There is no other way to put it other than “I am rubbish at pregnancy.” Both Alice and Louie’s pregnancies were horrendous with life threatening conditions, relentless 24 hour “morning” sickness and back-breaking, humongous 10lb babies. I am not an overly tall woman, average height 5.5 feet and average build size 10 -12 but I do grow enormous babies. Therefore when I fell for baby number 3, I was excited but definitely apprehensive. The morning sickness began. Then the morning sickness stopped at 12 weeks. Could it possibly be that all those women who told me “It will pass after 12 weeks” were actually right for once and this pregnancy would actually be “normal?”
The scans went well we saw that little wriggly image on the screen and by the 20 week scan found we were having a little boy. I was now into my 2nd trimester. I felt good, I was able to pull off trendy maternity dungarees and dresses and go for nice walks with the children still. People told me I was “glowing.” Finally I had a pregnancy glow not the usual rehabilitating crack head look of my previous pregnancies.
At 28 weeks I went for my midwife check up and was measuring 3 weeks over so just as a precaution was sent for a growth scan. At the scan the baby’s measurements were all ok, a little larger than the expected weeks, but due to my history with big babies it was expected. Then the sonographer did the whole “one moment am just going to get a colleague to check something” and then I knew we were in for some trouble!
The next few days passed with more scans and consultants introducing themselves to us and taking measurements and calculations of our unborn child. We were told the baby had something called “fetal intra-abdominal umbilical vein varix.” Basically as the vein in the umbilical cord was entering his abdomen it was swelling or “dilating” as they called it. Measurements of the dilation had to be taken EVERY day which meant a 45 minute drive to the hospital EVERY day for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy. As well as scans and research by Great Ormond Street, we had twice weekly consultant appointments and in the last 2 weeks the baby’s movements were recorded each day through a monitor. The flow of the blood through the vein was also measured each time to ensure it was smooth and not “torrent.” Torrent blood flow and any growth in the dilation could ultimately mean a blood clot. Of course a blood clot meant the unthinkable. I was scheduled for a C-section 3 weeks earlier than my due date. Any stress on the baby, which could happen via labour could cause a raise in heart rate and the blood flow to go torrent, therefore a C-section was the safest option.
Stress seems such a small word to describe what we went through those last 12 weeks. With my family all still in London, my husbands in Ireland, we had no support network. Louie was not at school and so had to come to every appointment with us. The condition is extremely rare, so much so we were asked if the case could be documented by the research team at Addenbrokes Hospital, Cambridge. Google, my usual place for answers, could give me nothing, no success stories anyway. Each day I had more questions, more concerns and my husband grew more grey hairs. Due to its rarity they just couldn’t tell us what the outcome would be. The pregnancy glow had definitely faded!
At the birth, a team of top consultants and paediatricians gathered at one side of the room. I was warned that the baby may have to be whisked away at the birth but I would be kept informed of all that was happening. It seemed forever until I heard that first cry from my baby boy as he finally entered the world. He was briefly shown to me over the canopy and then taken to be examined. Nevertheless he was crying and I had never been more relieved to hear that sound. Around 20 minutes later he was retuned to me. All of the checks were complete and there weren’t any complications from the vein varix. I can not express the relief and happiness I felt even with half of my body laying massacred the other side of the canopy.
In recovery I fed and held him and introduced him to his grandparents. I was wheeled down later to our ward for the night. I laughed as I heard him make little cooing noises at me. He seemed so alert with his little sounds and big eyes looking around. As the evening progressed the noises continued and I felt slightly concerned. I thought I was probably over tired and it was nothing but called the nurse. She listened to him and called for a doctor who asked if my husband would take our baby, Liam, to one of the examining rooms at the side of the ward. I didn’t see Liam again until the next morning. My husband came back to tell me had to go up to the NICU (neonatal intensive care) neither of us knew the reason. I couldn’t get out of bed due to my C-section and was left the whole night frantically texting my husband wondering what on earth was happening. I listened to the other mothers cradling their babies next to me in their beds. Gut – wrenching sobs overwhelmed me. It was horrendous.
As soon as the nurses checked I could get out of the bed I was out of it. The pain was unbearable but I got up 3 flights to the NICU ward. There he was attached to feeding tubes, drips and under a special light. He had sepsis, jaundice and some digestion issues. I couldn’t hold him for another 4 days. After 10 days of fighting, on St Patrick’s day we were allowed to bring him home.
My husband and I will never be able to thank Addenbrokes enough for the treatment we received both before the birth and after, through Liam’s fight. They truly are amazing. Each member of staff we met were passionate about their jobs and took time to explain everything we needed to know. They cared deeply about the babies in the NICU ward and were thorough with cleanliness and each minute detail of his treatment.
Now Liam is 18 months. He has the strength of a baby Ox and full of character. He brings smiles and laughter to everyone he meets. He is left with a slightly different belly button which will be a reminder of his amazing story when he is older. I wanted to share his story to make others aware, who may be experiencing anything like we went through. Also awareness of our brilliant NHS team and the work they do.