And strictly speaking I still don’t. Not properly anyway.
For this post I need to give you a bit of back story.
Little H is our miracle baby. Or our rainbow baby if you prefer that term.
(A rainbow baby is the term used for a baby born after a loss. The term comes from the way a beautiful rainbow appears after a storm and although we had to brave the storm first the rainbow appearing lifts our hearts again)
Mr B and I went through a rather large storm. Which was so very hard. 8 miscarriages in total. And a lot of heartache. We were lucky in the sense that they were all early miscarriages, the first 7 were all before 7 weeks, and with my 8th we got to 13 weeks before it was discovered that I’d had another missed miscarriage.
And as hard as it all was whilst all the sadness was going on there were tests being done and for our 8th pregnancy I was taking baby asprin (75mg. Although I feel I should say only try this with the support of your doctor) and it was the furthest we’d gotten. So the doctors tested my clotting agents whilst I still had pregnancy hormone in my system, and then again 3 months later to see if there was a difference. There was! At a review appointment with the obstetric consultant we decided that the next time I got pregnant I would do blood thinning injections (clexane) at a low dose (30mg) alongside the baby asprin and that I could also have some progesterone pessaries for the whole of the first trimester to see if that helped.
I got my BFP (big fat positive) for Little H on the 1st October (officially, although I’d had a faint positive the night before, and I was charting my basal body temperature and my chart was looking good) and I rang my consultants secretary, who knew me pretty well by that point… I was shaking as I was telling her! She couldn’t get me an appointment to see Mr. G for a couple of weeks if I remember rightly but she managed to get him to do my clexane prescription, along with the progesterone and an appointment was booked for the next day at the antenatal day unit for me to be shown how to do my injections!
I was petrified of needles at that point. Having a tattoo I could do no problem, having blood tests or injections required a lot of focus on a lightswitch or a spot on the wall. So when I got there and the midwife (who was lovely!) got me to do the injection myself with a lot of encouragement to “get it in there” but I did it! The next day at home on my own having to do it reduced me to a mess of tears! Luckily at that time Mr. B did field work so he came home for lunch and managed to calm me down enough that I did it. I still remember being so terrified but so angry at myself because I knew that if I couldn’t do it I might loose this baby too.
They got easier after that, a lot easier. And aside from the huge bruises the jabs left I saw a lot more positive outcomes from them as we had scans at around 6, 8, 10 & 12 weeks. I cried with happiness at every scan. And the ladies at the early pregnancy unit looked after me so well (as you can imagine in the years before they’d only ever given me sad news)
To me we had a really smooth pregnancy, I had an appointment with Mr. G the consultant at 16 weeks when he advised me I could stop the progesterone completely (I’d been weaning myself off of them as I was scared) and I asked him about birthing options. I’d wanted a water birth. It was then he told me we were aiming for 36 weeks, and that they’d need to keep a very close eye on me when labouring so no water birth. I remember feeling sad at that, but Mr. G had my complete confidence, and at the end of every appointment he said we’re having a baby this time. And patted my shoulder in an I’ve got your back kind of way.
Time started passing quickly, I wouldn’t let anyone buy any baby stuff until I passed 26 weeks. It was going to be 20 weeks but I kept pushing it back! So around 30 weeks one of my mums friends came and painted the walls of the spare room white and Mr. B put the cot up. I’d finished making “flo” a crocheted blanket which was pink purple and green (a large granny square!) Because we didn’t know if flo was a girl or boy (the name flo came from finding nemo because my mantra before we got pregnant was just keep swimming but I wasn’t allowed to use Dory so Mr. B picked flo!)
At 32 weeks I had a growth scan. I’d had a couple in the weeks before, but that day I felt different. I packed my hospital bag that morning in a panic. As I was laid on the bed whilst the sonographer did the scan and as she started I said “out of interest what happens if you spot something not quite right?” And she said if they see something that’s not quite right they’d just semd me to the antenatal clinic to see a consultant.
She kept listening to the blood flow down the umbilical cord, even to me it sounded different than it had in the weeks before. And she asked me to wait outside for a moment as she would be sending me to the antenatal clinic.
From this point out I realised I didn’t actually have a clue what would happen. In my black and white mind you either had a healthy baby that went home with you, or you didn’t.
I felt sick to my stomach. The sonographer explained that Flo’s growth had slowed almost to a stop in the last 2 weeks. And now there was an ‘absent diastolic flow’ through the cord (which Mr. G explained that the blood wasn’t flowing quite right so flo wasn’t getting enough of what was needed) when I got to the antenatal clinic the head midwife was there and told me I would be being admitted and she took me straight in to see Mr. G who explained what was happening and that I wouldn’t be going home until baby was born. Which in my head they were still aiming for 36 weeks so 4 weeks in hospital!
The next day Mr. G came to see me and the midwife who was looking after me. I think it was around this time I realised it was the same lovely midwife (lets call her Lou) who’d taught me how to do my injections! He told me that they’d be keeping a very close eye on me and that the mw would be updating him regularly. I asked if I could have a tour of the neonatal unit as I’d been reading up on the bliss website and had gathered from the midwives that the unit had a space on standby for me so I wanted to be prepared mentally.
At that point I think my black and white thinking had started to realise that it wasn’t as I thought it was. My due date buddy from the pregnancy forum who was having twins had a week earlier had them (31 weeks) and she was putting pictures and updates on how they were doing. And when she heard that I’d been admitted was great support by text.
I think it was friday morning that Mr. G came to see me and they talked to me about a fine line between it being better for baby to stay in utero and being better for baby to be delivered and monitored more closely. By this point I’d read a lot of information and asked the midwives lots of questions so when they mentioned induction I declined. I couldn’t force my body (& flo’s) through labour especially as the blood flow to flo was already iffy. So they booked a c-section for the 4th May. (It was the 23rd April and I was 32+6)
That weekend Mr. G wasn’t on duty and he was having a mini break away somewhere, but he left Lou the midwife his personal mobile number just in case.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was in the early stages of pre eclampsia and obstetric cholestasis. Saturday evening I heard a hushed call that Lou the midwife made, which was followed by a call to Mr. G.
I thought nothing of it and carried on crocheting the blanket I was making for a craft swap on the forum!
Monday morning Mr. G was by my bedside before they’d even brought breakfast out. That was when I knew I was in trouble.
He explained that they were now totally on that fine line and that my liver was starting to attack itself and they were worried if they left me much longer I would get very poorly. So a c section was booked for the next morning. The 27th April 2010.
I don’t really remember much about that monday morning. I remember lou the midwife telling me that she was so proud that I’d stayed so calm throughout and that she’d expected me to have baby over the weekend (she’d literally been on pins keeping an eye on me, but it seemed that my calmness helped!)
I do remember ringing Mr. B desperate to know where he was (visiting started at 9 and he casually strolled in at 10.30 unaware of Mr. G booking me in!) and realising that I had no music for in theatre, so mum brought me in Bowie’s Hunky Dory album. And that night I sat in bed doing my eyebrows and it was the Madonna episode of Glee.
The 27th April 2010, there wasn’t a plane in the sky because of the ash cloud. They did my pre op stuff pretty early. Lou the midwife was off that day (but had been so excited doing babys tag things the day before!) We walked to the theatre at 9am. And the consultant anaesthetist tried for an hour to do a spinal block but she just couldn’t get where she needed to be. Thanks to Bowie and hypnobirthing I managed to stay calm and just didn’t think about what they were doing back there!
After an hour I was reaching the end of my calmness, I just sat there for a moment thinking they were the last wriggles and kicks I would feel. In my memory those last couple of minutes lasted a long time. Beyond that everything was unknown, that realisation made it hard to stay calm and focussed. (I stand by that the hypnobirthing books and cds helped me for that week in hospital and the hour in theatre)
I took a deep breath and said “I’m sorry I can’t take anymore can we do a general anesthetic” the consultant anaesthetist apologised that she hadn’t been able to get into my spine, she’d really thought she’d be able to. And they ushered Mr. B out of theatre and then it all went very all hands on deck. I tried to block out all of the medical stuff and focussed on Bowie. As they put me under “quicksand” was playing and the anaesthetist said “when you wake up you’ll be a mummy!”
Tears started to flow. But the anesthetic started to work so it put a halt to that feeling like my heart was about to burst.
I came round in the recovery room, freezing cold and scared. Mr. B was there waiting for me, and a midwife who when I was a bit more with it told me we’d had a little boy, he was 4lb 1oz and had wee’d all over the travel incubator! When I had warmed up and was ok to move they wheeled me over to the neonatal unit.
Nothing prepares you for how you’ll feel when you’ve just become a mummy but your baby is in a little incubator. The CPAP machine was helping him breathe because he was getting tired doing it by himself. A stranger has to tell you “here is your baby” and although you are so proud that they are here and ‘ok’ all you can actually say is “I’m so sorry”
That feeling of my heart being about to burst was all of a sudden back. I managed to take some pictures of him, but I was laid on the hospital bed and I felt like I couldn’t move without feeling pain. But that pain in my heart hurt more and I just couldn’t stop crying.
One of the neonatal staff said “I think mum has had enough” and I was taken back down to the maternity ward. Luckily I was in a side room because I couldn’t deal with seeing other people’s babies. I think I cried and slept most of that first day away.
I still cry at the knowledge that I can’t remember that first day. And I hate that I couldn’t carry him closer to term!
My mum was in my room as soon as visiting hours began, I really didn’t want to see anyone I wanted so much to be left alone to feel sorry for myself. But she was there, armed with bags full of blue clothes that she’d ran out and brought as soon as she got the phone call from Mr. B. It made me smile.
They went up to the neonatal unit to see an un named baby B. (It was in the aftermath of swine flu so they’d only just started letting grandparents back into the neonatal unit)
They came back beaming at how cute he was and how strong he looked. I think I just cried. I didn’t see him again that day. I knew the maternity unit was already stretched without needing 2 people to push my bed back up to the unit. So I slept a lot. Someone came to do a bed bath that evening which pushed me to tears again. I really did just want to be left alone, no one to touch me or be in my space, the night midwife was quite pushy in offering it and made me listen to why they were so insistent. I had to tell her I knew why they offered but in the morning I’d have a shower. I really just wanted to be left alone.
The next morning I asked someone to show me how to get out of bed so I could shower. Mr. B came and stood in the bathroom with me because I was scared I might pass out. I managed to look at my stitches in the mirror too!
Then Mr. B pushed me up to the neonatal unit in a wheelchair. I saw my boy again. This time the CPAP machine was off so he just looked like a tiny baby. We got to hold him but only for a short while. All I did was cry and apologise to him! We asked how long they thought before he’d be home, and were advised to aim for his due date (12th June)
My litt man ♡
I think he was about a week old in that picture and at his lowest weight of 3lb 5oz. He was only just starting to be fed my expressed milk because he’d had an infection in his tummy that they’d treated first so he’d been IV fluids only. I did as much skin to skin time as they’d let me but he’d search for milk and it was so hard to not feed him.
At just over 2 weeks old he was moved from the NICU room where there was lots of machines and stuff into the nursery and into a cot as opposed to the incubator.
I remember buzzing at the door to the neonatal unit and peeping through the window and seeing his incubator empty and immediately feeling sick… where had they taken him, was he ok?! When the nurse answered the door they broke the amazing news that he’d moved into the nursery and into a cot!!! So proud of him!!
He spent just under 2 weeks in the nursery just sleeping feeding and growing. We established breastfeeding and near the end I ‘roomed in’ at the hospital for 2 nights and got Little H all to myself for the night times. It was hard trying to feed in an unfamiliar bed with the sensor mat beeping whilst he slept. But I loved it.
At 3 weeks 6 days old Little H came home. He was still diddy but was just above his birth weight and gaining weight ok.
Here’s how diddy he was in his moses basket…
We still had a bit of a journey to go ahead of us but gradually he’s grown into a little man. And I totally get the lyrics to athlete’s ‘wires’ the whole song makes me cry but the end “looking at you now, you would never know” makes my heart do that thing of bursting pride!
We were very lucky. I made it to over 33 weeks so he didn’t really need much help. I think he had 24 hours of CPAP and then just a couple of days of free flow oxygen into his incubator. If his tummy hadn’t had that infection our journey through neonatal would have been classed as easy.
Through the neonatal unit we’ve met parents who had 24 week babies and their journeys are a true roller coaster. They’re the stories that humble and amaze you. So many amazing children and parents, and they then went on to support me mentally through MJs pregnancy as they all wanted me to get to term and not need neonatal! (Which we managed!)
Neonatal babies truly are amazing. And not all babies who need the help of the teams at neonatal units are premature babies but thanks to modern medicine we know so much more and so many parents will be eternally grateful to the teams who helped them out.
Sorry it’s so long, but once I started writing it felt good to sit and write about it all.
A massive thanks to Mr. G and “Lou” the midwife. Also to all of the staff at Warrington Neonatal Unit. Words really aren’t enough.
Looking at you now, you would never know ♡
Edited to add : there’s a wonderful facebook page called birth without fear they also have a blog
There are also wonderful internet forums out there full of people who will help and advise if you’re expecting, or they’ll listen if you just wanted somewhere to talk about your birth story.
Natural Mamas is full of people who can advise on hypnobirthing and baby wearing and cloth nappies (and just general pregnancy stuff)
Pregnancy Forum is a more generalised parenting forum and it’s where my internet “home” was through my stormy times.