Guest Blog from Kerri-Ellen Mitchell
As labours go my second labour was a dream. Bloody painful of course but pretty perfect. My first labour was in Dublin where a water birth is practically unheard of despite having three maternity hospitals. So that labour was on dry land, induced at 42 weeks, no drugs (too late for drugs), episiotomy, screaming, and out she (Mabel) came. On the other hand his (Sonny’s) birth, a water birth, perfect. I was only in proper pain for an hour and twenty minutes. Arrived at the birthing centre in Gloucester 9 and half cm dilated, 3 pushes and he was out. Perfect. He continued on that route; a perfect baby who has grown into a very placid, loving toddler with a little of bit of crazy mixed in (from my side of course).
So when my third labour started off practically identically I felt good! Here we go again! My head was in the game from the beginning. Early evening again, Friday rather than a Saturday this time, clear roads. Arrived, 8cm dilated. We even got the same pool room. They say listen to your body;when I started to push my body was screaming that there was something seriously wrong. So things took a dramatic turn when it came to delivering the baby’s body.
He was purple and lifeless when we finally managed to get him out. They cut the cord, called ‘222’ (crash team) and he was gone from the room. At that stage we didn’t know if baby was a boy or girl. All that was left was complete and utter silence. From Us. From the medical staff. We later found out through a de-brief 6 weeks later that they ‘worked on him’ (I hate that term) for 4 minutes 45 seconds before he took his first breath.
He scored 1 out of 5 on the APGAR (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration) test at 1 minute of life. He had a pulse. At 5 minutes of life they carried out the test again and he then scored 2 out of 5. Pulse and Respiration. A team then entered the room where I was still trying to deliver the placenta.
They brought us our baby boy in an incubator with an oxygen helmet on his head. They placed him in my arms and although I felt a huge concern for this baby I felt no real connection to him. Minutes later they took him to ICU to work on getting his APGAR 5 out of 5. When we were finally let in to see him we were informed that soon after leaving us things took another nasty turn. He had a clinical seizure which can indicate damage to the brain which would be down to the lack of oxygen to his brain for a significant time.
They had taken the decision to start a ‘cooling’ programme. Something we had never heard of but we quickly became experts on. They explained that they would cool him to 33 degrees and hold him at that temperature for 3 days to protect his brain. Day 4 they would warm him back up to 37 degrees over 24 hours. They informed us that the NEST (neonatal emergency service team) from St Michael’s Bristol were on their way to bring him back to Bristol. The seriousness and magnitude of the situation then really hit.
The team from Bristol arrived and I remember thinking they looked like ghost busters coming into the room with their big jackets and medical backpacks. We watched them carry out more tests on him and while this happened I was constantly thinking ‘this is not my baby’. The NEST team took him and we had to follow in the car at 4am.
On arrival in Bristol they started to put him into an induced coma. Just before he went under he opened his eyes and looked at me, I managed to capture that moment on my phone. It was that moment when my heart opened to him and I knew this was my baby boy. I was lucky, it only took 9 hours, for some women it can take a lot longer than that.
For the next 4 days we stayed by his bedside. Singing to him, reading to him, telling him all about his family, especially about his big sister Mabel and big brother Sonny. Every 3 hours each day I would enter the expressing room within the NICU department and pump with other mothers. I loved those moments. Amongst women sometimes saying nothing, everyone in their own thoughts and fears, and then sometimes nattering away comparing notes.
I would leave his bedside at 11.30pm to go across to Cots of Tots. The godsend that made our nightmare that little bit easier to manage. A charity funded ‘home from home’ for the parents of babies in NICU. Without this we would have been paying for a hotel room or making the long journey backwards and forwards multiple times a day. I would then get up at 3am and make the short walk back to him, sit by him, express and chat to him for an hour before heading back for a couple more hours’ kip.
That time with him at 3 in the morning was my favourite time. An odd thing to say that I had a favourite in the middle of this nightmare but those moments whatever the outcome were incredibly special and powerful. It was me and him against the world or against all these wires and alarms anyway.
The day they warmed him was a worrying day because if there was significant brain damage the seizures would start up again. They didn’t. I finally held him on day 5 and started feeding him myself on day 6. We were moved to High Dependency and gradually all his wires one by one started to be taken away. We waited until day 10 for his MRI and we were sent home.
When I think of parents with sick children I feel in awe of them. How they do it I will never know or understand. We don’t have a sick child. There is no longer a feeding tube, wires, lines. He looks perfect. Although the MRI came back showing no severe damage, we were told that it doesn’t however pick up on subtle damage and only through continuous developmental checks would we know. Reaching or missing milestones over the next few years would give a clearer picture. But to us he is perfect. And dare I say has stolen the perfect crown from his big brother, he’s had to work a little harder for it.
So that is my story, and only time will tell if his start in life will affect his life. But hey, he is here, his name is Beckett and I’m the luckiest and most grateful mummy in the world for that.
And life goes on. A week after leaving ICU we moved house. 3 weeks after that I travelled home to Ireland with Beckett to be by my sister’s side while she gave birth to her donor baby no less.
I witnessed my gorgeous nephew being born. Within 12 hours of his birth my mother was taken to hospital with severe case of Pneumonia. We spent 2 days hospital hopping between my sister and mother. A truly crazy time but that is a different story for a different day.
On Sunday 10 th of July (the day after the boys’ christening) we are heading for the hills on a sponsored family walk to raise money for Cots for Tots. Cots for Tots houses parents of sick babies and also raises money to pay for equipment such as the mobile ICU unit Beckett travelled in from Gloucester to Bristol. If you would like to donate to this amazing charity you can do so at our Justgiving page.
Kerri-Ellen is a Dubliner who moved to the Cotswolds three years ago with her husband Alan and daughter Mabel. She now has three children Mabel 5, Sonny 3, and Beckett 4 months. Kerri-Ellen is a Ballet Teacher and owner of The Kerri-Ellen Mitchell School of Dance. On Maternity leave at the moment but continuing classes in Toddington later in the year.
*During the month of July CheltenhamMaman will be donating 10% of any income generated via the website to Cots For Tots. You can donate too from this link or by visiting our Charity of the Month page.