Thursday, 16 March 2017

#WeAreAllMums

Tommy's, pregnancy, still birth, rainbow babies. #WeAreAllMums
Clearly, an unbelievably beautiful baby
(even if I am a little biased!).
Mother's Day is around the corner and the shops are full of cards, presents and reminders of how much we value those women that love and care for us right from conception.

But of course, behind every soft focus image of an ideal lifestyle are some less palatable facts. For a start, among women who know they're pregnant, it's estimated one in six pregnancies will end in miscarriage (defined as the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks). And while eleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, there are also 60,000 premature births (ones that happen before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) in the UK each year. A preterm birth is the number one cause of newborn deaths and the second leading cause of deaths in children under five.

Add to that the many, many women that experience complications during pregnancy and/or labour, and postnatal problems such as depression,  and it's clear to see that Mother's Day can be a painful experience for many, many women.

But Tommy’s the charity that funds research into pregnancy problems and provides pregnancy health information to parents, is running a campaign to raise awareness of the fact that, even if your baby was born too soon or born sleeping, you are still very much a mum!

My story


While I consider myself very fortunate to have two healthy children, my first delivery was not like those you see idealised on the TV (typically a few scrams and then happy crying!) - and you won't find me waxing lyrical about the miracle of birth or my life-affirming experience! In fact, although my pregnancy went without incident, the delivery spiralled out of control very quickly.

I now feel my baby girl was in the wrong position from the outset of labour, I didn't feel her 'drop' and 'engage', I even queried if she might be in breech position as I felt I could feel arms and legs all over the place. However, I was a first-time mum - so what did I know? I look back with regret now and often feel that no one took me seriously when I explained things didn't seem 'right'.

Tommy's, pregnancy, still birth, rainbow babies. #WeAreAllMums
Quite literally, my raison d'être!
When I was at least a week overdue, my waters broke but labour did not start like the textbooks said it would! I visited the hospital but they weren't unduly concerned, and booked me in to be induced in a few days if labour didn't kick in naturally (cue lots of eager dog walking!). Unfortunately, the ward was busy when I returned for my appointment and I was sent away. Instead I went into labour naturally a few days later - but made very little progress despite it feeling like someone was kicking me in the back like they really wanted out!

My lack of progress meant I was passed around different wards for a while, and eventually given some drugs to let me sleep until something more positive happened. To cut a long story short, nothing did happen, and after trying every single way of trying to convince my baby to come out naturally it was finally, and I mean right as she was about to crown, realised that my daughter was attempting a neck first exit. A very-much-an-emergency C-section was performed - but by this point it was not straightforward and the the medical team had to drag her back up the birth canal.

During this complicated procedure, my womb was torn in several places (meaning I'd not be 'allowed' to deliver naturally again) and my bladder sustained trauma. I had several blood transfusions during the op and one afterwards. However we both survived and after a week I was discharged. Once home I had, what seemed like minor, problems. I needed to wee all the time - but only a dribble would come out. I felt my bump was getting bigger, I couldn't eat and hurt all over. I told my visiting midwife but she said that was normal and to drink lots  of water. Sadly she was very, very wrong. Several weeks later, a health visitor had the sense to insist I see a GP as an emergency case. By this time I was breathless too.

In the nick of time


The locum GP decided all was not well and called an ambulance. I was taken to the emergency department, where they discovered the trauma my bladder has suffered had caused urine retention that, left untreated, had led to infection and sepsis. I was sent to intensive care as they thought major organ failure was a risk, and that my kidneys were already shot. They told my husband to prepare for the worst. He rang the family with the sort of news no one want to relay.

Tommy's, pregnancy, still birth, rainbow babies. #WeAreAllMums
Years later, both happy and healthy.
Thankfully, my body responded to the antibiotics and ten days later I was back at home as if nothing had happened. But there's not a day that goes by (my daughter is now 11) that I don't appreciate how fragile the so-called the 'miracle' of birth is. While the media and society would have us concentrate on the good bits, a happy ending of pregnancy and motherhood, behind closed doors lurks pain and uncertainty. Although my baby was unscathed, and I recovered from my physical trauma, I know one of us could have died or suffered permanent disability. Figures for the UK show there are still 8.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births each year - and that a quarter of those deaths are due to sepsis.

My experience has given me a deeper understanding of how painful losing a child - and the fear of losing a child - your child - is. Motherhood is more than just physically being a mother - it is a bond with your unborn baby that is so deep you can feel that child even when they are no longer there for everyone else to see. I believe the reason I survived was because I had given birth and my baby needed me - just as I needed her. Separated from her as I was admitted to hospital I needed to get back to her. I begged and begged for her to be able to stay with me, and eventually my mother demanded I was moved from the urinary ward I was stuck in (typically along with older gentlemen experiencing prostate problems!) to the maternity section so my newborn could be allowed to stay rather than 'visit' (even as an adult you need a feisty mum in your corner!). In many ways that separation was more painful than anything else I experienced.

At the hospital they said they'd write paper about me - as I seemed to be alive even though blood/gas results on admission showed I should be dead. Science couldn't explain it, but I can. There's something more than just a physical process when a woman becomes pregnant - at that moment she becomes a mum. Not every conception ends in a successful birth - one in four women lose a baby during pregnancy and birth. And not everyone's pregnancy, delivery and parenting journey runs to plan - but #WeAreAllMums. Every one of us. Those of us with battle scars, those of us with babies that spent time in SCBU, those of us with Rainbow Babies - and especially those of us with empty arms.

Written in association with Tommy's.

6 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh you poor thing, that sounds utterly horrendous! I am so thankful that your daughter arrived safely, it doesn't even bear thinking about does it. I am sure that she is so utterly precious to you all, and so much love to you as I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been, and still is all of these years later. #WeAreAllMums

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    1. Thank you. My second daughter arrived in a far more controlled environment - and I think that helped!

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  2. Oh my, that's indeed a story, and one that your family is very happy for you to be here to tell yourself. Happy Mother's Day!

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    1. Thank you Crystal - I hope sharing it dispels a few myths at least!

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  3. I am glad you and your daughter both came out healthy and safe from the ordeal. Cheers.
    YellowMellowLife

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    1. Thank you for commenting Bhawna, it's not the worst story of course, and a has a happy ending at least, but I think it's important not to let these things go unmentioned.

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