I had a feeling that this baby would come early. Somehow, although I had pleaded with the gynae to let me go into natural labour so that I didn’t have to choose my child’s birthday and so that I knew the baby was ready to come, I didn’t see us lasting until 39 weeks.

 

I had a couple of scares. One day around 32 weeks, I thought that I had started dilating. Another day closer to 35 weeks I thought my waters had broken. (Thankfully it was neither my waters nor incontinence!)

 

I was determined not to be caught off guard this time around so I made a to-do list long before the due date, from washing the clothes to sanitizing the cot and packing the hospital bags. Each week I managed to check off something else. It was still very surreal to be preparing for Baby 2 – whom we referred to as Babyquat. I went to buy newborn nappies and stood at the till in disbelief with my toddler on my hip, marvelling at how small they were and trying to process what was really happening. A few weeks later, thinking we were ready for this baby, I hung out newborn (and prem) baby clothes and suddenly felt very unprepared mentally. Were we ready for such a big life change??

 

Friday, 22 February:

It was our 36 week appointment. So far, so good. Our firstborn had arrived at  36 weeks and I prepared myself for arrival from 36 weeks onward. Everything, bar my mental state, was ready to welcome Babyquat. My body was tired and I was feeling more than uncomfortable – bed was the most awkward place to be, sometimes surrounded by four pillows propping up various body parts. My body felt ready. But we walked into the gynae’s office confident of at least another week. As she was checking the baby out, she threw us a curve ball.

“So…” she said rather nervously, “I’m going on leave. I need a break. I’ll be away from next Thursday for a week. I’ll be back by the time you are 39 weeks.”

I felt panic rising. I honestly didn’t think I would make it until then! But, is there ever a good time for a gynae to take leave?? I didn’t want someone I hadn’t even met to cut me open and bring my newborn safely into the world. Apart from which, she had done the first C-section so she knew what she had done to my body beforehand.

She started to check the baby and then said something to the effect of,

“I don’t think this baby is going to last until then…”

I wasn’t surprised. She showed us pockets of low amniotic fluid.

“You’ve got about another week left of amniotic fluid.”

Then she measured the baby. The head measured at 37 weeks, legs at 36 weeks and stomach at 34 weeks. Babyquat wasn’t growing as he/she should anymore. The one positive thing the scan showed was a good placenta with no calcification.

She then felt my stomach. Babyquat’s head was engaged. But, she pointed out that there was womb irritability – basically, every time she touched my stomach, it would harden and contract. At this point, she turned to us and said,

“I think we’re going to have to deliver baby on Wednesday.”

Wait…what??? That was in less than a week!!!!

She looked slightly worried. I felt more than worried!

“Let’s hook you up to the baby monitor and see what’s going on.”

I lay on my side for twenty minutes listening to the baby’s heartbeat while my mom-in-law tried to distract my daughter. It was late and she needed supper. But here we were, waiting to see if Babyquat could wait until Wednesday.

Once we were assured Babyquat was okay, she said the following,

“Okay, we don’t need to rush to the hospital tonight. But I want to see you on Tuesday morning and we’ll make a call. Take it easy this weekend. Monitor baby’s movements. If you feel anything less than normal, don’t wait – go straight to the hospital. I’d rather take baby out at 37 weeks instead of 36. Looks like we’ll probably take baby out on Wednesday.”

 

Oh my word, people! Longest weekend of my life! I prayed all weekend that the baby would hold on. My daughter was sick and we had been trying to curb the cold for a week! How would I be able to keep her away from the baby and me? It was so hard to keep quiet (although we did tell family). And instead of feeling joyful about the baby moving, I waited with baited breath every moment of the day for the baby to move and let me know he/she was still alive.

 

Tuesday, 26 February:

After leaving our firstborn with my dad for the morning, we went to the gynae. I expected to be hooked up to machines again. But all she did was a quick scan. Nothing was worse or more dangerous and she looked much less concerned this time. In fact, she seemed a bit conflicted about what to do. The amniotic fluid was the same. After the scan, we went through to her office and she sat in silence for a bit, weighing the pro’s and con’s.

“I can’t see a reason not to take baby out. Although the placenta is fine, baby isn’t growing quite as we’d like and the amniotic fluid is still low. Your stomach feels better than it did last week. There’s enough amniotic fluid for another week but I’d rather not hand you on to someone else.”

I told her I trusted her judgement and, frankly, I didn’t want anyone else to deliver our baby.

“Okay, so do you want to have the baby this afternoon or tomorrow?”

Whoa! There was no way that I was mentally prepared for only a few more hours of normality! So, she told us that we’d be called and told when theatre was available on the Wednesday.

We walked out of the rooms with a birth date for our child and only a few more hours of just us three.

 

When I got home, I decided to spend time doing something fun with my daughter. I pulled out some paint and we had a good painting session. It was a bittersweet moment as I realised it would be a while before we’d be able to do this again. When she had created her work of art, we packed up and went to my mom for tea. I was well aware of every minute that ticked past. When I drove into my mom’s driveway, the lawn was covered in cars and bunting hung in the lounge windows. Surprise! Baby shower!

As it turned out, my friends had planned a baby shower for that very afternoon. I suspected that the few in the know had moved it forward but, as it turned out, they had set the date awhile ago. I only mentioned later that it could have been the second time I had a baby shower after my baby had arrived in the world.

It’s funny how the first time around, you are so excited to get cute clothes and soft blankets. The second time, you rejoice when you open a bag with wipes, saline nose spray and nappies!

 

Later that evening, we tried to spend time together as a family but the plan failed. Tired toddler, emotional mother and a father who was at the mercy of both. Tensions ran high. As I turned out the light, I sat on my daughter’s bed and just held her while I tried to hold it together. When I put her down, I crawled into bed next to her, stroked her hair and cried silently. Guilt overwhelmed me as I knew she would no longer be the baby and have my full attention. I cried over days that would no longer be just ours. And I cried over the way time had gone too fast. As I walked out her room, I sobbed into my hand.

Later that evening, as I sat downstairs with my husband, a friend arrived to drop off a gift. I cried again and she sat down with both of us and prayed. Waiting for an operation is no fun! I was scared! And it didn’t help to be emotionally volatile either. As she offered up prayers on our behalf, I felt my tension subside. My dad had also prayed with us earlier when he picked up the car seat so that he could bring our daughter to the hospital the next day. It was all suddenly very real!

 

Wednesday, 27 February:

I barely slept. When I woke to go to the loo as one does often when pregnant, I lay awake running through everything. So when the alarm went off at 4:30 am, I was more than ready to start the day. Our daughter woke up early and I  was relieved! I wanted to see her before we left. We were soon dressed and my mom-in-law arrived to do the first shift. My parents would take over from her when she left for work. After one last photo of the three of us (plus baby still in the comfort of the womb), I kissed my baby girl goodbye and we left for the hospital. Praise the Lord, I finally felt a twinge of excitement.

 

It was strange walking in this time knowing that we’d have a baby in a few hours. It was casual and laid back. We were shown our room and I changed into a gown and we just waited. It was weird unpacking things into my “suite” where I would spend the next few days. It was hard not to notice the clock strategically placed directly across from my bed. We watched the time tick by. There was no frantic scramble this time. All the pre-op prep was done leisurely. As I was wheeled out to theatre, I waved at the gynae standing in her gorgeous dress chatting to the nurses.

She was probably changed by the time I reached the waiting area to go into theatre. I had to laugh at her wearing her disposable shoe covers over her high heels and donning a brightly coloured floral scarf over her head! I love that woman!

Theatre was cold. My gynae complained about it being too cold for “her baby”. She also said that the it smelt funny. Enter a nurse with air freshener! We were waiting for the anaesthetist to rock up so my gynae started fiddling with the radio. I didn’t know they had radios in theatre! The things you discover when you have to wait! It was a good vibe that filled the chilly room as one of the nurses jammed to tunes on her phone (my gynae couldn’t figure out how to work the radio).

In theatre, as she did last time, my gynae wrapped her arms around me, telling me that I could squeeze her arm if the spinal block hurt. All went well although I was quite nervous that I still had some feeling in my legs as they started tugging in my abdomen.

 

For this birth, I remember a whole lot less. I don’t really remember my husband joining me. All I seem to recall was the few moments of the birth. I looked over at the paed when she commented on how much hair our baby had. I am dark, very dark. My husband’s hair is a mousy brown. Our firstborn was blonde! We couldn’t even see her eyebrows. So, when the paed said,

“Lots of hair!” I naturally asked what colour.

“Dark!” she exclaimed with a smile.

“Whatever!!” was my response.

Moments later, I heard my husband say, for the second time,

“It’s a girl!”

Tears flowed freely as I heard her first cry. She was held over the screen for me to touch. And then, I can’t remember much more. I was pumped full of meds that made me exceptionally drowsy. I recall falling asleep as they were stitching me up. But, even after seeing photos, I don’t recall holding my daughter for the first time. I don’t even remember seeing her face. And I do feel robbed. It was nice not to remember being stitched up. But I don’t remember going back to the ward or seeing my husband with my daughter. I don’t remember her being put on my chest to breastfeed. And I do feel cheated. Thank goodness my husband took photos and videos of those precious moments.

 

I heard later that the anaesthetist had given me an antihistamine to “calm me” which is why I was so out of it. I was suitably unimpressed. The same guy prescribed pethidine (one of the drugs that made me slur my speech previously and have an out-of-body experience with my firstborn) and I even had a tag on my wrist to say that I didn’t want it. It was a lower dosage with some other medication to “counter the side effects”. Well, within fifteen minutes I felt light-headed. I then slept through my daughter’s second visit and time alone with my husband later that evening.

 

Praise the Lord I was with it when my daughter came to meet her little sister! She was slightly sceptical but what child wouldn’t be! We had been preparing her and she would talk about “Doctor, out. Sleep here.” whenever we passed the hospital. Sometimes she’d ask to feel Babyquat when I changed her nappy and my protruding belly was at her eye level. Now that Babyquat had arrived and was lying on her mommy’s chest, she kept repeating,

“Baba, baba.” and then went back to noshing her grapes.

By the end of my hospital stay, she was attached at the hip to Daddy (no surprises there) as was he to her.

 

It was strange not to have him at my side this time around. Last time, he bonded with my firstborn long before I did. He changed all the nappies. He passed her to me for feeding and burped her in between sides.

With our second daughter, it was a nurse, my mom from time to time and myself. I was sad that he missed out on the experience but knew he was where he should be – he took his paternity leave while I was in hospital so that our eldest’s routine was not upset because she was being passed from home to home. He single-parented her like a champ but came in the evenings once she was down to be a daddy to Babyquat and give her some much needed cuddles.

His absence in the hospital forced me to do more this time around and created a special bond between myself and our new baby.

Despite the terror I felt about being operated on, the fear I felt about being medicated through IV, having really awful side effects like last time and the dreaded anticipation of a slow recovery, God was truly good! Last time I only walked completely on my own on Day 5. This time I was walking unsupported on Day 2. Bar feeling tired, I was absolutely fine and completely lucid during the hospital stay. And the pain? I remember someone once saying that she picked up her toddler on the day she was discharged because she momentarily forgot that she had just undergone surgery! First time around, I was incredulous that one could just forget! Second time, I realised why. The pain, praise God, has been so much less!

 

So here we are, parents for the second time, two beautiful girls, one blonde and one dark and days filled with tea parties, dresses and princesses to look forward to!

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