I don’t remember everything about that first night in QAH. I remember the shoulder tip pain that no one had warned me about. I didn’t sleep because of this and the fact that my baby was down a few corridors inside an incubator being shaken by a machine that was keeping her alive. It felt as though I was being stabbed in each shoulder. That was the physical sensation. But if I am completely honest, my chest felt heavy. My heart was aching and I recognised this sensation from when my auntie passed away. It was grief and my right hand instinctively went to my heart and rubbed it. This happened for months after my Auntie went, it was a comfort and somehow it eased the pain.
I’m not sure what happened in the morning of day 2. It is likely that I showered. I like to be clean. I’m not even sure if my mum came that day or the day before. I’ll get James to clarify that. I know that mum was there at some stage though, because she spotted a consultant she knew and warned me that she could be a bitch. Mum is good like that, she’s usually a shit hot judge of character and I trust her implicitly with this. However, she is also like a bull in a china shop and it probably would have been better for me not to know that the Dr in charge of my little baby girl that day, was that Dr (who I will refer to as Dr C through the blog). Mum knew Dr T, the man with my dad’s face and she liked him. When they saw each other I noticed a genuine look of respect for each other and I was sure then that my baby girl had the best Dr overseeing her care, even if Dr C was in charge for that day.
Dr T told me that he thought Betty had a problem with her thoracic duct. I remember that, I recognised those words. He said that on day 1 or 2, I’m not sure, but hey, he was bang on! The other piece of diagnostic information I received from Dr T was that Betty had a condition called Hydrops. Thankfully I didn’t even think to google this. If I had done that so early, god only knows what would have become of me. Have a look for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. I even told mum that “I think the Dr said she has Hypox or something”. Mum knew what I meant and her voice sounded a little shaken.
I remember being on the phone to my sister that day. I remember I told her they were going to put a chest drain into my little girl, Betty May Woolridge (we named her that morning). And that Carol had said if babies are ‘very sick’ they get shipped out to Southampton, I took comfort in that, as Betty was still in Portsmouth so she couldn’t be that sick, surely. During that same phone call Dr C came to my room and told me they were going to move Betty to Southampton. My shattered world, in that second, came crashing down all around me. I struggled to breathe. I needed someone to take hold of me but there was no one there. Just a desperate big sister on the end of the phone. Helpless. Just like me. I don’t know the actual name of Dr C and I understand that her decision to move Betty was 100% in her best interest and the right thing to do. But in such a short space of time I had become comfortable with Dr T and I wanted him to look after Betty. If he could have worked 24/7 then maybe Betty would have stayed with him.
James had taken his mum home so I was alone when I was told about the transfer. His mum had visited that day and she had popped in to see me. I vaguely remember it, I know she said something nice to me, she always says something nice. She is kind and thoughtful like I already said. She was a magistrate for 40 years and she has an OBE which is impressive. She also loves shopping and bargain hunting, much like me so we have always gotten along really well. We go Christmas shopping every year and we both love to gossip so when the men are out of the way (James and his dad don’t care much for idle chatter!) we both have right old natter! Of course James knows nothing of our gossip (unless he reads this!).
I told you all about my sister and sister in law getting pregnant around the same time as me and how this made me feel (at the time, I really need to stress that!!) and the reason I told you this is because it is part of this story, my story. This is my blog and as well as helping others, I am doing this for me. All those named in this blog have been asked and given their consent for their names to be used. And so, this means that I have sat and spoken to Sue about how I started to feel immediately following the arrival of my little girl. My inner voice was taunting me, telling me that my baby would love Sue more than me because I had failed her, my body had failed my baby so she would never love me. I know it sounds mad, but that’s how I felt. I was convinced Betty would be taken away from me.
When I was pregnant I had pinned all my hopes on James’s family making a fuss of my baby as my family had three babies to divide their affections over and James’s would only have our baby. I cannot explain what happened or why it happened, but I started to feel completely overwhelmed and threatened by Sue. This took me by complete surprise as we had always had a good relationship (and we do now). There were so many thoughts running through my mind and I didn’t want to talk to anyone other than James, Carol, my sister and Fluff. I didn’t know what to say to people. I knew everyone would have questions and I didn’t have answers, I was terrified that someone would ask a question that I hadn’t considered and scare me even more. I felt the same about Sue. I just wanted everyone to go away and for all of the madness to stop. I was gutted that I felt this way, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind so I just rolled with it. I am fortunate and grateful that Sue is open minded and understanding and I am thankful for that, it supports my belief that honestly is necessary in most situations (I draw the line at telling someone they look fat on their wedding day or that their new super short hair cut is not the one…..!).
Sue (James’s mum) has two sons and one grandson so having a granddaughter was always going to be a delight for her. But having such a sick baby had never been a consideration for her, or any of us. I’m not entirely sure Sue ever fully grasped how bad the situation was and this is no fault of her. I had told James to keep details of our little girls condition as private as possible, at least until we knew what was wrong and if it was treatable. So until this day I am not sure what she knows. And this is likely why she has asked questions that upset me. I know she would never intentionally do this.
Anyway more of that later. James had received a call from Dr C telling him that Betty was to be moved to Southampton as a matter of urgency and he headed straight back to QA. I was told by someone that I would be transferred to the Princess Anne hospital with Betty and I would be a patient there until fit for discharge. James tells me that the reason I was advised against hospital transport was because in an ambulance I would have to be layng down and with the pain from the C section and the shoulder tip pain, I couldn’t lay flat. So, my big brother came over to QA to take me to Southampton and James went in the ambulance with Betty. This was the plan that had been made for me.
James and I were able to go and see Betty before she was moved. The process takes a long time because they have to put the baby into the transport incubator with all the machines and monitoring and make sure that the baby is stable before being moved. They leave the baby in the transport incubator for about an hour before they leave. Betty was being prepped for this big move and there were a lot of people around her. I didn’t know who was who or what the hell was going on. A kind looking Indian lady approached me and said “your baby has about a 50/50 chance of surviving”. Those ten words bounced around my head for weeks. She was so blunt in her delivery. There was no sitting me down in a quiet room. It was just there, BAM, in my face. James was talking to other people, the transport people I think. They sent a consultant over, that was the Indian lady that had delivered the earth shattering ‘50/50’ bombshell. They also had an advanced practitioner, a driver and I think some other people, I don’t really know (what a surprise!). It was like a scene on Casualty, all the beeping of the machines and the bright flickering lights, the flashing of screens, the lights from the phototherapy lamps, the lighting in the NICU. Everything felt too much. Sensory overload. The people talking as if in code, all this technical medical jargon. It was all too much, too busy, too loud, too bright, too painful. My heart was aching and racing. Such a strange combination of feelings. I felt like I was dying, at least how I imagine it to feel. This great weight on my body and the fuzzy haze in my head. Why was my baby so sick? What have I done? Why is this happening to me? Am I that awful that I deserve this? I had all of these and many more thoughts whizzing through my mind as well as the words of the doctors…..”Your daughter is seriously sick”, “the next 24 hours are critical”, “she has a 50/50 chance of surviving”, “we’re doing all we can for her”. It was just too much.
I went back to my room and James stayed with the transport people. I waited for my big brother. Swollen, in pain, confused.
I remember my brother being there, sitting on the chair in the corner of the room. He wasn’t his usual self, normally he’d take the piss out of me, make some joke about my tattoos (which he has never approved of!) or laugh at me for something. But this day was different. It was other people’s reactions that I was starting to notice and my brother was one of the first. I think I was quite rude to the junior Dr that came to do my discharge/transfer bit and my brother would normally pick me up on this, but he stayed quiet. It was obvious I was irritable and I wanted to just go, I wanted to be in Southampton where my baby was heading. The Dr said my abdominal pain was not related to the C section…..I just rolled my eyes, I mean come on, FFS! I ticked the boxes and eventually they let me go. I think I walked/hobbled to the lift, waited patiently in the entrance for my brother to drive round to pick me up so I didn’t have to walk too far. I remember that night, it was raining really hard. My brother is a police officer and so I felt completely safe in the car with him. He avoided any bumps and it was a very smooth journey. We talked, I have no idea what about though. But he got me there, my big brother, everything I needed that night.