One year ago today. Saturday 10th July 2010. I was 25 weeks and 3 days pregnant. With twins.
David had invited his Dad round to help us start preparing the house for the arrival of our babies in 15 weeks time. There was lots to do including moving a lot of wood and heavy furniture. The house was in chaos so for lunch we went to a tea room on the village high street. It was a lovely day; we were all in high spirits including the bumps. The babies were kicking away and I was a very proud Mum-to-be who could finally feel and see her babies kicking.
After lunch we came home and David and his Dad continued working upstairs. I was sorting and tidying downstairs when I started to feel quite strange. I did not feel well at all. I told David and he told me to have a lie down on the sofa which I did. Very soon I was in a lot of pain and I had to climb the stairs to tell David that I thought something might be wrong. I was crying by this point and scared. I knew all too well what it might mean.
The pain was constant. It did not really feel like it could be contractions but then what did I know? I was terrified. We decided after some deliberation to drive to the hospital which was just 10 minutes from our house.
Driving to the hospital I was crying, screaming and writhing in agony and there was one thought only on mine and David’s mine, one question we wanted answering, were we losing our babies? The babies we had tried so long and hard to conceive through 5 cycles of ICSI. Had we come so far to lose them before they were even born?
We arrived at the hospital where David promptly parked underneath the Do Not Park Here sign where the ambulances arrive. I was in such a state that he left his mobile in the car with the windows all down and the doors all unlocked. He tried to hurry me into a crowded A&E but by this time I was not very mobile at all and I certainly could not hurry.
I managed to stop screaming but I was crying and was clearly in a lot of distress. The receptionist took our information and with a very worried voice and expression she sent us to the labour ward.
I made slow progress and David remembers thinking that it should be a 5 second walk and I was taking too long. There was nothing he could do. I was holding on to the walls as I tried to walk, too slowly, to the ward.
When we finally reached the door it was answered quickly and we were were rushed into a room to be seen. Fiona, the Head Midwife, seemed very flustered about it all. They straight away listened to the babies’ heartbeats and ascertained that they were okay. A brief relief before all attentions were turned to finding out what was wrong with me.
The first test carried out by the doctors and consultants told them that the pain I was experiencing was nothing to do with the babies. The maternity staff relaxed a little as they injected me with steroids for the babies’ lungs – just in case.
I was still in so much pain. I could not focus on anything; no one seemed to know what was wrong or what they could do. They kept plying me with pain killers and asking me to use gas and air to relieve the pain. They tried so many different pain relievers and nothing could alleviate the pain. I had a lot of injections and needles that night. I don’t remember now what any of them were for. But every time a new medication was tried I beg them to tell me if it would harm our babies. Theu did not give me much choice but to take the medicines along with the risks, they did not want to lose me as I was the babies’ only hope to survive.
I was seen by lots of doctors from other non maternity depts. No one knew what was causing the pain. I then started to be sick and amongst all the other needles I was given anti sickness injections but they did not stop the vomiting. One of the consultants decided that to stop the vomiting they would need to insert a tube down my throat and into my stomach. This did make things easier for a while once it was in. Getting it in was horrible and terrifying.
We saw a lot of physicians and nurses that night. Everyone was sorry for us, worried for us; no one could tell us what was wrong.
Someone decided that a CAT scan was needed to try and diagnose what was causing me so much pain. I was wheeled down the corridor; David could stay with me as far as the door. As they prepared me for the scan the doctor there asked if we knew all about the risks of the procedure. We had not been told about any risks to me or the babies. The doctor gave the other staff an annoyed look before explaining about the radiation we would be exposing the babies to and the possible risk of damage to their thyroids, the tests they would need when they were born. It was too much to take in. I could not bear the thought of hurting our babies but everyone kept telling us that for them to have any chance of survival they had to determine what was wrong with me. The best way to help our babies at that time was to try and keep me alive!
We went ahead with the scan and after that a detailed ultrasound scan that showed I had gall stones. At last a reason for the agony and one that would pass but further tests and scans showed that gall stones though present in the gall bladder were not the cause of the problem. The pain, the suffering and the danger were not going to go away.
What more could be done?
On Sunday they moved me from labour to maternity. At first they put me in a shared room but with my continual screaming and vomiting I was terrifying the other patients so I was moved to a room of my own.
David was still with me and had been all night. Now David’s mum and dad were with us too.
More doctors were coming and going, more blood, more tests, more pain relief, more tubes down my throat and every half an hour a listen to the babies who were still going strong.
Again as possibilities were discussed and options considered the staff reminded us that the most important thing was keeping me alive to give the babies any chance of survival. I had already decided and announced to the room that I would rather die than lose the babies. I wanted them to be saved over me.
I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for David. Watching me in so much pain. Wondering if he might have to choose between his unborn children and me.
It was Monday before they operated; until then no one knew if I would live or die, it was that serious. No one knew if I would be able to hang on to the babies. There were no answers and my wonderful fiance must have had so many questions.
On Monday it looked certain that I would need surgery but I was more stable and people seemed to be positive that it was nothing serious and we were all probably going to be fine. Then I had a blood test that showed my white blood cell count was rocketing. This was a sure sign of an infection somewhere inside. The surgeon told me that he was no longer willing to wait. He wanted to cut me open and he wanted to do it now. He was almost certain that the problem was in my bowel. The sickness meant that nothing was passing through my stomach. If the bowel was trapped or twisted and he did not act now then it would be possible for part of the bowel to die from loss of blood flow, this would then have to be removed resulting in a far more complicated surgery. Everything could have been so much worse without the quick thinking and excellent skills of this surgeon. I still clearly remember when he came to see me in recovery on ITU all the other doctors and nurses applauded him for having operated on me successfully without harming our unborn children. What an amazing job!
David remembers me on ITU being happy to be alive and happy that the babies were alive. I was on oxygen and a morphine drip. I had all the wires and machines connected to me that in 2 weeks time our tiny premature babies would have attached to them. I always cry when I listen to Athlete’s song Wires because of the babies, David finds it hard to listen to because it reminds him not only of the babies but of me in the days after my operation.
That first night after surgery I could not sleep and one of the nurses spent a lot of time with me helping me to have a wash and to try and make me comfortable. It was at this time that all of my lower body ballooned. I had severe swelling everywhere below my waist making it almost impossible to walk or sit or do much of anything. It was horrible. Every half an hour a midwife would come from maternity to check on the babies and still their heartbeats were strong.
I was in a lot of pain but I refused to use the morphine all of the time because I was so scared of drugging the babies. Looking back I realise this was silly and probably hindered my recovery somewhat as I was so immobile though pain.
My total hospital stay was 10 days. I could not eat and there was talk of me having a long line so that they could feed me intravenously and get vital fluids and medications into me that way. Soon I would be all too familiar with long lines as the babies endured their stay on NICU.
After a week I was still no better, on oxygen and morphine and so so swollen. The babies were draining my body of any goodness that was left. They decided that I should have a blood transfusion as my iron levels were so low.
I had the transfusion and almost overnight it gave me the boost that I needed to get well and go home. This was again something mirrored in the babies during their hospital stay.
When I was finally able to go home, I was still very swollen and sore. I knew I would need more recovery time at home but everyone seemed confident that they would not see me again before my due date in October. But sadly that was not to be. The babies had obviously had enough, been disturbed too much and they could no longer stay inside. Just a few days later when I was 27+3 Esther and William were born.
David and I had already been so much that the realisation of how early are babies were was not as terrifying as it could have been. We had already all survived so much already this just seemed like the next step on our journey. Another obstacle that together we would overcome and do you know what? We did.
Just look at us now. Almost one year on.
Our miracle babies.
During my 10 day hospital stay David stayed with me every night he was allowed to, often sleeping on the floor. He did things for me no man should have to do for a woman and he never complained or grumbled. He did not show me his fear. He stayed strong for me, for us. He showed me what love means and I can never do enough to show him how much he means to me. He stood by me through an awful awful time. He was there very second that I needed him and I love him more than anything in all the world. I thank him with all I am for being so strong, so good and so amazing.
Those 10 days are a blur for me and I was only able to write this post with his help as they are 10 days that he remembers only too well.
I have the feeling and the emotion from the days but none of the facts but I have David and together we won’t ever forget how lucky we are and how precious Esther and William are. I will never ever let them down and I will do everything I can to protect them as we have always done since before they were born.