It was exactly one week before the birth, 26+4 when I turned to my partner in the car and said “Something awful is going to happen”. He laughed, shook his head. I didn’t even know why I said it, or what it related to, but this terrible feeling hit me. I remember exactly where I was when I said it.
6 days later I was alone in the house treating myself to chocolate, and reading a book I found at the supermarket which went through pregnancy, week by week. “Not much happening just now” I thought, flicking through week 27. It wasn’t worth looking into what happens in labour either, it was way too early for that!
I began having strange pains shortly after – at first, I assumed it was wind, and no doubt worse because I was pregnant. But it soon started taking my breath away. My partner arrived home from work and even he reckoned it was time to phone the hospital. I also called my friend, who had not long had a baby – she tried to reassure me but I could hear in her voice she knew what was going on…
At outpatients the doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Looking back, it was obvious, but I was handling the pain well so perhaps I was confusing him. He checked for infection, and that was negative, so I was wheeled to triage to see what the midwives thought.
And the midwives didn’t think much either. The lady sat at her computer at the bottom of the bed while I was hooked up. No-one told me what was going on. And she left us, alone in the room, for what felt like ages.
Then the pain became so intense I couldn’t cope. I shouted, I swore, I stopped being so proud, and the midwives dashed in. Minutes later I just remember a woman telling me – “you’re 9cm dilated, the baby is coming tonight.”
That was it. I was in shock. I don’t think it even got through to me. Through pain killing drugs I honestly began to think I was in a deep dream. Baby was distressed and I needed my waters broken in theatre. Had she turned the wrong way, I would have needed a C-section. She didn’t and I was wheeled back to the labour ward while a man discussed an epidural with me. I said yes, go for it. I don’t even know anything about labour.
Things calmed down for a little bit and I remember a nurse telling me that she was 27 weeks and we had a good chance she would survive. Again all this information failed to hit me emotionally because I honestly thought I was dreaming.
And then it was time for the baby to arrive. Midwives were telling me to push – how can you possibly push when your head is telling you “No way – this is NOT time.”?
I remember seeing her, Alex, she was lying on the bed, my eyes were blurred and I couldnt see more than a little body. She made a very quick, short cry. A lady swooped in the room with a plastic bag, put Alex in and ran off.
And the panic was over, the doctors and midwives that had packed my room had gone. They pushed the incubator into my room to show me her but I couldn’t see her at such a distance. And I was jolted to reality in the recovery ward, handed toast and listening to the new mums talking away. I couldn’t stop shaking.
Hours went on whilst the NICU team were working on her, and we were told we could see her. Still unable to walk from the epidural, my partner wheeled me to the intensive care nursery and we washed our hands. I will never forget looking at the first incubator and seeing a tiny baby in there. All I could think was “Poor baby, poor parents”.
And then they pushed me towards THAT incubator and told me this was my baby. For a second, I thought they had got this all wrong. In my drugged up state in the labour ward, she looked bigger, but in reality, she wasn’t. She was 2lb 14oz – heavier than average, and they told me this was in her favor.
It was here, our NICU journey began. I got to hold her a few days later, although I was frightened to keep her out too long and wanted her back in the safety of her incubator. We were told she had a Grade IV IVH, and we fell apart, badgering the consultant, asking what the future would be. But no one knew. We just had to take one day at a time….
Alex is approaching her 4th birthday. After laser eye surgery and years of worry and appointments, it turns out she does have developmental delay and still cannot talk. She has recently been diagnosed with autism, but all in all this is a brighter picture than the one we were painted 4 years ago. She attends mainstream nursery, and also has a little, full term sister. We are so, so proud of Alex, she has come a long way.