Hugely overdue update

I realise it has been MONTHS since I’ve posted, and for the first time in my (admittedly rather short!) blogging history, I actually feel a little guilty and it has been weighing on my mind.

On 28th November 2015, I delivered a gorgeous little boy by caesarean section. Weighing in at 4lb 120zs, he was tiny but perfectly formed.

A week prior to the delivery, growth scans had shown that he was starting to develop late onset intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This combined with increasing episodes of reduced foetal movements necessitated his early arrival at 38+5, with caesarean being the safest choice for him. As they consented me for the procedure, the risk “reduced future fertility” was mentioned (apparently, the scar tissue can theoretically make it harder for future embryos to implant). I remember thinking, “well I don’t want that”, but the priority was getting number 1 baby into the world safely, and if he ended up being “one and only”, well then so be it.

Delivering by elective caesarean is a strangely calm experience. Labour, living up to the word, is fraught and stressful for the overwhelming majority. I had a designated time slot for theatre that day, I had visits from various members of staff beforehand, I had my husband sat with me happily chatting to theatre staff, I had a colleague I’d known for a year operating on me, and I had Adele’s “Hello” playing on the radio (rather suitably) the moment my son was brought into the world – entirely pain-free. Bliss.

And so we entered the mad twilight world that comes with newly-found parenthood. We were in a windowless room on a ward with no real sense of day and night, and no mobile phone signal for contact with the outside world. As his birth weight was low, we were being encouraged to wake him every 3 hours at least, for nappy changes and feeds, and as he wasn’t latching well on the breast, I was doing my best to express whilst feeding and giving him formula top-ups. Every 24hrs was devoted to this little man, and the strangest thing was that he didn’t feel like mine! I don’t know what it was, whether it was having a caesarean rather than a natural delivery, and being behind a screen and being pregnant one moment and then having a baby just handed to you the next. Very, very odd considering I’d yearned for the moment for so long.

And  then Day  4 came.

This was the day they detected a heart murmur on a physical exam and arranged a scan of the heart, and then broke the news to us that he had a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. This is a heart condition that comprises of four defects and requires open heart surgery before 6 months to fix, and then further surgery in later life.

I could not have been more shocked and devastated if somebody had hit me over the head with a sledgehammer. My husband nearly fainted. I held my 4 day old baby in my arms and sobbed. We grieved for weeks. It felt so bittersweet – having waited so long for our child to come along, we feared losing him. We shared the news with family and friends, trying to maintain a stiff upper lip, but fighting back the tears. All the  time whilst trying to look after a newborn which is challenging enough in its own right.

Since then, we have been seen by cardiologists in the Children’s Hospital. They do not think that we are dealing with Fallot’s (good news), but our boy does have a large ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart) along with a mild narrowing of the pulmonary valve. The hole definitely needs surgery in the first few months of life, as it starts to cause irreversible damage to the lungs if left for too long. The valve narrowing should not need any intervention other than perhaps a balloon stretch. And hopefully, following the one big open-heart surgery, he should be a normal little boy and lead a normal life.

The hole in the heart has started to cause symptoms of breathlessness (which we were advised would be the case). His little ribcage sucks in as he breathes, and he breathes fairly quickly, especially whilst he feeds. A fortnight ago, we were started on diuretics to remove fluid from the lungs and to therefore ease the work of breathing. This is used as a temporary measure before operative repair to buy time for the children to put on weight and thereby reduce the operative risk.

Two days after starting the diuretics, he became poorly. He was irritable and refusing to feed, and had such a weak wobbly cry. We spent a week in hospital being treated for kidney failure and dangerously high levels of potassium, caused by a drug overdose. It transpired that the prescription for the diuretics was TEN times that that it should have been, and my precious little boy was essentially poisoned.

Sometimes, I just have to be allowed to have a pity-party. There is only so much adversity a person can take.

But this is followed, later (and often after a sob to my better half) that we should also count our blessings. This time last year, after a failed cycle of IVF, I was convinced we would never be parents. Now, I am completely and utterly in love with something that is 50% me, which goes to show that you should never lose hope. There will be tough times ahead, and it will be hard to always be positive, but as my mother-in-law says, “he is the most perfect little boy – God just dropped a stitch when he made him. A bit of darning, and he’ll be as right as rain”.

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“But now you’re just like everybody else”

“You’re not IVF anymore, you’re just like everybody else”.

These are the words that came out of my mother-in-law’s mouth last week. I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more, and it stirred up a lot of old emotions relating to people just not getting it.

I’m currently 36 weeks (on the month countdown now!) and I apologise for being so absent. I realise I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with so many of your blogs.

Generally speaking, things have been fairly straightforward – I have had to leave work much earlier than expected due to Pelvic Girdle Pain (who thought back pain could be so excruciating…) and have had a few growth scans as the bump has been pretty static over the last month so god knows where this baby is hiding itself, as it seems to be growing satisfactorily!

Every single day though, I count my blessings. I realise how grateful I am that IVF exists; that it was financially accessible to us; that we drew the long straw in the Russian roulette that each cycle is; that despite the few scares along the way, this baby is healthy and is very nearly fully cooked. I will NEVER forget how being a fertility patient feels (I may well be one again sometime in the future), and I find it insulting, the suggestion that that is all in the past and can therefore be dismissed.

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Mother-in-law’s little episode came amidst news that the NHS is going to be dramatically cutting funding for fertility treatments. For those of you outside of the UK, the NHS is AMAZING, and we are incredibly lucky to have it. Our tax contributions as a nation fund pretty much entirely free healthcare (I say pretty much as things like prescriptions for medications are charged at around £8.50 flat-rate for each med, and dental treatment again has a flat rate depending on what you’re having done – so these are not free but heavily subsidised). NHS Trusts around different regions of the UK manage their own budgets to an extent, and some novel treatments, like new cancer drugs, and things like fertility investigations/treatments are offered variably, depending on whether they’re deemed to be cost-justified, and this is a postcode lottery. Where I live, I am funded for fertility investigations, but no treatment at all. 20 miles down the road, a couple will get THREE FREE cycles of IVF on the NHS. In another region 7 miles down the road, a couple will get one cycle.

However, with many billions of pounds savings that need to be made, these few areas that do offer IVF currently will likely soon be withdrawing it, as it is classified as “non-essential”.

My husband and I debated the justness of this – why, when a healthy couple who look after themselves and both work and pay into the system, is it fair to be denied access to treatment on the NHS because it’s not clinically necessary for a couple to have a family? Why does an unemployed obese, smoking diabetic get his emphysema, his diabetic complications, his heart disease treated free of charge when he’s made life choices that lead to his clinical condition?

So hard to get your head round, isn’t it?

Is honesty the best policy??

Usually, when I blog, I sit and write from the heart, and have no hesitation clicking the “publish” button.

My last post was different. I read it, and re-read it, and then saved it, and then came back to it, and then thought “to hell with it, this is how I’m feeling” and released it to the blogosphere.

That night, I lay in bed with some serious guilts. I felt like a truly awful human being – selfish, unkind and juvenile. There were hardly any comments, which, exacerbated by my state of paranoia, made me think that nobody else ever felt this way and so there was something wrong with me. I actually considered taking the post down. Why? Because my blogging community is full of people whom I’ve come to really respect and admire. I worried that everybody would lose their respect for me.

But, a comment from a fellow blogger made me think, “if I can’t be candid and honest on my own blog, where can I be?”.

Over the past few years, I’ve often sat in front of the computer, in tears, and find the process of writing extremely healing and really quite cathartic. So much so, that I leave the computer feeling stronger, more rational and ready to crack on with life. Even more so, when the comments start piling in!

So how honest should we all be? Is it a problem when we start blogging as an escape from the judgement of family/friends but then fear being judged by our online community?

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Update (22+0) and Family Foibles

It feels like ages since I’ve sat down to write a post. I guess I found it easier to write from a place of frustration, anger and worry, than a place of relative peace. I also never intended for this to be a pregnancy blog (although I have been keenly following other blogs! – just a personal choice) so I haven’t wanted to log on to provide everybody with a symptoms list, or bump photos.

Generally speaking, everything is going as well as we could wish for it to be. The anomaly scan was a drawn-out process (2 hours in total, on and off the couch!) because of some unhelpful positioning from Baby Bean, but all is well. In the sonagrapher’s words, we have a “perfect baby” 🙂

Sometimes I have to pinch myself – I can’t believe it’s happening. I’m allowing myself to start buying little things, here and there, to help spread the cost over the next few months. When i say “little things”, i really do mean little. Like, purchases around the £10 mark. There is still this horrid pessimistic side that will not allow me to fork out £800 on a pram or £400 on furniture with 18 weeks still to go.

My own mother died having me, and as this pregnancy progresses, I’m starting to think more and more about labour and the delivery. There’s a silly, irrational cognitive process that spirals into thoughts that I, too, won’t make it out of Delivery Suite (or Baby Bean won’t). Logically, I know this is utter rubbish, but on a bad day, the fear is very, very real. Luckily these days are few and far between and I hope it stays this way.

A little wobble occurred yesterday…

My new nephew is just over 2 months old, and is the apple of every family member’s eye (apart from mine). As I have said before (and read similar stories on fellow bloggers’ posts), I am shocked at how little my feelings towards this poor baby have altered, despite being pregnant myself. I am certain that every negative thought and feeling stems from my own worries and concerns, mixed up with a bit of hormonal turmoil, and not helped by the fact that he is (and will forever be) associated with my IVF cycle failing.

I’ve been pretty busy at work, and have been keeping strange hours, which have seen me physically distanced from my family of late, but my husband slightly pressured me into turning up to a family birthday-do after work this Sunday. The whole family was there, new baby included. I let myself into my mother-in-law’s house, and walked into the garden where they were all sitting, and I kind of freeze-framed what I saw. A very happy, completely content family. All 3 brothers together, playing football with their step-nephews, WAGs at the table happily chatting away, with my mother-in-law cradling her new grandson, everyone cooing over him and fussing him. It was a bit like some kind of sickening advert for something that would require a “perfect” family, like for a BBQ set or lawn feed and weed.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so on the periphery of my family. My family that seemed to be doing just fine without me. I could feel the tears welling up, and I fumbled my way through the next half an hour before I made my excuses to leave.

I think I’m being stupid, and oversensitive, and childish. But I want things back to the way they were pre-grandchild.

General Update (18+4)

Before I begin prattling on, I have been reading some really sad news from some of you in my Reader recently – some of you have failed IVF cycles, and others have had that magical BFP (some of you for the first time) just to experience a loss a few weeks later. My heart truly goes out to you all and I wish that there was a plaster big enough for broken hearts.

When I read your posts, I can’t help but feel such admiration at the way that you find the strength and determination to press on. I know that this is something that I have drawn upon time-after-time over the past year or so.

I don’t want this blog to turn into a purgatory for any of my followers – I know how hard I found the pregnancy updates in my Reader last year, and I have to say, I was a little guilty of doing the “unfollow” on bad days.

The rest of the post is a bit of a catch-up from the last few weeks. No offence taken if you stop here.

As is usual for me, life has taken hold and kept me away from my laptop, but in a good way! In the sense that I am *starting* to relax a little, and enjoy nurturing this baby bean. I have days where I have (what I am sure are) fetal movements – the flutters, and “wriggles” – and I’m finding it really reassuring. But they are infrequent, and unpredictable, so the Doppler is still ever-present on the bedside table, for a pre-sleep check. It’s turning into a bit of a routine, ending with my other half falling asleep with his hand on my tum 🙂

On the subject of the hand-on-the-tum, I’ve been – what I can only describe as – GROPED, by several patients/staff colleagues this last week. Now, I’m not prudish in the slightest, and a bit of hands-on from somebody I know and am friendly with is fine. And it is LOVELY to be on the receiving end of, “isn’t that bump growing!?” comments. But, what makes total strangers feel that it is okay to start feeling somebody’s belly?! Really!!?

Anyway, I digress.

I’m also continuing to have what I assume are growing pains – occasional mild cramping and then excruciating sharp stabs when I turn over awkwardly at night, or get up from a seated position. Sometimes, the fetal movements can even feel a little uncomfortable, like “pushing” (not sure if this is meant to be the case!).

I have also developed this really strange urge to clear the house of clutter and unused objects. I’m a bit of a clean freak,  but also a little “hoardy” (providing it’s not in sight!). My Dad was a massive hoarder and would always see potential in the contents of somebody else’s rubbish. I’m sure this is a product of his habit. But lately, I just don’t want it anymore – I’m systematically going through wardrobes and drawers and filling charity bags and bin bags. My other half thinks it’s a “nesting” thing.

I’ve been reading some fellow-bloggers’ food-related posts, and, oh my gosh, you guys put me to shame. I’m eating complete and utter rubbish, punctuated by a few bits of fruit per day (though as my husband pointed out, my diet is probably nowhere near as bad as some – I like to think of it as “middle-class junk food”). Similarly, on the exercise-front, my eight-hour stints in ED are probably the only cardio I’m getting. I’m not a natural gym bunny, and I don’t fancy sustaining an injury that = excruciating-pain-with-no-means-of-taking-decent-pain-relief, because my body isn’t accustomed to the workout it in its pre-pregnant state (or at least, that’s the excuse I’m sticking with).

We get our 20 week scan in 10 days’ time, and I’m hoping that this halfway point will mark a *countdown* rather than “count-up”. Everybody says pregnancy flies by, but I don’t think that includes the pregnancy-challenged, for whom that little monkey cannot arrive – fully-cooked – soon enough.

Spotting (15+6)

Today, I have successfully reached the 16 week mark, although not without some form of preceding drama!

I was scanned yesterday in the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, as over the past few days, I’ve been getting persisting crampy pain. I have been trying to apply some form of logic and reason to it, and it makes perfect sense that a growing uterus will be twinging here and there as it squashes and pulls on things around it, but I mentioned it to the EPAS nurses who offered me a scan slot nevertheless.

All was looking good – baby bean happily bouncing and wriggling about, and so I go downstairs to A&E to do my shift.

On my break time, around mid-afternoon, I go to the toilet, and notice a big blob of dark red blood in my (white) knickers and I completely lost it. Although I *know* spotting doesn’t necessarily = end of the world, we are wired to be alarmed by the sight of blood, and logic just goes out the window. Luckily for me, everybody rallied round, with cups of tea and chocolate, and within the hour, I was being scanned and seen by the Obstetric consultant.

This particular bean is a monkey, and clearly has no conscience with playing its mother up something chronic. It was still happily wriggling away, with no signs of bleeding anywhere around the placenta. My cervix is firmly closed as it should be. Panic over.

So what on earth caused it?

The consultant’s explanation was placental migration. That our placentas start off somewhere around our cervix, and move upwards by detaching and reattaching as our uterus grows. As it does so, it can cause bits of spotting that are either seen by us, or not.

I’m not sure how I feel about my placenta detaching and reattaching itself… but I sure hope that this is the last I see of it, as I don’t think I’ve got the energy for another round!

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I survived!

I am referring here to my visit yesterday, to see my sister-in-law and her new baby. This is the visit that I have been dreading ever since I found out she was pregnant back in October, and I had built it to be an absolute mountain, in my head.

My sister-in-law is 40 years old, and this is her third (although her first with my husband’s brother). I don’t know whether this helped a little, as it was far less “intense” than visiting my friends who have all had their first and are just FULL of “baby”.

I’ve never had much of a rapport with her, which I think is why I’ve had such conflicting emotions over *this* particular pregnancy, but, with an unprejudiced mind, she will probably be incredibly helpful when my time comes, with practical advice and support that I would otherwise lack. She also pointed out that we will share a few months of maternity leave, together. You never know, we may be best buddies this time next year.

My new nephew is beautiful, and precious and I just CANNOT WAIT to have my own little munchkin in my arms.

I’ve come away feeling:

  1. *Gulp* – this gorgeous little thing is just adorable and I could cuddle him all day
  2. “Yikes, that felt a bit crampy”, cue *knicker check* – oh god, what if I don’t get to this day with my little one?
  3. Proud, that I have managed to accomplish the thing that has kept me up at night, and has occupied my thoughts almost every day on the commute to work
  4. At peace – like I am ready to be a mum, and cope with the sleepless nights, my neat, tidy house going to pot, the financial sacrifices, like giving up clothes shopping and posh meals, along with the sacrifices to my social calendar

It’s funny, a lot of you said that I’d be surprised at how I felt, finally being pregnant and meeting a new mum and sprog. I’m glad to say that you were right 🙂