Caught in the cord
Georgina tries not to panic when her busy foetus goes quiet at 39 weeks.
(Getty Images)
My babe in the womb was a mover and a shaker. I felt her fluttering terrifically early, at about 15 weeks, and she just kept right on going from there. She developed a perfect schedule, kicking her dad in the ribs when I rolled over for my morning snuggle, having a little wriggle when I had my morning smoothie and keeping us company with her bumps when we did the crossword together in the evenings.

Chocolate and a warm bath were also guaranteed to get her going.

So, when at 39 weeks pregnant, I sat down to do the crossword while devouring a packet of speckled eggs and felt nothing, I thought this was a little odd. The next morning, there were no kicks during our cuddle and my smoothie didn’t bring on its usual flurry.

“I’ll have a hot bath,” I resolved. “And if that does nothing I’ll go to the hospital.”

Although all the pregnancy books say that babies frequently slow down in the last month because of the reduced space in the womb, my gynae had always impressed upon me the importance of going for a euphemistically named “non-stress test” if ever I felt a change in the pattern of my baby’s movement.

The bath yielded no results, so my husband and I headed off to the Linkwood Hospital, feeling like neurotic drama queens. Another heavily pregnant lady was in the non-stress test room, so we sat on the balcony feeling silly while we waited.

There, we chatted to a midwife who was doing her paperwork in the sun. I liked her so much that I wondered if she would be on duty whenever it was that I would go into labour in the next week or so. When the other pregnant woman came out from her test, the midwife came in with us to get us going.

She immediately found the heartbeat, which was a huge relief. But as she adjusted me to position the sensor, the heartbeat dipped for a second. “That’s not a good sign,” she told me.

“Ridiculous neurotic woman!” I raged to myself. “She’s supposed to be telling me to stop being silly and everything’s fine.”

We did the 20-minute test, which showed no variation in the heartbeat, even when I had a Braxton-Hicks contraction, which is an indication of reduced brain activity in the foetus. In case she was having a 20-minute nap, the test was repeated, with the same lack of variation.

“I am going to fax your results to your gynaecologist,” said the midwife.

“Good!” I thought. “My gynae is a sensible woman, not an alarmist like you, she’ll set you straight.”

My gynae was actually downstairs performing a caesarian on someone else. She appeared very quickly, looking very serious.

“This graph is the perfect picture of cord compression,” she said to my husband. “Go and change your clothes. Your baby is coming out now.”

We both stared gormlessly at her. “So,” my husband managed. “If we phone our families and tell them that she’s having a caesarian now, that would be the truth? Because this is going to make a lot of people hysterical.”

“Yes!” my gynae said, emphatically.

With a borrowed camera, we made our way into the operating theatre – not how we had pictured things at all. As they were wheeling me in, I felt one brief kick in my belly. Not enough to reassure me completely, but a little reminder that my baby was in this with me, and not a lost cause just yet.

An epidural, the swish of a scalpel, a bit of jumping on my chest and the blessed words “she’s fine” spoken by the paediatrician. My perfect baby was delivered onto my chest, breathing, pink and alert. She had been more tangled in her super-long umbilical cord than my gynae had ever seen, and she has delivered lots of babies.

At the time, my husband and I were just lost in the glory of this little being we had created. I had always thought that the rush or maternal love was a myth, but there in the most clinical of settings, it washed over me, and the rest of the world vanished.

We spent the first week of Angeline’s life feeling very relieved that she was fine and learning all about what she needed from us.

The next week, we asked all kinds of questions about cord compression. It turns out that when a baby’s blood supply is restricted, it stops using its muscles to conserve oxygen. Although we caught our baby’s compression in time, within a matter of hours, she would have been severely brain damaged or dead.

We are so thankful that my gynae was so fastidious in cautioning us to be aware of a change in movement patterns, and that we were in the hands of such a conscientious team who gave us such extraordinary care and brought Angeline safely into this world.

Did you have an emergency caesarian? How was the experience for you?

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