Of course not everyone goes through a traumatic pre-term birth, I know my views on being a parent are massively distorted and were from the very start. But I also know a lot of special needs mummies who have been through similar situations to myself.
I am not trying to scare anyone with this honest account of my twins’ birth.
I wish more than anything that nobody else has to go through what we did.
But I hope that by telling it like it is, it may help somebody else who has experienced this kind of trauma, to feel less alone and less guilty (because no matter how much we tell ourselves it’s not our fault, we can’t help but take the blame for causing our children’s disability in some way).
And it might just help somebody notice the signs of pre-term labour. Because in my situation, I’m not sure the docs really thought the babies were actually going to arrive!
At 27 weeks and 2 days gestation I woke up at 5am thinking I had a leaky bladder. It didn’t seem like my waters had broken as it was just a trickle, but something inside told me to call the midwife.
Plus I had a friend that had just had twins at 27 weeks, so I knew it could happen.
The midwife told me not to worry, but to come in to hospital to be checked over in my own time. In fact I think they actually said “have a cuppa and wander in when you’re ready.” Very relaxed. So I didn’t worry too much.
A couple of hours later, after the initial lack of concern, my consultant confirmed that Twin 1 (my daughter) had ruptured her membranes and it was amniotic fluid leaking out, not urine.
After a scan, they told me they would try to hold off labour for as long as possible (hopefully several days or even weeks) as the fluid was only leaking slowly and was replenishing itself.
Skip to a few hours later and I’m having huge contractions! But nobody believed me. They said the monitors didn’t show I was in labour at all.
HOLY CRAP! They were beyond measure. But having never had a child before, I presumed I was just being a wimp and it would pass.
They did however give me steroids (to help bring on the babies’ lungs, but they were very reluctant to do so as they still didn’t really think I was in labour.
After a few more hours I told a very nice nurse that popped in to check on me that the paracetamol I had taken really wasn’t helping (as politely as possible) and she looked at me and said: “Don’t worry. I can see that this is getting more complicated. I am going to speak to somebody and get you transferred. You can’t have these babies here! (they couldn’t take pre-term babies before 30 weeks at my local hospital).
Ok, so if I’m honest, I really started to feel a bit shit by this point and this was the only person who seemed to understand what was going on.
Skip half an hour or so and I’m in an ambulance that is winding in and out of heavy traffic with sirens screaming, having mega contractions every few minutes, whilst holding a sick bowl. (The sick bowl wasn’t for me, it was for the midwife - she got travel sick going so fast in the back of the ambulance! You can imagine my joy!
Arrive at new hospital (famous one from One Born Every Minute). Tell them straight away there is no chance they are getting me on telly…..to which they reply: “Don’t worry. You’re not in labour! You won’t be having any babies”.
Me:“Then what the blinking hell are these contractions all about then?!?!? And the blood that seems to now be pouring out of me? I might be new to all this, but I really don’t think these babies are staying inside!” Or words to that effect!
Skip a few more hours, a bit more pain and various medical professionals telling me I’m still not in labour, the doc says he’s going to give me some sleeping pills (I think it’s about midnight at this point and this has been going on since 5am).
Then he says: ”Do you think I should check your cervix? Just in case?”. They hadn’t done so at all up ’til now through fear of giving me an infection.
Me (politely): “Um, well I haven’t done this before, so what do you think?” “OK” he says. “I will just take a quick look.” (Doctor goes downstairs…then has a mild heart attack).
“I can see hair”, he says to the midwife. And he wasn’t talking about the fact that I clearly wasn’t prepared for being on such display that day!!
After a few minutes, they decided that there wasn’t a rush, they could give me an epidural and then I could try to deliver the babies naturally in theatre.
So the anaesthetist gets me ready and performs the epidural.
I am shaking like a leaf by now and it makes it tricky for them to get the (giant!) needle in. But they manage it. It doesn’t work. (FFS! Why me!??!). I can still feel and move everything below the waist.
Then all hell broke loose.
Twin 1 (my little girl) had made lots of room in my womb now that she had decided she wanted to be delivered and so Twin 2 (my son) managed to do a somersault and knot his umbilical cord. His heart rate plummeted.
It was like when you are on a plane and you constantly look at the cabin crew when the turbulence hits, to make sure they don’t look worried.
Well I was doing this with the docs and they were PANICKING!
I was wheeled at warp speed down a corridor to the theatre where they tried to calm me down to give me a General Anaesthetic.
They gave me something to drink and pushed down hard on my throat. I think that was the quickest way to knock me out in an emergency and not just to shut me up, but I don’t know for sure.
That’s the last thing I remember. I was out. The babies were then born by emergency C-Section pretty quickly.
In fact the midwife told me afterwards that the doctors had already started cutting me open before I was under (this makes me feel a bit sick) so I presume the epidural had finally kicked in.
They were in Neonatal Intensive Care and I had no idea if they had survived or where my husband was.
Finally somebody came over to get me another blanket for the shivers and explained that the babies were both alive, but that my little boy did “have to be worked on”.
At this point I didn’t really know what that meant and I was too scared, too cold and too exhausted to ask any more questions.
They told me they were both being ventilated and were in incubators and they weighed around 2lbs each.
Then my husband came in and I really only remember crying and begging him to tell me they were ok. The doctors asked if I wanted to go and see them, but I still couldn’t get out of bed as the anaesthetic, along with the shock and section, meant I couldn’t physically move. And I was so scared of seeing them and not being able to cope.
So my hubby went and took a photo of them both for me.
They looked so poorly and helpless. But in a few hours time, I was going to see them and I’m glad that I got to see a photos first to prepare myself.
They were even smaller in the flesh than I had imagined, but at least I was already prepared for all the wires and monitors and that really helped me get a grip.
As a result of pre-term birth and the lack of oxygen that he suffered whilst his cord was in a knot, my son has a severe physical disability (Cerebral Palsy, spastic quad).
And I do find myself wondering if I had shouted a bit louder, if I had asked them to check my cervix, if they had realised what was going on sooner, maybe, just maybe, he would not have suffered the brain damage that he did. Or maybe he still would have. I will never know. I try not to think about that. I try to think that it could have been so much worse. I could have lost him, or both of my babies.
And so I thank those panicky doctors for getting them out before something worse happened
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