Dream pregnancy, nightmare labour


It almost mirrors the plot of Netflix hit Pieces of a Woman; thankfully, the outcome was less heart-wrenching.

Dramatic portrayals of a baby in distress during labour — but this was real life.

‘‘No, you have to take her; this will end in tragedy.’’

Those were the frantic words of her midwife over the phone when Danielle Moroney’s first child was in distress during labour.

They are etched in her memory.

The Queenstown woman said her pregnancy had been ‘‘a dream with zero complications’’ but when she went into labour on New Year’s Day, that dream became a nightmare.

‘‘Everything was going really well, until it wasn’t.’’

She was about to experience the problems faced by midwives throughout the South first hand.

Miss Moroney said she had planned a water birth at Lakes District Hospital and after going into labour at 6am on January 1, she and her partner Daniel Bicknell went to the hospital about 3.30pm.

After Miss Moroney had spent some time in the water, her midwife said ‘‘get her out of the pool’’.

The problem was her cervix was not dilating sufficiently, Miss Moroney said.

She was given gas but that made her violently ill.

Then when Miss Moroney returned to the pool, her midwife noted meconium —a newborn’s first bowel movement made up of cells, protein, fats, and intestinal secretions — in the water.

That indicated the baby was in distress.

‘‘My body was saying that it was time to start pushing and I should have had a baby.’’

Her midwife’s interventions did little to stabilise the situation and it escalated to an emergency.

‘‘My midwife had to make a decision.’’

About 9pm it was decided she had to leave Queenstown but that was easier said than done, Miss Moroney said.

Her labour coincided with the New Year deluge that hit much of Otago, which meant helicopters were not an option.

‘‘My midwife was getting the runaround.’’

That was due to staffing issues.

Queen Mary Maternity Centre in Dunedin had already been ruled out and negotiations with Southland Hospital were at a standstill.

‘‘Then they said ‘Oh well, Timaru’. My midwife said: ‘She’s not going to make it to Timaru’.’’

Eventually an agreement was reached and an ambulance with no paramedic on board and driven by a volunteer arrived about midnight.

While she described the volunteer as well-meaning, Miss Moroney said it seemed she did not know what she was doing, nor did she seem to understand the situation.

Miss Moroney was given pethidine to stop her pushing but she became frustrated by the speed at which the woman was driving.

‘‘This was an emergency in the middle of the night and she was driving through towns at the speed limit, no lights or sirens.

‘‘I crossed my legs and said to myself ‘you’re not going to have this baby on the side of the road’.’’

When they eventually reached Southland Hospital there were ongoing negotiations about how she would be treated and she was given an antibiotic because her temperature had risen.

A short time later she needed to use the toilet.

‘‘I stood up and said to my partner ‘get ready to catch’.’’

At 2.28am, Isla-Rose Bicknell was born.

The following day she and her partner travelled back to Lakes District Hospital where Isla-Rose was found to have an elevated respiratory rate and low temperature.

‘‘They [hospital staff] said ‘Oh no, they [Southland Hospital] should not have sent her here’.’’

Ten weeks on, Isla-Rose is none the worse for her ordeal, but her mother has a different take.

‘‘If I were to have another baby, I would look to not birth in Queenstown.’’