Birth Story: Ciara & Francesca

Pregnancy & Birth

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All birth stories are different and we want to empower and support all kinds of births. We all have individual reactions to reading birth stories; some make us happy, laugh, cry or feel sad. Here at The Merge Journal we hope to give the mother who writes her birth story a sense of empowerment. A time for reflection. We respect all the different types of individual birthing stories. 

Ciara has bravely shared with us here, the birth story of her daughter Francesca:

Toward the end of my pregnancy I started to get very itchy on my arms, which spread to my legs and tummy. Initial blood tests showed borderline Cholestasis. As the itching increased I had another blood test at 38 weeks 6 days which confirmed the condition and showed it was getting worse quite quickly. Obstetric Cholestasis does not pose a risk to the mother but does pose a risk to her unborn baby, it increases the risk of still birth – especially after 37 weeks. As you can imagine I was very concerned for my baby and was hyperactively monitoring her movements. The OB in the hospital suggested I wait another week and have another blood test but the midwife suggested I present at the Pregnancy Assessment Unit. Considering I was 38&6 and already dilated to 2cms I wasn’t happy to wait another week – it didn’t make sense to just wait and see. My previous pregnancy (my second) had gone 10 days over so I thought it best to present at the hospital and get further tests done.

Dave’s mum came around to watch our two older girls and when Dave got home from work we went into the hospital. Our little baby was monitored for over an hour, after which the OB on duty decided they would induce labour. He was concerned about reduced movement and didn’t see any need to wait any longer.

I was induced on my first daughter due to high blood pressure and our second I went into labour myself at 10 days overdue. I knew what induction involved and I did not relish the thought of getting the oxytocin drip but I knew it was the best option for our little girl.

We went to the birthing suite together and a midwife assessed whether or not I was ready for induction. She easily broke my waters and got ready to start the drip. At this stage it was about 9pm. Dave got some dinner and my tens machine from the car and we chatted.

The contractions started quite mildly but once the midwife started the drip they got stronger very quickly. At 11pm I had 4 very strong contractions in a row and I asked Dave to call the midwife. My body was in shock and I was shaking. When she came back she turned off the drip. The contractions continued while I used the tens machine. She popped out to check on somebody else and immediately I knew our baby was coming and it was time to push. We rang the bell again and another midwife popped her head in. She called our midwife who came back and got ready. Dave asked if I could have gas and air, I’d never used it before but at this stage the tens was doing nothing and I was feeling the pain. She organised the gas, had a quick look to see how I was progressing and turned around to get gloves, when she turned back she said ‘We’re having a baby now!’.

One big push with the gas and everybody went quiet and calm. I couldn’t see what was happening but as they pulled back the towel I could see her little head with her dark hair. One more big push and Francesca was born. She cried straight away and they put her straight onto my chest. Once again, it was an amazing experience. I couldn’t quite believe she was there already! Pushing was 4 minutes with active labour in total 34 minutes. That’s a third baby for you.

Francesca was born at 11.34pm on 1st July 2015 weighing 3.144kg and measuring 51cms long. We didn’t think going into the hospital that evening that she’d be born on the 1st but everything progressed pretty quickly.

She lay very contentedly on my chest for about an hour before even looking to be fed. Dave dressed her and we all headed up to the ward. We stayed 2 nights and had a few visitors, including her very proud big sisters, before happily coming home to our own house to start our life as a family of 5.

The night Francesca was born Dave went home to our other girls. The next morning the girls asked where Mummy was. When Dave said Mummy had the baby last night and showed them photos our eldest, Amelia, was very emotional with tears of happiness but our middle daughter, Savannah, was a little upset saying ‘No Baby!’.

After we brought her home, the girls loved holding her and cuddling her. Amelia kept saying ‘Mummy I can’t take my eyes off her, I love her so much. She is breaking my heart’. For months Amelia would ask every day, Mummy can I hold the baby – she’s a bit big for that now and is crawling around the place!

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When you have older children it is so hard to keep them and germs at bay. Savannah picked up a cold, a runny nose, which quickly spread to Francesca. At 3 weeks old little Francesca’s cold progressed into a bad cough. I was worried about whooping cough and after 2 trips to the GP she continued to get worse. At 3 weeks, 6 days old at 4.30am she was coughing so much she started turning blue. Typically it was Dave’s first day back to work after almost 4 weeks off! I took her by myself to the A&E while Dave stayed at home with our other girls.

At the A&E they did various tests and sent us home. I waited all day for the results of the whooping cough test. All I knew about whooping cough in small babies was that they can die and there is very little treatment that can be offered.

When Dave got home from work Francesca had another bad coughing fit where she turned blue again. I went back to the hospital with her while Dave stayed home with the girls again. They kept her in to monitor her overnight. As the night progressed she went downhill fast. She had episodes of apnea where she stopped breathing, turning blue. By 4am I was an emotional wreck, I’d been up for over 24 hours and was exhausted. I called Dave as I couldn’t go through it by myself. Dave came straight in, thankfully his Dad had just retired and took our other girls.

Her condition continued to get worse so they moved her to resuscitation and then to the PICU. The hospital were marvellous, they put us up in a room so we could stay with Francesca and they took fantastic care of her.

Francesca spent 8 days in hospital, 4 of which she was in the PICU. She was on low-flow oxygen, then high-flow oxygen, an NG tube for feeding and a drip for fluids. I continued to pump every 3 hours but she could only take a tiny amount through her feeding tube. While in the PICU she continued to stop breathing and needed to be stimulated to start again. There were times when I thought I would be leaving the hospital without my baby – it was truly the worst week of our lives. The hospital did a chest Xray, blood tests, secretion tests, lumber puncture and brain ultrasound. Thankfully everything nasty came back negative and they put it down to an unidentified virus which behaved very similar to whooping cough. When we got home Francesca had to readjust to feeding which took a few weeks. She continued to stop breathing and turn blue while feeding so I had to constantly stimulate her to breathe every time I fed her – not very easy in the middle of the night!

By 3 months of age she was thriving and you would never have known she had been so sick. She is a wonderful little girl, very happy and full of smiles. Dave, the girls and I love her with all our hearts. We are delighted we decided to have a third, that it was a little girl and that she is Francesca!

On another note, My Dad is Francis so he was delighted with the name choice …

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