Part 26 - Did my waters break or did I just wet myself?

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In my infinite wisdom, I decided to run a Yoga and Wellbeing Retreat in the October that I would be 33 weeks pregnant.

I didn’t foresee any issues, I’d taught yoga until 36 weeks during my first pregnancy and while Elijah had been born at 38.5 weeks’ gestation, that was due to a planned Caesarean Section for placenta previa.

Ordinarily, one of my best friend’s, Vicki, helps me on retreat. She’s an amazing yoga adjustor and a compliment to the classes.  However, she had initially planned to be on holiday at the time of the retreat, so I commandeered the services of another local yoga teacher instead.

Nearer to the time Vicki’s plans changed and, initially, I was fairly adamant that I didn’t need her help in addition to the other teacher. However, the weekend prior to the retreat I got a tummy bug that made me feel rotten. I spent a day in bed feeling very sorry for myself and had to ask Vicki to cover my evening yoga class for me.

It was then, lying in bed on that Monday, with the retreat due to start on the Friday, that I had this sense that I needed Vicki to help me on the retreat too. Fortunately, she was keen to do so and with that I felt a sense of relief.  While I had no reason to doubt my ability to teach on the retreat, I was tired, as I had been busy building up to it. 

In my mind I’d decided that once the retreat had finished I would take life more slowly and gently. I should’ve known better - life has a habit of not always turning out as you intend, especially when you invite the Goddess of the Moon into it.

An Aries super full moon was due to peak at 4.23am on the Sunday, the retreat finishing later that morning at 11am. This full moon was meant to be all about ramming through fear, changing what you can change and surrendering to the rest.  It was ideal material for the retreat and provided our focus…face the fear and surrender to it…

On the Friday afternoon, prior to the guests arriving I did my own practice in the beautiful yoga space and felt something shift in my pelvis. The sensation sent me into minor panic because something didn’t feel right, but I didn’t have too much time to reflect on it as the participants were due to arrive. Still I spent that evening a little on edge, desperate to feel the baby kicking, who was having a quiet one, chilling out in my womb instead.

On the Saturday I joined the others for the usual early morning swim in the sea and was heartened that I could feel the baby kicking. I was very aware of the full moon energy building and I spent much of the weekend going on repeatedly about this.

I was especially focused on inviting the students to really tap into their fears and see if they could surrender to these during the weekend. I’m sure I bored them senselessly!

That afternoon I did another practice on my own, a womb based one ahead of the womb based class I was intending to teach that afternoon and I felt something shift again.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but later that afternoon when I went for a walk with Vicki, I felt as if the baby had dropped, and I found myself holding my bump, as if to hold the baby in.  It was a strange feeling.

After dinner that evening I played with Elijah, lifting him up and rolling on the ground with him, having lots of fun together before bedtime.  On the way to our room, I bought myself a strawberry quartz bracelet that Athene, one of my jeweller friends was selling. It had been catching my eye all weekend and I decided that now was the time to wear it.

Little did I realise how quickly the energy of this bracelet would get to work. Apparently the energy of strawberry quartz supports one’s emotional body, helping to heal and release negative emotional patterns no longing serving one, bringing one’s emotions into harmony so that one lives one’s life with an appreciation for, and with gratitude to all that life brings.

Back in the room and Elijah asleep I ordered the book, “The Universe has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein, from Amazon.  I had seven weeks until my due date and I wanted the Universe to have my back – or help me turn my breech baby. Either that or I was going to have to face my fear of another Caesarean Section, and learn how to surrender to it.

I went to sleep about 10pm while E was still with friends, merrily drinking their way through a bottle or two of wine in the Mermaid pub on Herm. About 11pm, I awoke feeling something wet in the bed, which felt very strange. I quickly realised the source of the wetness was coming from me! E was in bed by then and I tried not to wake him as I rushed to the toilet.

I initially considered that I’d just wet myself, then I realised that the water was continuing to flow out of me.  I had never experienced waters breaking previously due to the planned Caesarean section with Elijah, so it was all new to me. I woke E and explained what I thought was going on. He didn’t really know what to make of it so I sent a quick text to Anita, my doula, hoping that she was still awake and able to help me.

Fortunately, she saw the message on her way to bed and quickly responded.  She also asked whether perhaps I’d wet myself but when I explained that I still had water coming out of me, she agreed, it seemed my waters had broken.

This was not ideal timing and for a split second I considered that we might just have to see what happened in the morning as I had a yoga retreat to finish - there was still another class to teach in the morning.

However, Anita telephoned and told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to phone the hospital, that probably a lifeboat would be sent to collect me and Ewan. It all sounded a bit serious, I didn’t want all this fuss for no reason, but I also couldn’t deny the fact that my waters had broken – early and with me carrying a breech baby!

Ewan telephoned the maternity ward  and the midwife told us to come into the ward but of course we couldn’t do that, we were stuck in Herm! So there began a rather challenging few hours as arrangements were made to ‘rescue’ us and transport us to the hospital in Guernsey.

Fortunately, my parents were also staying with us on Herm and amazingly they answered their phone and joined us within five minutes. By then I was shaking uncontrollably, not least due to the fear of the unknown but also because of all the fuss and it was almost a relief to continuously leak water, as if to confirm that yes, I did need to get to the hospital.

There was lots of toing and froing telephone conversations with the paramedics and the midwives and we were told to wait until the Herm first aider came to collect us.  This seemed to take quite some time, over an hour or so, and the waiting was a very ‘present moment’ experience as I was in hyper alert mode.

On the positive side, we had time to make arrangements for the rest of the retreat. My parents would now need to stay in our room with Elijah and Vicki would need to teach the class in the morning and close the retreat.  I’d already made notes detailing what I’d wanted to say, to bring it all together, and I now wrote a message to Vicki explaining this and thanking her for covering for me!

Eventually, Mark, the First Aider, arrived on his gator and drove us the short distance to Rosaire steps where we were due to meet the lifeboat. Ordinarily the ‘Flying Christine’, the St Johns Ambulance boat would have collected me but it was deemed too rough for it.

The full moon was due to peak in a few hours and the tide was extremely low. It was also blowing a gale and the lifeboat was having trouble mooring. It didn’t help that this was a loaned lifeboat, the usual one out of service at the time.

Thus we spent an hour or so standing on the quay chatting as we watched the lifeboat crew try to figure out how to reach us.  It was ironic really, I had spotted the lifeboat on the quay alongside the Herm boat when we’d initially left Guernsey a few days earlier, which was unusual, it’s not something I normally noticed.  And now here I was watching it trying to rescue me! It’s funny how these things happen.

What was particularly amusing however, was the fact that the full moon was shining brightly above us. There she was, the Goddess of the Moon in all her glory, shining brightly. I had to laugh because of course I’d been going on and on all weekend about the power of the super full moon and here I was now standing beneath her light as she reached her peak in the early hours of the Sunday morning. I’ll never forget that image of her that night.

The outboard of the inshore dinghy wouldn’t work, so eventually anchored by lines, we were transferred ship to shore in a little rowing boat and helped to climb up onto the life boat. On board was a midwife and two female paramedics, who’d had a tough hour or so bobbing around on board. This was my first time in a life boat and I couldn’t quite comprehend all this fuss just for me. 

The tide was so extremely low that the lifeboat had to go the long way back to Guernsey, and there was a significant swell, which meant that the boat was moving about dramatically at times.  The midwife was keen to get me back to Guernsey as quickly as possible and the crew did their best to facilitate this.

I was seated in the padded and sprung chair, which was a relief as it took some of the pressure off the bumping that the others had to endure.  I’ll never forget that journey though as it did nothing to ease my nerves. The lifeboat was tossed around and I felt decidedly sick by the end of the trip. Poor E wasn’t in a comfy chair and his stomach didn’t like the ride either.  Even his back was sore from the experience.

Back on dry land on Guernsey we were driven in an ambulance to the hospital. It was surreal being on the road in the early hours of the morning as party revellers returned home. I felt a bit of a fraud in an ambulance as I felt fine, other than the fact I had water dripping out of my vagina and wetting my pants and leggings.

At the hospital, my lovely lady specialist happened to be on duty, which was fortunate as we were able to joke about the manner in which my pregnancy was unfolding.  She knew I was keen for a vaginal delivery, and she knew that the baby had turned breech and would need to turn to facilitate this.  And now here I was at 33 weeks with my waters broken.  It wasn’t ideal.

An internal examination confirmed that yes, my waters had indeed broken but that I wasn’t yet in labour. According to my midwifery records, my due date based on the dating scan showed that I was 33 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  This meant that the baby was – in theory at least – only a day away from having fully developed lungs. The specialist was keen therefore that we did all we could to promote this development and keep the baby in utero until at least 34 weeks’ gestation.

I was immediately prescribed steroids, which would be administered to me over the following 24-hour period while I was kept on the ward for observation. I remember the specialist and nurse leaving E and I in the triage room to go and make the necessary arrangements and me bursting into tears and clinging on to him.

I wasn’t ready to have the baby.  I had had it in my mind all pregnancy that I would work hard until my Herm retreat and then calm it down a bit.  I had been looking forward to the calmer period, focusing on my pregnancy and trying to turn the baby, and now here I was with my waters broken. I wasn’t prepared mentally or emotionally.

Furthermore, I wasn’t at all prepared practically.  All the baby stuff was in storage and I hadn’t yet gotten around to sorting it. Clothes needed to be washed and the Moses basket found.  I hadn’t bought any nappies or other stuff required for a small baby, and I certainly hadn’t packed my hospital bag.

However, whether I was ready or not, this was really happening and half an hour later I found myself trying to get comfortable on a hospital bed on the maternity ward, while E walked home. It was all a little surreal and I sobbed quietly to myself as I tried to get some sleep, all the while my mind trying to come to terms with what was happening.