Birth story continued 

If you read my last post then you know that my daughter didn’t have the easiest start and had to spend almost two weeks in the Neonatal ICU. What this meant was that a lot of my fantasies and planning around her birth went completely out the window. 

On the day that we had our embryo transfer, we took a photo of my husband and I in hospital scrubs minutes before the transfer, for the first time ever. The day before, my sister and her husband gave birth to my beautiful neice and they had sent a (quite standard), Caesar photo… You know the one, with mom horizontal on the table, baby on chest and dad looking proudly on? Well, on the day of our embryo transfer, this image was very much in my mind, which it had never been before. I felt so sure that we would have the opportunity to take this photo and I wanted a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo. We never got to take that birth photo but we did get our precious child so that doesn’t matter….but perhaps illustrates the specificity of my fantasies. 

Prior to her birth I was very concerned about skin to skin and delayed cord clamping, and had, had two conversations with my gynae to ensure that these would happen for us. Fate had other plans. What ended up happening was that our daughter was born and was almost immediately in distress and so had to be assisted with oxygen. I had given my husband strict instructions that whatever happened he was to remain with baby and so he immediately went over to her whilst the doctors were working on me. It was surreal and scary as I couldn’t see anything, but kept asking questions as they were evaluating her. Eventually a nurse brought her over to me so that I could see her for literally two seconds, saying ‘be quick mommy because she can’t breathe’. I was horrified, like ‘please God if she can’t breathe don’t bring her to me just make sure that she can breathe!’. I gave her a quick kiss on her forehead and she was shipped away to NICU and my husband went with her. The longest part of a Caesar is definitely the stitching up afterwards and I felt like I was alone on the table forever. I felt so overwhelmed, my mind was racing and I was desperate to know how my daughter was doing. Eventually I was wheeled back to my room and my husband finished with our daughter and came to check on me and give me an update. By the end of that evening he was physically exhausted from running up and down between my daughter and I. He said she was fine and beautiful and in good hands and told me that she was going to be great but that she needed a bit of support and time. Whilst I believed him, I desperately wanted to see her myself and to find some reassurance from experiencing her personally. Of course I couldn’t move and I would only get to see her the next day. That night was the most bizarre night of my life. I didn’t sleep one wink, despite all the drugs and the fact that I had just had major surgery. I literally lay awake all night in increasing amounts of pain, almost meditating on my daughter and holding her in my mind. The weird part was that I wasn’t highly anxious… I would say that I was more anxious during the first trimester than I was that night, but it was almost as if the only way I could be with her was in my mind and so I stayed awake to make sure she wasn’t alone. 

The next day I was in a huge amount of pain but I was desperate to see her so as soon as we were allowed to go up to the NICU, we went. And this is where perhaps the donor egg conception played a role. When I first saw her there was a strange feeling of disconnect. Not that I didn’t love her, because I did, but a sense of ‘where did she come from’? She looked so strange. Because she had difficulty breathing, she had a CPAP mask on, which was secured with a hat on her head. The mask and the hat had distorted her features and she looked like a little Martian heading off to space. I looked at her and felt such a sense of surprise at how she looked that the only way I could make sense of it is that she obviously looked a lot like our donor. This didn’t make me love her less but it brought our donor very forcefully into my mind in a way that I really wasn’t anticipating and wasn’t altogether welcome. I didn’t want to be thinking about our donor as much as I was on such an important day. Fortunately, there was also a big part of me that knew that this feeling was no doubt very natural and trusted that I would love my daughter regardless. I didn’t fear that it would interfere with bonding but rather that it was a phase that I would need to work through. And I have done this and in the process I have renewed my gratitude to the donor for helping me make this beautiful child. I have also found beauty in the parts of her that are so unlike me. For example, I’m lilly white… I often joke that I get sunburnt just sitting at a robot for too long. Our daughter has the most beautiful olive skin (our donor is Portugese in origin and my husband is Italian), and she is definitely a Mediterranean child. So different to me but in a good and beautiful way. In doing this I feel like I have found a way to position the donor in my life in such a way that she plays a small, but positive role for which I am truly grateful. 

Anyway, for the first couple of days our daughter needed to be in an incubator and couldn’t be moved due to tubes and oxygen etc. On about day 4 she was able to be moved from the incubator and we were finally able to hold her for the first time. On an emotional level, this was the moment that I had pictured on that day we had our embryo transfer. It didn’t go according to plan, but the day did arrive when I was able to hold my precious daughter in my arms. I tear up remembering it because when I finally held her I sobbed and sobbed. Tears of utter relief, joy and gratitude. Neither my husband nor I said a word, we just sat quietly together for the first time as a family of three. That moment will always be so very special to me…and her donor egg origins didn’t matter at all. 


My heart is full: the birth of my daughter

***Trigger warning***Please do not read this if you are stuck in the trenches of infertility and reading another birth story will be like sticking a knife through your heart. Been there, done that… if you need to, unfollow me quickly and reach out to someone else who is in the same space that you are.

I’ve literally been meaning to update my blog for months now. There is so much that I have wanted to write about but for one reason or another never managed to sit down and actually do it! And then as time passed, there was so much to catch up on that it started feeling a little bit overwhelming and I found myself actually avoiding writing, not knowing where to start. So, tonight I decided enough was enough and to tackle the facts of my daughter’s birth story. I’d like to engage more with my thoughts and feelings around the whole expereince but I will leave that for another day. For now, let me tell you how I finally came to hold my precious child in my arms.

My daughter’s birth story starts about a month before she was born, at my 32 week check up. Up until then I had, had a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy. This in itself was a strange and surreal experience as I was so used to things going wrong that to have everything go smoothly and to feel and look well was a very happy surprise. Unfortunately, at my 32 week check up, my blood pressure was worryingly high and I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. We happened to be going away the next day for a friend’s wedding and for what turned out to be my surprise baby shower…both occassions in my home town. My Doctor said it would be fine to go but to try and take it easy and to get my blood pressure checked on the Saturday. Well, it was impossible to take it easy and it turned into a beautiful but busy weekend. I had my blood pressure checked as she asked and it hadn’t gone down much but it also hadn’t gone up.

Fast forward through that next week. I had to have my blood pressure checked every second day and instead of going down it was steadily going up. By Friday afternoon it was the highest it had been and so my Doctor decided to admit me for the night. Being in bed for the night and next day and literally doing nothing brought my blood pressure right down. Getting up the next afternoon and packing to go home brought it back up. So, I was told to take it very easy. I immediately had to stop one of my jobs but thought it would be OK to see clients from my office at home. Well, it wasn’t. My next check up a few days later showed a still worryingly high BP despite reducing my activities significantly. In addition, the medication I was on made me very drowsy and physically exhausted. Walking to the kitchen made my legs feel like lead and I’d be out of breath as though I had run a marathon. I was put on bed rest and told to stop work immediately. I found this very stressful. The nature of my work is that I provide a safe and reliable space for my clients and I felt very guilty about abandoning them suddenly a month earlier than expected. Fortunately the vast majority of them were very understanding.

On the day that I was told I needed to be on bed rest my Mom phoned to ask how I was doing. I had a meltdown and told her how stressed I was – I was feeling extremely overwhelmed by the logistics of bed rest. How would I care for my animals? How would I get to all my doctors appointments? How would my husband and I organise shopping, cooking, cleaning etc etc. My Mom doesn’t live in the same city as me but by that evening she had hopped on a plane and was at my house to take care of me. It was the most amazing, nurturing and loving act and my Mom and I continued to have a very special three weeks together. We haven’t lived in the same town for many years and so although we see each other reasonably often, we are always ‘visiting’. This time there were no outings to go on, people to see or things to do. We stayed at home, only going out to doctors appointments. My mom shopped, cooked, walked my dog, played with my dog, petted my cat, brought me tea and generally loved and nurtured me and mine. I will always be grateful for this time that we had together and know how very blessed I am to have the relationship I do with my Mom.

This bed rest didn’t really bring my blood pressure down, but it did keep it reasonably stable. However, the doctor decided that she would bring my caesar date forward to the day that I would be 37 weeks, which was Sunday 16 July. She felt at 37 weeks baby girl would be better off outisde than inside. On Thursday 13 July I spent the whole day working on my tax. I wanted it done by the time my daughter was born as I knew it would be the last thing on my mind once she arrived. It was not hard, just tedious, and I spent the day on my laptop. That evening I finally closed my laptop, sat down with my Mom in front of the TV and suddenly becamse aware that I hadn’t felt my daughter move very much during the course of the day. Trying not to panic, I drank some orange juice and lay down to see if I could do a kick count. Over the next hour she kicked a couple of times but very faintly. When my husband got home I expressed my concerns to him and he suggested I contact the Doctor, which I did. She asked me to go in for a Non Stress Test, just to be sure that everything was fine. Now, I have to add that twice before I had felt concerned about lack of movement, and had gone and had an NST done. Both times baby girl was fine. So, I was expecting that I was over reacting again and that the NST would reassure me that everything was fine. My Mom had bought steak for dinner and I told her I would let her know when we were leaving the hospital so she could gauge when to start cooking the steak. Well, as you’ve probably gathered there would be no steak that night.

The NST showed that I was in labour! The nurses were shocked that I hadn’t felt the contractions but I genuinely hadn’t. As well as that, my blood pressure was through the roof – 195/105 and baby girl was in distress as her heart rate kept dipping. My Doctor decided that baby needed to come out immediately and within a couple of hours, at 21h00, she was born via emergency caesar. She weighed a tiny 1.94kg’s and needed help breathing. Unfortunately because of this she was immediately sent to the Neonatal ICU. I was able to get a brief glimpse of her and give her a kiss on her forehead before she was whipped away and she ended up spending 12 days in the NICU.

During the birth we found out that there was what is called a ‘true knot’ in her cord. This is literally a knot in the cord and can be very dangerous and even fatal in pregnancy. It is possibly the combination of this true knot as well as the gestational hypertension that caused her to be so small and her lungs to be under developed. We also had the placenta tested and it showed signs of an autoimmune reaction. What is significant about this is that we did an auto immune protocol (intrallipids and prednisone), with no proof that an autoimmune condition existed. However, I have a family history of autimmune conditions and with two previous miscarriages, we had a strong suspicion that there was an underlying autoimmune response going on and we decided that we would rather be safe than sorry. I have to admit to feeling somewhat vindicated by the results of the placenta. In fact the Doctor who performed the test said that we would almost certainly have miscarried again had we not done the immune protocol. Absence of proof is NOT proof of absence. Interestingly, the Doctor believes that it is these changes to the placenta that caused the gestational hypertension. Amazing how it is all linked. We already knew that this was our miracle child, but the events surrounding her birth and the facts that emerged have reinforced that a hundered fold. As I said at the beginning, I will definitely write more about my thoughts and feelings at a later stage…especially around some of the dynamics relating to the use of donor eggs. For now, I am loving motherhood. I still have to pinch myself to believe that this amazing little girl is mine, and that she is here to stay. She has been home with us for 6 weeks now, turns 8 weeks tomorrow, and my heart is full.