pregnancy

"I woke up in an ambulance." After falling ill, Lucille gave birth under general anaesthetic.

Birth: there's nothing quite like it, and it's clear no two birth stories are the same. Which is why we're asking everyday women and some of our favourite celebrity mums to share theirs, in Mamamia's My Birth Story series. To share your Birth Story, email [email protected] with 'My Birth Story' in the subject line.

This week, Melbourne mum Lucille Wong shares her two very different birth experiences - a vaginal delivery of her daughter and an emergency caesarean for her son.

I was 39 weeks pregnant with my first when I was induced. As I was 37 years old (and therefore "geriatric") and our baby was conceived with IVF, our obstetrician recommended an induction to minimise the risk of complications. 

So one Sunday night, my husband drove us to the hospital. My obstetrician inserted a gel into my vagina to soften my cervix and I was given a sleeping pill. The next morning, the doctor returned to break my waters. 

Half an hour later, contractions started. At first, the pain was manageable; it felt like period cramps. I asked for gas to knock the edge off and then an epidural when the contractions became too painful. It felt like everything would fall out, and I was only three centimetres dilated. 

Watch: Molly Evette Gibson set a record as the child born from the longest-frozen embryo. The donated embryo was frozen in 1992 and implanted into her birth mother in 2020. Post continues after video.


Video via NBC.

I held still through two deep contractions while the needle went into my spine. The sweet sweet relief was almost instant, as were the side effects.

While I couldn’t feel pain, I felt hot and cold. I requested more blankets only to kick them off ferociously. My temperature was rising, and I was shivering uncontrollably. The midwives assured me this was normal but I could not fathom how I could push out a baby while raging with fever.

At 7pm (12 hours since my waters broke), I was fully dilated but my baby was high. My obstetrician gave me an episiotomy, a small cut to minimise tearing. 

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Finally, I was able to push. I imagined my body as a coffee plunger (thanks Juju Sundin) and to my disbelief, after three pushes and the assistance of forceps, my daughter came out yelping with full force.

I burst into tears of relief and exhaustion. She was placed on my chest for immediate skin on skin. My husband cut her umbilical cord. The obstetrician posed for a photo. I was stitched up and wheeled back into the recovery suite to the applause of the staff at the maternity ward. 

As far as births go, it wasn’t easy but having done it once; I felt it was something that I could do again. 

When I was pregnant again two years later, I expected a similar experience, but the universe had different ideas. I was 36 weeks when I started to feel very unwell. I had heartburn/reflux, insomnia, and was just so exhausted. 

While these were common pregnancy symptoms, I didn’t feel "normal" so I requested more tests.

To everyone’s surprise, these tests showed early liver failure.

I was admitted to hospital right away and further tests showed low blood sugar, clotting abnormalities and kidney damage, signs of acute fatty liver in pregnancy, a rare (one in 13,000) pregnancy condition. The treatment was to deliver the baby as soon as possible. 

There was no time for an induction to try for a vaginal birth. A caesarean under a spinal anaesthetic was also ruled out as the doctors (plural - as there were now multiple doctors on my case) were worried that my blood wouldn’t clot and I would bleed out.

Their recommendation was a caesarean under a general anaesthetic. I didn’t really have a birth plan but to sleep through the birth was not part of it. But neither was multiple organ failure.

In my mind, there wasn’t really a choice. I was prepped for theatre and this time; I left my husband at the door. There would be no photo op, no cutting of the umbilical cord, no applause.

Listen to The Delivery Room and join host Jessie Stephens as she speaks to eight different women about eight very different births. Post continues below.

I was later told that a healthy boy was delivered within 15 minutes. I remained on the table for nearly two hours while I was stitched back up (like a "lamb roast" as my obstetrician described to me later). My bilirubin level (the test used to measure liver function) was 10 times where it should be. I had lost so much blood, I needed multiple infusions to keep me alive. 

I woke up in an ambulance en route to ICU. I felt groggy and my tummy was cramping. I had no idea if the surgery went well and if my baby was okay.

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My husband came to show me pictures of our son but I couldn’t tell if I dreamt it. I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced something terrible had happened to the baby. Even when the ICU nurse assured me that my baby was fine, I didn’t believe her. I thought she was telling me what I wanted to hear, so I didn’t deteriorate further. 

Fortunately, she was not lying and my vitals had improved and stabilised. 

Image: Supplied 

After two nights, I was discharged from ICU. Back in the maternity ward, my husband and midwife helped me settle into my room. My husband brought in my baby and placed him in my arms.

My eyes filled with tears of gratitude.

There was no labour, no contractions, no pushing. And I honestly didn’t care. In that moment, I was holding my baby, and that was all that mattered.

Lucille Wong is a Melbourne writer and mum of two.

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Feature Image: Getty.

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