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Oh baby! Lockdown labour of love

Flagstaff Team

Sister act… Cam and Nicole Boyne with Oliver, aged 3, doting on Karlee, who was born at North Shore Hospital after a long, lonely labour during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A month on from the harrowing birth of her “lockdown baby” at North Shore Hospital, Nicole Boyne is relishing at last being able to properly introduce Karlee to friends and wider family.

Even husband Cam got to see his daughter for barely an hour around her arrival on 24 April. This was by emergency C-section after Nicole was forced to labour alone all day. After the birth, she was whisked off to a recovery ward, again without family support.

“I would not wish on anyone to have a baby like this during a pandemic,” she says. “I’m glad I was a second-time mum. If I was a first-time mum then I would have been a mess.”

Construction worker Cam dropped Bayswater born-and-bred Nicole (nee Czerniak) to the hospital at 7am. She was booked for an induction and he wasn’t able to accompany her to the ward under its Covid-19 alert level 4 safety rules. Nicole was nervous because the baby was large like her first child, Oliver, who had also required induction 3-and-a half years ago.

Her Hauraki-based midwife Denise Johnson settled her inside, before she was left in the hospital’s care. “I had to go through early labour and contraction without Cam. I was very anxious doing it on my own.”

Meanwhile, he was waiting to hear when he was allowed back for the actual birth. “He was a nervous wreck, just waiting for the phone call.”

After eight hours of unsuccessful labour, Nicole’s waters finally broke and Cam was contacted. But, as feared, the size and positioning of the baby meant a hoped-for natural birth wasn’t an option.

Efforts to encourage the baby to shift for induction also failed, as did five epidurals, so a C-section became inevitable. Even that proved tricky, with three attempts needed for a spinal anaesthetic.

When Karlee was finally born at 6.30pm, she weighed nearly 4.5kg (9lb 8oz). Cam soon had to say goodbye, leaving Nicole without a support person.

Having not eaten since early morning, she hoped for a meal, but only a few pieces of cold toast and a sandwich could be supplied. A water jug was out of reach of the immobile, exhausted and badly bruised new mother.

Plans to relocate to Birthcare Warkworth were slowed by discharge procedures the next morning. The recovery when she got there – away from the tense hospital full of Covid warning signs – was in a calm oasis.

Cam wasn’t able to stay over, however, because of the need to care for Oliver and also Covid rules that he had to stay for the whole time or not at all, so it was three more days before the family was truly reunited.

Oliver was thrilled to finally meet his bonny little sister, who had been referred to as Squirt throughout the pregnancy. Her actual name is a hybrid of those of her grandmothers: Nicole’s mother Karen, who moved into the family bubble to help out, and Cam’s mother Lee, who travelled up from Taupo to meet Karlee as soon as she was able. “Thank goodness for Facetime and video calling,” says Nicole.

She accepts that Covid-19 imposed tough conditions on health care authorities, but like her midwife she is disturbed that ongoing support for mothers seems lacking. Plunket services have been reduced. The Takapuna clinic is still closed, even under alert level 2.

Without the “amazing” extra support of her midwife, she says she would have been lost.

Shore girls… Nicole Boyne and baby Karlee

The Boynes are looking ahead now, planning for the day they can move their children nearer the beaches from their home in West Harbour to enjoy a sunny childhood like Nicole’s.

“I’m definitely a Shore girl,” she says.

Nicole still drives to her long-time family doctor in Devonport.

She’s keen to share her lockdown stories with local friends, many of whom she has known since Bayswater Primary, TNIS and Westlake Girls High School days.

“At the end of the day I’ve got a beautiful baby who’s growing well and she’s very chill, considering what we’ve been through,” Nicole says.

● North Shore Hospital recorded 488 babies born during Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4. Level 2 rules allow one support person during labour and birth. A second person may visit after the birth, but not both at the same time.

This article originally appeared in the 7 July 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.

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