Aug 4, 2011

March 11 birth story from Charlotte

Charlotte also sent her story to us just one month after the earthquake, and she has kindly allowed us to post it on the TPG website to share with you all. 

"I still maintain that it was the earthquake that started it off! As we all know, northern Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake on 11 March which shook Tokyo to the tune of magnitude 6. I was in the bank at the time and ended up cowering under a nearby table praying desperately that the shock didn’t trigger labor.

The following morning I woke up at around 5:15AM and noticed something dripping from me. “Water breaking?” I thought. Surely not; everyone knows first babies are always late. As the dripping continued, however, I started to panic. With the situation as it was, neither taxis nor the trains could be relied upon, and unassisted childbirth was, let’s say, not an option for me; my daughter was breech and Dr. Sakamoto had already scheduled a cesarean schedule to take place on 17 March. So I did what the 21st century human does in such situations: went online, checked my symptoms and posted on a couple of busy internet forums, both of which advised me to start moving towards the hospital right away as who knows how long it might take.

As I predicted, no taxi was to be had as everyone and their dog wanted a taxi after the earthquake, and an ambulance was out of the question since I was not in active labor and Tokyo’s emergency services were already stretched to breaking point. So finally, after my husband had phoned round everywhere, I said “Sod it. If the Ginza Line is working now, let’s go on the train.” So I threw on the grotty old clothes I had worn the previous day, stuffed my underwear with paper towels, and that’s exactly what we did. As we sat on the train, the leaking became more pronounced and I said “Okay, this is it. Let’s hope the train doesn’t suddenly grind to a halt and leave us stuck here for hours…”

After a 40-minute journey that felt like forever we got to Hiro and somehow staggered up the interminable hill to the hospital (no taxis to be had here either). The midwife confirmed that labor had begun although I couldn’t really feel any contractions yet other than a slight squeezing sensation, and the nurses started prepping me for emergency surgery. When they left the room for a moment I finally started to sob out of sheer terror at the situation. This wasn’t helped when a few minutes later, the baby’s heartbeat began to decelerate; the midwife said something about a descending cord and before I knew it the nurses were putting an oxygen mask on me and hauling me onto all fours (I later discovered that what was threatening here was a cord prolapse, and that the risk of this happening is higher with breech births and when the waters start leaking before the onset of contractions). Then the baby’s heartbeat returned to normal and Dr. Sakamoto arrived and truly, I have never been so glad to see a doctor in my whole life! I was wheeled into the operating theater, drips and wires were attached to me, and a spinal block administered. The idea of having something put into my spine was frightening, but the reality was shockingly simple and quick; a mosquito-like sting, then numbness kind of pouring down into my feet and legs. They raised a screen, tested me for lack of sensation, and got down to it.

It was a very odd feeling; there was no pain whatsoever but I could definitely feel some pulling and pushing going on. I stared at the screen and started practicing my times tables in my head and trying to remember the kings and queens of England in order, in an effort to try and distract myself from what was going on on the other side. “Talk to me about something else…. Like, anything!” I pleaded with my husband.

“Um, like cricket?”

 “No, something I can talk about as well!!!”

“Hey, Charlotte, she’s out!” And there she was, a real live baby! I felt stunned (partly because I’d gone from “What’s that weird dripping feeling?” to “Wow, I’m a mother” in about three hours). They showed her to me briefly, then off she went with my husband and the nurses for testing while Dr. Sakamoto stitched me up. An hour later she was brought in to me, and I can honestly say that life will never be the same again. She is the most precious, perfect little thing I ever saw, and I’m quite shocked by how hard I’ve been hit with the mother-love stick.

I think it’s interesting how any given birth can arouse such different views and opinions depending on the person. I know that for many people my daughter’s birth (breech baby becomes planned c-section becomes emergency c-section, with earthquake craziness and threatened cord prolapse thrown in) would be considered a bit of a trainwreck. Personally, however, I thought it was great! It did exactly what it said on the tin (healthy mother, healthy baby), and I really didn’t feel any pain at all from start to finish, unless you count the recovery period. Shame I didn’t have time for an epidural, because a walking epidural dose would have made for a more comfortable recovery; as it was, I had to be content with the less effective option of painkilling drugs. Still, the scar is healing away into a mere pink strip, and breastfeeding has (so far) gone so well that Cecile regained her birth weight at five days old. If I have another child, I will definitely go for a repeat c-section rather than a VBAC.

So all in all, not a bad experience; now I just have to worry about the situation going on around me in Japan!"

Thank you so much Charlotte for sharing your birth story with TPG. Cecile is adorable! We wish you and your husband and baby Cecile health, safety and happiness!!