So this post has taken some guts to write. Its something that means so much to me and is such a personal experience, but I want to help raise awareness of cord prolapse and other birth complications.
I had a very healthy pregnancy, the only issue arising from the measurements of my baby and my height - being over 6ft, the midwife was concerned that according to their charts the baby was measuring smaller than expected. This meant that I was referred to hospital care for the rest of my appointments and had extra monitoring.
Since finding out about being pregnant I was pretty terrified about actually giving birth. My mum has always described it as 'sh*tting a sofa' so it didn't sound like much fun! I quickly realized that it was down to me to do the research. It didn't help that I didn't get to see the same midwife at any of my appointments, so I decided to look into all the different pain relief options and their side effects myself and come up with the birth plan that everyone kept talking about. In the end, I decided to just see what happened! I didn't like the sound of any of the drugs, so wanted just gas and air. Having never been in labor before, I had no idea what it would feel like! I'd done pregnancy yoga too, so had some breathing techniques and positions that were supposed to help too.
When the day finally came, things were going to my plan. The gas & air worked well for me and was all I needed to get me to the point of pushing. This is when it all went wrong...
It was during my final internal examination, when the midwife went to check that I was 'good to go,' that my waters broke. Then all hell broke loose! Panic button pushed, about 10 doctors/nurses/midwives running into the room, lots of shouting and crying then all of a sudden I was being run down to theater on a bed with a midwife holding my baby in to stop him coming out! Cue emergency cesarean.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a strange room with my husband and my mum next to my bed, not having a clue what had happened. I was given a photo of a very poorly and very angry looking baby covered in tubes and monitors and being told that he was ok, but was in special care. Looking back on it now, I don't know how I didn't completely lose my mind! The doctor explained that I had suffered 'Cord Prolapse' and what that was. She went on to tell us that he was going to be 'cooled' for the next few days to try and reduce the risk of brain damage from the oxygen deprivation. It felt like she was talking in a foreign language, like it was happening to someone else. How had things gone so wrong so quickly? I didn't even know that cord prolapse was a thing!
After waiting for what felt like hours, I was finally taken to visit my boy. Due to the surgery, I was taken down to the special care unit in my bed, but could hardly see him as he was in an incubator and I wasn't allowed to hold him. I felt horrid, the emotions and drugs and general events of the day had wiped me out, so I was taken back to the maternity ward. This is rough. Being on a ward with all of the other mums with their new babies was the hardest night. I just sat and cried.
At about 3am they came to tell me that he was being moved to Southampton hospital, as they had better facilities for caring for him and could give him the care he needed for the rest of his treatment. I phoned my exhausted husband to come back to the hospital so that we could see our baby loaded into a travel incubator to begin his hour and a half journey for the next step in his recovery.
The next morning, I knew that I had to get home. I was offered the chance to be transferred as a patient to Southampton hospital, but I wasn't interested. I was given advice from my sister in law to just prove that I could walk and wee, so as soon as I'd done both I was discharged home. I was adamant that I was well enough to travel down to Southampton, but after getting home and sitting on the bed I knew I wasn't really. My husband left me at home with our 2 dogs to rest, while he went to visit our son.
Videos and photos got me through that day, along with a few phone calls to keep me updated. The plan was that baby H would be cooled for 3 days then gradually brought back up to temperature on day 4. Only then would we know for sure whether he would suffer any lasting effects.
The next day, nothing was going to stop me going to properly see my baby. So we arranged for a very kind friend to look after the dogs & headed to Southampton. It was an emotional day! We still weren't allowed a cuddle, so held hands and read books and just stared at him all day. We had to go home each night to look after the dogs, so it was tough to say goodbye. After the 3rd day, the nurses said that they would stop the cooling overnight, so would call us with any news. I lasted til about 1am, then called them, desperate to hear what was going on. They said they'd had to stop the warming process as there had been an unusual read from one of the monitors and they needed a doctor to assess him in the morning. That was it. I was convinced that meant the worst. Hello Doctor Google! Up until this point, I had resisted the urge. This is probably when the guilt kicked in. I completely blamed myself. I wrote a letter, that to this day I haven't read again, apologizing to my son for letting him down so badly in the worst way for the first thing I had to do for him. We left super early that day, to find out when we got there that it was a glitch on the machine and they had resumed bringing him back to temperature. There are no words to describe the relief. All the signs were that he had made a full recovery, but only time would tell for sure. The kindest midwife was desperate for us to be allowed to hold our boy, so she sent us off for coffee while they disconnected some wires and tubes to make it easier for us to have a cuddle. To finally hold baby H made him seem so much more real. He'd been sedated during the cooling process and this was still wearing off, but none of that mattered. We had our baby at last. The next day he was transferred to a hospital closer to home where he would be given the rest of his course of antibiotics and continue to be monitored.
He was here for another 5 days and suddenly changing nappies through a hole in a incubator became normal. The hospital staff were great, giving lots of advice and tips that we'd missed out on from the regular maternity ward. The only negative came from one of the night shift midwives who waved us off one night saying 'enjoy your sleep'. Sarky cow! I was devastated. If we could have taken him home, then we would! I have no idea how I didn't respond, but probably best I didn't!
The day we took him home felt like the previous couple of weeks had never happened. Finally, we got to bring the car seat in from the car and bring our baby back to his new home. We could leave the house without trying to avoid the neighbors for fear of having to explain what was going on. We could put the facebook post up announcing the new addition to our family. We could move on and start again.
We have had numerous consultant follow ups to check on H's development and i'm so unbelieveably happy and relieved to report that he is doing very well. There seems to be no lasting damage to his health from his dreadful start in life. He was given an APGAR score of 1 straight after he was born and on his last parents evening from nursery they said that he is one of the most advanced in his class. We couldnt be any prouder.
So what is cord prolapse? The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists define it as: Cord prolapse has been defined as the descent of the umbilical cord through the cervix alongside (occult) or past the presenting part (overt) in the presence of ruptured membranes. It is quite a rare occurrence, the overall incidence of cord prolapse ranges from 0.1% to 0.6%. Basically, what happened to me was that when my waters broke, the cord came down between the baby and my cervix which caused it to get squashed which then cut off the oxygen & blood supply to baby. The amazing midwives (one of which was a trainee) saved my baby's life, and if it hadn't been for them realizing what had happened and literally pushing him back in then this would have been an entirely different story.
Stacy Kinloch is the Founder of Birth Tales.