Hercules’ birth; my dream, the reality and what I want to share
Hercules’ birth; my dream, the reality and what I want to share
If you’re thinking of having a home birth, if you’re a doula or a midwife helping people with home births or if you’re simply interested in the follow on to my previous blogs – this is for you. x
My son is called Hercules because when he was born he was only given a 50% chance of survival. He is my little hero and I will never, ever forget the bravery he showed his father and me during the first month of his life. I still feel horribly numb and sick when I think about everything he went through.
I’ve written this blog for two reasons; firstly I feel it’s very, very important that I share the lessons I learnt through the birth of my son so that other families don’t go through what we did. Secondly; I’ve been suffering physical and emotional trauma for seventeen months and this is therapy for me, to share with the world the whole story of what happened seventeen months ago.
I’m very aware that this is a long blog so if you only get this far, I want you to know that;
- If you are in labour and your waters break you MUST get to hospital for antibiotics before the 24 hours mark (ideally 12 hours) as there is a very high risk you will get an infection, which could easily pass to your baby.
- Make sure your practitioners are qualified, look at their certification and make sure they carry full insurance.
If you know anyone researching home births please share this information with them.
From the beginning, it was my dream to have a water birth at home. I had recently moved to Ibiza when I was pregnant and knowing very little Spanish and even less about the healthcare provisions, I set out to find an English speaking private option here in my new island home. I did a lot of research, speaking to new mummies who had just given birth and I finally found what looked like the perfect option for me and my bump. I’d heard lots of great things about two English women who had assisted in the birth of several friends of friends. I booked them and built a great rapport with them during my Hypnobirthing classes and doula sessions.
I had the most beautiful romantic dream of having a water home birth. I love baths!! The thought of my son coming into this world in the place where I feel the most relaxed filled me with joy.
Ivor and I did a beautiful course in Hypnobirthing and for anyone who is pregnant, I highly recommend reading up on this subject as it really helped me in labour. During the course you learn how to relax and meditate on a deeper level, letting go of fear and preparing your mind and body for the birth.
With this new knowledge and confidence, I had every belief that I was going to have this beautiful birth. I had been picturing it in my mind for months and even though things didn’t go the way they had in my dreams, the skills I learnt on this course I still use in life today.
In total, my labour lasted nearly four days!! Hypnobirthing, my yoga background and meditation enabled me to control the pain to some extent. In fact, I actually enjoyed the first day as a new experience and something very special.
In the late evening of Sunday 1st March 2015 things finally started to happen; my waters broke. I was really happy as my due date had been 26th February (it’s very normal for first time Mums to be a little late in giving birth).
On Monday night we tried to slow the contractions down, to give me a little break as I was getting very tired and the midwife and doula said we could start again in the morning… this was their first error. I’ve learnt since that once you are in labour you cannot slow the contractions down. At this stage, I should’ve thought about going to the hospital but I had employed professionals to guide me and I’d grown to trust them, especially in my exhausted and uncertain state.
This second night was awful, bless my mum for being there for me as I had contractions every six minutes through the night – it was shattering, exhausting and even with my stamina I struggled.
On Tuesday I still wasn’t progressing, my cervix remained closed and the midwife told me to have acupuncture… This didn’t work and again at this point we should have been advised hospitalisation.
By 4am on Wednesday, the 4th day, I had finally had enough. My mother, who had been at my side day and night, told my midwife that she thought that there might be an infection due to a bad smell. All I knew was that my body and mind had had enough, I had reached the end, and told everyone that I wanted to go to hospital. I was totally exhausted and just wanted to get both my son and me to safety.
My mum and I bundled into the back of my doula’s car and she drove us down the bumpy caminos on the way to our local hospital in Ibiza town. In the car, the doula asked me to lie to the staff at the hospital when I got there and tell them that I had only been in labour for 24 hours. She said that this was because the medical staff wouldn’t look after me the same if they knew about the home-birth and their jobs would be in danger.
This is one of the points that still fills me with rage. If they knew I should have gone to the hospital at 24 hours why didn’t they tell me?
The medical team in the hospital, Can Misses were amazing from the start and wanted Hercules to be born naturally if at all possible and for me to be as relaxed as the situation allowed.
When I reached the hospital I refused to lie to the staff and told them the truth, they finally gave me an epidural and some of the pain went away. I was totally and utterly exhausted, so they asked me to sleep for a few hours, until 8am so that I would have some strength for the birth. When I woke they made preparations for me to finally give birth to Hercules. They started giving me drugs to help me dilate, I finally went into the birthing suite at around 1pm and Hercules was born on Thursday 5th March 2015 at 1:15pm.
I learnt afterwards, that cervix dilation is often difficult for sportswomen and dancers due to the strength of our core muscles.
Four days of contractions had caused huge compression on Hercules’s brain and the infection that was in both of us, together with swallowed meconium (a baby’s first poo) and the distress that he was in meant he arrived in a very bad way.
Hercules was rushed off to intensive care, he still hadn’t made a noise or a movement and we were moved into a room by ourselves to wait for news. At 7pm that evening the nurse came back to us and asked if we wanted to see him for a moment before he was airlifted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in Palma, Mallorca. They couldn’t wait, a full support team had been flown in, which left no space in the helicopter for us. The commercial flights had finished for the day, maybe this was fate because the hospital wouldn’t release me, I was still suffering from a horrendous infection and in the end, Ivor and I really needed each other during a torturous night without our baby. We didn’t have any news and I can still hear the sounds of our screams of anguish through the worst night of our lives.
In the night, Ivor and I agreed that he should go to be there for our son. My mum was still on the island and the staff still wouldn’t let me go even for all my tears and screams. So Ivor left on the first flight at 7:30am and was with Hercules by lunchtime, sending me photos of the futuristic hospital he was in and the first pictures of my son. We didn’t know it beforehand but the paediatric ward for the Balearic islands is one of the best in the world, it is set within a new university hospital and the doctors were amazing. We were so lucky and I feel extremely grateful that Hercules had such an amazing place to be treated. He was on life support and another machine was keeping him in an induced coma to prevent more swelling of the brain – you’ve never seen so many tubes in such a tiny baby.
Ivor had some terrible conversations with the Doctors on that first day. They explained that the infection and the long labour had caused weakness in his lungs and they were worried about the infection having reached his brain. They also told him that he wasn’t allowed to touch or talk to Hercules as it might stimulate his brain. During this first day, he called me and explained that it was vital that Hercules had a name so that the staff identified with him as well as possible. We still hadn’t chosen but Hercules had been Ivor’s favourite all along and we chose it in the end to give our little boy the strength to live.
I have never wanted to be somewhere so much in my life but I was still very, very sick myself and the nurses and doctors in Ibiza didn’t want me to leave the hospital yet. I broke down in tears with one of the elderly male doctors, telling him that I didn’t care how sick I was. If my son was going to die I wanted to be by his side. This doctor took pity on me and made it his sole purpose to get me to my son. The following morning I released myself from the hospital and Ivor collected me from Palma airport in a wheelchair.
After ten days of sitting by Hercules’s incubator night and day I was allowed to pick Hercules up for the first time…
Our Month in Palma
During a month of being at the hospital 24 hours a day, we received such incredible love and support from our families and our friends. Hercules’ fairy Godmother lent us her house, her brother rented us a car, Ivor’s twin brother rushed over from London to be with us, our friend Diva looked after our Westie, Rufus, within literally an hour of being asked, my Mum and Dad sorted out our house and then joined us in Mallorca with my brother and his fiancée Antonia. Thank you to all of you, those four weeks were gut-wrenchingly exhausting and we couldn’t have made it through without you.
Dealing with Hormones
I cannot tell you the number of times I felt like I was going absolutely crazy due to my hormones. I was on one big hormonal roller coaster. One minute I would be high and feel great and the next minute I would be so low and in floods of tears, unable to cope with anything. I would feel this huge guilt over not wanting my baby to see me cry and then angry for not being able to pull myself together and then super embarrassed at my outburst, thinking ‘Oh My God! Did my neighbours hear me scream?’
Ivor and I had only recently moved from London to the Ibiza and were still new to learning the language, we had left all our close friends and family behind, which only made the situation harder and I really did feel very isolated and alone at times. I craved for someone to throw their arms around me, hold me tight and to make my pain go away. I grew up in a family that nurtured feelings and emotions and Ivor didn’t, so is not used to dealing with girls and their emotions, let alone a new mummy; full of crazy hormones and emotional and physical trauma. Yoga and meditation helped a lot with this; the ability to come to my breath and focus on being in the present moment helped and is still helping me to be a much better mother to my son. I don’t know how I would’ve coped at all without it!
Because I had built a good relationship with my midwife and doula during my pregnancy it was very weird and awkward for me to know what to do afterwards. Ibiza is a small island and I haven’t had the courage to deal with the trauma or their lack of communication, insensitivity and professionalism. I have been asked on previous pregnancy blogs about the birth, but this situation has really affected my self-confidence. This is why I haven’t blogged about this subject since Hercules joined us. We’ve also only just come off the various lists for government bodies that provide over-watch, physio and rehabilitation for babies with concerns and I’ve been very wrapped up in looking after Hercules, with various flights to the head of paediatrics and rehabilitation twice a week.
There is a movement towards alternative and home birthing now and I really feel that this is a good thing, for all the reasons in my previous blogs written before Hercules was born, but it’s also vital that people who are employed or advertise their services in this area really know what they are doing and are able to handle situations when things go wrong. I am a strong and healthy woman and thought I would have no problems having a home birth, however things don’t always go the way you expect, so please make sure your birthing team have insurance and check all there qualifications.
I’ve been asked by people if I feel guilty about the birth and the awful truth is that I have been overcome with guilt… and it’s only now that I realise this guilt isn’t for me, it isn’t for me to carry and I need to share my story and my pain. My family have told me that it wasn’t my fault but the lack of contact from the birth team, their bad decisions and a mother’s natural instinct have made me feel alone and abandoned. Of course, the doctors said at once that the team were entirely responsible and that should be held accountable. When we were both able to think about life again, my partner Ivor sent an email to the team asking them to put their fee into a support account for my son. We heard absolutely nothing back.
As I push the publish button on this blog I choose to release and let go of the guilt I feel in my heart for Hercules’ start in life and to be grateful for his health and strength. I know that my next journey is working towards forgiveness for all that happened to truly let go of the negativity surrounding this situation, but I understand this is a process that that will take time. As I read this back for the hundredth time it all still feels so fresh and raw. Ivor and I have been through so much and we’re stronger together for it. The Spanish healthcare system and the many, many doctors, nurses, specialists and teachers have been amazing and have helped my family get through all of this. I want to say a special thank you to Laura, Hercules’ physiotherapist who has seen him twice a week since we came back from Palma.
As we look into the eyes of our Hercules we really do see the Latin meaning of his name, Glorious Gift. We won’t fully know until he is at least 2 if there is any long-lasting physical or mental damage but in our eyes, he is so perfect, so loved and so full of love.