In spring 2018, my partner Dan and I found out that were expecting our first child. We weren’t actively trying for a baby, but it felt like the right time for us. We’d recently moved in with each other and were busy looking after our cat and dog. It was such a happy time.
Apart from feeling sick and tired during my first trimester, everything went smoothly. Our 12-week scan passed us by, and everything seemed to be going well. At 20 weeks, we found out that we were expecting a little girl. We couldn’t wait to meet her.
I still hadn’t felt any movements
At 24 weeks, I went to see my midwife as I still hadn’t felt my baby move. She reassured me that it was probably nothing to worry about and sent me for a scan. This sonographer discovered that the baby was small and that I had an anterior placenta. This meant that my placenta was attached to the front of my womb. They explained that this could be reason I wasn’t feeling my baby move but they wanted to send me for further testing just in case.
The Placenta Clinic in Manchester
I was referred to the Placenta Clinic at Tommy’s Research Centre in Manchester for a detailed 3D scan. The doctor explained that my baby was struggling to get the food she needed because my placenta wasn’t developing properly. Because of this, they said my baby was experiencing fetal growth restriction, which is another way of saying that she was much smaller than she should’ve been.
You only ever see pregnancies that are smooth and uncomplicated. I had to get my head around the fact it was going to be different for us.
I was booked in to return to the clinic every week for a scan. I was also told to pack my hospital bag, just in case she arrived very early. I tried to stay calm and positive – I knew I was being looked after by experts.
Preparing for an early arrival
I went back to the clinic a week later, but they weren’t happy with how everything was developing. The doctor was worried that the blood flow from my placenta was decreasing. During that appointment, we found out that they wouldn’t let me go past 32 weeks whatever happened.
It was an emotional time for both of us. There are lots of practicalities to think about when preparing for a premature baby – I had to start my maternity leave much earlier than I’d expected and make sure arrangements were put in place. Everything seemed to be going so quickly.
At 29 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to St Mary’s Hospital after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. The doctors were worried that my blood pressure was very high and insisted that I rested in bed. My face and feet were very swollen, and it was hard to walk. I felt sick and exhausted.
In some ways, it was nice to rest before baby arrived, but it was a very lonely time. I spent a lot of time at the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic and the staff there were just so kind.
Two weeks in hospital
During my time in hospital, it felt like the doctors were carefully weighing up who they could push further. My health was deteriorating quickly, but the longer my baby remained within me, the stronger she’d be when she was born.
After 2 long weeks, a test showed that my kidneys were beginning to deteriorate. I was 31 weeks pregnant and was booked in for an emergency c-section.
Our beautiful little daughter
I remember I was desperate to hear our baby cry when she was born. After some time had passed, the doctor held her up for me to see and I heard a little whimper. The neonatologists whisked her off straight away.
Our baby, Isla, weighed a tiny 2lb 5oz. We called her our ‘little bag of sugar with arms and legs’.
Isla spent just over 6 weeks in neonatal intensive care (NICU) in total. It was very hard going home without her in my arms, but I knew it was for the best. She eventually left the hospital at the beginning of January 2019.
Thank you Tommy’s
Isla is now 14 months and she’s doing amazingly. The doctors are all really pleased with her development. She’s such a chilled out little character and we’re completely in love.
If it wasn’t for the amazing Tommy’s team in Manchester, I just don’t know if Isla would be here today. The clinic has such amazing technology and committed specialist doctors – it really does make a difference.
After our baby was born, I donated my placenta and umbilical cord to Tommy’s National Biobank for research purposes. I hope it can help them find even more treatments for people like me in the future.