Tag Archives: Maternity

Our Baby Rainbow

Cheeeeeeeeese!

On Monday we celebrated another rainbow birthday. This time it was Jude – 2 years old! I know it sounds cliche but where has the time gone? I can’t help calling him my baby, but soon he will start to understand what I mean .. and get seriously cheesed off!

I’ve previously written about my first rainbow pregnancy with Dylan and the (mainly emotional) difficulties we faced. With Jude it felt a lot different. I knew that my body was now capable of carrying a baby full term. I was a lot more confident. I felt like I could be a ‘normal’ expectant mother talking about ‘when’ the baby would come rather than ‘if’ or ‘hopefully’. I had another enviable pregnancy in that I had very little, if any morning sickness. My mum couldn’t believe how lucky I had been in that respect over three pregnancies. But boy was I tired. I didn’t remember being this tired before. Especially in the early weeks I just felt exhausted. I even remember lying down at work one day. I guess the big difference was having a two year old to run around after. Whereas before I could come home from work and just lie on the sofa, relax and maybe have a sneaky snooze, that was just a distant memory. Given we were potty training too in the early weeks, it felt particularly hard. But one thing I couldn’t do was complain.

Again I felt so incredibly lucky. As with Dylan’s pregnancy, we were under the care of the same consultant, the lovely Mrs Martindale. She was fully aware of our history so we didn’t have to explain a thing. By now, we also knew some of the midwives and sonographers. We followed the same plan as with Dylan. Regular appointments and scans every 4 weeks and then to be induced at 38 weeks, if nothing happened before. This was so handy with planning when to finish work as I had a pretty good idea of when the baby would come.


Unfortunately I didn’t learn any lessons from Dylan’s pregnancy. I have very few photos of me pregnant, less than with Dylan. It is one regret that I have. This is one of the only photos I have, taken the night before I went into be induced.

 

 

 

I was due to go into hospital on the 4th February in the afternoon. Jude arrived less than 48 hours later on the morning of the 6th. Although it might seem like a long time, for the most of it I was sat on the antenatal ward waiting for things (my cervix) to get moving!! Knowing that it would probably be a couple of days given my experience with Dylan, I took about 4 novels in with me … and read them all. It was absolute bliss! I was determined to make the most of the peace and quiet (I was in a single room!) whilst I could.

On one of the nights, I received a visit from one of the midwives on the Delivery ward. It was Paula, the midwife who delivered Ewan. She’d seen my name up on the board and recognised it. I know it sounds corny, but Paula is one of those people I will probably only see a few times in my life, yet I have such a strong bond with her that is hard to explain. She was there almost every step of Ewan’s delivery and for the hours afterwards. She shared such an important chapter in our lives that is usually only reserved for close family and friends, not someone you barely know. I will forever be grateful that she was with us and it was so wonderful to see her when I was waiting for our third baby to come.

So how would I describe Jude’s entrance into the world? One word. Quick! That might sound a bit bizarre when it took nearly 2 days from being induced, but when labour actually started, boy did I know about it. I had an epidural with Ewan, but didn’t have anything with Dylan. I didn’t consciously plan a pain-relief free birth but it just happened that way. With Jude I was determined to have as many drugs as I could get. But it wasn’t to be. It felt like I went from 0-60 in 10 seconds. At the point I asked for an epidural, I got the same response again, ‘too late, baby is on its way!’

Thankfully I got another heavenly midwife, Jayne. She came on shift at 8am, took control and sorted me out straight away. She got me on gas and air (which I’d never got the hang of before) and then suggested a water birth. I was completely stunned. I had no idea that I could have one because the baby was to be monitored throughout. ‘Of course’ she said, ‘we’ll get the tub filled up’. Talk about distracting me and diverting my attention.

It’s funny how the different senses invoke particular memories. It was a beautiful sunny morning on Monday. As I got out of the car with Jude, the sun hit my face and warmed me instantly. I was transported back to the birthing pool. As I settled in the water, the sun was coming up and streaming through the water. The design of the room couldn’t have been any better. I lay there with my eyes closed and on the sun on my face. It had a enormous calming effect.

I won’t bore you with any further details other than to say within 10 minutes of getting into the pool, Jude made his entrance into the world. Our second rainbow was in our arms. Dylan came to see him a couple of hours later. He was a bit bemused and couldn’t really work out what all the fuss was about, especially when Jude cried! He eventually came round a few days later. The photo below is one of the first I took of them together. It’s a bit blurry but you can see Dylan showing him one of his dinosaurs!

 

I don’t ever want to take my rainbows for granted. They are the delights that came into our lives and mended our broken hearts. Every day is a blessing, but on special days, like birthdays, I count them even more.

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The Words No-one Ever Should Hear – My Stillbirth Story

I’ve decided that I would like to share Ewan’s story. Most of our friends know that he was stillborn at 32 weeks. Not everyone knows exactly how it happened and how in just one day our lives changed forever. Although stillbirth isn’t a quite a taboo subject, it’s not something that is written about a lot in great detail. Information is there if you look for it, for example through the SANDS website (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) as I have written about previously. I don’t know if it is standard human nature to feel uncomfortable talking about death, and in particular the death of a baby. Is it the British in us? Anyway one of the reasons I set up my blog was to write about Ewan. The story is long so I will do it in stages. This is the story of our pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of July 2010. Adam and I were delighted. It was our first pregnancy and we’d only been trying for a couple of months. We considered ourselves lucky that it hadn’t taken us very long. I had an enviable pregnancy. I was one of those really annoying people who could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they suffered from morning sickness. We told a handful of close family and friends our news, and instead kept quiet until after our first scan at 13 weeks. At this point once we had seen baby floating and kicking around on the screen, we thought we were out of the woods and safee. October saw our 20 week scan and another opportunity for a photograph. Bubba he was then known (we chose not to find out the sex), gave us the thumbs up on the ultrasound. Christmas came and went. We were secretly happy to have an excuse not to go out on New Year’s Eve and instead stopped in with a takeaway and boxset of 24.

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Ewan at our first scan

From the moment he planted his first kick, Ewan was very active baby. I would love sitting in meetings at work and feeling him turning somersaults. He was most active at night when I was reading and relaxing in bed.

Fast forward to Friday 14th January 2011. I remember certain events of that day so incredibly vividly and others are a bit of a blur. I remember waking up that morning, laying in bed hearing the birds sing thinking it was the first time I had heard them for a while. On the way to work I stopped off for some petrol. I remember being at the pump when the thought occurred to me that it was 8 weeks exactly until my due date. I distinctly recall thinking ‘My baby could be in here in 8 weeks. Actually in 10 weeks it will definitely be here.’ Obviously this gave me an extra spring in my step, or a spring in my waddle.

About 6 months pregnant

About 6 months pregnant

It was a busy day at work. I work in a Further Education College and at the time there was a campaign being set up to challenge the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which the then new coalition government had announced. I was trying to organise the student body to sign an online petition and arrange for PC’s to be set up around college. Around lunchtime I managed to snatch some quiet time in my office. As I sat at my desk, after a couple of minutes my thoughts turned to my bump. It all felt quite still. I couldn’t recall the last time I had felt it move. My brain went into a mini overdrive. I tried to think back to the night before. Was Bubba performing its usual circus routine? I just couldn’t remember.

What I haven’t mentioned is that morning I also had a pain, which was unusual. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. I had read that baby’s sometimes started to engage from 32 weeks and wondered if that was the reason why. Not knowing when baby last moved, coupled with the pain prompted me to pick up the phone and ring the hospital. It took me a while to find the right department, but eventually I spoke to someone on the antenatal ward. I’m not sure why but when I started to explain why I was ringing, I only mentioned the pain. The midwife asked me to describe it and suggested I had a bath. I then told her that I couldn’t remember when I had last felt baby move; straight away she told me to come down for a scan, just to get checked out and make sure everything was ok. ­

I locked up my office and set off, calling into see my boss on the way out to tell her where I was going. I remember trying to make light of it and just said that I was a little bit worried so wanted to double check there wasn’t anything serious. In the car, I rang Adam. His phone went to voicemail so I left what I hoped was a slightly cheery, reassuring message saying I was sure everything was ok (I probably didn’t do a very good job!) and told him where I was going. I quickly nipped home to get my notes and then headed to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. I live about 4 miles from college and 1 mile from the hospital so thankfully it wasn’t too long a journey. I don’t remember much about driving there, other than still trying to reassure myself, and also willing Bubba to move.

I finally found my way to the antenatal ward. Now I do vividly remember the walk upstairs. At this point I started to think the worse. On the ward I gave them a quick explanation and the loveliest midwife (I was to meet a lot of these) took me into a private room. I lay on the bed and she used a Doppler to try and find a heartbeat. Whilst it made a lot of noise (something to do with the ultrasound waves), the regular sound of a heartbeat couldn’t be found. She gave me a reassuring smile and said it was probably a problem with the instrument. She left to get a portable scanner, and seconds later reappeared with a doctor. Unbeknown to me they were waiting outside the room – I am guessing someone buzzed them when I arrived. On went the gel again and the doctor started to scan. I could see the monitor at this point but wasn’t really sure what to look for. Then, there was the most telling sign. Marie (the midwife) who was stood at the end of the bed put her hand on my feet. That was the point when I knew. I knew that she knew. No one had said anything, but they all knew. I burst into tears.

They wanted me to go for a proper scan, with the ultrasound technician, as they said sometimes the portable scanners didn’t pick up faint heartbeats. But they still knew. It just needed to be confirmed.

I think I refused a wheelchair and walked back down the stairs holding onto Marie. I sat and waited for the ultrasound. The technician came out of her room and Marie went up to her. I could see the technician wasn’t happy. I think she had a backlog of patients already. Marie whispered to her, and instantly the technician’s face changed. I was beckoned to go in and Marie came with me. The technician told me that she wouldn’t talk to me until she had finished scanning which could take a couple of minutes. She said that it was important for her to concentrate. I could have looked at the monitor but instead I covered my eyes with my arm. I didn’t want to see and instead just hoped against hope that the news would be good.

Then came the words no parent-to-be ever wants to hear. ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’.

I remember just giving a loud groan and started to cry again. I can hear the sound now. It came from the bottom of my belly. Marie held me. I don’t know for how long. Somehow I got back onto the ward and into a room. The word stillbirth was being used. Still Birth.

This part is a bit of a blur. What I do remember is asking how this could happen. I think I even uttered the words ‘but this only happened in Victorian times!’ But that is what I was thinking. Only Victorian babies were stillborn, weren’t they?

Then my phone started to ring. It was Adam. I think I answered it (if not it was Marie). I just told him to get to hospital. I don’t even think I told him where to go. I definitely didn’t tell him what had happened because he was either driving or about to drive. It seemed like an age before he came. But then I can’t remember what happened between him ringing and arriving. So it probably wasn’t that long. I just blurted out ‘I’m sorry, I’ve lost the baby’. I can see his face now and can feel how his arms gathered me up and give me the biggest and warmest hug I probably have ever had.

After some time, during which Adam rang my parents for me because I just couldn’t face breaking the news to them, we were moved from the antenatal ward to the Birth Suite. Now this was hard. Really hard. We had to walk through a door where there were beautiful canvasses of newborn babies on the walls of the corridor. Fresh tears. We were taken to the Serenity Suite. This is a room especially designed for parents like us, who wouldn’t give birth to a living baby. Who knew these rooms existed in hospitals? It had a kitchen area, shower room, double bed and television amongst other things. It was a place we would be able to move to after the birth, recuperate a little and spend some time with our baby.

A doctor and another midwife, Elaine, came to speak to us and talked us through what would happen next. Although they were lovely, nothing could prepare us for the next bombshell. We would have to give birth naturally by being induced. I had just expected a caesarean section. We would have to go through labour. Now it makes perfect sense as to why, but back then we were just dumbstruck.

I was given something which would start the induction process (no idea what, a pill I think?). We were told we could stop in the Serenity Suite for the weekend, but instead we chose to go home. We wanted to be surrounded by familiar things, surroundings, our cats and be in our home. We had to return back to the Birth Suite in 48 hours for the next stage of the induction process, provided nothing happened before then. Elaine reassured us that she would be on duty and so would look after us when we came back.

We left the hospital about 5 or 6pm I think. Being January it was already dark. Which suited our mood. Adam drove us back home to what would be a very long weekend. To tell family and friends. To continue with our lives together. Down a very different path to the one we were happily walking along that morning.

 

 

Make your voice heard people – The NHS Maternity Services Review

I am big fan of our National Health Service. Before Ewan died I probably would have been quite non-committal about my thoughts on the NHS. Sometimes I would be pro-NHS. They agreed to take my tonsils out when I was 21, which, having suffered from tonsillitis approximately 8 times a year, I was eternally grateful to them for. But then I didn’t like my GP practice for a number of years – the GPs were grumpy, stroppy and had terrible ‘bedside’ manners (for the record I LOVE my current GP. He is ace!). On the whole I would probably have sat on the fence if asked for an opinion.

Since our experiences with Ewan’s stillbirth and my two subsequent rainbow pregnancies however, both Adam and I have not been able to fault the care we have received. If anyone asks, we could talk for hours about the professionalism, compassion and dedication of the maternity teams at the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley, in particular our beloved midwives and consultant! I honestly don’t think I could find a bad word to say about them. The midwife who delivered Ewan was simply wonderful. I am so grateful to her for helping to make what was in essence the most awful experience of our lives, into a beautiful, calm, peaceful and memorable time. I hope one day to write a blog post about this particular experience. We were then supported through our next pregnancies with kid gloves by an amazingly kind and considerate consultant who absolutely understood our worries and stresses.

maternity review 3

So when I heard about the current NHS maternity review, I knew I wanted to go along and make my voice heard. There is currently a roadshow of drop in review events taking place up and down the country. Today I went along to my local event in Preston to share my views and also make suggestions. I am not so naïve to realise that a) improvements can’t be made and b) everyone has received the same care that we have. I truly believe, for example, that women (and men) would benefit from seeing the same midwife from day one, through all their antenatal and then postnatal appointments. We were lucky with our second pregnancy to be allocated a case-load midwife. I saw her every few weeks. She attended some of our hospital appointments and visited me at home. Through this I was able to trust her and ask questions that I may never have asked a ‘random’ community midwife. After we took Dylan home she came to visit a few times and I remember once compiling a list of about 15 questions for her. Some of them seem ridiculous now (I had about 3 questions alone about burping…. the baby, not me!), but I knew that she wouldn’t laugh at me because I had already built a good relationship with her.

Also, in relation to my last blog post, I referenced how mothers should be tested for Group B Strep as standard practice in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Maternity review

With Rainbow Jude and my old school friend Kelly who is now involved in NHS service commissioning

Anyway the review is ongoing for the next couple of months. So if you have had experience of maternity services anywhere in the UK, either as a parent, grandparent, friend or in any other capacity, now is the time to feedback about your experiences. Positive or negative, the NHS want to hear what you have to say. If you aren’t able to make it along to one of the drop-in sessions here, then email england.maternityreview@nhs.net.

Make sure you have your say.