On arrival to the maternity unit we were taken through and rigged up to the standard monitoring device. From my understanding, one monitors the baby’s heart beat and the other checks for uterine movement or contractions (but I’m not a midwife so I don’t know for sure). From what I could make out from the chatter of the midwives, I needed to ‘meet the criteria’. I don’t know what this was but it was clear there was a time frame for it. I did not meet the criteria and so they left the monitors on me for 2 hours and by this time, I had met the criteria. The pain in my back was intolerable and I was constantly shifting and moving which encouraged eye rolls from the midwives who would rather I sit completely still for two hours with a bladder that felt the size of a pea and pressure pushing down on it constantly. I had to use a commode several times so that I could keep the monitoring device on whilst using the loo. A couple of midwives looked a little dissatisfied with the monitor’s results but it was clear that their protocol was to send me home as I had met the criteria. However, a junior Dr did examine me as they staff thought I was in labour because the monitor had picked up some ‘tightening’s’. No one seemed remotely phased at the fact I was telling them I could feel nothing. NOTHIING. Not my baby, not any muscles tightening. Not a single peep.
This junior Dr said something along the lines of, ‘come back if you’re still worried’, which I took to be simply a polite departure. However, James took this much more literally and thank god he did. We went home that night and I planned to go to work on Sunday. When I woke Sunday morning, James asked me how I was, how the movement was. I told him there had been no change at all and that I was going to work because the hospital had said the monitoring was ‘normal’. James was clearly worried and when he is worried I know there is good reason and so I made a call to the duty manager and went sick. We headed back to QAH and were once again hooked up to the monitors. Again, the monitoring was inconclusive. One midwife suggested that ‘the baby is probably just squeezing the umbilical cord and that’s why the heart rate keeps dropping so drastically’. Now, had I been a general nurse, I may have had some insight into this, but as a psych nurse, I know very little about pregnancy and what is normal behaviour for a 35 week foetus.
I was seen very briefly by a registrar who I caught a glimpse of. He was looking at the monitoring results and he didn’t looked impressed. He decided to admit me to the ward to continue monitoring overnight. What seemed completely bonkers to both me and James was that we were in a room directly opposite the sonogram machine but were repeatedly told “no one can scan you, it’s a bank holiday’. One of the midwives booked me for a scan on the Tuesday (May 29th) morning but me and James were not satisfied with that, it was becoming clearer as the monitoring continued to show inconclusive results, that something was wrong with our baby. James arranged for us to go on the bank holiday Monday to London to have a private scan, the closest one to us and open on the bank holiday. I felt actually, as if the staff thought I wanted a quick scan and that’s why I was reporting reduced foetal movement. I had heard of people doing this in pregnancy and I think it’s disgusting. To lie about the wellbeing of your unborn, that’s just not ok. But I guess the midwives see all sorts so they may judge. I don’t know, I’m going on pure gut feeling with this.
Anyway, so I stayed in on the Sunday night and had the monitor on all night, so I didn’t really sleep. There was a woman next to me, she was expressing milk for her baby that was born preterm but at this stage in my journey I had no idea what this really meant. I just smiled and made the right sort of noises when she said things. That night I was texting a work friend, I was keeping her up to date with what was happening, I was quite relaxed because I even told my work friend that the Drs were considering inducing me the next day, this had briefly been mentioned amongst many other maybes.
When Monday morning arrived I was reassured by another Dr that I would most likely be going home with nothing to worry about and so I called James to come and collect me. At 08:50 a consultant obstetrician came to see me. He looked at the monitoring paperwork and said ‘this all looks normal to me, I am not worried, but as I am here, I will scan you before you go home’ (this is my memory of what he said). So the midwife who was with me at the time came into the scanning room with me. The Dr had two juniors with him. When he got a clear image he laughed and ushered his colleagues closer to the screen, saying to me ‘I’ll show you in a minute, I know what the problem is now’. He looked happy, gleeful even, so I didn’t worry at all. He turned the screen to me and pointed to what he told me was the chest area of my baby. He said ‘you see this, pleural effusion, and this ascites (fluid around the abdomen), it is fluid, lots of fluid and you can see the lungs and heart are squashed’. I felt like I was back at uni listening to a professor describe a diagnosis. It was surreal, and maybe that’s when my head started to fill with fuzziness.
I know what a chest should look like and my baby’s chest was not normal. The entire right side was black, full of fluid, pushing her lungs and heart to the left side of her chest cavity. Her left lung was pushing around to her back and her heart was hardly visible due to being sandwiched between her lungs. The fluid was pushing her vital organs out of their original positions and her heart was not able to beat regularly. This is why she was not moving inside me. She couldn’t move. And the Dr told me if I had waited for the Tuesday scan that they had booked, my baby would have died. Her little body was literally stretched to its limits. Oddly, so was I. I was so full of fluid but the professionals don’t think this is linked to what happened to the baby. Now, I had just recently completed anther part of the masters which was in physical health examination and so I had learned a lot of these terms. I knew what they were, and given how happy the Dr appeared to be, I stayed fairly calm (fairly calm ish…). Until he said ‘we need to deliver you today’. When I asked if that meant induction he replied ‘no, you and your baby won’t survive labour, we need to deliver you now’. And with that the hustle began. James had arrived by this time and when I saw him I burst into tears. I told him I had to have a caesarean right away and he said ‘ok, its ok, it’s going to be ok’. And typically I said, ‘you don’t know that’.
An hour and a half later I was in theatre being spoken to by a very lovely anaesthetist. She was explaining things to me, she had a kind face and she was young. I only remember her telling me to curve my spine. I remember that and the weird sensation of the spinal going in. I remember pinching James’s arm hard. Leaning on him, physically and emotionally and little did I know this would become the norm for us for the next 5 weeks (and beyond if I’m honest!).