“Storm” – 3 June 2008
My pregnancy with Storm was relatively uneventful. We moved from Namibia to South Africa when I was about 16 weeks pregnant. We had been working as part of a team of geological consultants in Namibia for a year, in the tiny mining town of Tsumeb. When we found out I was pregnant, we decided to make the move to the city. I had already suffered one miscarriage at 10 weeks the year before, so I was nervous about how the pregnancy would progress.
I spent a lot of my pregnancy alone in Johannesburg, working in the head office there, while Geo traveled up to Rwanda on rotation. He would spend 6 weeks away and about 3 weeks at home. While he was away we had little contact, as he was working in the jungle with no chance of cell reception or internet. It was very stressful, but worth it to have a hospital literally across the road.
I had no major problems during the pregnancy, other than putting on far more weight than I should have. Over the course of the pregnancy, I gained 30kg, which is a massive amount on my small frame (165cm, 60kg pre-pregnancy). Looking back at photos, I can clearly see how bad my oedema was toward the end of the pregnancy, but I was never told that it was a problem. Around 28 weeks, “Braxton-Hicks” contractions began. I know now that they were far from typical, being strong enough to knock my to my knees if I was walking or wake me even from a deep sleep. I wish I had known then what I know now about pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and placental problems. Perhaps I would have asked the right questions and anticipated Storm arriving early.
At 36 weeks + 2, my waters broke while I slept. I was completely unprepared, as I was expecting to make it to around 38 weeks, and had been given no indication otherwise. Luckily Geo had arrived home 2 days earlier, so I had help dashing around the house throwing the things we needed for the hospital into a bag. I hadn’t even noticed my labour beginning, as I was so used to strong contractions. By the time we got the hospital (about 2 hours into labour) I was only 3 centimetres dilated, but had contractions so strong it was impossible for me to stand. I was disappointed, as I had planned to walk through my labour. Instead I found myself flat on my back, with a belt monitoring my contractions stopping me from getting up.
Storm was a face presentation. This is pretty rare (about 1 in 500 births), and can cause what is known as a backache labour. Well, I can attest to that. The back pain I felt over the next 3 hours was phenomenal. The contractions themselves, although very strong and close together, did not bother me nearly as much as the backache. As I couldn’t walk around, I had no way of relieving the pressure on my lower spine. I spent a lot of time vomiting from the pain, waiting to be given the go-ahead to get an epidural. Unfortunately, because of his presentation, I didn’t dilate quickly. I got stuck at 3 cms for 4 hours. I was given gas for the pain which, frankly, did nothing except give me something to do with my hands. Finally, I reached 4 cms, and they agreed to set up the epidural. Trying to sit still during those contractions was serious effort! The epidural kicked in nicely, and the pain relief sped the whole process up. 10 minutes after the epidural was administered, I was fully dilated and ready to deliver.
By this point I was making jokes with the gynaecologist and asking my husband to forgive me for all the rude things I’d said over the last few hours. A sudden reduction in pain can make you giddy! I wasn’t able to push very hard, due to exhaustion and the epidural, so Storm was given a little help with a vacuum. Luckily his head turned slightly in the birth canal, allowing them to suction the back of his head.
He arrived minutes later, 2.6kg and perfectly healthy, although swollen around the face from the way he was lying. It was a good weight for his gestation. Although he was officially pre-term, he had no breathing or feeding difficulties, and we were able to leave the hospital 2 days later, once breastfeeding was established. However, it was noted that my placenta was highly calcified and atrophied. It is likely that it would have only continued to function for another day or two. So Storm arrived at just the right time to avoid any major complications. When I asked whether this was likely to occur in a future pregnancy, I was told it would be highly unlikely.