‘The anesthetist put a mask over my face. ‘Please help me, I’m going to die.’ She replied, ‘You‘re not going to die.’ I thought about the family I was leaving behind, and then it went dark.’

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“On Thursday evening, the 3rd of January, whilst at home on the toilet, I experienced an unprovoked APH which in layman’s terms is an unexplained bleed. I got such a shock and called Ethan (my partner) to see what he thought. He and my Mum immediately thought I was in labour and suggested I head to the hospital. I was not convinced as I had read any bright red blood before labour is a bad thing. Mum kept saying to me ‘You’re in labour’ and I kept replying with ‘No I’m not.’ Looking back I think I didn’t want to get too excited about the possibility of meeting my baby soon as I was well and truly done with my pregnancy. I called the Birth suite and they suggested I come in to get a once over and so they could monitor Pea (my baby) to see if he was still happy in my oven. I packed my bags just in case we had to stay and we headed off to the hospital. It was the longest 15-minute drive of my life and Ethan and I just kept repeating ‘IMAGINE, imagine if this is it!’ We were so excited and so naive of what was to come.

Courtesy of Courteney Williams

I got to the assessment bay and they monitored me for about an hour before coming in and telling us they were going to transfer us to recovery so they could monitor Pea overnight. They said if I experienced another APH they would probably end up inducing me because they worried my placenta was detaching from the uterine wall. We went to bed in the recovery ward and when I got up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night it happened again, another APH. I called the nurse and she said the doctors would be in to see me later that morning. At this point, we knew we would most likely be induced and were in complete shock, nervous but so excited at the possibility of meeting our son very soon.

In the morning the doctors came in and examined me. I was not dilated at all and my cervix was not effaced. They were happy to induce me after feeling Pea and mentioning I wouldn’t want to carry such a big baby to term since he was probably weighing about 4 Kilos already. At this point, I was 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant. They wanted to wait until I was 37 weeks to begin the induction process so they decided I would receive the Balloon Catheter to dilate my cervix that day and we would begin the Syntocinon drip (a synthetic version of Oxytocin, the hormone that your body releases in labour to trigger contractions) the next morning. We luckily had enough time to inform Ethan’s family the baby would be coming so they could fly over from Perth to be here for the birth. At 5 pm, I went down to the birth suites to have my balloon catheter inserted.

Courtesy of Courteney Williams

The Midwife who was inserting my catheter was struggling to reach my cervix as it was still very high. It was the most painful thing I had experienced in a while as she shoved her hand into my vagina as hard as she could and her knuckles pushed up against my pelvic bone. I couldn’t help but squirm up the bed away from her hand because it was so painful. After about 20 minutes of trying she called the doctor who inserted it within 5 minutes. I never expected the catheter to be so painful. They sent me back up to recovery and told me they would remove the balloon in the morning or it would fall out on its own. This was the worst night of my life. I was in so much pain I was doing laps around the hospital room begging Ethan to help me. I asked the Midwife for more and more painkillers but she refused as she said it would interfere with the induction process the next day. I didn’t sleep a wink and Ethan stayed right by my side, sleeping on the end of my bed with his head on a chair beside the bed.

Courtesy of Courteney WIlliams

At about 3 am I got up to go to the toilet and thought my baby was coming down the canal. I felt a huge bulge and an urge to push. As I pushed, the balloon catheter popped out of me and into the toilet and as I looked down I could not believe how big those two balls were, the size of apples! I called the Midwife and told her I thought my water had broken since there was a big gush of fluid after the balloons popped out. She was not convinced as I was not leaking any more fluid but she called the Birth suite and they said they would take me down at about 6 am. Ethan’s family had arrived the night before and were staying at my house with my family waiting on tenterhooks for the news they could come to the hospital. They arrived before we even got down to the birth suite!

When we got down to the birth suite we were placed into room 10. A Midwife then examined me to see if my waters were in fact broken. She struggled a lot and said there was no bulging membrane and she couldn’t feel the amniotic sac. We concluded maybe my water had broken up in recovery after all. That Midwife finished her shift and another Midwife arrived to start hers. Her name was Courtney! I felt this was a sign and it really calmed me down because so far it had been a whirlwind of emotions. By 7 am they started the Syntocinon drip and early labour had begun! The first part of labour was very leisurely as I got my hair braided by Abbie (my mother in law) and was filing my nails at 10 am. I was smiling the whole way through and thinking wow, this labour thing isn’t all that bad. By 11 am my contractions had picked up and I started to realize this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I was still smiling between each contraction and making jokes with our families. The Midwives encouraged me to walk around but all I wanted to do was sit on the bed. I started walking around and it was at this point I opted for the gas. The gas was very entertaining (it changes the sound of your voice) and took the edge off of the contractions slightly. As the contractions strengthened I started to panic a little and asked for the gas to be turned up. As soon as this happened I started vomiting uncontrollably so I realized If I wanted to birth with only the gas I was going to have to endure this pain a lot longer.

Courtesy of Courtesy of Courteney Williams

At 1 pm I was still going strong breathing through my contractions and although they were very painful I was still smiling between them. I even enjoyed a vegemite sandwich in one hand and was holding the gas in the other hand ready for my next contraction. I was convinced I was in active labour but I was examined and told I was only 2cm dilated. I laboured for another hour and by 2 pm I was in active labour. Everything got very real after this and the smile was well and truly gone from my face. My birth team was so supportive and encouraged me through the entire process. I was feeling weaker and weaker with every passing contraction and I could feel my willpower diminishing. I wasn’t progressing as fast as they would have liked so they kept ramping up the drip to force more and more contractions. I wanted to labour in the shower so my Midwife wanted to attach a coil to Peas head that would keep track of his heart rate while I was in the shower. As she screwed the coil into Peas scalp my waters burst all over her. Turns out I had been labouring against my waters that entire time! No wonder pea was still happily staying inside! At one point my contractions were lasting a minute and a half and I was only getting about a 20-second break between each one. I was so determined to go without the epidural but by 8 pm I was absolutely begging for it. My Midwife went to get the anesthetist and came back and said she was in theatre and would be about an hour. I sent her straight back out to tell Erin (the anesthetist) I needed my epidural NOW! She came back and informed me she would be 10 minutes. I was so scared of getting the epidural but I had pushed myself to the absolute limit of my pain tolerance that I didn’t care how many needles they had to stick into my back I just wanted the pain to go away. I had to sit so still through 3 contractions while they inserted the needle and it honestly took all the remaining strength in my body not to wriggle and scream in pain. Unfortunately, my first epidural didn’t work so I had to go through the whole process again. But after the epidural was in and working it was total bliss. The room slowed down, the noise level dropped and I was so at peace. I kept asking myself why I didn’t get it sooner and was facepalming for being so stubborn.

By 12 am the next morning I was 10cm dilated and Pea was ready to descend into the birth canal. I lay on my side with my legs up on a Bosu ball and waited an hour for Pea to make his way down. My midwife told everyone to get some rest because this was the calm before the storm. I did not sleep a wink as I knew I would be meeting my son within the next few hours. At exactly 1 am on the 6th of January, I was examined and I was ready to push. The next 39 minutes were the most exhilarating, exciting, empowering, exhausting minutes of my entire life. This was the one part of labour I was very confident I could do, and do well. I put my chin to my chest and pushed as hard as my body could handle. My birth team watched on as Peas head appeared between my legs. My midwives told me to reach down and feel my babies head! I cannot describe the feeling of finally touching the little person you have been growing for nine months, so desperate to hold. He had so much hair! Unfortunately, I required an episiotomy as Peas big head struggled to fit through. I definitely blame his dad for that! After the episiotomy and another push, his head was out and in the world. The song playing was the Paul Walker tribute song ‘See you again’ and with one last mighty push my son was born. Reagan Pii Williams, born at 1:39 am on the 6th of January, 3.35 kgs & 54cm. They placed my baby on my chest and I was in utter shock. I looked up at Ethan and we both burst into tears. He was perfect. He let out some beautiful little newborn cries and as I looked down I could just see the top of his head. I couldn’t wait to snuggle with him and get a look at his face.

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All of a sudden he started going blue and they ushered Ethan to cut the cord as quickly as he could. In an instant, Reagan was ripped from my arms and put onto the resuscitation bay. The Midwife hit the emergency buzzer and 15 doctors ran into the room. The lights were bright, I was completely overwhelmed and I just wanted my baby back, I genuinely thought he was going to die. My worst nightmares were now my reality. I didn’t take my eyes off of Reagan and in turn, didn’t realize that the doctors were delivering my placenta. They massaged my stomach and the blood poured out of me. They took Reagan away and Ethan and Abbie followed to make sure Reagan was going to be okay. my mum stayed with me and 1.5L of blood loss later the doctors were concerned some of my placentae had stayed behind. The doctor told my mum to take my jewelry off as I was going to need to go into theatre to deal with my hemorrhage. I asked them if I could have a word with mum alone. They left the room and there we were all alone in the room that had brought me so much joy just minutes earlier. There was no family, no joy and no baby, a part of me and Ethan that I had nurtured for nine months in my own body was gone and I couldn’t go with him. I told mum I felt really strange but that I was going to be okay. They wheeled me off to the theatre and all I kept asking was ‘Is my baby okay?’ the doctors assured me Reagan was going to be okay and they topped up my epidural so they could begin to remove the placenta.

Courtesy of Courteney Williams

The anesthetist told me that it would feel like someone was doing the dishes in my belly and I soon found out she wasn’t lying. The doctor stuck one of his hands into my uterus, yes all the way into my uterus and used his other hand to massage the outside of my stomach to get the piece of placenta out. I was feeling okay at this point and just kept asking the anesthetist as many questions as I could think of. All of a sudden my chest felt heavy and my limbs went weak. I thought they must have been injecting something into my drip as it felt slightly similar to the feeling you get just before you go under aesthetic. The doctors started yelling to put me under and I realized the feeling was the life draining from my body. I found it hard to breathe as my lungs started giving in. I was losing so much blood and my organs were shutting down. The anesthetist went to put a mask over my face that I knew was going to put me to sleep. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I was convinced I would never wake up. Just before she put the mask on my face I said to her, ‘Please help me I’m going to die’ and she replied: ‘You‘re not going to die.’ As I drifted off to sleep I thought about the family I was leaving behind. I thought about Ethan and how he was going to deal with losing me but most of all I thought about the fact that I would never know if my baby made it or not. I would never know that my beautiful miracle had survived. I hoped and prayed with all my heart that he would survive and be the reason Ethan was able to live on without me. And then it was dark…

Meanwhile, Ethan and my mum were called down from NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) where Reagan was on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), he had a drip in his arm and monitors attached to every part of him. His lung had collapsed after he was born and he had an air pocket beside his lung. When mum and Ethan arrived back in the Birth suite they saw my midwives and the doctors who had attended to me, all huddled around the reception area crying. My mum knew something was terribly wrong. They called them into a small room and sat them down with the worst news. They told them that if there was anyone who needed to come and say their goodbyes to me that they should call them to come to the hospital as soon as possible because they did not have my life under control and they feared the worst. I was going to die. They told them I had lost 3.5L of blood (the human body only holds 5L). They were waiting on one last specialist doctor who was called in to perform a full hysterectomy (removing all of the internal female sex organs) on me to save my life. My mum and Ethan approved the hysterectomy and when the doctor arrived he prepped for surgery. He was going to have to perform an open abdominal hysterectomy because there was no time to do a laparoscopy (keyhole). He had the lines were drawn up and the scalpel in his hand. They had inserted a balloon into my uterus to stem the bleeding and when he took one last look down at my vagina, by the grace of God and the work of the doctors the trickle of blood had stopped. I received a full blood transfusion and they sent me to recovery.

When I woke up in recovery I thought I was dead but the pain I was in soon confirmed I wasn’t. The doctor was there, explaining everything that had happened but I kept going in and out of consciousness, I couldn’t hear a word he was saying but I asked if my baby was okay and I was informed that he was. That was the most amazing moment knowing Reagan and I had both made it out alive. We weren’t out of it yet but we had made it through the worst. I felt so cold and weak, I couldn’t even talk. Ethan and Mum came to visit me in recovery but I only vaguely remember seeing Ethan’s face and nothing else. The next time I woke up it was 11 am and I was in ICU (intensive care unit) in excruciating pain. I was connected to drips and blood bags and monitors and catheters coming from everywhere. I couldn’t move without the monitors going off as a cord would tangle or bend and set the alarms off. I was on so many pain killers I was still drifting in and out of consciousness but I could vividly remember how sweaty I was. The sweat was running off of my entire body so badly they had to keep changing my pillows and blankets as they were soaking through. It was the weirdest feeling in the entire world and every nurse that came into the room made a comment on how wet I was! I spent the day in ICU waiting for the opportunity to meet my baby properly between crying from the pain of the balloon in my uterus. At 5:20 pm they brought Reagan down for his first visit with me.

As he was wheeled into the room in his incubator I got my first proper look at him. He looked exactly like Ethan. A perfect, tiny, fragile Ethan that I fell instantly in love with. He was also connected to pipes and drips so I reassured him that he was going to be okay because he was a fighter, so strong and brave and if mummy could do it so could he. I only got to spend 10 minutes with him as it was dangerous for him to be in ICU for too long. I said goodbye to him once again and sobbed as he left. At 10 pm that evening they brought me his onesie he had been wearing so I could endure the pain through the night with his scent by my side. He smelt so familiar like it was a scent I had always known, a love I had always known as my life had never been completed before he was in it. Ethan spent the night going back and forth between NICU and ICU to comfort me and Reagan. The man I already loved so much proved that there is no other man like him on earth. He is my world and proved his worth those days. I didn’t expect anything less from such a selfless, strong man. I will never be able to repay him for the strength he showed for our family but I appreciate it more than he will ever know.

I had broken sleep that night between the pain and begging for more and more painkillers and with one more visit from Reagan. I had made it to morning, alive and stronger than the day before. I was notified that I would be able to leave ICU later that day and go up to Recovery suite to be with Reagan who was off of oxygen and progressing well enough to join me up there! By 2 pm I was on my way to see my baby, feeling so thankful for my life and so appreciative of all the doctors, nurses and midwives that got me through this experience. It was so calm in recovery, no beeping monitors, no sick people, no bright lights. It was perfect. All I wanted to do was lay in that bed and hold my baby for as long as he would let me. Everything was perfect once again. I was absolutely devastated that the experience of his first cuddles, his first feed, his first nappy change were all robbed from us. I felt like a terrible mother that I wasn’t there for my son when he needed me most. All I could do was try and make up for the time lost and show him an endless outpouring of love so that he knew I would never leave his side again. When he cried that night all I did was smile. That’s the sound I so longed to hear while I lay without him in ICU.

Courtesy of Courteney Williams

Unfortunately, the next day he was diagnosed with Jaundice and had to go back up to Special care to receive light treatment. My hemoglobin levels were shocking so I had to stay in Recovery and receive another 3 units of blood. Although I was alone again I knew that after all we had been through, Jaundice was a cake walk and that he would be back in my arms soon and we could go home and begin our life together. Ethan messaged me all night with updates on our sweet little man and in the morning I was able to go and see Reagan and take him back to Recovery with me. Seven days after we entered the hospital we were finally discharged and allowed to go home.

Courtesy of Courteney Williams

I knew that every day that passed we were further away from our trauma and it was extremely hard to be sad or angry when every morning I got to wake up and once again remember that we had survived! This story may have had a very different, more tragic ending and I have to be thankful for that. My beautiful son is now 3 months old, cuter than ever and a boy who will never remember the trauma he suffered. I will always carry a heavy and guilty heart about the birth of my first child but I am trying every day to separate my labour from the trauma. My labour was intense and empowering, the most beautiful experience of my life and the trauma that happened afterward was not a part of that experience.

In spite of everything that happened I am so excited to have more children and was blessed with the fact that I got to keep my uterus, many people are not so lucky. I will not let this experience affect my future pregnancies. I will celebrate every milestone just as I did with baby Pea and I will go into labour confident and strong just like it’s my first time.”

Courtesy of Courteney Williams
Courtesy of Courteney Williams

This story was written by Courteney Williams of Gold Coast, Australia. You can follow her on Instagram here. You Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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