My daughter Hannah was born nearly 12 months ago, on the 29th April 2007. I wrote her bith story some time ago but as the experience involved thoughts and emotions that are difficult to relive and acknowlege, I never felt quite ready to share it. As it is her birthday on Tuesday I wanted to celebrate her birth by finally sharing our story with you. Thanks for reading.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAUTIFUL GIRL!
When my husband and I fell unexpectantly pregnant with our 3rd child, just 8 months after our son Alexander was born, we were horrified. Like my first, it had been a traumatic birth in which I had haemorrhaged to the point that I had needed surgery to stop the bleeding. I had ongoing problems, which had left me exhausted and suffering severe postnatal depression. In addition, my son suffered horrendous colic. Although things were getting better- we had stayed a week at Tresillian and Alex had been diagnosed with severe dairy and soy allergy, I was only coping reassured by the knowledge that I would never have to go through it again. I was literally traumatised by the birth and even the thought of it brought back feelings of panic.
My doctor’s advice, with my history of difficult pregnancies and births and my ongoing health problems- I suffer from an autoimmune disorder called fibromyalgia and a crippling bladder condition- was that I should terminate. After Alexander’s birth I had been told not to fall pregnant again. While the thought of this birth was petrifying and I really did not think I was well enough to look after another baby, abortion was not an option that I would consider.
It was therefore primarily relief when at 8 weeks pregnant I began to bleed. I truly believed that it was “not meant to be,” and while a part of me was sad it seemed as though it was out of my hands. After a few days of bleeding I went to the doctor for an ultrasound to check whether I had miscarried completely. It was at this point I was told that not only had I not miscarried, the baby’s heartbeat was strong and although I was bleeding, everything looked completely normal. I really had no idea how to cope with this news. I had come to terms with the pregnancy ending by reassuring myself that the pregnancy was likely a “blighted ovum,” where nothing had formed in the first place. To know that there was now a baby with a heart beat that I could still potentially lose was a tidal wave of conflicting emotion. A small part of me was so relieved that there was a heartbeat, but there was still the very real likely hood that this baby would die. I was in limbo- I honestly did not know how to feel.
My doctor again told me that my only option was to terminate. I would surely miscarry anyway and with my history of post partum haemorrhage, I was better to terminate in a controlled environment. While I understood his logic, I felt I had to give both the baby and I a chance to get through this.
At the advice of two close friends who were also pregnant, I went to see a local obstetrician specialising in “at risk,” pregnancies and births. As things turned out, he was brilliant. Yes, I was bleeding but he reassured me that the baby seemed fine. It was growing, the heartbeat was strong and if I wanted to continue with the pregnancy he would deliver by caesarean to avoid my history repeating itself. While this also terrified me, he was confident, empathetic and reassuring. Finally, I felt a glimmer of hope.
The weeks went on and while I still struggled with the pregnancy both physically and emotionally, everything seemed ok. Then at the 19-week ultrasound we were told that I had placenta praevia. While my dr was unconcerned and said that the placenta would likely move up anyway, I became convinced that I would end up in hospital for months of the pregnancy. How would we cope? My husband couldn’t take that much time off work. I was certainly not ready to spend time away from my toddler son and my 5 year old daughter was in tears already at me going into hospital again as the stay last time had been lengthy. The weeks went by and physically I was ok but I was becoming more and more terrified at what the future would hold.
At 33 weeks my friends threw me an impromptu baby shower after which I went home and cried. I was so terrified that I would not love this baby. I felt nothing for it except resentment and fear. My now 15-month-old son (who has since been diagnosed with autism,) was such a handful that I had absolutely no idea how I would cope with this baby as well. My biggest worry, beyond anything was that I would not bond with this baby at all. After all, my son was a much-wanted baby but due to the trauma of his birth and the months that followed it took a long time to bond with him. How could I expect to bond with a baby that I didn’t even want?
The next day I had my usual check up with my obstetrician. It was a complete shock when we found that in the three weeks since I had seen him neither my fundal height nor weight had changed and I was now measuring 3 weeks behind. Stunned, I left his office with a multitude of requests for ultrasounds, foetal monitoring and blood tests. I had been so consumed with not wanting this bab that it had never occurred to me that something could actually go wrong with it. When I had asked what would happen if the baby had stopped growing, (and I will never forget the look on his face or the graveness of his voice), my doctor answered “I will deliver.”
Already terrified of having this baby in 5 weeks I was now faced with the very real prospect that not only might I have this baby now, the baby would be tiny. The implications of delivering a premature 4lb baby terrified me. I flew into over drive. Instead of taking some time to rest, which was probably what I needed most, I spent the next week cooking, cleaning and trying to attend all of my required appointments. I also researched possible causes for the baby not growing which of coarse all served to heighten my anxiety. It was here that I first learned the term, “Inter Uterine Growth Retardation,” or “IUGR” This is when something in the Uterine environment, usually the placenta, is not functioning properly and hence the baby’s growth becomes affected. The baby could be deprived of nutrients, oxygen and could even die. Early delivery was almost always required followed by intense neonatal care.
An ultrasound confirmed that the baby was small, approximately 4lb but my placenta seemed ok and the fluid level was good. My obstetrician relaxed slightly but still felt concerned enough that he sent me for another ultrasound in a specialist clinic 2 hours away; “Just to make sure.”
By the day of the ultrasound I had really reassured myself that all would be fine. The baby was transverse and several people had told me that this could prevent an adequate measurement being taken. Surely a high tech scan would confirm that everything was fine?
The first words uttered by the sonographer put an immediate end to my calm: “Have you noticed any fluid loss at all?” When I answered “no,” she replied: “Well, there is no fluid around your baby.” The rest of the scan I spent fighting tears as she and the head doctor confirmed that had I a complete placenta praevia, (where the placenta is blocking the cervix,) I had no fluid and the baby was very small. It was almost certainly a case of “IUGR.” It was also felt that there were several dangerous vessels around the placenta, both foetal and maternal, that meant that the baby and I could severely haemorrhage at any time. By the end of the appointment my obstetrician had been contacted and he had given the firm direction that I be admitted to hospital immediately. I would be given steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop. The baby would be delivered early the next week and a very close eye would be kept on us until then.
I sobbed the entire way home. I began to seriously doubt that I had done the right thing in keeping this pregnancy. I was not ready to have this baby when I still had a baby at home. I had brought this upon myself- this baby knew that it wasn’t wanted, that I didn’t want it. This was my punishment.
After a day in hospital, I managed to convince my obstetrician to let me go to dinner with my partner. It was our 7 year anniversary and as the last 8 months had been utterly horrendous and our relationship had been seriously tested, we both really wanted one last chance to be just us, Matt and Sara, without our children, before this baby, just to remind ourselves that our relationship still mattered. While I was so tense during dinner, petrified that I would begin to suddenly bleed to death at the dinner table, I cannot describe my amazement and joy when, as my desert was presented, so was a beautiful engagement ring. (The words, “Marry Me Sara!” were also written in chocolate on my plate but I didn’t realise until it was pointed out!”) Boy, what timing. If I had needed anything to get me through the next few days, it didn’t get better than that.