Updated: Apr 20
It begun with a hectic morning of consent forms and briefings before I was taken to theatre to prepare for the C-section. While this was happening, Rory was stuck in traffic on the freeway, having been told the night before not to stress about coming in too early, as I wasn’t scheduled until mid-morning. That had changed at about 7.30am when the medical team decided that I was going to be at the top of the list. I wasn’t really sure what to think, at this point we hadn’t attended any type of birth classes and I had to work out how to get myself through this moment in time with minimal preparation. One thing I had prepared was a playlist to listen to during my birth journey, I asked the surgeon if I could take my headphones in to theatre, it was a relief when he gave permission for me to bring my headphones and playlist he actually offered for it to play through the theatre via bluetooth. This was a moment that allowed me to relax completely while surrounded by the chaos.
Rory made it just in time for the epidural to be placed in my spine and I was transferred to theatre. The epidural insertion was an incredibly weird feeling, to help myself relax, I remember just thinking of nothing else except how the air felt has it passed through my nostrils. The theatre was bustling with a number of medical professionals, our sweet girl had her own team of neonatal experts assembled ready for her arrival, along side a giraffe warmer with the resus gear. We were told that she would be taken straight to the Neonatal ICU (NICU), and our plan was for Rory to head down stairs with her once she was earthside.
At 9.39am Matilda Ann Close was born, crying, breathing, and it was the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Billie Eilish’s Ocean Eyes was playing in my ears and it was the most incredible experience. I can recall the surgeons excitement at how much hair she had, and I remember thinking I don’t care how much hair she has! Our baby is breathing! Rory was an absolute beacon of light that in that moment, beaming with sheer happiness and joy, he came to speak to me, telling me how beautiful she was and showing me the photos he had snapped of her. While he showed me our new daughter, her team got her ready for transfer down to NICU. The thing he didn’t tell me at the time, was that while he shared this moment with me, Matilda was being resuscitated as she had stopped breathing.
A couple more minutes passed and a nurse came to me and told me very softly we need to take her now.I replied okay she said sorry we can’t let you hold her, I said it was okay just take Rory too. Before they left, they rolled the giraffe warmer close to me and the nurse placed my little finger into the most divine little hand, a moment I will never forget. Next thing Matilda was whisked away to NICU, where she weighed in at an incredible1940grams and a total of 44cms in length.
I was moved to recovery and later transferred back to my room, spending many hours alone waiting until 3pm when visiting hours would commence. Since Rory was deemed my support person, no one else was allowed to visit during this time, including my dad. Rory was with Matilda in NICU and while my dad couldn’t visit me, he was allowed in NICU with Rory present. This was a pretty lonely time and I wasn’t sure I was going to be ready to meet our girl, I was still so angry at how I had felt my entire pregnancy and was searching for answers, was it the stress of my work and life that put her in this situation? While I waited the midwife brought me an expressing pump and said here you better get started they’ll want some colostrum for the baby soon. I had no idea what I was supposed to do…. so I found a youtube video and did my best to figure it out. I was buoyed by Rory, who continuously sent me photo updates of our little babe who was already proving to the world what a strong determined little soul she was. After only an hour and a half Matilda was off of CPAP and breathing completely on her own. Visiting hours were a relief, with my Mum arriving from Esperance, My Dad being allowed to see me and my beautiful friend Tanya visiting too.
The afternoon passed in the evening Rory took me downstairs to meet our little girl for the first time. I found NICU to be extremely overwhelming as Rory parked my wheelchair next to the crib that Matilda was in. It was a big moment meeting her and I didn’t know what to do, what to think or feel. The NICU nurse was lovely and straight away offered to organise for me to have a cuddle, it took a bit of planning but I got to hold my baby for the first time, and I couldn’t stop thinking she is just so beautiful.
We then meet with the cardiologist who told us that her heart was the right size and there was no fluid present, these were the positives. However she did have an aortic arch and a large hole in her heart that would require surgery at some point. We were also told that Matilda had a soft cleft palate and after discussions we consented to some genetic testing to be undertaken due to this combined with her heart defect and smaller than average size.
On Friday Rory’s parents arrived from Esperance and got to meet their little granddaughter. The next two days were an emotional blur, between learning how to express, managing my pain so that I could walk up and down to NICU and then being suddenly discharged only 48 hours after my c-section. My unplanned ejection from hospital happened when I returned to my room after a busy morning with the lactation consultant in NICU, to get some lunch and some pain medication.Instead, I was greeted by a nurse discharging me and I was left to frantically packing my bags, with Rory and my mum coming to help. I walked down to the café to see my aunt and nana and just couldn’t walk in, I went into the toilets and cried and cried… I was about to have to muster up all the courage I had left to leave hospital, without my baby.
There are absolutely no words to describe how I felt having to leave the hospital that day, nothing about having a babe in NICU is natural or normal or what I expected to feel as a new mum. NICU visitors are limited to parents and grandparents, not all at once though. A parent must always be present when visiting the baby, no one other than the parents are allowed to hold the baby at KEMH.
Matilda kept making exceptional progress and just three days after she was born she was moved from tier 3 NICU to the High Dependency Unit. I learnt to express as Matilda was only fed through a Nasogastric Tube, but we got to have some skin on skin at least once a day. Rory celebrated his very first fathers day in NICU with our beautiful little girl.
On Day 4 the decision was made to transfer Matilda to Perth Children’s Hospital for a plate to be made to support her feeding with her soft cleft palate. So we waited for the Newborn Emergency Transport Service (NETS WA), they are a specialist team of doctors and nurses solely dedicated to providing neonatal intensive care during transport. Matilda was lucky enough to be the first patient to use the newly commissioned pod, we called it her little carriage.
Our experience at King Edward's Memorial Hospital was hard, so the day she was transferred defiantly felt like we were heading to the right place, the NICU staff at KEMH are incredible, they are gifts who look after tiny babies and give them the best chance at starting life, Matilda just needed a little more, she is so robust she was kicking milestones like a champion and needed the support of surgical teams based at PCH to keep up with her on her grand adventure.
I had hoped for my birth to be something completely different, I am still not sure what, but I guess there is something missing, when we finally got home from NICU with Matilda, I recreated the golden hour, I ran a bath with some essential oils diffusing, played my playlist and we spent some time with Matilda just cuddling after she was placed on my chest. The thing that surprises me is that I feel like my c-section was a completely beautiful experience while I experienced some trauma there are these little pockets of beaming light that made the birth of Matilda a magical experience. I will never forget the weather that day, a complete Esperance day surrounded by normal Perth type days, on this day the temperature only reached 14 degrees and the day was filled with large rain events, a perfect day for an Esperance babe to be born.
Up next on the blog NICU at Perth Children's Hospital....