Before she had even arrived…..
This time a year ago I was admitted to our local hospital for what could possibly have been the rest of my pregnancy.
At 10 weeks I had bled so heavily that we had assumed I had suffered a miscarriage. The amount of blood that I lost, and the ferocious (this is the best way to describe it whilst sparing you all the gory details) way in which it happened, left little room for doubt in our minds that we had lost our baby. This was traumatic enough in itself but we then spent 6 long weeks where I continued to bleed. We felt like we were just beginning to recover emotionally and physically, beginning to come to terms with the loss and find our feet again, when a scan showed, to everyone’s utter disbelief, that our baby was in fact still there and growing at about 16 weeks gestation!
By this time last year when we reached 22 weeks, we had already been in and out of hospital 5 times. On 3 of these occasions we were told again that my bleeding was a miscarriage and that nothing could be done to save the baby. Each time we felt the agony of waiting for our baby’s imminent arrival, grieved the loss of her little life again and cried out to God through our tears and brokenness.
And despite all the odds here we were at 22 weeks facing very real conversations about the viability of her life now and how each day her chances of survival grew just a tiny bit more. She had continued to grow despite me continuing to bleed, and although it was a relief to finally be admitted to hospital to see out the rest of my pregnancy in the safety and closeness of the best possible care, I knew we were staring down days, weeks and possibly months of uncertainty. I had never felt so afraid or trapped by anything before.
For the first time in my pregnancy I began counting days (sometimes even half days.) With each hour, half day, or day that passed it felt like there was just a tiny bit more hope or possibility that she might make it.
But only a few days after the hospital had become my new home I woke up to another heavy bleed and was rushed to labour suite. At only 22 weeks and bleeding heavily we now faced the prospect that our daughter could be born alive, take a few breaths on her own, but not have the strength or the physical development to sustain her. If she came now she would not survive.
After 24 hours of monitoring I was returned to the ward where I was to continue to be closely monitored. The multitude of conversations with midwives and doctors about what might happen and all the possible scenarios seemed utterly overwhelming. Our hearts felt battered, broken and bruised from all the knocks we had already taken. We resolved to take one day at a time and try not to allow our minds to engage with all the possible outcomes. It felt pointless using the tiny amount of emotional energy that we had like this as we knew we would only have to live through one of these outcomes anyway! We couldn’t believe we had got this far and we kept trying to focus on that.
It felt like we hardly had time to breathe before the next wave struck us. I was rushed back to labour suite again the next morning as my waters had broken. “Now this really is game over” I remember saying to multiple midwives and to Dave. I was sure this was the end of the road and we would be meeting our baby that day. We knew that having literally just reached the 23 week mark it was statistically extremely unlikely that our baby would live if she came now. We searched for hope in the faces of doctors, midwives and the stories of others but it was hard to find. We held on to a little glimmer of light but knew that our chances of welcoming a healthy baby girl into our family were fading fast.
We became known for counting the hours and minutes. In front of my bed, in the room on labour suite, was a large digital clock, it helped us keep track of how many minutes and hours had passed since my waters had gone. Each hour that passed where my condition didn’t change was another little flicker of hope that perhaps our baby would stay put.
After three long agonising days where there had been no sign of our baby, I was allowed back to the ward. To move from what felt like the safety of labour suite with all the constant monitoring and the comforting sound of others close by, to a room on the antenatal ward, felt really hard. I had to adjust my expectations again. Being on labour suite had prepared me for the imminency of our baby’s arrival, after all that’s what I could hear all around me, babies coming into the world. I had prepared myself mentally to face the silence that would be part of our baby’s entry into the world and I had been getting myself ready to bring her, at any moment, into that room whatever that might look like. But now I had to engage again wth the possibility that there could still be weeks, maybe even months of knowing that at any moment she could arrive. It felt exhausting.
I counted every hour, every day that I spent in that room and I knew that with each day or week that was added to her gestation there was a growing hope that she might live. When I say live, I mean make it through delivery and be able to breathe for herself. I was given steroids and antibiotics and everything was done to try and make sure she had the best chance of making it to that point. But after that we had no idea what her life might look like or in what way she would be impacted if she came so prematurely.
All the while our family and friends rallied round us like a massive army! They prayed for us continuously, provided endless supplies of meals, took our children out to play, visited me in hospital, cried with us, sang with us and listened to us. The constant love shown to us by all those around us kept us going and held us up.
So when our beautiful daughter made her appearance into this world on the 18th November last year at just 25 weeks and 4 days (4 very important days I might add!) we knew that she had already faced a mountain to make it to this point. In some ways we breathed a sigh of relief that this part of our journey was over, she had clung on long enough to have a fighting chance and had overcome so many odds already, but our hearts felt broken again, aching, heavy and exhausted. We now had to find the energy and the courage to make it through the days, weeks and months that lay ahead.