I’ve always wanted children, for as long as I can remember. Funny how you just assume it’ll happen once you’ve decided to ‘try’. I spent many years trying not to get pregnant, and remember having a big discussion with my husband to be when I should come off the pill – I wanted a honeymoon baby, but wanted to drink on our wedding night!!
Anyway, fast forward a good 18 months of ‘trying’, doing everything we could to maximise our chances, I knew when I ovulated and we’d had preliminary tests to show all was well, so it should just happen right?! No! After 2 years, we were placed on the waiting list for IVF, already feeling a failure – everywhere I looked I saw pregnant women, babies, my family and friends were on to baby number 2 or 3 – I even (and I apologise in advance for this hilarity!!) used to get jealous of sheep at spring time – they had sex once and voila – twins!!
Whilst we were on the IVF waiting list, I had a hysterosalpingogram ( basically dye inserted into your fallopian tubes/ uterus to check for any blockages ) – I coined it like an internal ‘washout’ – anyway that was all tickety boo, and about a month later I fell pregnant – naturally! Hurrah! As I was under a consultant, I had an early scan at 8 weeks – yup, there it was, a blob with a hearbeat, reassured by the consultant that once a heartbeat was detected then the risk of miscarriage falls significantly. At 12 weeks baby ( or ‘pie’ as we called him – I was convinced it was a boy! ), looked great, growing well, due date given as 23.04.05 – I even liked that the due date was 2,3,4,5 and the synchronicity that 23rd April is my brother’s birthday. We got to the magical 12 weeks and told everyone! We were more than a little excited. 2 weeks later I miscarried.
It was awful, I passed him at home, and the next few weeks and months were dark and took me to places I never dreamt possible. One thing which was amazing, was the strength Mark and I found in each other – we became closer, more in love, as we grieved for pie and what could have been. This would help prepare us for the coming months.
I will not bore you with the trials and tribulations of IVF – it is intense, it is emotional, it is a rollercoaster, with lots of hurdles and stages, and it is expensive. You inject various drugs which make your ovaries switch off,then switch on big style to produce lots of follicles, you have those eggs ‘retrieved’, you wait to see if they fertilise, if they divide, if they grow in a normal, symmetrical way – then maybe, just maybe you have one or two of the ‘blastocysts’ put back in or ‘implanted’ – then – you have to wait – a – whole – two – weeks! Where you don’t want to stand up in case they ‘fall out’ (I know, it’s hilarious, but really, that’s how it feels!!) – you try and think positively but try to protect yourself at the same time. We had 2 eggs put back, 2 weeks later we got a positive pregnancy result! A month later, a scan revealed one growing, heart beating baby (I also remember feeling a little sad that the other one hadn’t made it) and we were over the moon! I had regular scans and had problems with bleeding from 9 weeks – I was terrified every time I bled, but the consultant found a polyp on my cervix so was reassured that all would be fine. I recall having an examination at about 19 weeks, and a tactless, horrible registrar, announcing he thought I had cervical cancer and was referring me to an obstetric oncologist – what a shock. I can’t describe it. I was only interested in our baby, Mark was only interested in my health (apparently this is really common with couples).
We saw the consultant a few days later, he examined me, and said he thought pregnancy hormones had just changed the appearance of the polyp, but to be sure, he needed to do a modified loop biopsy. At 20 weeks, I had a biopsy, 1 week later, test came back clear – phew!
Please let me enjoy some of this pregnancy! I was beginning to show, I could feel movements, and was feeling very connected to this long awaited baby.
At 24 weeks, I awoke in the night, feeling like I’d wet myself. I remember thinking, I so need to do more pelvic floor exercises! Then the brain fog cleared, and I thought, no, surely, this can’t be my waters? I rang the midwife who calmly suggested I come straight in. The next step, Mark will tell everyone I put some make up on – at 4am. No, I must confess, I applied a smidge of moisturiser! I think, yes, my skin was dry, but I was desperately trying to normalise a situation that was running away from me, and I longed to be in control again.
We were quickly assessed and confirmed it was my waters, and not my pelvic floor behaving badly (damn, that would have been so much easier!), and given steroid injections, and admitted into hospital– on bed rest. I talked to my baby (quickly we called him/her our shrink wrapped baby), I played music to my bump, and I tried, very hard, to stay positive, the whole time knowing at 24 weeks, our baby may not be viable, and would probably not survive. I was monitored closely for signs of infection and during a scan a few days later, the sonographer said she couldn’t see the foot – after an internal examination, it was revealed I was 3 cm dilated and a little foot was in my cervix! I was blue light transferred in an ambulance to the RVI from Durham where they expected me to deliver that night – the midwife in the ambulance had an emergency delivery box with her – gulp!
Well, 2 days later, a foot popped out –I whisked along to the delivery suite, and an hour later, after a traumatic delivery – footling breech, I wasn’t fully dilated and once the legs were out, baby got stuck around the torso so needed a lot of assistance – the consultant warned us of fractures, whilst he was delivering he said he didn’t think he’d need the special care baby team, and even when he was handing baby over to the team, he was shaking his head. All I wanted to know at that point was it a boy or girl. I needed to know if our baby had died. A girl. One pound and 12 oz.
Babies born at 25 weeks can’t breathe, their little lungs aren’t ready – she was ventilated and whisked off to SCBU (special care baby unit) – a whole hour went by, the longest hour of our lives, where no-one told us if she was ok, and when we could see her. Then we met her – lines, tubes, ventilator, incubator, machines galore keeping her alive – but there she was. Tiny, but perfect.
We called her Ella, none of the names we had on our ‘list’ seemed to fit. Mark suggested Ella, and it was perfect – we subsequently found out that Ella meant ‘elfin’ so it was so appropriate!
The next days, weeks, months were hard. We took one day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time, and every day we were backwards and forwards to the RVI.
Slowly, she grew, she overcame obstacles, temperatures and a hole in the heart. We kanagaroo cared every day if she was well enough, we changed her tiny nappies, and when she reached 2 lb, a friend bought her her first ‘dress’.
Every day was hard, but it’s amazing where you find humour, and postivity – I remember on day 1 trying to express the first bits of colostrum and mark trying to syringe what came out! I became expressing expert! I’d initially assumed I couldn’t breastfeed but you can express and tube feed until your baby is strong enough, and old enough to coordinate sucking, breathing and swallowing. So I expressed every 3 hours, including in the middle of the night. You need to keep supplies up. For some mums of preemies, milk dries up due to stress. For me, it gave me something to do, and felt like I could help Ella.
We made some amazing friends on that unit, families who were going through the same experience, and we still are all in touch, a bond which can never be broken. Time stands still, it was winter when I had Ella, and we lost a season somehow, in those months, those hard, all encompassing months.
3 weeks before Ella’s due date, at a whopping 5 lb 12oz, we took her home. On oxygen, but home. Demand breast fed, and home, a family together, at last. She continued to go from strength to strength, hit all her milestones, weaned, crawled, and walked. She amazed us in every way, and we are so lucky she is in our lives. She is now 9 years old, runs like a whippet, loves swimming, playing football, playing the clarinet, listening to one direction and little mix, and is a deeply sensitive and caring girl.
You’d think that would be the end of our parenting journey. But no! We went on to have IVF again. To be fair, within weeks of having Ella I wanted to be pregnant again. I’d lost the last trimester of my pregnancy, and I wanted that experience, the good and the bad. We’d tried for a year, but in that time, my mum had also become ill. We realised quickly that mum’s prognosis was not good, and another reason I wanted to be pregnant, so I could share the news with mum before she passed away. Ella was 18 months old when mum died. I was distraught, our family was broken and I longed for another baby. We went into IVF with our eyes open. I was 39, surely our odds were not as good? But we were wiser, with more insight into our physical and emotional health and were much better at listening to our bodies. I was also seeing an acupuncturist who specialised in fertility (ironically I now also work alongside her now!), I was eating well, exercising and meditating. Bring it on. Everything seemed to go well, we got plenty follicles which fertilised. We chose to have 2 put back. 2 weeks later, woop woop, positive pregnancy test! The following week a scan revealed 2 heartbeats! “Cool” I said. “Not usually the first words I’ve heard in the scanning room” the consultant said! I’d visualised them from week 5, convinced by week 6 it was a boy and a girl. They behaved differently, they moved differently, and me oh my, carrying twins was interesting! At 13 weeks I had the worst pelvic pain imaginable. I had to be pulled out of a chair, I could not step into a bath and was unable to move in bed. Then it settled, until I turned into a waddling whale, trying to work as long as possible.
The medics watched me like hawks, concerned I would deliver early again. Me, I was chilled out, happy that Ella’s delivery was a direct result of the biopsy. By the time I finished work around 35 weeks, I could hardly fit behind the steering wheel. I’d decided to potty train Ella that summer before I got too big to get up/down to the potty. Bless her, she did great, tick that one off the list!
At 37 weeks, my blood pressure went up, so they decided to induce me. The decision on natural delivery was based on the position of twin 1 – head down. Twin 2 was breech but they often turn once the first twin is out (like someone getting out of a double bed!!).
I was given my first prostin pessary at about 6pm that night (delightful!), and was aware of a change – the staff decided to give a second pessary at about 11pm, warning me it could be days before I delivered and to get some sleep. But I couldn’t sleep due to the discomfort. When I mentioned this, I was told it may be some ‘tightenings’ ( felt a lot more than that, but I had no reference point with Ella’s delivery!), at 3am I stood up to go to the loo, and my waters broke. And an hour and a half later Chloe was born. Beautiful. We waited, we monitored, would twin 2 move? Of course not, he was rather comfortable, so he came out, an hour later, bum and feet first! 5lb 10oz and 6lb 8oz, brilliant weights for twins… Chloe and Zack.
Breast feeding was great, but a challenge. The feeds often ran into each other, and if they needed feeding at the same time, I tandem fed them ( now the pillow to facilitate that was huuuuge!!!). I remember one day clearly when Mark was back at work, I had the 3 of them at home, I’d just latched Chloe and Zack on, and Ella announced she needed a poo! Well, I managed to get her trousers and nix off with my feet! I almost couldn’t wait for Mark to get home so I could share in my multi tasking skills! 3 under 3 was hard, all encompassing, sleep deprived blur. But I had some of the best moments ever and I am forever grateful that 2 cycles of IVF gave us 3 children.
But, I didn’t feel ‘done’. I should have, Mark was happy with our family, but I didn’t feel quite complete. I wanted to, but no. But, we didn’t want to have IVF again – didn’t want to jinx us, and didn’t want my body under all those chemicals again. I went back to work when Chloe and Zack were 1, they were still being breastfed morning and night. Just before Christmas, there was a couple of times I nearly fell asleep at the wheel driving home – “you’re not pregnant are you?”, said Mark. “Don’t be so *****’in stupid” came my rather curt reply. Of course not. So, just to prove him wrong, I did a pregnancy test on Christmas Eve, just so I could drink the bubbly I’d bought for the following day. Happy Christmas! Pregnant!
Hilariously, all these years, now I felt like a naughty teenager. Now my uterus got the hang of it! The pregnancy, labour and delivery were the sweetest, best ever. Let’s face it, compared to a premature baby, a twin delivery – a singleton, uncomplicated, hoop la!
But, I’d still not had a ‘normal’ labour, so when I got some ‘tightenings’ a couple of days after my due date, I thought it would be a good idea to take the 3 kids to the metro centre. ( that afternoon, Mark was heard to say “ You. Went. Where?!?!”)
I realised I may be in actual labour when I was putting the kids back into the car, and I had to stop to breathe before putting the pram in the car – the drive home was interesting. Got the kids their lunch, then my waters broke. “honey, need you to come home as soon as you can”.
Luckily, one of Mark’s work colleagues came and held the fort while his mum drove up from Leeds( before we left, I was trying to reassure Ella who was 4, that mummy had not wet herself, and it was not wee dribbling onto the kitchen floor!!)
We arrived at the hospital, I was calm, but having strong, regular contractions. I still believe women have a perception of what a woman in labour should look like. I did not fit that brief. So when the midwife asked how I was feeling when she was clerking me in, and I said I felt like I needed to push, she nearly fell on the floor when she examined me, declaring in a rather high voice that she could see the head! I delivered Josh onto myself 20 minutes after my arrival at the hospital. I am pretty confident when I say, I ended on a high.
Motherhood is the hardest, and the best thing I have ever done. I have had some awful dark days, with a bout of post natal depression after Ella. But those moments are overshadowed by the joy, the sheer joy of a little hand in yours, your name being called, comforting a little one from a nightmare or grazed knee, when only you will do.
No matter who we are, parent or not, male or female. Let us build each other up, support one another, and give praise before criticism.
Josh has just turned 5, Chloe and Zack are 6, Ella is 9. We decided a couple of years ago we didn’t have enough on, so we got a dog and started our own business!
Taylored-fit Physio is essentially a physio business but we specialise in craniosacral therapy, treating babies and children, and adults with many many conditions. I love the variety it gives, and the flexibility to juggle work and motherhood. The children get to see mum and dad both working but one of us is always there at school, bracing ourselves for the launch of a group hug, and hearing tales of what was eaten, who said what to who and being referee most of the time. We choose our battles, because I know, things will not get any easier, they will just change.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my journey of motherhood. Huge hugs to you xxx