***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.