'Shit. I'm 27 weeks pregnant and about to give birth. This is not good.'
I loved being pregnant. I actually felt a bit braggy whenever anyone would look at me sympathetically and say, "So, how are you going?" because I had nothing but good things to say about it! I didn't have morning sickness, I had a nice-looking belly from about 15 weeks, and I felt really good within my own body. I tried to downplay how good I felt though, because I had a lot of friends who had intense sickness, aches and pains throughout their own pregnancies, and I didn't want to brag about my amazing journey so far. If I had of known how it was going to play out, I would've shouted from the rooftops how good I was feeling!
On the 1st of August 2019, I woke up just like any other day and felt fine. I was on Soup Club that day at work, so I was preoccupied with getting myself organised to feed my colleagues some lunch. This next part may be TMI, but before I left, I needed to go to the toilet (number 2). I've never experienced such intense pain as when I was on the toilet that morning. It was as if there was a knife stabbing me downwards through my bowel, and I felt like I couldn't sit on the seat properly. I remember gasping and holding onto the wall for support, genuinely shocked by the feeling. After that, a weirdness stayed with me, as if I needed to go to the toilet again, like a bit of pressure. But like I said earlier, I had my colleagues to feed and was preoccupied with getting to work on time. And I was only 27 weeks pregnant. I mentioned it to a few people at work that morning and messaged some friends, wondering if they had experienced this while pregnant. I got a lot of; "Your body is growing, and it's completely normal to feel these aches and pains. I felt that too sometimes in my second trimester, and it was never anything to worry about." One friend said, "If you're not bleeding, and you can feel bub, then I'm positive that it's a normal part of the process." I was reassured, but the 'pressure' type feeling hadn't left me, and was now amplified with some mild period cramping. Which alarmed me a little because 'why do I have period cramping if I'm pregnant?'
My Assistant Principal (BLESS him, because I honestly think the day would've turned out differently had it not been for him) said to me, "Loz, go and get checked out. You'll never regret going and getting seen to by someone, just to make sure." So I called my midwife (I was part of a Midwifery Group Practise and had met my midwife a few weeks earlier) and explained how I was feeling. She replied with, "Go home and try to get some rest. Take some Panadol and relax. Call me in an hour if things still feel odd." I went home, but I found myself pacing a lot, and I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. I called my husband, and he came home, and when the cramps hadn't subsided, I called my midwife back. "Look, I really don't think there's anything to worry about. You're only 27 weeks. But come into the hospital anyway – I'm offsite with a patient at the moment, but I'll meet you there."
The whole drive to the hospital, I kept repeating those words over in my head. 'You're only 27 weeks. You're only 27 weeks. It's fine. So many women have felt these weird pains too. No biggie.' I was feeling more and more anxious, and at one point, while waiting at the traffic lights, I had to lift my bum off the passenger seat because I felt like I couldn't sit on it properly. We had to wait for a little bit in the waiting room, and when I went to the toilet, there was blood on my knickers. I remembered my friends' earlier message and walked out and just looked at the receptionist, yelling, "There's red blood, there's red blood!" "Are you in labour?" she asked. I replied, "I'm only 27 weeks, so I hope not." I got whisked into an assessment room, and I was being examined by a doctor. I will never, ever forget this moment. The quiet of the room while she was examining me. My heart thumping in my chest and in my ears. The abrupt snap of the gloves as she sat up straight. And the look on her face as she said, "Lauren, you are fully dilated and you are going to be having this baby very soon."
The next 10 minutes are still a complete blur, but I remember some distinct moments. The doctor who examined me ran out of the room and called a code (and I don't think I saw her again, actually). People were literally running everywhere, guiding me up and walking me from the little room to the delivery room next door. I shook my head and kept saying, "but I don't know how to have a baby yet, I haven't had my birth classes," and "but we haven't got a car seat yet. How will the baby come home?" It wasn't until I got the response, "you won't need to think about that for a while" that I realised, 'Shit. I'm 27 weeks pregnant and about to give birth. This is not good.'
I was poked, prodded, talked about, and talked to, and I couldn't tell you a single word that anyone said during that immediate phase. I was in a state of complete shock. I knew what was happening to us, but I couldn't register it in my brain. I was 27 weeks pregnant for crying out loud. I hadn't made any hospital or birthing plans. I hadn't even thought to buy things for the baby yet, had made no baby shower plans, and I was still working that morning! I had only just started to enjoy feeling proper kicks from the 22-week mark. Now I was meant to be giving birth? No. No way! Is this really happening? I was in complete denial. But then words slowly started sinking in. Doctors were trying to explain what was happening, so I tried to tune in.
Because my baby was 27 weeks gestation, their immediate priority was to slow down the labour. My baby needed to be given medication to rapidly develop its' lungs to increase its' chance of survival post-birth. That made sense to me, and I was relieved that there were people everywhere doing things to me to protect my baby as much as they could. That felt nice; I felt safe. Geelong Hospital couldn't take babies born under 32 weeks gestation, so another priority was making arrangements for transport to Melbourne. I was too far along though, so the decision was made for me to deliver in Geelong, with my baby being transported ASAP to the Royal Women's Hospital. A special PIPER team (Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval) had been called and were on their way, which was also really reassuring, even though I had never heard of a PIPER team before.
I was slowly accepting what would happen that day, which was good because I had no choice in the matter! I honestly think my brain was protecting me from thinking certain thoughts. Because not once did I think my baby was going to die. Not once did I think I was in danger myself; in fact, I couldn't think of a safer space to be. Everyone was being so nice and supportive, and even though I know it's their job to make people feel that way, they were on the next level. When I was asked if I had any questions, there was really, only one thing that I wanted to be prepared for. So I asked, "What will my baby look like when it's born?" At this point, I was still comparing my baby to fruit, and I had only just read about it being the size of an eggplant! I also thought maybe it's skin would still be a little translucent – I just wanted to know what to expect. The doctor answered with, 'it will look just like any other newborn, just smaller." They also prepared me for things like not being able to hold my baby after delivery and that he/she will probably need to be whisked away immediately for medical treatment.
Fast forward a few hours, and I was in the thick of it. Doctors, my midwife, the PIPER team and nurses were all coming and going from my room, which for me, was great. I honestly loved it being so busy. I thought, 'nothing can go wrong with all these people in the room.' I hadn't been examined since that very first one earlier because they didn't want to risk an infection or to speed up labour. I had some trouble pushing (I just kept feeling like I wasn't doing it properly), and then one of the doctors examined me and discovered that my membranes hadn't ruptured yet. Man oh man, did I know about it then! As soon as my membranes ruptured, I could literally feel my baby pinball down and into position, and I bellowed, "Something's happening!"
Pushing this time was completely different. I felt like I was achieving something after each contraction. And within a couple of pushes, our incredible son, Jackson James Carty, was born. They lifted him up, and we watched as he fist-pumped the air! He gave a little squeal too, which was great. He was able to take some breaths on his own before being intubated and treated by the PIPER team in another room. My husband went back and forth, not knowing how to divide his time. I sent him in to stay with Jackson; he was our only priority from that moment on. My placenta wouldn't entirely come out, and I was losing a lot of blood. I had to be taken in for an emergency D&C, which was an unfortunate twist.
To my surprise, Jackson and Ben were still there when I came out of surgery. I learned much later on that they decided to wait until I had touched my son before they took him to Melbourne in case he didn't survive the next 48 hours. I touched his incredibly tiny fingers, and wrapped them around mine. His body and head were wrapped up in what looked like aluminium foil, and he was in a humidicrib. I couldn't believe this was my baby, that he wasn't in my belly anymore. It was so surreal. Jackson spent the next 108 days in hospital and came home on oxygen. We quickly adjusted to NICU life, but our boy didn't make it easy. We had 8 emergency alarm codes over the course of our stay. Jackson contracted influenza A on day 5 of life and was isolated for the next week. His right lung collapsed multiple times. He was on a special High Frequency Oscillating Ventilator (HFOV) at his lowest point – the 'big wig' professor was in the room, and we were told we had limited options.
But somehow, our little miracle turned a corner, slowly but steadily, and he is now a mostly healthy, happy, cheeky, almost 3-year-old. He has had multiple hospital admissions since, going back on oxygen to help him get through pneumonia, RSV and bronchiolitis. But his lungs and immune system are getting stronger – he can fight off small infections himself, without having to go on antibiotics or doctor intervention. I will never, ever be able to thank the medical staff at both the Geelong Hospital and the Royal Women's Hospital enough. It's a world I had never even known existed before we were thrown into it, and it's a world I can't describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it. The nurses and doctors who helped us along the way will always have a special place in my heart – they literally saved Jackson's life and I am so grateful to them. And to Jackson, for keeping up the fight.
Birth & newborn course
The Bump, Birth & Beyond course will educate you and your co-pilot (support person) on what to expect during pregnancy, birth and the first trimester with your new little love.