My 11lb 11oz baby – Gemma’s story

Gemma experienced a traumatic birth when her baby Samuel, born at full-term, became stuck for nine minutes during delivery. Here she talks about the delivery and their following journey in NICU.

When I was pregnant with my son Samuel, the midwife informed me that I was measuring six weeks ahead. This meant that when I was 28 weeks pregnant, the baby was the size of a 34 week baby. At 39 weeks, a growth scan revealed that my boy was estimated to weigh a whopping 10lb 2oz. I was petrified but was put at ease when the doctors arranged for me to be induced three days later.

As I waited to be induced, I tried all sorts of old wives tales to help get labour going. I ate spicy curries, went on lots of walks and bounced on an exercise ball. Of course, nothing worked so on 14 May, my hubby and I went into the hospital for my induction. The ward was very busy and an emergency came in so we were asked to go home for one more night.

The following morning, we left our girls with their aunt and uncle and headed back to the hospital. Things moved quite quickly and it wasn’t long before I was dilated enough for my waters to be broken. From that point until birth, I only had a four and a half hour wait.

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My contractions got stronger and faster - it was all a blur really – the baby’s heart rate then dropped and the doctor was called. I was pushing and pushing but nothing was happening, even when I changed positions. Eventually, the baby’s head was born but he was stuck.

That’s when the panic set in – a buzzer was pressed and the room filled with professionals. One of the baby’s shoulders was trapped behind my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia) so he could not get out.

It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. My husband and mum were with me and I know it was awful for them too. I lost sight of them because I had so many doctors and midwives around me so didn’t know how they were reacting. My husband later told me that he remembers thinking: “Is this it? Am I going to be one of those people who loses their wife and baby in childbirth? How is this possible?”

The only thought in my head was: “I need to get my baby out.” I didn’t know what was going on but knew that the situation was not good. I had a very real fear that my baby might not survive. I put every ounce of energy I had into pushing, not really understanding why it wasn’t working. The doctors never explained what was going on as the situation was too extreme.

Samuel was stuck for nine minutes – an extremely traumatic nine minutes for both my husband and I. The doctors and midwives tried to get the baby out using the McRoberts manoeuver and suprapubic pressure. They entered and attempted the Woods’ screw and reverse Woods’ screw. Everything failed. They were unable to grasp his posterior arm, eventually a senior midwife tried internal manoeuvers and managed to free him.

Once Samuel was finally out, he had no heart rhythm and was blue and floppy. CPR commenced and the doctors worked their magic. After five or six minutes, his heartbeat was 100bpm so he was intubated and taken to NICU. While they were working on Samuel, I was hooked up to an oxytocin drip to help stop my bleeding. I was in such excruciating pain that I did not know what was happening with him. As they took him to the NICU, I was allowed to touch his hand and tell him that I loved him. I had fully retained the placenta and was heavily bleeding so was taken to surgery.

Before I was taken away, I told my husband to go with Samuel and to stay with him. I didn’t want him to be alone. Both my husband and I were still unaware of the seriousness of his being without oxygen for those nine minutes.

When I came round after the surgery, I was told Samuel weighed 11lb 11oz. I couldn’t believe it – how had I managed to birth a baby that size? How was he ever allowed to get to that size?

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I finally saw Samuel eight hours after he was born. He was swollen and bruised with his arm down by his side. The doctors said that there might be some nerve damage and we would have to wait and see what would happen.

We were in NICU for three weeks. Over that time, Samuel got some movement back in his arm and it looked as though it was just some swelling that had to go down. His main problem was his oxygen levels and he needed lots of support with it. A brain scan showed a darker patch on his left hand side but fortunately an ECG and MRI scan both came back as normal.

It was hard to leave Samuel in the hospital after I was discharged. Our lives were very manic at that point – we had two daughters at home that needed us and so my husband and I took it in turns to be at the hospital with Samuel and at home with the girls.

We saw a heart specialist from Great Ormond Street Hospital as they’d discovered that Samuel’s heart had a bidirectional blood flow. He was diagnosed with an ASD, a kind of hole in the heart, and had some scar tissue which is thought to be from the CPR performed after his birth. As the days passed, Samuel’s blood flow got better and it was really a waiting game to see if Samuel’s need for oxygen support decreased.

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Having a baby weighing almost 12lb on the neonatal unit made me feel totally out of place. We felt like everyone was staring at us and some ladies even told us they’d heard rumours of the large baby on the NICU so had come to have a look. On the whole though, everyone was really nice and supportive but it never stopped being strange to be surrounded by so many tiny babies when yours wasn’t one.

We were finally able to bring Samuel home on 3 June. We have since discovered that his lack of oxygen at birth resulted in grade I HIE. We don’t yet know how much this will affect him but we haven’t seen any sign of lasting damage yet.

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Samuel has just turned two and we know that we have been very lucky. We could have had a very different outcome and although there is a long road ahead of us still, we are just so happy to have our son with us.

After going through such a traumatic birthing experience, I suffered with anxiety. I was plagued with thoughts about something bad happening to my son or to myself meaning that I wouldn’t be able to take care of my children. I had some counselling but I think the main thing that helped me was talking about what I went through to others.

If you are a parent who went through a traumatic birth I’d tell you not to bottle anything up. If you need help, make sure you seek it from both professionals and those you love. I know that my husband was a great support to me – we got through the experience together and he was my rock.

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If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can call our helpline on 0808 801 0322 or view our online support pages.

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