Written by Mei Kirkpatrick
Mei shares her story about giving birth to her daughter via c-section during New Zealand's Level 4 lockdown.
The majority of my pregnancy was pretty stress free, even if it was pretty uncomfortable! I was insanely active leading up to Diana's birth. I did the Milford Track when I was 6 months pregnant, which is a 53km tramp over four days. After that, we went to Mexico on holiday. So those last few months were busy!
We tried to make the most of our moments together as a couple a lot more during the later stages of my pregnancy. Things started to get a bit more stressful when we got back from Mexico and realised Covid-19 was really kicking off around the world.
Due to Covid-19, my partner David was not allowed at any of our appointments after March, so I had to go it alone. The stress only increased when we thought he might not be able to be there for the birth because of all the Level 4 restrictions. There was even talk of home births which was really stressful for me.
Right up until she was born, Diana decided she was going to sit in the breech position, and no amount of trying would convince her otherwise! We tried a bunch of techniques, but she was firmly breech and not going anywhere.
So, I was scheduled in for a c-section on the 28th of April. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, all my consultations during the lead up were done over Zoom. To make matters worse, the date of my scheduled c-section kept changing, which was a total headspin for me. I kept preparing to meet my daughter only to have the date changed again.
Finally, it was decided that I couldn't wait for the long ANZAC weekend to be over due to some abnormalities with my placenta blood flow, so the date was moved forward to 24 April. The night before, I was instructed to be nil by mouth from midnight and I would be taken in at 7am that morning. Even though they say 7am, you're there for a bout 6 hours talking to people, taking tests and making sure everything is all okay before you get taken through to theatre. David was given scrubs and a hairnet to be in theatre with me.
An IV line was inserted into my arm, and then I had to lean forward so they could put in the epidural. Once they were confident I couldn't feel anything, it was all go. It was an odd sensation - I was watching them move my leg into position but could feel absolutely nothing.
Then they started the c-section, which was one of the most bizarre things I've ever experienced. You can't feel any pain, but there is an intense amount of pressure on your stomach.
The surgeon suddenly exclaimed "you can't start crying before you have come out!" And then I heard Diana have her first big cry and I knew she was okay. All in all, from the epidural taking effect to them taking her out it only took 5 minutes!
Afterwards, I needed to be stitched up which took longer than the birth. While I was being put back together, David cuddled with her. Then I was wheeled to recovery, and sadly they told David he had to leave. I was absolutely distraught, with a brand new baby, a ton of drugs in my system and unsure of when I'd be able to leave to see him again.
The pain after my c-section was intense. No one really talks about this, but laughing, coughing or any type of movement really is a no go for 6 weeks. The only thing I could lift was Diana, and even that caused me twinges of real pain. I hobbled around for the first couple of weeks and made sure I was taking my painkillers on schedule!
I was in hospital for 5 days in total after Diana's birth. I was in my own room which was nice. I felt well cared for by the midwife team at Auckland Hospital, although it was hit and miss at times. I really struggled to breastfeed, and Diana ended up having borderline low blood sugars which was terrifying for me. Not having David there compounded this, because as a new mum I needed help and had no one to help advocate for me when I knew something wasn't right.
Unfortunately it took me having a complete meltdown for someone to take me seriously and for them to have a proper look at Diana and give her formula. When you have a c-section, it's just impossible to move for the first 12 hours, so I had to really rely on hospital staff to bring Diana to me when she needed feeding.
It was hard for both of us that David basically missed out on the first 5 days of Diana's life. We missed out on a lot of bonding time as a family during that time. I suffered a lot being alone with a newborn and having nobody to really talk to when I needed help.
The day I left hospital was the day New Zealand moved to Level 3 restrictions. It was a bit of a blessing that when we were at home we could just focus on being the three of us, and really enjoying the time together as a family without visitors. I'm a bit of an introvert, so I did enjoy that aspect of lockdown.
On the flip side though, nobody except for my mother has been able to meet Diana. Both our families live overseas, and so they're unable to travel to New Zealand to meet her. It's been really hard on everyone. David's mother, who I love and adore as my own, was supposed to come here in June, and obviously was unable to.
Thank you so much Mei for sharing your story with us! If you want to share your birth story, or contribute a blog post to The Mum Tribe, you can get in touch here.