Back in June, I posted about my first experiences of being a ‘high risk’ Mum-to-Be, having to stay 5 weeks on the Maternity Ward at Wexham Park after being diagnosed with Placenta Praevia.
While it may have been a bit quiet on the blog since then, it’s certainly been rather eventful behind the scenes. So with a total of 28 days in hospital, and now being safely back at home with a baby, I thought I’d do a bit of an update.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Placenta Praevia yourself, or know someone, or are just curious to find out what happens when someone spends a month in a hospital in Slough, hopefully hearing some of my experiences will be useful. (And just in case you missed my first post about Placenta Praevia, you can read more about it here.)
So, in no particular order, here are a few key learnings from my time in hospital:
Beating the Boredom
When my husband mentioned to people that I would be in hospital for the remaining duration of my pregnancy there was one question that people asked again and again:
“Isn’t she bored yet?!”
I’ll be honest, at the beginning of my stay, 5 weeks just seemed to stretch into an eternity. And regardless of whether I’d be bored or not there was a question of how I would actually cope with only seeing my daughter for an hour each day, or how Mr H would cope back at home on his own with the Little Lady. But looking back, it’s been pretty strange to see that time has both flown and stood still in equal measure. Little treats from visitors and the thrill of a cheeky McDonald’s outside have helped time fly.
But, repeated episodes of additional bleeds and being put on nil by mouth while we waited for Mother Nature to decide if ‘today is the day’ that the baby would make an appearance has also meant that time sometimes stood still. Thankfully though, not all days were like this (otherwise both my husband and I would be a nervous wreck!). So on the less eventful days I kept myself busy with a mixture of catching up on sleep, chatting with friends and family, reading books and newspapers on the iPad and teaching myself how to use Pinterest for the blog. (Yes, still a geek, even in hospital!)
An emotional journey for all
It would be unfair of me to paint a completely ‘jolly’ picture: it was emotional and exhausting for all three of us, and for our extended family that offered their support too. We got through it though, and are still gradually putting our life as a family back together again. At the weekend we had grandparents visiting and the first question from the Little Lady was ‘are you going back to hospital today Mummy?’. It saddens me that she has made the connection that visitors in the house mean that Mummy and Daddy will be leaving her to go to hospital. I can only hope we can redress this balance over the next few weeks and months.
Living with Placenta Praevia
The biggest learning curve about Placenta Praevia is that it will keep you on your toes. There are no set rules or patterns, and Mother Nature is the only one that knows what’s going to happen. You might sail through the last few weeks of pregnancy with no additional signs or symptoms of anything unusual happening… or like me, you might have a series of bleeds (both irregular in timing and duration) that mean that you’re kept guessing. A lot. Sometimes there would be a gap of 8 days between bleeds, but at one point I had 3 bleeds in just over 72 hours.
With each bleed the level of observation (and risk) was stepped up. I’d be nil by mouth, we’d listen to baby on the CTG machine to check he wasn’t in distress and to check that I wasn’t having contractions (a bleed can trigger early labour) and I’d be put on standby to go to the Labour Ward. Several times I was taken down to the Labour Ward and once down there I would be introduced to the Consultants, Surgeons and Anaesthetists on duty that would be performing the C-Section should they decide to go ahead that day. It’s hard to feel bored when you’re zig-zagging from the peace and quiet of a room to the potential that I could have surgery and give birth to my son at any minute.
“You’re in the best place”
If we only had a pound for every time we’ve heard this over the last few weeks!
Whenever we explained about Placenta Praevia, and the risks to both me and Baby H, this was the standard response. And in fairness, it’s true. Once you know you’re at risk it’s hard to want to take yourself home – despite the lure of your comfy bed or home cooking – you know that should anything happen, you’d much rather be in the safe hands of the midwives and doctors at the hospital instead of a 30 minute drive away.
If you’re local to Maidenhead you’ll be pleased to hear that the midwives at Wexham Park were amazing. Although ‘staying in a hospital in Slough’ doesn’t have a glamorous ring to it, they really did help me feel that I genuinely was in the right place. The antenatal ward at Wexham Park sees a real mix of patients, from planned inductions to admissions via Triage and I’ve seen how, in the space of an hour or two, the ward can go from having 4 patients to maximum capacity. With everyone requiring different treatment and monitoring I noticed how it was a real juggling act needing co-ordination with the other hospital teams (the Labour Ward and Maternity Triage) to get the right people in the right place at the right time. Mother Nature doesn’t tend to wait patiently for a bed to be free, and a pregnant lady in the throes of labour isn’t exactly cool as cucumber either! Day in, day out, and throughout the night, I saw them handle all of this calmly, regardless of what was thrown at them.
Plus, even though they worked long shifts, (12 hours wasn’t unusual) they always had a smiley face as they popped their head round the door to my room. They certainly helped me stay sane.
Mother Nature calls the shots
As with all Mums to be writing their birthing plans, the one thing to remember is that when it comes to pregnancy and babies, Mother Nature calls the shots. Placenta Praevia is no exception to this rule.
After bracing myself for 5 weeks in hospital until my due date, on day 23 of my stay, and at 35 weeks into my pregnancy, I was sent for a routine scan to check the baby’s position and the position of the placenta. A part of me kicked myself for not making sure that Mr H was with me. It had been a recurring theme of my hospital stay that the ‘big (usually bad) news’ would always be delivered when I was on my own. As much as I like to think I’m an independent lady that can cope with everything, the reality is that it’s not always great flying solo for things like this.
The results seemed to show that the placenta had moved out of the way.
My head raced a little as I tried to figure out the implications of this. A little whisper in my head questioned whether this could mean that I would be sent home… but that seemed too much to believe. After 23 days of being a ‘high risk’ patient and several close calls for surgery, could it really all just be ‘back to normal’? The idea that there was still chance for the placenta to move so dramatically within the final few weeks had never been discussed. For most women it moves between 20 and 32 weeks.
Back on the antenatal ward, a cheer and thumbs up from the midwives and the consultant confirmed my thoughts -I was free to go home.
I confess to just feeling a bit stunned. Could all of that risk really have just gone away? It seemed too good to be true, and as much as I wanted to believe them, I’d been through so many ups and downs and different medical interpretations of what would happen to me over the last few weeks that I’ve learned to not get too giddy about medical updates as they can be interpreted differently by different doctors and consultants.
Now I imagine you’d think my reaction to being sent home early would be to whoop and cheer and high five and generally jump around (as much as you can do when you’re 8 months pregnant!). But I was a bit shell shocked. As we stepped outside the Maternity Ward it felt very strange: I’d been dreaming of stepping outside into ‘freedom’ for weeks, but that was carrying a baby and with the lure of a gin and tonic in my near future! This wasn’t the ‘exit’ that I’d planned!
But being at home and being able to read a bedtime story with the Little Lady cuddled up next to me? Yeah… got a bit emotional!
So we had as ‘normal’ a week as we could, family came to visit, we had a Chinese takeaway, I used a hairdryer for the first time in 3 weeks and was spoilt for choice with an entire wardrobe of clothes to choose from! And by day two I’d developed a little shadow that wouldn’t let me out of her sight and would come and keep me company, even if I was having a lie down. (Or on the loo!) But I didn’t mind, it was good to make the most of all of these little moments.
Mother Nature calls the shots (again)
But the story doesn’t end there… After a week at home, on the Saturday I had another bleed and found myself back in triage at the hospital and amongst familiar midwife faces. Although the previous scan had showed that the placenta had moved, this put that verdict in question and I would need to see my consultant on Monday to confirm what was happening. And as all bleeds in the late stage of pregnancy need to be checked out and monitored, I found myself being re-admitted back to the antenatal ward.
I couldn’t quite believe it. I hadn’t expected to be back again so soon, and being in hospital meant that I would miss a family get together at our house with my sister in law and my niece and nephews who were visiting from America. The little lady was super excited to see them for the first time in a year… as I could see from the photos and videos that they sent me while I was stuck in hospital. Sigh.
And then overnight it all changed again.
Mother Nature stepped it up a level; At 36 weeks + 2 days, I had another bleed at 4.30am. This time it didn’t stop. I quickly found myself being whisked down to the labour ward and by 7.30am I was in theatre having a spinal block ready for an emergency C-Section. After all of the days in hospital and the close calls, it was finally happening.
I’d like to say that I took it all in my stride and remained calm and serene throughout. But I found it all pretty scary. Even though they had previously said I wasn’t at risk with Placenta Praevia, they felt that the symptoms I was showing demonstrated that this was still a case of Placenta Praevia which meant that the consent form that they read out to me for the C-Section was pretty intense. Particularly the bit that said ‘I understand that in order to save my life you may need to do a hysterectomy’. Tick.
As they wheeled me in to the theatre I kept running through all of the risks they had mentioned. Heavy blood loss. Hysterectomy. Various other complications linked to a premature baby. I couldn’t quite believe that I would be AWAKE for it all. I just wanted to close my eyes and channel it all away. So I confess to crying. Very quietly. And did my best to zone everything out. Even my other half whispering that he was wearing socks with the Crocs they had made him wear didn’t help cheer me up.
But in the middle of all of this focus on me… the operation…the what ifs… I heard a baby’s cry! What a jolt back to reality! We had a son, making a noisy appearance to the world at just 36 weeks old.
We were able to spend a little bit of time with him, but he was soon taken down to the neonatal unit for help with his breathing, blood sugars and to have his heart monitored. And I was taken to the post natal ward where I lay surrounded by other Mums with their babies. Such a surreal experience! With the little man in the Special Care Baby Unit we weren’t sure if our days of hospital drama were over, or just beginning. We certainly didn’t feel like popping open the champagne and it took us a while to even make any kind of public announcement about the birth to anyone other than close friends and family.
But the good news is that fast forward 18 days from his unexpected arrival on that Sunday morning, I’m now sitting writing this post at home with a lovely healthy baby by my side. And as a family we’re starting to embark on a new kind of ‘normal’, our adventures as a foursome are just beginning.