They say at every birth, it is not just a baby that is born, but a mother as well. Sometimes, even two mothers! This is the story of how our beautiful son Oskar came into the world.
Lauren had been diagnosed with Pre Eclampsia at 33wks, and had spent two weeks in hospital, before being allowed out to enjoy a wonderful two weeks of maternity leave! The only cure for pre eclampsia is to deliver the baby, the doctors wanted to balance ensuring Lauren did not deteriorate, with getting our baby to as high a gestation as possible. After the initial panic that our baby might be delivered at 33/34wks, we were relieved that this transpired to not be the case, and we were booked for induction at 37 weeks.
The day we went into hospital was full of emotion, and feelings we have only ever felt before on our wedding morning. Adrenaline, excitement, nerves, hope. We were prepared for everything, we were ready for our baby, as ready as you can ever be for something you can't comprehend and yet is about to rock your world!
Lauren had been instructed to ring the hospital at 10am on the morning of induction to ensure they had a bed ready for her, so this she did, and was told to make our way in for 11:30. This was the only time in the whole process Lauren said she felt nervous, she had always maintained a calm, realistic perspective on the whole thing, but speaking to the hospital made it all feel rather more real for her that we were about to meet our baby, and nerves set in.
We arrived as planned and were shown to our private room, which we were incredibly grateful for as it meant not only could I stay for the whole process, Lauren could relax and allow her body to get on and labour effectively. June 1st appeared to be a busy day in the hospital so we had to wait a little while to be seen and get the process going, but we were joined by Lauren's parents, who had come to share their support. At approximately 4pm, after all the necessary checks on Lauren and a good long tracing of baby's heartbeat, the midwife inserted the hormone pessary and we had officially begun!
Not much happened for the rest of the evening, Lauren bounced away on her birth ball, we went for a walk around the hospital grounds, we chilled out and watched TV together. The pessary is designed to give a measured dose of prostaglandins, a hormone which softens and prepares the cervix for labour, and stimulates some mild contractions. Not much really happened over the course of the evening aside from some painless tightenings and some very mild period pains. So we tried to get an early night!
The following day we woke up feeling well, and refreshed. Lauren had been awake in the night with some stronger period pains which had largely now died off, so we got up and showered, and made a plan to go for a long walk to try and encourage labour. Lauren's parents met us and we walked to the nearest High Street, conveniently one we know well. It is in one of the few nice areas of Birmingham, and we had great fun stopping to admire the amazing, huge houses with the contractions now gaining strength and coming every couple of minutes! After a trip to M&S to stock up on food, we spent a while sat in the sunshine at a cake shop, for much needed lattes and cake! Lauren continued to have contractions which were getting increasingly stronger, and began needing to stop and focus on her breathing through them. Walking back to the hospital the contractions began to stop her in her tracks, and she started to lean on to me for support through each one. We got a few interesting looks from passers by!
Back in the safety of our hospital room, Lauren's parents said goodbye and left us to it, and the contractions seemed to respond by picking up even more. Coming every 2 minutes, lasting for over a minute and strong enough for Lauren to really have to focus on her yoga breathing to get through them. She alternated between leaning over the birth ball, to standing leaning against the wall and swaying with each one. Each time I gently reminded her that she was strong and capable, and her body could handle this. And she did, over and over again she worked with her body to breathe her way through. We both have beautiful memories of this evening, in our room, music playing, lights dimmed. This was how we imagined labour to be, getting through it, one by one, in awe, in love.
The pessary was in for 32 hours, which took us up to midnight on the 2nd June. At this point Lauren was re-examined, and we were told her cervix had barely changed. She's was just about 1cm dilated, but uneffaced and the baby's head remained high. The pessary was removed and with it all of the contractions stopped!
We had a brief chat with the midwife about what next. She said nothing would happen until the following morning, and to rest as much as we could. But from there the options would be a second pessary, an epidural followed by breaking the waters if it had become possible, or a planned section for "failed induction". Lauren was adamant she wouldn't accept a second pessary, given that the first had made her contract powerfully for hours on end only for the cervix to remain unchanged. Therefore the only reasonable option in her mind was a section. Although we had said all along this wasn't the ideal, I was happy to go with whatever Lauren decided - it's her body and we strongly believe she has the right to decide what happens and how she births our child.
The following morning, Friday 3rd June, we saw the consultant. We discussed the situation with him again and he gave us the options again - Lauren told him she wanted a c-section and her reasons for why. Mainly that she wanted to avoid a difficult induction, followed by a catalogue of interventions which ultimately may well end up in theatre anyway in an emergency situation. She wanted to retain an element of control over the situation, and for it to be planned and calm, and felt this would be the best way. He agreed with her reasonings and agreed to do the section. Only problem - they were too busy for it to be done that day. So we were told to have a day of rest and to expect it to be done the following day.
At this point we were both feeling relieved to have a plan, and very excited that it was our final day as a couple before becoming parents. Lauren's parents came over to see us again that afternoon, along with her sister and nieces, and we spent the afternoon in Costa, drinking coffee, eating cake and talking excitedly about the next day. It was lovely to have this day together, knowing we would soon be meeting our boy.
Saturday 4th June. The day our world got turned upside down in the most incredible way. We woke up early - this is a definite when in hospital, 6am is time to do blood pressure checks etc. Lauren had been told to be nil by mouth ahead of the operation, so we got up and showered and sat and waited. And waited some more! At some point in the morning we were seen by the registrar who told us that again labour ward was incredibly busy, and she wasn't sure she could accommodate our c-section that day. She suggested she put us on the list for surgery on Sunday or Monday. But told us to stay close by to out room just in case.
A little frustrated and disappointed at the uncertainty, we decided we needed some fresh air, so despite being told not to leave the hospital, we decided to go to Costa in the large hospital across the road. This is another strangely lovely memory! We relaxed, chatted, and had big soy lattes. It was really surreal, not knowing if or when we would be called through to theatre, we talked about anything and everything to keep our minds off it.
We wandered back to our hospital room, a little more relaxed and much happier. A few moments later, there was a knock on the door. "Ladies, they are ready for you".
We were in shock. We didn't know why, or how, but suddenly, this was it!
I remember the adrenaline, excitement and nerves immediately filling the room in waves as we got Lauren ready to be taken down to delivery suite. Our hands shaking uncontrollably as we struggled to tie up Lauren's hospital gown, trying to take deep breaths to calm ourselves, reminding ourselves we were ready. Ready for Lauren to undergo surgery, for our baby to be born, to become parents...breathe, relax, focus. And ready we were, so they took us down to delivery suite.
We had a wait of maybe an hour and a half in delivery suite, during which time we were chatted to by our midwife, who Lauren knew and was lovely, a brilliant student midwife who would also be looking after us, and our anaesthetist, who isn't normally someone who would impact on care a great deal, but she was so great! She was so down to earth, calm, friendly, it felt genuinely like having a good friend with us who we felt relaxed and safe with, and who made us laugh!
We expressed our wishes to the midwives that our baby was to be bought to us as soon as possible, to Sarah for immediate skin to skin, as Lauren knows from experience that having a newborn plonked under your chin moments after a section is a little strange and sometimes uncomfortable!
And then, we were taken through to delivery, introduced to the two surgeons, joined by the two midwives and our aneasthetist, who explained everything to us. First Lauren was given a spinal block, which went in easily and worked quickly. Lying on the theatre table she described the heaviness in her legs, and the strange sensation of spiders crawling all over her skin - this was a new one to the anaesthetist! I remember holding Lauren's hand and telling her it was ok, and the student midwife took her other hand and did the same. We were shown such kindness and respect, little things like that will stick in my mind forever.
And then we were ready. At our request, the radio was turned off, and a playlist of music from our wedding, America road trip, pregnancy, and just music that means a lot to us, was played softly. I sat near to Lauren's head facing away from the surgeons, and the surgical sheet in front of us made it feel like we were in a little cocoon, just the two of us, hand in hand with the music washing over us.
The anaesthetist stayed nearby to tell us what was happening, to reassure us.
Although we were never averse to a section, we had wanted a home birth. But we realised that the reasons for us wanting a homebirth - a desire for calm, peace and control, were achieved perfectly by the section. There was no pain, no noise, no hard work. Its odd to say this about something that is essentially surgery, but it was one of the most beautiful, incredible experiences of our lives, matched only by our wedding day. It was so calm, so peaceful, so meaningful, so personal. It was truly an amazing birth. Even our midwife commented on what a beautiful birth we had all experienced.
And then, we heard it. Our baby. Not a loud wail, but a cry, none the less. Our eyes met and we gasped at the sound. He was here. 7lbs 11 - not so tiny for a 37 weeker! A whisper from the student midwife "I'll be quick, I promise". And she was. In what seemed like seconds our perfect tiny boy was bought over, and placed inside my top for skin to skin. Tears of joy, amazement, disbelief, rolled down our faces as we laughed as how adorable he was. Welcome to the world beautiful boy.
We named him Oskar Thomas Jon.
Oskar, we chose 9 years ago and have never doubted that it would be our little boy's name. We kept the spelling true to how it was written when we saw it all those years ago, it is also the Danish way of spelling the name, and as Oskar's donor is Danish, we thought it was a nice nod to his bloodlines! Thomas and Jon are our fathers names, and it was important to us to pass these on too. Both our families have been so eagerly awaiting this little boys arrival - he is certainly going to be extremely loved!
We stayed together in theatre until Lauren's surgery was completed, with our tiny new son snuggled in to my chest. He was so calm, so placid, so alert, so beautiful! We both just stared at him, he is was so utterly perfect. So many people has told us not to expect that immediate rush of overwhelming love at the birth, as for many it doesn't happen and grows with time. So neither of us were expecting to feel what we did - just this overwhelming, all consuming head over heels in love, a love deeper and more magical than we'd ever felt before - not only for this tiny perfect human, but also for each other.
Leaving the room and walking down the corridor to the recovery room (which we very fortunately had completely to ourselvees) the closest way I can describe the feeling in that moment was like you are led down a hospital corridor, a door is opened, and full of adrenaline, you step through it - and inside is a complete other world you could not imagine before. Everything about it is different, you're different. Trying to explain it is like trying to invent a new colour or an unexperienced sense.
We stared at him constantly - I don't think we've ever taken our eyes off him. Although we were extremely grateful for the huge tray of tea and toast we were bought - and of course, no occasion of ours would be complete without a pic of Lauren holding a cup of tea!
I passed Oskar to Lauren for her to have skin to skin, and for Oskar's first breastfeed.
After keeping him to ourselves for an hour or two, our shell shocked, over the moon parents came to meet their new grandson - it's safe to say it was love as first sight!
I am so, so proud of the courage, grace, strength, and calm my wife showed, as she fearlessly, peacefully bought our son into the world. She is amazing.
I think our birth was a testament to the fact that however a birth unfolds (for they are truly as unpredictable as life itself), you can make the experience beautiful, and you can make it your own.
We are so grateful for the wonderful introduction to the world Oskar received, and hope it is a reflection on how he lives the rest of his life - calm, peaceful, courageous, with acceptance, and surrounded by infinate love. Oskar, thank you for being ours - we can't wait to show you how wonderful the world is.