“Harper was the best Christmas present I could have wished for”

christmas birth story

by Stephanie Anthony |

Toni Donn, 24, a full-time mum, lives in Murray with partner Russell and daughter Harper, who will turn one on Christmas Day.

As I waited to be seen by the midwife I rubbed my bump and thought about our Christmas plans. The presents were wrapped, fridge was full, and I was looking forward to hosting my partner’s family. With three days to go, I was all set for the celebrations.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the news I’d need an emergency induction. A few days earlier I’d been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, and now my blood pressure was up, and my urine showing high traces of protein.

Panicking, I phoned my partner Russell. He was on shift as a tyre fitter, two hours drive away. There was the Christmas traffic to contend with, plus icy roads. “You need to head back now!” I told him.

Alone on the quiet ward, I felt a bit isolated. Then, a jolly midwife in a Santa hat turned up, and I was reassured. When she asked whether I was ready for Christmas, I felt a rush of excitement. This baby was going to have two reasons to celebrate each December!

I was allowed to pop back to the house, and I rushed past the tree and piles of presents, grabbing my hospital bag. I was relieved when Russell arrived, and we set off back to the ward.

In the car I got really nervous. I remembered to use the breathing techniques that help with my anxiety. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You came on the radio, which helped calm me down. At hospital we were shown to a ward with a curtained off bed. It was 9.30pm, and Russell was allowed to stay for another hour.

That night my nerves, the noisy buzzers and regular midwife checks kept me awake. The next morning I managed to doze in between the two hourly blood pressure and urine tests. I needed to be closely monitored before the induction could begin. Video calling my mum, who was putting up her tree, helped pass the time and put me in a festive mood.

With COVID restrictions, Russell was only allowed to visit for an hour again that day. But when it got to 1.30am the next morning – Christmas Eve – he was finally able to come and stay. It was the news I’d been waiting for; I was ready for my induction. I couldn’t wait to meet my Christmas baby.

Russell arrived, and we were shown to our own room in the induction suite. The atmosphere was lovely and chilled, with Christmas songs playing on the radio. I lay back and breathed deeply as the midwife examined me. To my surprise, I was 2-3cm dilated already – before feeling a single contraction.

A pessary was inserted, which would hopefully dilate my cervix further. I was far along enough for the midwife to break my waters, which she did quickly and painlessly. At first, I felt a trickle, then liquid kept flowing. I was told I’d be kept under close observation because the longer labour continued, the greater my risk of infection.

By now it was lunchtime, and I’d been on nil by mouth all day in case I had to have a c-section. All I could think about was the Christmas dinner I’d have been preparing had I been at home. I was starving!

Although the monitor showed I was having regular contractions, I couldn’t feel a thing. I was examined again and found to be 3cm, so I hadn’t really progressed. To move things along, I was hooked to a drip, which gave me an artificial hormone called syntocinon.

Everything ramped up after that. A dull ache started in my lower back. Gradually, it intensified until I was forced to stop and breathe through the pain. I tried gas and air, but it made me feel woozy. I lay on the bed with a rolled up towel under my back to try and relieve the pressure. Russell stroked my head and helped me take sips of Lucozade.

At 8pm I was examined again and was disappointed to learn I’d only reached 5cm. That’s when I decided an epidural was the best option to help me manage the pain, and get some rest. Russell held my hand as the anaesthetist carefully inserted the needle in my spine. I felt a cold sensation run down my back, followed immediately by relief. The pain disappeared at last.

Soon I fell fast asleep. It had just gone midnight when I opened my eyes and felt a refreshing cold breeze through the open window. “Happy Christmas!” Russell smiled, and I realised what day it was. I could hardly believe it when I saw snowflakes falling in the night sky. It was such a special moment.

Then, when the midwife announced I was 7cm dilated and should consider a c-section, I was brought back down to earth! But after such a long time in labour, I was confident it was the right decision.

Being wheeled down to theatre past the smiling faces and Christmas trees relaxed me. Everyone in that room was lovely and chatty, and I hardly even registered the anaesthetist topping up my epidural. I lay back, Russell by my side, as the screen was put up and the surgeon got to work. I felt nothing, not even a tug.

The radio started playing _Do They Know it’s Christmas? a_nd I gasped. My sister Mary-Anne had passed away two years earlier, and it was her favourite song. This felt like a sign! Within seconds, baby Harper was raised up over the screen, and I was even more emotional. I burst into tears, hardly believing she was here at last.

Harper was the first Christmas Day baby to be born in Aberdeen in 2020, and I couldn’t have been prouder. She lay on my chest as I recovered, and a midwife gave her a tiny Santa hat knitted by a hospital volunteer. Looking down at Harper’s beautiful face, I imagined the fun we’d have in years to come, enjoying our double celebration.

Although I never did make it home to host family, Russell and I had the best day ever. We even got to tuck into a full hospital Christmas lunch as our baby slept beside us and the snow fell outside. It may not have been the birth I was expecting, but having Harper was the best Christmas present I could have wished for.

“I had my baby in time for Christmas”

“I had a Christmas baby – and was back in time to open presents!”

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