Another great prompt from Britmums is on the theme of beginnings. For this prompt, bloggers are encouraged to share one of the following moments … learning you were pregnant for the first, second or eighth time; how you told your partner you were expecting; your birth story.
Now you might wonder how could this theme possibly fit in with my special needs blog. Well it does because I’m going to recapture the day my son arrived into the world and with that the start of my journey as a parent of a child with an autistic spectrum disorder.
It was the summer of 1998, when Sampras won the men’s singles at Wimbledon and the weather was typically grey and wet. I remember it well because it was also the time when I was excitedly awaiting the arrival of my second child to join me, my husband and toddler daughter. As a second-time mum to be, I was hoping for an easier labour and birth than the first time round which was a protracted ordeal that ended up in medical intervention. Unfortunately things didn’t quite work out how I hoped.
For one thing, my baby was in no rush to be born. Unlike my first pregnancy when labour started itself shortly after my due date, this time things were just not happening. By my forty second week of pregnancy I started to feel increasingly fat and uncomfortable with the weight of my baby. In desperation I tried raspberry leaf tea, curries and ‘you know what’ but except for a lot of hilarity and indigestion my baby refused to budge.
So two weeks after my due date I was admitted into hospital to be induced. I was given my own room and once I had settled myself on the hospital bed I was wired up to monitors and given drugs to try and stimulate labour. After several hours like this, watching my baby’s life being played out on the heart monitor my contractions finally began! Initially labour progressed quite well, quicker than my first labour but not so quick to feel out of control. I even managed the pain better and only ended up having an epidural towards the later stages when I could no longer cope with the pain in my back.
It looked like I was going to have a straightforward birth but then as my baby started to make an appearance he got stuck by his shoulders (shoulder dystocia). I didn’t realise it at the time but shoulder dystocia can potentially cause injury or oxygen starvation to the baby. Fortunately I was not aware of the emergency being played out in the delivery suite which is very much due to the calmness of the medical staff attending me. This was a good thing for if I had known that my baby was at risk of injury, then I’m sure I would have panicked and been unable to concentrate on delivering my son. Fortunately, with medical assistance and a lot of work on my part my son arrived in the world.
My son wasn’t well to start with and we were unable to hold him. I recall listening out for his cry and not hearing it and then watching the medical staff attend to him. It was a scary moment but after some treatment my son found his lungs and screamed his way to his first feed – a bottle of formula given by his dad for I was too unwell to feed him myself. My son was a hungry baby from the outset and took all of the milk offered to him much to the astonishment of a cheery midwife who commented that it wouldn’t be long before he’d need a full English breakfast. That comment was to prove so prophetic as feeding my son was to become a difficult process during infancy and childhood, one of the early signs of his autism. Still, at that moment we were a happy family, delighting in the arrival of a son and brother. Autism was a long way from our minds.
Nevertheless, you may wonder why I have written about my son’s birth 13 years ago and what relevance it has today. When a parent receives a diagnosis of a lifelong condition for their child, it is quite natural, I think, to look back and wonder why your child has been affected in this way. This is certainly how I felt a few years ago when I learnt that my son had an autistic spectrum disorder. I kept wondering how he had got it and not surprisingly I wondered if his difficult birth had caused him to become autistic. I am far less troubled by this question nowadays as it is clear to me that autism spectrum disorders run through my family. Instead I sometimes wonder did his autism cause him to have a difficult birth?