Breaking New Territory

10:56 am Amanda 0 Comments

Sunday, 12 March 2017

It's been quite the time between writings. Much has happened. Many maps have been traversed, pages turned, dog eared, smeared, pencil markings in the margins, chapters closed, and new ones begun.

Even now, approaching two years on from the miscarriage, there are still days where it hurts. It's fresh again, and weeping around the edges. It traverses each cycle of the moon behind my eyelids, in that darkened space, healing but never forgetting.

In September 2015 we were blessed with a second positive pregnancy test. We didn't dare to hope too hard. After being lulled into a false sense of security by all the symptoms the first time, it was impossible to relax. Every twinge, every tug, every wave of nausea on my morning bus trip, every painful ligament stretch could mean everything or nothing. I obsessively checked for blood, and yet was still afraid to breathe when nothing appeared.

We had gone in for a reassurance scan at 7+6 weeks to make sure everything was on the right track, and saw the little flutter of a heartbeat. On November 9, at 12 weeks, we saw our baby for the very first time, rocking and rolling and pumping along to the beat of its own drum already, refusing to hold still for the technicians. It was healthy, and full of beans, and so Jelly Bean was formally announced to the world!

Of course in typical Amanda fashion, nothing stayed simple. After beginning to bleed at 20 weeks, and being sent home to wait it out, our anomaly scan diagnosed the relatively common condition of placenta praevia. But to complicate things further, the specialist who was brought in to check me out also diagnosed me as having a rare bilobata placenta  - or double placenta. The two lobes were connected with foetal vessels which were also in a dangerously low position, known as vasa praevia. This rarer condition, undiagnosed or with an unexpected rupture, can be fatal to the foetus.

With the greatest of mercies, the anterior placental lobe continued to pull itself higher up the uterus wall and by 28 weeks the foetal vessels were regarded as safe and out of danger. This wasn't before I had already spent a period of time as an inpatient because of repetitive placental bleeds. I became very well acquainted with the Labour and Antenatal Wards of King's College Hospital. I did consider change of address cards.

By Easter 2016, I was admitted for the fourth time. I had bleeds for which I did not present to the doctors, but this was my seventh recorded bleeding episode. Things began to get serious, and I was administered with the steroid injections required to encourage and support Jelly Bean's lung development. We already knew I wouldn't go past 37 weeks, but there was concern it might not get that far. However I couldn't submit to the recommendation to be hospitalised for a further five weeks until my planned delivery, and signed myself out on Easter Sunday, desperate for my own bed and a hot cross bun.

Were we to have been living any further away from the hospital, or had I had another episode of any magnitude, I would have stayed. I had already proved the medical anomaly by possessing this double placenta, and by having the bleeding episodes so early. Nobody had expected them before 28-30 weeks, by which time I had already spent a bit over an accumulative fortnight in hospital under observation. It now appeared that when the bleeding episodes would usually start, mine were coming to a close.

On Anzac Day, four days out from my booked caesarean delivery (there is no option other than a surgical birth for major and complete placenta praevia) and after getting up at 3:30am for the dawn service at Hyde Park Corner, I could be found shifting the dining table, obsessively scrubbing windows, and standing on a dining chair, vacuuming cobwebs only I could see from the cornices of our 9ft high ceilings. The dull ache in my lower back, and upset stomach, I had been feeling for a few days still hadn't passed, and I chalked it up to stress and nerves.

At 5am the following morning, I woke from a dream of avalanches (in fairness I had been watching the Everest documentary before bed, whilst cleaning) and immediately knew I was bleeding. One gets quite good with the instinct of a bleed after a while. I also knew this was different. The bleeding was far more significant than in the past, and it wasn't showing signs of abating. I wasn't prepared for this, having convinced myself that since I had been bleed-free for nearly a month, Jelly Bean was good and safe and waiting for Friday. Jelly Bean was clearly not on the same page of my playbook. Damn it, this was supposed to be my "visit old workplace and gorge on cake whilst waddling like a fat penguin and having people laugh at me" day!

With no hospital bag ready, and baby supplies arriving by Amazon order that day, I followed my registrar's strict instructions and called for an ambulance. With only two hours sleep, I woke my poor zombified husband, threw a phone charger and whatever few bits I could locate into a bag, packed my hospital notes and sat on the floor in shock. My back was still aching, but I assumed this was stress. Still.

The paramedics arrived, called ahead, and bundled me up. After a stretcher ride through A&E and the back entrance into the Jubilee Building, and a run-in with the labour ward reception staff ("Why do you THINK she's here?" -- the paramedic left for his next job, still raging about the idiots in the world), I was pushed into a delivery room to await my fate. Stuck with needles, veins pierced and burst, and cotton wool pads adorning my arm, I was eventually cannulated and hooked up to the foetal monitor. The bleed had stopped, and an apple sized clot (which hurt like a bitch) was removed. The duty registrar told me they would prep me for delivery, just in case, and continue monitoring.

At 7:15am, with the onset of mild contractions, my waters broke. This isn't supposed to happen with placenta praevia. The midwife informed the senior surgeon, who in turn insisted it wasn't supposed to happen. Jelly Bean was well and truly done with being jammed transverse under my ribs. The senior anaesthetist came to visit; the senior surgeon did a preparatory scan and discovered my two placentas; and shit got real. Turns out, lower back pain and an upset stomach was the indication of baby ready to appear.

Senior staff were everywhere. I could have swung a cat and netted enough for an auction. It was the start of the Junior Doctor strike, which we thought we'd miss. I couldn't have had better care. Or more support for the Juniors on the picket lines. Long live the NHS! Down with Jeremy Hunt!

At 8:15am, in the operating theatre with Absolute 80s playing away on the radio and the sun pouring in through the window, I was administered my epidural. I worked out shortly after not to look up whilst on the table, or you can see everything they do reflected in the lights. Shit got realer still and they stuck the catheter in. Epidurals might kill the pain but they also make you feel really weird. And sick. Being numb from the boobs down is not a normal, every day, popping to the supermarket for a pint of milk experience.

At 8:46am, after the pre-emptive warning of even more shit about to be getting super real from my anaesthetist, our son was born. Feet first. Then bum. No mistaking the appendages. A little help from the forceps to remove his (hopefully intelligent) head from where it was stubbornly stuck.

I knew it had been a boy. I just knew. Too many external stimuli of his father's preference had resulted from in-womb responses. Blur. Idlewild. Horse racing. Football. And to make his daddy proud, after he was brought to me by the midwife whilst I was being closed up (another way to feel ill, whilst things are shoved back to where they should be, and you feel motion sick but are genuinely frozen to a table -- thank you anaesthetist for your miracle drugs), he let go an almighty wee. Soaked his towel. Soaked my midwife. A sign of the power of the wee to come.

April 2015 was a moment of mind-numbing excitement when the second line appeared. June 2016 was a rending of all the maybes and a shattering of the possibles. September 2016 brought hope.

April 2016, born nearly 4 weeks early at 36+3 weeks, our little rainbow baby entered the world.

There is much to say since that day. It hasn't been easy. Medical concerns. Guilt. Newly diagnosed PND. Adventures. Wee. So much wee. My god, the wee. And the milestones too.

Mum life is hard. Dad life seems a little less hard sometimes. It's confusing. Conflicting. Distressing. Disturbing. Wet. Mucky. Sleepless. Worrying. Rewarding.

After all the screw ups, I managed to at least get this bit right. I like to think that our angel baby made sure we'd be kept on our toes with this one. And I like to think that we've started the next generation out pretty well.

There will never be a day go by where our angel baby isn't part of our lives. But even in the most difficult times, when you're sitting in a corner rocking back and forth and chewing your hair, wondering how something so small can make so many demands and never be satisfied, I realise I wouldn't go back and change where we've come from. Without our loss, we wouldn't be here. We wouldn't have our Jelly Bean in the flesh.

Troublemaker. Phone stealer. Flirt machine. Heartbreaker.

Master Christopher -- 26 April 2016.


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