Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marcella's Birth Story, from Ben's Point of View.

From time to time things happen in our lifetimes that test our faith. This is the story of an experience that tested mine that resulted in another glorious blessing to our family.

My wife and I are 33 years old and we are already the proud parents of six children. We are proud to have a big family and we love the joy our children bring to us; and even though no child of ours has been an 'accident', this time when my wife told me she was pregnant it was a bit of a shock. It seems we were in for much more of a shock as time went by. After a woeful first trimester filled with incapacitating weakness, bleeding, nausea and vomiting, we were all glad for the promise of a reprieve in the second trimester. The third trimester however, brought some more significant problems for us. By 20 weeks she had already had about 10 bleeds which would mean a trip to the hospital each time to check that our baby was still alive. At the 20 week scan she was diagnosed with placenta previa, at which point the doctors where hoping it would move during the remainder of the pregnancy. Around the 32 week mark she had another scan at which the doctors found that Christina had complete placenta previa. A condition that means that the placenta was lying unusually low in your uterus and covering Christina's cervix. Doctors informed Christina that a caesarean section would definitely be needed, she could not deliver naturally. After this diagnosis, the doctors at the hospital kept a careful eye on Christina, checking week by week to see if there was any change in her status. Christina, at about this time decided to set up a facebook group to let people know what was going on in her pregnancy (family and church friends often would ask her how she was going, and found this the best way to tell those close to us what was going on). This was her third post after creating the group:

'Welcome to the group! I'm currently 32 +5 weeks pregnancy with another blessing. From my last ultra sound (a week ago) I have grade 4 placenta previa, with the placenta over my old c-section scars, which means there is a possibility of having placenta accreta. Our baby has also been diagnosed with a clubbed left foot, we won't know the degree of until birth. I'm booked in for a c-section on 25 of June, which will make me 37 weeks. As long as I don't have bleeding before that. Other wise delivery could be any day'.

As it turned out, the days ticked slowly over and it seemed less and less likely that Christina would be able to deliver naturally, and the placenta accreta issue, I found out, occurs when the placenta attaches too deep in the uterine wall but it does not penetrate the uterine muscle. Each doctor Christina consulted closer to the time appeared more and more concerned. It was firmly decided by the doctors that Christina would definitely need another ceasarean. The facebook group turned into a bit of a forum to ask people start praying, and to express her annoyance at having to jab herself (she suffered with prenatal diabetes too). 18 days before the C-section date she wrote this:

'As if there enough differences in this pregnancy baby is lying in half breech, half transverse position. Nothing can be simple and straight forward in this pregnancy'.

Having a baby in full breach position would prove much easier for the doctors to resolve than the position it had gotten itself into. Despite all of this happening, it was strangely humorous clearly seeing the baby's head sticking out of Christina's tummy, with the rest of her body curled up seeming to want to conserve space. The doctors also diagnosed our baby with Club foot, which worried christina a little, and the spectre of a forced hysterectomy loomed as well, as we both wanted the option of having more children as much as the ability to stop.

As the pregnancy progressed, Christina spent more and more time in bed, watching movies and crocheting. Facebook became one of the only links to the outside world, since she was unable to drive to places (I don't have my licence due to health problems). When online, Christina said little leading up to the birth except '15 days to go' or '8 days to go'. She struggled with lots of anxiety, feeling nervous about the operation. She did have a conversation or two with me about her wishes should she not make it through the operation, which concerned a bit, but I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind.

With one week to go, on a Tuesday, I was sitting at TAFE during class time when I saw a sudden facebook message from Christina: It went like this

Ben Mathewson
Christina Mathewson
Home now
Ben Mathewson
Do you need me home now?
Christina Mathewson
Now Bleeding
Ben Mathewson
Ben Mathewson
Im nearly there
Have you called anyone?

I packed my bags very quickly and ran home. On the way I quickly wrote Im nearly there
Have you called anyone? No reply. While running home I heard the ominous sign of the Ambulance siren. When I had got there the ambulance staff were loading her up with a towel around her, about to drive to the hospital. Christina had also rung her best friend who was on her way over to look after our other children. The ambulance drove off after I got some instructions from Christina, and I caught a lift to the hospital with my kind next door neighbour after Christina's friend arrived. My head was a blur. I didn't know what was going to happen next. It was comforting talking about something else in the car.

When I got to the hospital I ran out and talked to the ambulance people, asking them for her. They told me to go upstairs to find out where she was. Doctors directed me to theatre and told me I could only go in quickly to say a few words to Christina before she went in. Reassured to see her, but heart still racing, I told her to 'stay calm', and 'it will all be okay', without really having the same confidence. After this, time seemed to drag. I was shown to a bed in a ward and continually asked by worried looking nurses if I wanted a cup of tea. After a couple of hours a nurse came to see me and tell me the baby is fine, and beautiful, and can be found in the nursery. Marcella Daphne Providence was born into the world 7 pounds, without sign of club foot, and perfect in every way, entirely unaware as babies are of the chaos around her. When I asked the nurse about Christina's wellbeing they said 'we don't know yet'. After about 5 hours of waiting I posted this under her name.

'please keep praying for christina. She is in hospital now. More news to come soon. (Ben)'

After I had nursed the baby for a little while and spend 7 hours in the hospital the nurses told me there was 'nothing I could do at this point' and that I may as well go home'. I took their advice and went home. Running on junk food and adrenaline all day I pondered what to tell the children. When I got home, christina's best friend had the house cleaned up and the children ready for bed. My oldest Sophie (9) was the one who was most worried. I told her that 'mummy was still sick, but the doctors were looking after her'. After trying to keep a smile on my face as if everything was normal, I was able to get 5 out of my six children to bed. My youngest (2) wrestled with me in the bed and screamed uncontrollably until 11 o'clock. After he'd finally quietened down I fell fast asleep.

I awoke two hour later to the sound of a male voice at the end of my bed, and someone firmly grabbing my foot to get my attention.
'Sir, SIR, it's officer.... someone here. I need you to wake up sir!'
After my eyes adjusted and I had finished shouting in fear, I discovered a policeman at the end of my bed.
'What!? What?! Who are you?'
'I'm officer 'such-and-such' (I found out later it was about 1 o clock and I STILL don't remember his name) and It's very important that you ring the hospital'
After stumbling, bleary eyed to the phone, and after the officer had repeated the number several times until my brain could comprehend it, I rang the hospital.

'I think that you need to come down here. We are doing all that we can, but your wife has lost a lot of blood and she might not survive'
There was no way I could get a babysitter at 1:00 in the morning.
'I'll come as soon as I can'. I said.

Not being able to go back to sleep I rang our friend at 6 in the morning and said that Christina was in trouble and I needed a babysitter as soon as I could. Once she had organised her own children she was over at our house by 7:00 as my second oldest (age 8) had just woken up. I made a decision, because my children needed to know the truth, and I didn't want them to resent me if Christina had died.
'Your mummy might die' I said to her, 'but the doctors are looking after her'. Perhaps because she had woken up, or because she was the calm, quiet child it didn't seem to register with her. I was trying to hold it together and not cry, so I changed the subject to the TV show she was watching.

When I got to the hospital the doctors told me that Christina was in a critical but stable condition, and they had stopped the bleeding, but she was 'not out of the woods yet' and would still be in theatre until 9. Distraught, I rang the hospital chaplain, and He said he would pray over christina. He came, and once Christina was back in intensive care he put oil on her head and prayed that she would live. Finally being face to face with Christina did not set my heart at ease. She was looking grey and had tubes protruding from everywhere, including a machine to help her breathe. I knew then what 'critical but stable' meant. I was asked to ring her mother which I did.
Once that chaplain had gone, another came to replace his shift. I spent hours talking to this kindly lady, just offloading and trying to express my anxiety and grief at what had happened.

After this, I waited at the hospital in my little room trying to rest, and watching TV while staff continued to fuss around me. I was asked at least 10 times a day whether I wanted a cup of tea. The staff cared for me and the neonatal nursery told me I needed to take pictures of all of the baby's 'first' things first baths, first cuddles etc, so that Christina could feel part of her story 'if she survives' I thought, but tried to scrub that thought away from my head. I was overwhelmed. And as much as I loved this little baby, I wanted her mum to be fine too. By that evening, and after many tears in private places I had an assurance from doctors that they had things under control. I wrote this post to our facebook friends

Hello, it's ben here again. It has been a very difficult day today, but I want to say thank you for everyone who prayed. I got to the hospital at 6 a.m. and the doctors gave a less than 30% of her surviving. She was in a critical condition. Right now, it looks like they have isolated her bleeding problem and they are feeling much more confident she will pull through. With your prayers and friendship, she has and will pull the rest of the way through, and my very disturbed spirit feels much more at peace now. There is still a small chance she will bleed again so the doctors are still watching her closely, but it is fair to say the battle is almost over. Thanks again. Christina and I are thankful to have such valuable friends. (Ben).

In the meantime, many things had happened in our family. My friends, and especially Christina's best friend, organised trips to the dentist for my oldest, meals to be delivered when I was at home (I am a pretty poor cook, but this ordeal has shown me how to cook at least. Our friends in homeschooling group and church groups organised babysitting, cleaning, prayer and the support of 'just someone to talk to'.

During that evening the doctors informed me that the following day they would be taking the packing off christina's stomach. The doctors informed me that they 'may have' isolated the bleeding and that if there is no infection and no continual bleeding, then she would be on the slow road to recovery. At 12 that day- 3 days after delivery date; the surgeon came to see me with a smile on his face, and said that Christina's progress was good, and that there was no infections. After another three days the doctors removed the tubes and Christina was able to slur out 'I love you' to two of the children I had brought to visit her. After another 2 days doctors moved her out of intensive care and onto the maternity ward! I found out through talking to emergency staff that Christina needed her entire body weight of blood replacing four times over, and had effectively drained the whole state's supply of O Negative blood! On top of all this I found out that she had to undergo a forced hysterectomy and has some damage to the bladder where the placenta had grown through the Uterus.In total she had 5 days on life support.

Time passed and after about 4 weeks in hospital Doctors gave her the all clear to come home, which she was overjoyed about, despite the fact that she was still toting a bladder bag. The day after, however, she had to be rushed to the hospital with another bleed. The anxiety I felt rose up strongly again within me. She stayed overnight and the following day the doctors gave the verdict that it was 'just the body trying to get rid of waste materials'. 'No more panic!!' I thought! She came home the following day and little of consequence happened after that. Christina, as it turned out, would go through a roller coaster of emotions and various sicknesses as her body adjusted to the pain of the trauma and all of the blood transfusions. She slept a lot and she still sleeps a lot as we try to forge a way through, finding a way to get back to 'normal life' whatever that is; and we are looking forward to a pain free life, some time in the future.

From time to time things happen in our lifetimes that test our faith. I hope for our families' sake that testing is over for a while.

Ben Mathewson.

If you want to read more from Ben, the check out his blog Imagination Infinity 

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing and terrifying ordeal you all went through to bring your beautiful girl into this world.