by Sarah Brennan
I arrive in the early hours, by ambulance, whist Mark follows in the car. I’m given steroids, antibiotics and, blood thinning drugs and left to rest. In the morning an anesthetist pops in to explain the emergency C-section and, the consultant kindly arranges a visit to the neo-natal unit so we can prepare ourselves. It’s an emotional visit leaving us a little more at ease but still terrified. How can we deal with this? We feel so vulnerable and fearful.
The consultant suggests twice daily monitoring, a scan later in the week, pain relief and rest. I’m in agony, every baby kick, stretch, minor movement and, hiccup is so painful now the barrier of the waters has gone. I'm calling bump Little Miss B now, it makes me feel happier about naming her without seeing her.
I feel like I’m in the right place but, in terrifying pain. I can’t help thinking, How can this be right? The doctors run tests and give me strong pain relief but, I really just have to sit tight. The longer Little Miss B stays in there, the better. This is the first time her heart rate drops and it’s so scary, they think she’s squeezing the cord.
Another scan and I walk there, albeit slowly. The pain is easier than last week although the bump is still sore. Still baby is producing enough waters to keep growing and thriving and, thankfully no further change in the cord.
A new consultant and the ward sister pop in and suggest I go home to rest, and I agree. I’m fed up and feel I’m taking up valuable time and, a bed on the ward where the staff were amazing considering they were rushed off their feet. I’ve nothing but praise for the care I’ve received.
The monitors pick up the baby and show a connection between the deceleration of her heartbeat and my pain. A doctor checks and is happy with my progress, so we book in for a diabetic consultant appointment and scan on the Wednesday.
The scan shows the baby is growing well, although the fluid is still low and the cord is slowly deteriorating. However, even the sonographer notices how much pain I’m in. The consultant isn’t available and I just crumble in tears. We don’t know what’s going on and I’m in a state of panic. They send me to the day unit to be monitored then up to labour to see a consultant but, again, nobody is available. A SHO explains the pain is caused by my muscles splitting because I’ve no waters. I leave for home feeling despondent.
We feel so despondent we chase the consultant who calls us in to go through everything. We tour the neonatal unit at Bridgend and a date for a planned C-section is set, 7th October.
My friend Alison takes me to day assessment and the baby seems happy. Mark gets home from work, but is concerned as he thinks I don’t look well. As I get ready for bed I’m feeling dreadful, legs aching and lots of pain across the bump. I take painkillers and have an early night.
I still feel awful, lots of pain and I’ve noticed a change in the waters that have leaked overnight. By 7am I’m getting ready to call into work to finalise my maternity leave plans, but by 8am I have a very large shower and, contractions are on and off so I call the hospital and they tell me to come in. By 10am I’m on monitors which show the baby isn’t moving much and her heart rate is fairly static. A consultant feels my bump when I have a contraction. I’m in early labour...
She races off to organise things but, in the meantime, another consultant mistakenly says it’s all okay, that I’ll possibly be sent home. Thankfully a midwife appears and says I’m having a scan to see where the baby is lying, as she’s breach, and I’ll be having a C-section today. I’m booked in as an emergency and I’m told I’ll have the baby after 1pm.
Just after 1pm we walk calmly down to the delivery suite and an hour later we walk across to theatre. I feel relaxed and comfortable, it’s nice to feel in control for a bit. At 2.51pm our daughter is born, she lets out a cry and we're in tears. We're finally parents!
Our little bundle is raced into the SCBU, I’ve not seen her yet. I’m stitched back up but half way through I start to feel it. The doctors want to put me under but, I’m so determined to see my baby today I lie and say it’s just pulling. I’m moved to the delivery room and, the consultant comes in to run through the op, which went well. One of the SCBU team pops to let us know the baby is okay, hooked up to the CPAP but responding well. Mark goes to see her and brings back the first precious photos that I cherish until I can finally see her myself.
By 9pm I’m determined to see her myself, much to the midwives displeasure. Mark wheels me down and I’m excited and nervous going into the room of incubators, monitors and equipment. I’m told she’s still on CPAP but breathing on her own. She’s a little jaundiced and her temperature is being regulated by the incubator.
"Can I touch her?", I ask, they say yes and I dissolve in tears. She’s so small and perfect, 10 fingers and toes, tiny ears, mouth and nose. We discuss names and finally settle on Eryn Elisabeth. We tell the staff because seeing ‘Female Brennan’ on her tags is so upsetting, it’s like she’s here but not.
I spend the night alone, wide awake listening to the ward full of babies. I see the doctor and the diabetic midwife but I’m itching to see Eryn. I just want to cuddle her, it’s the hardest thing watching other mums picking up their babies.
Cuddles can now begin as she’s off CPAP and breathing on her own, but I’m scared because she’s so tiny. Will I feel complete at last? I’m handed Eryn, complete with tubes and wires and, I crumble in a rush of emotion and love. Then she’s sick all over me, finally I feel like a mum! Julie, one of the nurses, explains her care and also asks about feeding. I’m determined to do it myself, I couldn’t deliver her naturally but I definitely want to feed her.
By Saturday I’m fed up and not resting here in hospital. I want to go home and, as soon as I’m discharged, the first place we head is SCBU for cuddles. Leaving that first night I’m in tears and the staff are excellent, saying I can call any time. We settle down for an early night, but I set the alarm for 2am to express again. It’s strange to be up alone with a photograph of our daughter and a machine for company.
After breakfast we’re back at hospital and Groundhog Day begins, the routine of Mark driving us in, sitting by the incubator, expressing feeds, cuddles and returning home is the norm for the next few weeks. Every day there’s a glimmer of hope that we might get a date for her to come home but, the doctors don’t want to rush. It’s frustrating, we just want to be a family. Until she’s home we feel stuck in limbo.
Eryn is refusing to latch on and I need to make a hard decision, bottle fed or breast fed. I want to keep feeding her, the expressing is going well. We decide to switch to bottle feeding her expressed milk. They pop my milk into a bottle and she drinks the lot. We get a date to go home at last, October 22nd 2014, three weeks after she was born.
We’re finally going home and we have to pinch ourselves. She’s so tiny in the car seat and it feels surreal. Our first night is good and Mark is amazing, helping with bottles and nappies. We settle into a routine of four hourly feeds and it all feels right, like she was always meant to be here. Mark’s paternity is at an end, so he’s back to work soon and I’m feeling daunted. What if something happens?
Night two and by 8pm I’m in a mess. I’ve not expressed enough milk so I’ve ran out. How am I going to feed Eryn? She’s unsettled as I pop the bottle down and promptly knock it over. I end up on the floor in a pile of tears just as Mark phones. Then I get two visitors, my friends Alison and Jules and they take Eryn off, pop the kettle on and calm me down.
I feel in a daze as my mother-in-law arrives for an overnight stay. I’m more relaxed knowing help is at hand. I know the coming weeks and months will be tough but, finally, I know it’s all going to be okay.
We both feel so blessed to have only spent a few short weeks in SCBU and to have a healthy baby girl at last. We owe our thanks to the staff on Ward 12 of Singleton Hospital for their care, to Sarah, the midwives, nursery staff and SCBU team at Bridgend Hospital, to our own GP surgery and our family for their continued support.
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