Baby Born with Breathing Trouble

Nic shares the birth story of her son Joshua


Normally I’m the type to write out my birth story the day after I give birth, but after Josh’s delivery I’ve been left feeling quite disappointed by the whole experience, so it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get my head around everything.

In this story, I think I’d better start at the VERY beginning, before I gave birth to DS#1. I’ve always been determined to have as natural delivery as possible, so when I got into the birth centre I was ecstatic. I had the most fantastic midwife on the planet – Jess – and was even looking forward to giving birth. Fast forward to being in labour at 38 weeks, I labored hard with little progress and no drugs for 36 hours, only to find out baby was posterior. I transferred out of the birth centre, had an epidural and was induced, and then finally pushed out DS#1 after he turned. He was 4.2kg.

Then pregnant with DS#2, I was mildly terrified of having the same experience. I lived on and did everything right. I got into the birth centre again, and was lucky enough to get Jess as my midwife again, and we were determined to have a nice natural delivery. We were also hoping I’d go a little bit early again, because Jess was pregnant and finishing work a week after my due date. Unfortunately, a scan at 34 weeks revealed my low lying placenta was still low lying, so I wouldn’t be allowed into the birth centre because I was now classified as high risk. I was still determined to do things naturally though. At 37+1 my waters broke, so because I was GBS positive, we headed to the hospital. 9 hours later, I’d had maybe 3 contractions, and was about a cm dilated. Jess came on shift, and we decided to induce me again. I had a fantastic experience with induction this time around. I did find it a bit too much to handle though, and after 6 hours I’d made it to a whole 3cm, so I got another epidural. However, in the time it took for the anesthetist to get there, my contractions picked up fantastically, and I must have just about hit transition because I could feel a lot of pressure and the epidural didn’t really work properly. Came time to push, and I pushed for all I was worth. For an hour. The whole time I was really frustrated because I’d heard that second babies are much easier to push out! When he finally arrived, my midwife was in total shock. He’d not only come out posterior, but was a brow presentation, which is apparently nearly impossible to fit through a normal pelvis. Jess reckons I must have the largest pelvis known to mankind. LOL.

So when I found out I was pregnant with DS#3, I booked into the birth centre again, but pretty much accepted that my body just didn’t like to have anterior babies! Jess and I are good friends, and I asked her to be there to deliver bub if she could be, and she was ecstatic to say yes. I still decided that I’d try everything to get an anterior baby this time around, so I went to the chiro weekly. Surprisingly, this time around my pregnancy was nowhere near as painful, having suffered from SPD in all 3 pregnancies, this time it was much less severe. So up until I was 31 weeks pregnant, I actually nearly enjoyed my pregnancy for the first time. But then everything went downhill.

First, DS#1 got the flu. Not just a cold, the real honest flu, and he was sooooo sick. I think we had 4 trips to hospital in the space of 2 weeks – a temp we couldn’t get down, asthma attacks, it was just awful. The whole time he just wanted cuddles with mummy. I was up all night every night with him, and it was just a really hard couple of weeks. Then DH got the flu too. And he was so crook, but wouldn’t actually just rest, so he was even sicker than DS#1. So I was nursing him and forcing him to stay in bed whenever I possibly could. Then when I was 34 weeks pregnant, we moved house. I have never been so exhausted in my entire life. I had been too busy looking after sick family to pack properly, so the unpacking process was hell. I could barely move by the end of the weekend. It took me a full week to even start feeling human again. But then both DS#1 and DS#2 came down with a cold that lasted forever (we now assume it was swine flu). DS#1 was up coughing all night, and because they share a room, DS#2 had a very disturbed sleep and was grumpy all day every day. Not to mention the fact that they were both off their food, both had feral nappies (20 nappy changes a day when you’re already exhausted is NOT fun), and both were dripping snot EVERYWHERE. It was really bad, and I was exhausted. Again.

THEN at 36 weeks pregnant I came down with what we now know was swine flu. Oh my goodness I was crook. I didn’t really have the snotty nose or anything, but my asthma played up, I was up all night every night coughing, and I was exhausted. Then when I was nearly 37 weeks pregnant, I had to rush to hospital, barely able to breathe. They got my breathing and heartrate under control, baby was okay, so we were sent home. They swabbed me for swine flu, just in case. A couple of days later, we got a call from the hospital to say that I DID have swine flu! What the? They didn’t treat me with anything, I’d already been sick for a week so there wasn’t much point, I was just told to get lots of rest. Rest? At 37 weeks pregnant with 2 toddlers? Ha! Luckily though my MIL is an absolute gem, and she was so good. She took the kids A LOT during the next week, and allowed me to rest. However, I was totally unable to eat because I just felt beyond sick at even the slightest though of food, and I just didn’t seem to be getting better.

Then one night at pretty much dead on 37 weeks pregnant before I went to bed, my plug started to come away, which didn’t surprise me as my other two had been early. I really wanted to NOT have a baby just yet though, so I was just praying that I’d be one of those people who’s plug came away gradually. The same night though, I came down with extreme itchiness. It started in my hands and feet, but by the time I went to bed, it was everywhere. No rash, just itchy. And it was agony. I knew there was a normal pregnancy itchiness, and there was also a bad pregnancy itchiness (cholestasis). So I called my midwife. She assured me that it was probably just normal itchiness, but come in the next day for a blood test to check liver function and bile acids, just in case. So off I went, thinking it would all be good.

The next morning my friend came over to take pregnancy photos – and we were joking that I could have a baby any day now, both quite excited, but I really still didn’t want to have a baby just yet. Just after she’d finished taking the photos, my midwife called me. My liver function was impressively high. This was BAD. Quite often with cholestasis, the liver function test will come back fine, but it’s still mild cholestasis because the bile acid levels are increased. It takes a fair bit to increase the liver function. Apparentley. This is what she told me anyway! She told me she would chase the bile acid test that day and call me later on. Just after lunch, she called me to tell me my bile acid test was at least double what it should be, baby needs out, because he was at a very increased risk of stillbirth. My induction was scheduled for the gel on Saturday, induction on Sunday. I took it really well on the phone, but got off the phone and LOST it. I was devastated. This was NOT what I wanted to happen. Called DH in hysterics. He calmed me down a bit, but I was just so upset. L Called Jess to let her know what was going on too, and she helped me to calm down as well, and she did a good job of finding the bright side – she would be able to make it for the birth!

Had to go in that day (Friday) and just have a quick check of baby to make sure he wasn’t too stressed, and my midwife gave me a S&S. I was only a cm dilated, and baby wasn’t even fully engaged, so it was unlikely it would do much, but we gave it a go anyway. Seriously the worst I have ever felt in my life was after the S&S. My whole body decided to shut down. I had cramps in my back and legs, my BH picked up, I could barely walk, and I still had 2 toddlers to look after. Not to mention that my emotional state was shocking. I was so upset this was all happening. The next day we headed into the hospital. Boys were dealt with (God bless my MIL again) and she was happy to keep them as long as we needed her. Got the gel put in, and settled in for the night. Everyone was hoping I’d go into labour overnight, this being my 3rd baby and all, but the reality was it was unlikely to happen. Had my waters broken the next morning, and decided to start the drip straight away. Jess came into the hospital to be with us, and we were all keeping our fingers crossed that I’d have a lovely short labour, especially seeing as Jess had to go out to lunch, so we wanted baby here before she had to leave!

Didn’t happen though. Jess left around midday, and I’d barely had a contraction. By 2pm, my contractions finally established, I was breathing through them, but they were really quite unpleasant. Midwife did an internal, and my cervix had barely changed since she’d broken my waters. L I was exhausted before I’d even begun, and we all decided that considering how sick I STILL was (having constant coughing fits) I just couldn’t deal with the physical toll of labour. So I got an epidural. And it was freaking awful. My last epidural barely worked, this one was far far far too strong. I couldn’t feel ANYTHING at all. Admittedly, it was better for me than feeling everything, but I guess I’d been hoping for a nice medium. By 4pm, Jess was back with us, and between her and my midwife, they decided to just crank the drip. Had an internal at 8pm, and I was 6-7cm, so we were all happy.

Then everything went to poo again. Epi wore off on one side of my body, and I was nearly screaming in pain. It’s that thing where you can’t feel pain for a while, so then when you get it back it all seems so much worse! Jess knows me well enough to laugh at me too, so that was a nice change from her having to be my midwife and all supportive. Hehe. They gave me top-up after top-up, and finally I was back to pain free, but by this point (an hour after I was 6ish cm) I was feeling a LOT of pressure. Told my midwife she’d better check me, and lo and behold I was fully dilated, baby was ready to come out. Now, I’ve never pushed a baby out without a LOT of effort, so we were all fully prepared it would take anywhere up to an hour to get this baby out. But we gave it a go. I pushed, and a head popped out. Yep, one push. And it must have been a fairly pathetic push because I could barely feel anything down there what with the epidural working so well. Body followed about 20 seconds later, and I officially had a 2nd stage of less than a minute. Yep, my baby fell out.

Jess put him on my chest, and we knew something was wrong. He wasn’t breathing properly at all. It was like he was trying, but no air was actually going in. Apparently what he was doing was called ‘grunting’ and it sounded awful. They quickly cut the cord and took him to give him oxygen. A minute later it wasn’t improved, and they called a doctor. The doctor came and whisked him off to the neonatal unit and DH followed leaving me to get fixed up. I had 3 stitches put in, and then waited incredibly impatiently for the epidural to wear off enough for me to get up and go to see Josh. It was nearly midnight before I was able to move enough to go to Josh. In the meantime, DH had been there but they wouldn’t give him a cuddle. They just told him that they’d give me a cuddle when I got there. That made us both REALLY angry. No explanation of the fact that he was too sick to get out or anything, just flat out ‘No’. The second I was wheeled in the door, they handed him to me. Poor DH, it made him even angrier, because he obviously wasn’t too sick for a cuddle, they just decided that dad wasn’t allowed, just mum. I had a really quick cuddle and handed him straight to DH. We were so angry that nobody had explained anything to us. He wasn’t a premmie, he was a full term baby who needs cuddles! DH went home soon after that, and there were no beds for me on the post-natal ward, so I was stuck in Labour ward overnight. Wasn’t a fun night. I spent half the night crying, I’d never experienced my baby being taken away from me, I was alone, I was stuck listening to all these healthy newborn cries all night… lets just say I didn’t get much sleep.

The next day (Monday) when I went to see him, he was working even harder to breathe, and his grunting was worse, and the doctors weren’t really sure why. I was able to have a quick cuddle, but holding him made him work even harder, so it was only for a short time. Later that afternoon, DH brought the other two boys in to see their new baby brother. Sam was adorable, he was so excited to see Josh. We’d had the kids there for about 2 minutes, when we got hauled out by one of the doctors there. During the course of the day, they’d decided that because I’d had swine flu recently, Josh had swine flu, and they were putting him in isolation. He wasn’t allowed any visitors, ESPECIALLY not our other kids because they might have swine flu too, and they would be infecting the rest of the nursery. Never mind that it was the first time in about 4 months that they WEREN’T sick. The only people even allowed to go near him were DH and myself, and even though I wasn’t sick anymore, I had to wear a mask. Nurses and doctors had to be in full infection control mode and wear gloves, aprons, masks, and touch him as little as possible.

We were so upset. We’d been told off for doing the wrong thing, before we even knew it was the wrong thing, our boys couldn’t even see their new brother, and now Josh was even sicker than we’d thought. DH took the boys home, and I literally didn’t stop crying for the next 12 hours. I’m upset just thinking about how devastated I was. Didn’t help that I was on a ward where everyone else had their babies, and all their happy families coming in for a cuddle. I hadn’t had any visitors, I was so lonely, I missed DH, I missed my other boys, I couldn’t even cuddle Josh… it just didn’t seem fair. This was meant to be a happy time, I was meant to be celebrating at home with ALL of my boys. Instead I was stuck in stupid hospital and just devastated. I tried to get some sleep that night, but ended up just sitting in the nursery next to Josh, just watching him struggle to breathe. They had decided to put him on intra-nasal air, which works a bit like CPAP. He was breathing a lot better with the intra-nasal, but still struggling.

On Tuesday morning, DH rang me to say that overnight he had been feeling really crook, and had vomited that morning. The plan had been that he would drop the boys at day care, come into the hospital to see me for a bit, go and do some work (the joys of being a business owner), then come back that night with the kids and we’d all go out to maccas for dinner. Of course if he was sick then he couldn’t come in, I wouldn’t be seeing my other kids, and once again I’d be sitting there lonely and quickly heading to depressed. Cue the tears again. Luckily I was through our birthing centre so I had my very own midwife who came to see me that morning. She’d been with me through my entire pregnancy so I knew her quite well. She saw how devastated I was, and asked about Josh. Of course, nobody had communicated anything to me, so after she saw me she went to the nursery, and found the nicest doctor on the planet, and explained that nobody had told us much of anything, I was devastated, and I needed to be told what was going on. So when I finally stopped sobbing, and headed down to the nursery, the nicest doctor on the planet found me, and told me exactly what was going on. The deal was that they didn’t know what was going on, BUT they were treating him as though he had premature lung disease. He told me that it should only be a couple of days and he’d start getting better by himself.

He explained that they would rather the kids got better by themselves instead of them interfering with drugs. He also explained to me that they were isolating him just in case he did have swine flu, and even though they’d gotten a negative result from his swab, it could still be hiding in the mucous in his chest so they’d rather start him on tamiflu as a ‘just in case’. We asked him about cuddles, because DH still hadn’t cuddled him since Sunday night, and he was in shock that we’d been told not to cuddle him. He left us with strict instructions to cuddle him as much as we wanted, as long as he wasn’t getting too stressed by it. We also asked him about the kids coming to visit, and he said that as long as they weren’t sick, there was no reason the kids couldn’t have cuddles too. He was also really good in assuring me that even if it was swine flu, it was in no way my fault that he was sick. It was just a random thing that occurred. Like I said, nicest doctor on the planet!

I also finally had a few visitors that day – a couple of my friends who’d had premmie babies before, and a couple of my friends who I just really needed. It was fantastic to finally have some support from people. It was hard because I wasn’t allowed to take them to see Josh, but at least I was able to stop crying for an hour or two. Then I got the good news that DH was feeling heaps better. He’d probably been plain old stressed, but now that I’d had a doctor actually talk to me, he was feeling fine again. So that night, I actually got to see my kids. It was so fantastic to be out and about with them, I’d missed them so much. We also brought them in to see Josh, and it was fantastic to have all my family in the same place at the same time. DH also got to have his first cuddle since Sunday, and basically, I was happy. Sam was so cute – he was talking to me about his baby Joshy, and was very specific in saying “I saw baby Joshy! He puffing mummy. He very sick.” Coz of course Josh was ‘puffing’ with his breathing. Very adorable.

The next day when I went to see Josh, he was going so much better. His grunting had stopped, and his breathing was significantly less labored. The nicest doctor on the planet decided that they wanted to start tube feeding him today (he’d been on a drip since Sunday), but I think he must have had a mental blank that Josh really didn’t need tube feeds, his suck reflex was perfectly developed – we could tell by the way he was sucking for dear life on his dummy! I was also allowed to breastfeed on demand. So that day, I made sure that every time he was due to be fed, I happened to have just given him a feed (my little trooper had NO issues attaching) and he didn’t need to be topped up with the tube at all. DH and I went out to dinner that night too – it was lovely to be out of the hospital! I was also picky that night, and continued feeding him through the night. I was there every time he was due to be tube fed, and by his 4am feed, he’d actually pulled out his tube by himself, and they’d decided he doesn’t need it and they took it off altogether! Also during the night, they were able to keep turning down the amount of oxygen he was receiving, until he was just on plain air, and maintaining his O2 stats well above 95%.

On the Thursday morning doctors rounds, all of his blood results were back, and everything had come back negative. No infection, nothing. He was able to come off his drip because he no longer needed antibiotics, and he was feeding so well. He also came off the air for a trial. Oh it was so nice to cuddle him without all those tubes in his face and with both his arms free of tubes too. The hospital had also received back results from my swine flu swab, and I was swine flu free so I was able to stop wearing a mask, and because he was so much better so quickly, the nursing staff were also allowed to stop the full infection control. It was all so much nicer to deal with. DH brought the boys in a couple of times that day, and they had their first actual cuddle of their brother. Sam was soooooo happy, he couldn’t stop talking about it for hours apparently! Zac didn’t really care, but that was to be expected of course. Over the course of the day, Josh tolerated being off the air really well, so they decided that they would stop all monitoring!

Later that afternoon, I was finally booted off my ward, but the nursery staff were really good at finding me somewhere to stay because of how committed I was to feeding him. They got me straight into a special overnight stay room attached to the nursery, and I was just settling in there, when they wheeled in Josh! They’d decided that I could have him with me overnight, working towards taking him home on Friday. I was past ecstatic. I had my baby with me! We had a good night, I was up a couple of times, to be expected of course, but at least I didn’t have to walk through the hospital in my PJs to feed!

The next day the boys were in day care again, and we’d told them all about how Josh would be coming home, and they could have cuddles, and mummy would be home too. About 2pm that arvo, I got a phone call from Jess. She was on shift in the nursery. I expected her to tell me to bring Josh to the nursery coz the doctors want to discharge him. Instead she told me that they were taking Josh away again! The blood test they’d done for jaundice levels earlier that day had come back too high and he had to go back to the nursery to go under lights L. Once again, I was devastated. They’d given me back my baby, and then were taking him away again L. They let me stay in the overnight stay room, so I could continue feeding him.

So he went under lights that night. He HATED it. Fed every hour for the first few, wouldn’t settle, just wanted me to cuddle him, but of course I couldn’t. He settled after a while and was up just a few times overnight, but of course I was up half the night just wanting to be with him. Unfortunately if I went anywhere near Josh and he heard my voice, he got really unsettled and started banging on the side of the crib. Poor darling.

The next day (Saturday) DH had to go to work again, so he organized the kids to be looked after by mum, and had it all planned out, so he headed off to work. Of course things always work against us, and by 11am we were told Josh was fine, and pretty much booted out! So I had to wait for a couple of hours for DH to come and get us, and we were FINALLY on our way home! A week after I’d gone to hospital, and nearly a week old, Joshua finally started getting all the cuddles he deserved!

It doesn’t end there though – on Tuesday morning I woke with extreme pain in my abdomen, and my loss had increased severely. I rang my midwife, and she told me to go and see a doctor because I might have an infection. I went to a doctor, who didn’t do much except tell me to get some rest. When I told my midwife what the doctor had said, she was really angry. Got me straight into the hospital, where I was seen by one of the doctors on labour ward, who immediatley gave me a shot of antibiotic, and sent me home with a script for more to take orally. Got my test results today and it was definitley a uterine infection.

My midwife says that I’m by far the most interesting person she’s ever looked after – the chance of cholestasis is so rare in a 3rd baby when I didn’t have it with #1 and #2 is so slim it’s not funny. Then to have a full term vaginal delivery and still have breathing issues is also incredibly rare. THEN to get a uterine infection on top of all that? It’s all just so unusual to happen. We seem to have just been really unlucky.

I’m still feeling quite upset by the whole experience of having a sick baby, if I think about it too much it actually depresses me, but on the whole, I’m just happy to have a healthy baby now, and am enjoying this newborn stage before he starts giving me as much grief as his brothers!