SOOZ & IRIS
I don’t remember much about the actual moment Iris was born except that The Killers were playing and that I was kind of embarrassed that there were about 25 people in the room all there for us because it seemed quite excessive. Moments before I had been intent on explaining to the anaesthetist how I didn’t believe in epidurals. He knew I was a vet and was intent on quizzing me about how many vertebrae giraffes have. And then quite unexpectedly, especially for someone who didn’t believe in the benefit of spinal anaesthesia, Iris was lifted up so I could see her, and then someone put her close to my face so I could give her a quick snuggle. But before I could actually focus and take her all in, she was whisked away by the neonatal surgeons. I suddenly felt really dizzy and sick and said to my husband ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it…’ obviously I did but I remember feeling annoyed that death had got the better of me right when I wanted to be completely present!
Iris was born by planned caesarian on a Tuesday morning 7 and a bit years ago. We had dropped our 2 year old at her child minder, caught the bus down to Kings and waited for a few minutes in the labour ward feeling guilty whilst women in active labour were puffing and groaning and swearing, and trying to convince the midwives not to send them home. We were quickly ushered to a quiet room to wait for the obstetrician, one of the professors who had been seeing us through the pregnancy and who wanted to do the surgery himself. It seemed that this was a really rare occurrence and the staff seemed a bit nervous and I think they were wondering what was so special about us.
What was so ‘special’ was that when I had my 12 week scan, Kings discovered that Iris had an exomphalos which is when the abdominal wall where the umbilical cord attaches is weak and intestines or other bits get trapped in a hernia. We had already had a scan at 6 weeks in Cape Town because I had had a previous ectopic pregnancy so wanted to check everything was in the right place. I rang my husband who was in the USA whilst I waited for the neonatal cardiologist to come to re-scan me. We were breathless and grief-stricken because this was not how it was supposed to be. The very brusque female cardiologist was incredibly sensible and surprisingly kind as she let me know that contrary to what the first resident who scanned me thought, the baby didn’t have a heart defect, or a cleft palate but because the baby had an exomphalos he/she still could have a genetic anomaly which would mean he/she would be unlikely to survive to birth, or if he/she did, then not for very long after. It was arranged (within a few minutes) for me to have a CVS and before my lovely friend Charlotte (Birthtale Charlotte!) could get from North to South London to be with me, I was walking home with my 18 month old, blissfully ignorant that walking uphill for 2 miles with a pram was not appropriate post-CVS behaviour.
Anyway, the baby didn’t have a terminal anomaly, or anything else terrible except the possibility that her intestines or other bits would get squeezed out of her tummy if I tried to squeeze her out, hence the C-section. After I had been revived, Iris had been taken away to the neonatal unit and when I finally convinced the maternity ward staff to let me go to see her (I got myself into a wheel chair and pretended I could feel my legs so I could go!), I saw Iris had her tummy wrapped up in cling film, loads of tubes and clips on her and was connected to about 4 machines that were all beeping. Some people might have been terrified by all of it but I was so relieved that she was in such an amazing hospital with such brilliant staff.
We were told that she would have surgery as soon as possible after she was born, but because Kings was so busy, she had to wait for 4 days in the neonatal unit. We spent hours by her incubator, again feeling guilty because we knew she was going to be fine, and some of the other babies probably were not going to be. She was so strong and brave and was allowed home only 3 days after her surgery.
Iris’ birth was not at all what we would have planned, and very far from the hypo birthing birth that we had initially wanted for our first child (I will write about that birth story another time!) But Iris is such a happy, healthy, exceptional girl that in retrospect every part of it her birth was just exactly right.