‘This year, for my birthday, I’d like a 5 week stay in a hospital in Slough’. Said no person ever.
Seeing as this was the exact news I was given after 10 long hours waiting for an update last Friday, it appears that I may soon have a new claim to fame.
I might become the person that new mums whisper about over coffee as they exchange birthing story heroics.
Forget giving birth to a ginormous baby (although my last one was 9lb 10 which gave me pretty decent bragging rights), and forget an epic labour (although again, last time it was over 40 hours!), nope, this time I’m the mum that had to spend the last 5 weeks of pregnancy in hospital!
Just take a few seconds to mull that over in your head. 5 weeks on a maternity ward (AKA the live version of One Born Every Minute). How does that make you feel? Now imagine hearing that news on your birthday, after waiting on a ward for 10 hours for some scan results, and after you’d just sent your husband home because there clearly wouldn’t be an update at this time of night. (!) Yeah, not the best birthday I’ve had!
But this post isn’t a ‘woe is me’ story. Instead, its a chance for me to look back on what I’ve experienced and learned in my first week here and to think about how I’ll survive the rest of my stay.
Why am I here?
Perhaps it would make most sense if I do a quick update on why I’m here, as its not something I’d heard of before, and I don’t recall it being mentioned in my NCT classes the first time. Mostly because its not particularly common.
I have something called ‘Placenta Praevia’ or a ‘low lying placenta’, which is when the placenta embeds itself under the baby, effectively blocking the exit route. It can be quite common to see this at the 20 week scan, but for most people it moves out of the way as the baby grows and by 32 weeks it’s no longer in the way. But not for me it would seem.
Because the placenta is in the wrong place it can trigger bleeds, anything from light, ‘stop as quick as it starts’, to heavier, ‘call an ambulance and have a blood transfusion on standby’. I’ve now had 4 of the lighter bleeds in the last 3 weeks, the fourth one being last Sunday, and it was this regularity that prompted them to make the decision to keep me in for observation.
But it’s not just about losing blood, there are other risks with Placenta Praevia too: the bleeds can trigger labour, (not good if the baby’s exit is blocked) and it also means that I’ll be having a much more complex type of C section. Until they start the operation it’s hard for them to know exactly what the placenta has attached itself to.
But anyway, that’s the medical bit done (and this is just my interpretation of what I’ve read about and have been told, you can find more comprehensive information here)
So, back to the main point of the post… Aside from a whole lot of medical stuff, what have I learned this week?
1. Friends and Family are brilliant.
Living in Maidenhead, we’re not exactly on the doorstep for our family: we have one set of grandparents in Cardiff, one in Birmingham, a brother in Leicester and my sister in law in Texas, USA. But that hasn’t stopped everyone from rallying round to do what they can. Regardless of the 2 hour drive or the disruption to their plans, people have been asking us what they can do to help. And not just close family; friends, work colleagues and nursery mum friends have all offered to help in whatever way they can.
Closer to home, both my husband and daughter have also been great. Although she’s only 3, we’ve tried to explain things as honestly as we can for the Little Lady, and she’s taken it very calmly, with minimal tears and has really done us both proud. (So proud that we’re the ones trying to hide the tears in our eyes as she waves ‘bye bye to mummy in the hospital!’)
My hubby’s ability to adapt has also been rather awe inspiring; overnight he’s had to learn how to live the life of a single dad with a 3 year old girl and has been getting to grips with all of the challenges that presents, including hairdressing, which he seems to have taken into his stride!
Truly, I’ve been overwhelmed.
It feels great to know that there are people watching our backs, its just frustrating that we don’t quite know, how, or what help to ask for. For most of the time I’m in a very peaceful room on the Maternity Ward in Wexham Park, resting up and doing my best to help a happy little baby grow as big as he can. But all of that can change on Mother Nature’s whim, which can feel confusing at times as we don’t know what help to accept or what to say to people.
(As a little message to those that have offered to help, who might be reading this, thank you so much, and we may well be calling you. We just don’t know when!)
2. Technology saves the sanity
Yes, I know I’m a Gadget Girl, and I’ve married a Gadget Guy, but boy have I been grateful for this while I’ve been here.
There is free WiFi in the hospital, and I’m getting a 4G signal on my phone which has meant I can chat to friends on social media and stop myself from feeling isolated. Plus, I can download The Times on the iPad, download books to the Kindle app on my phone and even stream the key matches from Wimbledon . With hubby generously donating his Mac Book Pro, I’ve also been able to do a bit of blogging and have even been masterminding a steady supply of ready meals for him via online grocery shopping from my hospital bed!.
It may be early days, and I may still have 4 weeks to go, but I’ve not been bored yet.
3. Simple treats make all the difference
Spending a long amount of time in hospital is almost like the poor man’s version of going away to a yoga retreat or doing a life detox and de-clutter.
Forget all of the stuff I’m surrounded by at home, I came in here with one small emergency overnight bag, and aside from a few additional essentials (clean pants!) that I’ve requested the other half to bring in, this is pretty much the way its been all week.
A few things have made all the difference though…
A proper sized mug for a decent cuppa (instead of the half sized ones in the hospital!) Real strength teabags that actually taste like tea (hospital tea is not the best experience). Oh, and a slice of home baked cake from a friend: HEAVEN!
A foot stool so that when I sit in the chair next to the bed and use the laptop my feet can reach the ground (short legs!)
A room fragrance so that I can lie here and *almost* convince myself I’m in a spiritual spa retreat. (even the midwives have commented on how lovely the room smells!)
Some new toys and books for the Little Lady so that she has things to look forward to, and play with when she comes to visit instead of being told to ‘sit still and be quiet’. ‘Hospital Frog’ has been a winning purchase, and she’s looking forward to the fact that these items will come home with mummy at some point too
But aside from friends and family, gadgets and simple treats, there is one really big learning curve I’ve experienced in the last week.
Its much closer to home: I’ve learned about me.
4. This Girl Can.
Through work and in my social circle I’ve seen friends take part in 5k runs, 10k runs, half marathons, full marathons, assault courses, parachute jumps… I could go on. And although I’m not the sporty type (AT ALL) I have always admired their steely determination and commitment to the cause. But I’ve never really been driven to do anything like that myself.
Looking back across this week I’ve realised that figuratively speaking I’ve had my own psychological race to run or mountain to climb.
Firstly, I confess to being a control freak. I like to organise things so I know they will go to plan. From planning and booking holidays, to buying and wrapping Christmas presents from the extended family, I like to be the one that makes the plans and sorts stuff out.
Yet being told I need to stay in hospital for 5 weeks means that ALL ability to control anything has been whisked from under my feet! I am now in a strange world where someone else decides when I will wake up, when I will have my meals and even when the lights will be turned off at night.
Plus, only Mother Nature knows whether I’ll need to be whisked away for an emergency C section at 33 weeks and have a baby in the neonatal unit, or whether I’ll be sitting pretty, growing a bigger bump until week 38. At any point my life could flip from being nothing to high drama, in an instant.
Secondly, I’ve had to overcome an even bigger demon…being a total wuss when it comes to pain and being in hospital!
I’ve been known to pass out at the sight of blood, and even to pass out when visiting people on a ward. Something in my head just flicks, ‘I think ooh that must hurt’, and boom I can feel myself going!
Yet despite that I’ve had 4 different canulas attached to me, I have to have blood taken every 72 hours, and twice now I’ve been sent to the emergency labour ward, been put on nil by mouth and have surround by a team of consultants, anaesthetists and doctors explaining the detailed and complex nature of the procedure I may be about to go through and the fact that I may have to be in hospital for up to ten days or more recovering after the surgery.
But here’s the thing.
I’ve stayed calm!
Because there’s a secret inner trigger when you’re pregnant and something just kicks in to help get you through it all. Despite going through 9 months of dreading giving birth, when labour actually starts, ‘Game Face’ takes over and you just flippin well get on with it.
And this seems to have happened to me this week.
I’m not saying I’m hard as nails. I cried when I first heard the news that I should expect a 5 week stay in hospital (not while they were telling me, mind, but later as it sank in and I realised I’d only see my little girl for an hour a day for the next month). And there was a night last week when I lay awake in the heat chasing all of the ‘what if’s’ around in my head. I almost found myself reaching for my phone so I could google ‘bereavement charities for kids’ so I could at least provide some planning in case the very, very unlikely and unimaginable thing happened. But I quickly realised that it doesn’t help to dwell on things like that, and the whole point of me staying in for the next few weeks is that help is always on hand, at the press of a button should any emergency arise. I’m in the safest place.
So there’s no point moaning. I’m in hospital for 5 weeks, with some serious surgery ahead of me.
Thats just the way it is.
If you’d told me this a few months or even a few weeks ago I would have probably have flapped and panicked… and cried… and maybe issued a few ‘its not fairs’ or ‘wtf??!’. (Not in public mind, that wouldn’t go with the ‘totally in control at all times’ thing!)
But this week I’m taking it in my stride, I’ve found my inner strength (‘Blonde Steel’ as the hubby calls it!) and I’m tackling it all head on, in a calm and ‘day by day’ kinda way.
Unlike my friends that have taken part in sponsored races and challenges, I may not get a medal, or raise lots of money for charity, but at the end of it all our little family will be complete and in an instant, (OK, maybe after a little while once I’m allowed to have a few G and T’s) it will all feel totally worthwhile and the 5 weeks a distant blur.
So I’m donning my virtual running gear, putting the virtual sweat bands on, wearing my virtual lucky pants and getting ready to embrace the challenge of a 5 week hospital stay head on. Bring on weeks 2, 3, 4 and even 5… This Girl Can!
Update 6 weeks later: If you’d like to read what happened next you can find out here!