My pregnancy with Baby A was not a straightforward one. From practically the moment I got pregnant until 20 weeks, I had sickness morning, noon and night – the doctor described it as “mild” HG, which I gather it was as I was never hospitalised with it to be rigged up on a drip, but at the time it felt anything but mild. My knees were sore from kneeling on the bathroom floor tiles vomiting into the toilet so often. My eldest, J, became obsessed with mummy being poorly when I was home alone and he ended up crying every morning when I tried to drop him off to school because he was so frightened of something happening to me. I was so exhausted that when I wasn’t being sick, I was asleep. At 18 weeks my doctor prescribed me some medication to try and resolve the sickness – at 20 weeks it finally worked, and I started to feel more human again.
The human feeling didn’t last long. Pretty much as soon as the sickness stopped, the PGP and SPD kicked in. Pretty soon I was walking like I’d been kicked up the backside, and physiotherapy helped but didn’t resolve it. Again, I was considered a mild case as I didn’t need a walking stick or a wheelchair, but again it didn’t feel that way as I hobbled to school and home again twice a day, or held onto the shopping trolley in the supermarket for dear life as it was the only thing keeping me upright for the length of time that shopping took.
Despite the difficulties my body was having, I was utterly in love already with this baby I carried. At our 20 week scan they couldn’t finish all the checks required or confirm whether I was carrying a boy or a girl, so I went back at 22 weeks for another scan where it was confirmed all was well, and I was expecting a son. My heart burst with happiness despite the difficulties I was having, and the love which consumed me already doubled in size as I imagined my two sons growing up.
My joy was tainted when I had to have a chat with one of the duty midwives after that scan. She told me that they were operating on a new system which looked at mothers height and weight to work out the weight the baby *should* be. Using the new system, my first baby was considered small. J had been five days over due date when he was born, weighing in at 6lb 10.5oz. I thought it was small at the time, but hospital staff at the time had said it was within normal parameters, nothing to worry about, so I hadn’t done. Now here was a midwife saying I’d been right all along, they would expect my baby to be bigger than that, particularly as he was over due. She advised that due to his birth weight it might indicate that something wasn’t working properly during my previous pregnancy, so as a result they would be keeping a closer eye on me during this pregnancy.
Every two weeks I returned to the hospital for another growth scan, and they measured and checked amniotic fluid levels as well as the size of baby to ensure he was growing as they would expect for his gestation. At 34 weeks I was told that baby was breech (feet down) and I was booked in for consultation to discuss ECV.
I was petrified. I’d heard awful things about ECV’s, the stress they put on babies, how painful they were for mums – I knew of one woman I’d gone to school with who’d tragically lost her baby at 40 weeks after an ECV – I was beside myself with worry. I discussed my fears freely with the consultant at the hospital; she was so calm and confident in the ability of her colleague to perform the ECV it was hard not to believe her. She advised that if they didn’t do an ECV I’d have to be admitted to hospital for a planned C Section as baby was no longer feet down but bottom down and they couldn’t allow me to have a natural labour with him in that position due to the likelihood of additional complications (I’d had a difficult labour with J and his heart rate had gone from accelerating massively in between contractions to dipping far too low during them; he’d struggled and had a bowel movement, and when he was first delivered he had to be taken away from me to have suction and it seemed like an age before his first cry)
At 35 weeks I arrived at the hospital for my ECV. I was still petrified, struggling to stay calm, hoping with everything I had that baby had moved into the right position and I wouldn’t have to go through with the ECV. I was hooked up to the monitors and left for an hour so they had a good baseline reading. The consultant came and checked me over and confirmed baby was still bottom down and ECV would be necessary. “What if I say no?” I asked quietly. He looked at me directly. “Well, then, I’d have to respect your decision and we wouldn’t go ahead with it. However, I must advise you that since you’re now 35 weeks pregnant you could go into labour at any time, and we couldn’t risk that happening while you’re away from the hospital. That means I’d have to admit you, and you’d have to stay here until baby is born.” My heart stopped. He wasn’t kidding. I couldn’t stay in hospital for that long – Daddy P had to work, it would scare the living daylights out of J who was already freaked out enough about the effects pregnancy was having on me, I still had work to finish up before I started maternity leave, but at the same time, I was so scared for my baby.
The consultant registered that this was a big issue for me. “Look,” He said, “I’ll be honest with you. If this hurts, I’m doing it wrong. It might feel uncomfortable, you might feel a bit sick, but if it hurts, tell me and I stop. It shouldn’t hurt – at all.” He looked at me carefully. I’d been told by friends in another county that at their local hospital they were told an ECV would always hurt like hell, that gas and air would be available and they were encouraged to “put up with it until they couldn’t take any more” I told my consultant this and he looked horrified. “We don’t operate like that here,” He said, “If I’m hurting you, tell me and I stop, no questions.” He then ran through the fact that they would monitor baby for at least an hour after the ECV to ensure he wasn’t distressed, and what the ECV would involve, and all that kind of stuff they have to tell you.
He left Daddy P and I for a moment to think. My mind was spinning in a thousand different directions but this consultant, the way he spoke, his reassurance (the fact that he reminded me a lot of a paramedic I used to work with, known fondly as Big Kev and who was in the classification of “knows his shit”) the fact that without this ECV I would have to stay in hospital until a predicted difficult breech delivery or have an elected c section … The decision suddenly became easy. “Lets get on with it, then” I said.
As predicted by the Big-Kev-Alike consultant, the ECV wasn’t painful – it wasn’t even that uncomfortable. It made me feel a bit swimmy and sick, the same as if baby had a good old aerobic workout, but the consultant was gentle and didn’t rush through the procedure, kept checking on the monitor to confirm baby wasn’t distressed, and he was very pleased once it was done, and done so quickly and simply. His only concern was that baby wouldn’t remain in that position before delivery as it had been so easy to move baby round.
I stayed in that hospital bed, on the monitor, for far longer than an hour afterwards. When I asked a midwife why, she said it was just for additional reassurance as I’d been so scared beforehand, the consultant had asked them to increase their normal timescale to be doubly sure that everything was OK before I was released. I wanted to tell him thank you for that, but I never saw him again.
At 36 weeks pregnant I had another growth scan, umbilical function was checked, amniotic fluid was checked, position and growth of baby was checked. The sonographer was happy. I felt relieved. It seemed like, finally, the pregnancy was going to plan.
Two weeks later, the day before I was 38 weeks, I returned for another growth scan. I was asked to go and wait in the ward. It had happened before, and they’d wanted a urine sample, so I assumed it was the same this time round. Daddy P and I sat together chatting and not worrying. We thought everything was OK. After a while of waiting, midwives milling about but nobody dealing with me, I asked a midwife if they needed a urine sample again as I was desperate for a wee. She said no, I was free to go for a wee, so off I went. As I locked the toilet door it suddenly struck me – if they didn’t need a urine sample, what was I waiting for?
Back on the ward, I found out. Another consultant came to take us into a side room. She looked serious. “Your growth scan this week shows baby hasn’t got any bigger since the last scan 2 weeks ago,” She said. “It would appear your placenta is failing, and baby isn’t getting the nutrients he needs to grow. He’s small for this stage of pregnancy, in the fifth percentile, but as long as he was growing he was better off staying inside. Now he has stopped growing, we’re concerned. We want him to be delivered, as quickly as possible.” She was all for inducing me then and there. My world stopped, imploded, erupted, my mind was screaming no, my hands cupped my bump instinctively trying to protect him – but how could I? My own body was betraying me again, failing my baby, failing to help him thrive. If it hadn’t been for those extra scans I’d have never known – he was as active as ever, as I was religious about counting the kicks and being aware of his movements – but here was this woman telling me he was in serious danger if he wasn’t delivered quickly.
I went home that afternoon to make a shaky voiced phone call to my mum, who changed her plans immediately to come up and collect J the following morning to take him away to stay at the caravan. I packed my hospital bag, made arrangements with my mother in law for her to take me into hospital the following morning to be induced. I was petrified, again, and all night I barely slept because I was panicking about him not making it until the morning.
The next morning, in a daze, I got into the car and we drove to the hospital. I don’t remember if we talked or laughed or if we were silent or what happened. I was shaking, and scared, and willing my baby to be OK.
I was induced just after 11am. I was encouraged to walk around, to keep active, as the theory was that it would be quicker if I did. All day, Daddy P and I went from the maternity ward, around the hospital, out to the field next to the hospital and did circuits around it, and while I had contractions, labour didn’t kick in. Daddy P had to leave the hospital when labour wasn’t established by late evening.
Baby A was born after 20 minutes of active labour, at twenty past three in the morning. It was very quick and he weighed only 5lbs 4oz. After delivery one midwife commented on the “scrappy looking” placenta, which is what caused the issues with his growth – my scrappy looking placenta was the result of placental dysfunction, and I was very lucky that the pregnancy was being monitored so closely and he was delivered when he was.
At the time, all the extra scans, the travelling back and forth to hospital, paying the extortionate car park fees, it seemed like such a pain in the backside. I’m so very glad they happened. I’m so very glad that the hospital were working from that new information which said my first baby was expected to have been heavier than 6lbs 10.5 at 40+5. I’m so glad I went to every appointment, and so glad that after a difficult pregnancy and a tough first couple of days (a whole other story), all has been fine for both of us.
Baby A is now 47 weeks old. Last time he was weighed he was a healthy 22lbs. He loves his food, he is active and happy and healthy and every time I look at him I am so thankful that despite everything, he’s here and he’s OK.