Waking up on the 8th of January, I knew today was the day I would meet my child. Despite the extra scans I had, I did not know what I was having (the only time I’ve loved a surprise). By the end of this day, I would know. Like 20 – 40% of other women in Australia, my births were both induced.
In my experience, doctors who aren’t familiar with PKU will try to make you choose the path of induction, because then they have more control over when the baby is born and what could happen after that. Knowing I had stuck to my diet and followed all the maternal guidelines perfectly, I was not worried about that. Doctors will be worried about the baby being born from a PKU mother, simply because all the things that could go wrong. You do not need to have an induction simply because you have PKU. I imagine it would be different if you don’t follow the metabolic teams guide but honestly, it is your body and your decision. My decision was for an induction because pregnancy was hard for me (Hyperemesis Gravidarum was awful).
The process began the night before, but my waters were broken at 8am. I was in the labour ward and things were progressing slowly. Having a midwife for a sister, I knew what to expect and I knew what I wanted. The best advice she gave me was “have your plan but be accepting of the need to change it and do what is best for your baby.” This is the mindset I had when I was in labour.
During labour, I knew I was meant to eat and drink the 38 grams of protein I was up to and keep my PKU medicine in me if it was going to take hours. But, as the day progressed, I was only dilating small amounts. At lunch, my food arrived, and they knew I was on 38 grams, so I was delivered a steak. No way was I eating a steak! I was not hungry, and I didn’t want to eat something I’d never had. My husband had been by my side all day, so I offered it to him. Both him and the midwife wanted me to eat but I refused, only eating a small amount of mashed potato. I really did not want to eat or drink. Eventually my husband convinced me to drink my PKU medicine. However, the combination of labour pains and tiredness meant I struggled a lot. I also managed to sip on some Lemonade to try and keep me going.
By 6:30pm, I was ready to push (Yes, that many hours later!). I was trying my hardest and doing everything I could, but I was exhausted. I really should have had my PKU medicine during the day (a mistake I did not make with my second child). I know taking PKU medicine is the best for me, but if you’ve tried it, I’m sure you understand the hesitation.
I pushed for three long, exhausting hours. My lovely baby was pushing his head back every time I tried to push him out. Eventually, with the help of forceps and suction, he made his way into the world, almost at midnight. It was a 15-hour labour! Thankfully, labour was only 4.5 hours with my second child, and I drank my medicine at the right time.
Nothing prepares you for the emotions and adrenaline that overwhelms you when your baby is put into your arms. That precious tiny bundle that you’ve worked so hard for over the year, finally opens their tiny eyes at you and everything is worth it. All the medicine, all the meticulous counting, all the blood tests and all the vomiting are worth it. You’ve worked so hard for so long, and finally there is a wonderful reward at the end.
Two days after my precious boy was born, it was time for his Newborn Screening Test. It was a beautiful and intimate moment for me, as I did my test and his at the same time. We both were tested, me to check my phenylalanine levels after birth and him to see if he had PKU. I knew whatever the outcome, it did not matter, because he was finally here. This is one thing very few people get to experience, and if you have this option, do it together. It may be the one of many if your child also has PKU or it may just be one time. It’s one time you will share with them.
My lovely boy is PKU free and thriving, almost ready to start school. He does not have any issues because of my PKU and management through pregnancy and that is the biggest relief. Every single day I am grateful for taking the massive leap and surviving preconception and pregnancy because I see my little boy, and now also my little girl, growing and loving life. It was truly worth it!