When I was 27 weeks I was traveling to Switzerland, so we did an ultrasound scan to check my cervix length. The cervix was great but it was then that we found that he was smaller than expected and my uterine artery dopplers were abnormal. I knew there was trouble ahead. At that stage my cervix was long, I wasn’t having contractions so the risk of going into labour was low. The one thing that I was most scared of was having a placental abruption on the long haul flight. While I was in Switzerland I saw an obstetrician for a couple of scans - I felt safe because I knew that if something was to happen at that stage, we would be fine.
From there it got a little bit worse each time and eventually - at 35 weeks - he stopped growing altogether and his placental blood flow became abnormal. We thought it might still be ok to get a bit longer, but then his heart rate dropped on the monitor. That day I had to stay in the hospital - I had a hairdressers appointment, my car was being serviced, but I wasn’t allowed to leave after that. I was told it was going to be in the morning the next day. I had to have two more monitorings done later that day and at the night and if there were any further drops in his heart beat, it would have to be that day. It was the 31st of January - who wants to be born on 31st January!? It’s got to be the 1st February! I don’t know why, but at that stage it really mattered to me. Even though the plan had only just been made, I didn’t want it changing again. I didn’t sleep much that night - which I guess was to be expected. I wasn’t nervous about the operation, it was more about him and how he would be.
I guess it didn’t work out the way I wanted - I’m not disappointed, but I would have liked for him to be a bit bigger. I really didn’t want him to go to Special Care. By the end I knew that he had to, and I adjusted, but for me that was the hardest issue. He was there for 7 days. I pushed all the limits. I stayed longer on the maternity ward and then stayed with him as a boarder. We went home fairly early - they actually discharged him still losing weight and under 2kg, which I think was a favour to me. 2 days after his discharge they wanted him to come back and then he had put on weight, then they were happy!
When he was born I didn’t know what to feel. Before I saw him later that day in Special Care, it was like ‘Oh, they’ve pulled the baby out’, he’s gone… I always thought the birth would be a bit more overwhelming - honestly, it was probably more underwhelming!! I still got that feeling eventually, but it was just a bit different than I expected. I think it’s also different if you go through labour, and when they arrive you’re finally at the end of it all.
I first got to hold him later that night, when he was about 10 hours old. He was grunting and they didn’t want him to come out of the incubator before then. First cuddle was really nice. He got straight onto breastfeeding which was nice too because I was worried about him being small. That relieved a lot of the anxieties.
Looking back at my experiences from childhood and my mother I would like to instil in him the understanding that there are always so many options and you can really do whatever you want to do in life. I don’t want him to feel like he’s on some kind of path where he has to do what is ‘expected’ of him. I don’t want to be overprotective, something I think I got from my Mum. She was always there, but always let us do what we thought we could - without pushing the boundaries too much. That’s one of the things I want to teach him - that he can explore his own boundaries. I want him to have freedom in his life and to know that he can talk to us about anything.
I never wanted to be a full-time Mum so I’m fine with coming back to work. I’ve left him a few times with other people already, I think that’s a good thing for him and me. I was saying to my partner today that I hope no-one feels that I’ve got an unhealthy relationship with my child because I leave him with other people. I think it’s good for him not to be too attached to one person. Our plan is to get an Au Pair. Hopefully we can find one who speaks German. I do speak to Arlo in German but it feels a bit odd. I have to keep trying or I’ll get into trouble with my Mum! She’s very protective of her language. He will have to speak it, otherwise they won’t be happy - even if it’s with an Australian accent! She is very excited about becoming a grandmother but struggles with the fact that she’s so far away. And that she has to wait until April to meet him. She’s told everyone, shown all the photos around - Arlo’s her first grandchild.
I don’t think being pregnant has changed me as a person, but I believe motherhood will. I never actually felt that pregnant - I know that sounds weird, maybe it’s because he wasn’t ever big and I wasn’t so big either. I never felt like it was affecting me that much. I had the usual pregnancy symptoms, but they were never a major issue.
Being an obstetrician helped me to understand throughout the pregnancy problems. I’m a bit of a control freak and it helped to know things. Maybe it made me a bit obstructive though. A couple of times Luke told me to just be a patient rather than trying to interpret things myself. Having a caesarean was very interesting. I could follow all the steps of the surgery in my head and feel them being done. It was kind of comforting for me, because I felt like I had some control, in the sense that I knew what was happening! It also gave me a good idea of how daunting the experience must be for my patients who have a caesar, especially if it’s an emergency one. I found the being shoved from one bed to another hard to accept and for someone who didn’t have any background knowledge or know the people who are handling you, it must be a daunting experience. I gave me a real appreciation for what they go through.
I chose to have my baby at the hospital I work at. I just felt more comfortable in the public system. I do like the fact that I knew people - and not just the medical staff - everyone on the floor who passed by, I found that very comforting. I don’t feel to strongly about what people might see or hear or find out, so for me that was quite an easy decision. Even before I realised Arlo would need Special Care, I felt more secure knowing the NICU was nearby.