with it being exactly nine months after the floods that left us without power (The Flood Babies, they are calling them, and preparing for an explosion in Prep School entries in five years!), and with the health care system not growing fast enough to meet the needs of a relatively young, and reproducing, population in the Brisbane area.

There were other hospitals.  But not for someone with my growing list of "high risk" pregnancy symptoms.    "What do you have to do to get some attention around here?" my roommate and I would joke over the following days.  She had gestational diabetes, gestational cholestasis (the reason for HER induction at 37 weeks) and, while in hospital, developed what we both thought was severely high blood pressure (150/90).  This last caused neither of us much concern as we figured this meant they would just get that baby out with a C-section and end the agony of her prolonged induction. 

Unfortunately this list was not top-priority enough for RBWH.  "We've got a pill for that, love."  And the induction continued - or didn't, as the case may be.

I tried a little humour as the medical students reviewed our cases.  "The only thing she doesn't have yet is a blood clot.  But I've got one of those in my history, if you need to round out your education. "  She and I thought I should come in with a song and dance about "Factor V Leiden /APLS (Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome)", both clotting things on MY list, whenever I felt I was being overshadowed by her cholestasis.  (We both had mild gestational diabetes controlled by diet and I developed high blood pressure AFTER delivery, so we were neck and neck on those!)

As it turned out our conditions, which would have been considered extremely worrisome in any other hospital, were nothing at RBWH.  I figured it out later, wandering the halls late at night with Ian in my arms.  We had relatively well-managed conditions.  We had full-term babies.  And, hearing the new mother next door ask how her 1.9 kg baby was doing in NICU, or the dad on the phone updating his relatives about both his babies on ventilators, I realised how lucky we really were.

But this is still 1PM on Tuesday, September 27, and I'm still feeling quite high priority.  And bummed that the kids are going to bounce off the walls if we don't deliver them to their promised sleepover soon.

Fortunately my friend Tracey has five children herself (which is why she didn't flinch at offering to add my four to the mayhem for a night - or, as it turned out, two).  Damon dumped our four off and I looked up movie listings.

Which is how I got to see "Abduction" with Taylor Lautner, a movie I would never have seen otherwise, which was okay in parts, and terribly lacking in others, while waiting for my delivery to start.

But scared?  I wasn't scared.  Just anxious for the whole thing to start.

Which is why I was also pissed when Damon discovered a huge bolt in the front tire on our way out of the theatre.  "Maybe we should get this taken care of." he said.

Get this taken care of?  GET THIS TAKEN CARE OF?  ON OUR WAY TO THE HOSPITAL?  THIS IS MY DAY!  Honestly, if you can't be the focus of attention on the friggin' day of your delivery.

Needless to say, Damon drove to hospital with the bolt still in the tire.  (Rest assured the bolt makes a reappearance later.)

Sitting in the waiting room for three hours, I had a chance to make some notes in my writing pad.

At one point I thought the Braxton Hicks contractions I'd been having every evening for the past week might actually be turning into something.  I thought about going out to reception and informing them that I might be going into labour while waiting for the induction. 

But didn't know if it might be interpreted as sarcasm.

Damon looked extremely uncomfortable when we were joined by a woman clearly in labour.  "It'd serve them right if she popped it out right here in the waiting room."  I whispered.  (How little did I know then how close to the truth I was!) 

"It's not that." responded Damon.  Her husband's the guy who I hurt my hand on a few weeks ago."  Huh?  Oh, the guy with the friend who supposedly stole his cigarettes and then started a major brawl at Gilhooley's, prompting a police call, a vaulting bar-tender, and some serious bruises; how Damon's hand got hurt flew past in the fight details.

And now they're sitting in a small room together with their heavily pregnant wives, one of whom is about to deliver on the floor, trying not to make eye contact!

"This might just be the funniest labour and delivery yet."  I wrote on my notepad.

Famous last words.

Then the wagon train of pregnant women and their partners paraded past.  About thirty of them.  On the bi-weekly tour of the birthing area.  This alone should have alerted me to the size of the place, to how busy they really are, and to the relative importance MY full-term birth was going to have in the general scheme of things.  (Maybe I should have taken that hospital tour?)

So that September 27 passed eventfully, but without the major event we had been counting on.  And I slept peacefully, knocked out with sleeping pills (does Valium - or a derivative thereof - cross the placenta?  I never got to ask.) and some mild pain meds, totally unnecessary in my case but reassuring me that, if they gave paracetamol and codeine BEFORE the contractions even started, surely the Aussie response to the REAL DEAL would be a fast and well-placed epidural.



  1. You shoulda gone to the Mater Hospital. Its much better. But then again, when they induced me with Zeke (the old membrane sweep - which i think Allan could have done at home and I wouldnt have had to wait 2 hours) i called them at 4 and 5 pm and they said - oh no, give it 24 hours..its just the sweep - I'm like of course it was the sweep... the sweep worked! I called them at 6 and said im coming in. Got there by 7, he was born 90minutes later. no epidural. dry birth - they decided cos a med student was delivering to show him a dry birth. I forgot to say thnks for that.

  2. I spoke to a midwife about it - and kinda thought it through. The only "mistake" was - common enough - they were too busy with more challenging cases - 500 gram babies, mothers with heart conditions etc - to look at the record and see I had already had 3 deliveries and 3 D and Cs - and that the cervix was bound to "give up the ghost" rapidly this time. SHOULD have had an IV in sooner - that is all they could have done better. Not for the drugs either, but for the hemorrhage that followed. By then you can't find a vein. Of course, if I had had an IV in already I would have received the blood products and spent the rest of my life as high risk HIV/hep etc due to blood transfusion - so I am okay with not having had them. Not a thrilling birth, probably not as out of ordinary as I imagine. And they DID finally find not just one doctor - but two - when I started losing that much blood. Those midwives saved my life - and Ian's - and who knows, he was purple and unresponsive when he came out - it was a good thing he came as fast as he did! First natural birth though - no monitors, no IVs - highly overrated thing, natural childbirth, in my opinion. Really dangerous! Sorry about that dry birth though - and the need for that? Hope that med student saves some lives with that knowledge some day! Good vibes into the universe from your - uh - "discomfort!"