Guest Blogger: Katy Batley #muminreallife
Coping when things don’t go as planned.
A memoir of my experience with pregnancy, preeclampsia, and post birth grief.
We’d been trying to conceive for 12 months and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I finally saw those two lines on a test, I was numbed, the most marvellous ecstasy I’d ever felt. I ran up to the bedroom and woke my husband up and showed him. He blinked at it a few times slowly waking up. “Two lines!” I said. “We did it!” I jumped on him and we held each other tight. Tears rolling down my face I asked: “What do we do now?” and he replied: “Keep hugging.” And we did.
I was fortunate enough not to suffer with actual vomiting, just constant nausea, which I mostly combated with a diet consisting of crumpets. I bloomed; despite being ‘plus size’ I had a spectacular bump, I bonded so much with my little baby, we had several private scans to excitedly find out the gender as soon as possible and take a look at his features in a 4D scan.
Not long into the third trimester I began to struggle; my bump was heavy and needed support. I bought a support band and carried on. Nothing was going to get me down, I was finally pregnant, I would be forever grateful to be pregnant at all.
My feet began swelling, so I spent all winter in flip flops. My hands began swelling, so I abandoned my wedding and engagement rings. We took a babymoon to Paris and walking had become increasingly difficult for me. I was suffering with SPD/Pelvic Girdle Pain. I still wasn’t to be downtrodden. I was pregnant, and things were progressing well. Our little boy was growing big and strong. It didn’t matter that I was in pain every time I moved my legs; getting out of bed was nearly impossible, and simple things like driving and taking the stairs were soon to be out of my repertoire.
I was working full time, an office job with a lot of responsibility. I actually went through two separate rounds of redundancy risks during my pregnancy. I never wished I wasn’t pregnant, I had eternal hope things would work out, and even if they didn’t, it didn’t matter. We would have our much longed for baby. Thankfully when I was unable to drive, they let me work from home, so despite the stress of the company merger I kept ploughing on.
I had a planned growth scan at 35 weeks and had some protein in my urine and slightly raised blood pressure. The consultant didn’t make a fuss but said I should get it checked again next week. I had a routine midwife appointment at 36+5 so I was covered.
So, the day came. It was in that bizarre heatwave we had in February. I was working from home and messaged my manager reminding him of my appointment. “I’ll be back on line in half an hour or so, speak later”. I left the house, laptop left on, dressed only in a vest top and leggings and flip flops, with my keys and phone.
My urine had protein in, and my blood pressure was 190/122 (I was later to learn that in the 200s you’re at risk of having a stroke). I felt calm and didn’t realise the unravelling situation that would ultimately lead to my son being born the very next day...…
“Can your husband come and get you?” The Midwife asked me as my blood pressure measured 190/122 at my 36 week check up. “No, he’s at work an hour away. But my friend can, I’ll call her.” And so I called my friend to take me to triage to be monitored. I later learned that if I had replied that no one could collect me, I would have been blue-lighted by an ambulance. “If your vision goes blurry on the journey (a mere 20 minutes) then have her pull over and call 999”. Suddenly this seemed a bit serious.
I got to triage and had some blood taken to confirm if it was preeclampsia. It was. I was informed by a doctor that the only thing to do would be to deliver our baby. I was close to 37 weeks so this was deemed to be the best course of action, I was not going to get better any time soon as the placenta was now acting against me, and I was already on the edge of having a stroke. The doctor wanted to induce me, and I asked if I could sleep on it. I’d heard so much about failed inductions when done early on that I considered cutting out the middleman (pun not intended!) and having a C section might be best. The staff encouraged me to try the induction; it was the last shot for a natural birth. (Why this matters, I no longer know, but at the time it was persuasive).
Along comes 2am in the morning. Quite quickly too, as my blood pressure was being monitored every 15 minutes (so no sleep for me; just what you want before going into labour!). My levels were getting worse and it was time for the pessary to go in and begin the induction. I sent a quick text to my sleeping husband who had gone home to rest “Been induced. We’re officially having a baby. Come to the hospital when you get this message”.
The induction did not progress well for me, the baby’s heart rate needed constant monitoring and he was a wriggler – meaning I had to manually hold the sensor on my bump and track him as he moved to keep the data flowing for the midwives. No chance for sleep, no chance to move around, no opportunity to even writhe in pain with the contractions. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. Many hours later when a doctor popped her head in the door, she took one look at me and asked “Would you like some pethidine?”. “YES” quickly shot from my mouth.
The drugs helped, I went to sleep, I felt no pain. I had some crazy rainbow dreams I can scarcely remember. But I woke up to a flurry of midwives. The baby’s heart rate was dipping after contractions and the words were uttered “Baby is in distress.”I knew what this meant. As soon as someone says that on One Born Every Minute, a c section soon follows. Despite over 12 hours of labour I was only 1cm dilated, they said breaking my waters manually may not be successful, so a Caesarean was our best course of action. I cried. It was scary. This all of a sudden had gone from me working at home and nipping out to being rushed to hospital and now having my baby, not due for over three weeks, cut out from me.
No hospital packing, no final bump pictures taken, no waters breaking, no driving excitedly to hospital by my husband to meet our baby. No vaginal birth. No hypnobirthing. No birth pool. No dimmed lights and playlist, no choices at all. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the beginnings of the grief I would experience following the birth.
The C section actually went well, the spinal block went in first time (I was ‘complimented’ on the fact that my back fat was all at the sides and not covering my spine!) The staff were amazing. I was given diamorphine and was honestly, high as a kite. After he as born and checked over, our son was placed inside my gown so we could enjoy skin to skin contact. Our son. Was born. He had arrived. We were both ok (ish).
Arthur John Batley, weighing 7lb 5oz, born 19.19pm on the 27th February 2019 at 36 weeks and 6 days gestation – Welcome to the world little one, we’ve been waiting for you!