The Hard Road to Harris
When we decided to try for our second, I could never envisage the journey we would travel. After a straightforward pregnancy and birth with our eldest son who was born in 2018, we naively decided we would time our second baby perfectly.
We began trying at the start of January 2020. I got pregnant immediately, but sadly at 7 weeks, it became apparent that I was suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. By the time that pregnancy finally ended, we were hit with the coronavirus pandemic. We decided It would be best to wait until things had settled down before trying again, but after the heartache of losing a baby, we decided it would be best anyway to give ourselves some time to heal.
In May, we heard on the radio that fertility and IVF services would be resuming, so we took it as a sign to try again. Once again, we became pregnant quickly. For the first trimester, I was constantly on edge worrying that this baby would leave us too. Along came the 12-week scan, and I was fortunate that by that time, our local hospital had relaxed covid restrictions slightly, so I didn’t have to face the scan alone. To our relief, everything looked normal, and our baby had a strong heartbeat. We began to get excited.
But sometimes, life likes to keep you on your toes, and at 19 weeks pregnant, I started struggling with pain in my lower right-hand side. I called my local maternity assessment unit, who asked me to go in to be checked. They performed checks on the baby, and then a consultant told me the baby was fine. I was relieved but explained that I was still in a lot of pain. The consultant advised I go home and try a hot water bottle on the area for relief. The pain had not gone by the next day, so I visited my GP. He took one look at me and raised the concern that he believed I had appendicitis. He called the hospital, but no one wanted to take responsibility for me, as to the maternity unit, I was not of viability, and appendicitis is not a pregnancy issue. The surgeons also did not want to take responsibility for me because I was pregnant. My GP managed to get me admitted, but for four agonising days, the surgeons would not operate on me, as they could not fully confirm it was appendicitis, and I was told “If we operate, your baby could die.” The midwives would only give me paracetamol because “anything stronger would harm the baby.” On day four, I cried to a student midwife and begged her not to leave me as I did not want to die alone. That is when they had to give me a double dose of morphine, as the first did not work, and when the surgeons finally agreed to operate. I went into theatre at 11 pm and came out at 3 am.
When I woke up the next day, I asked frantically about my baby. They checked for a heartbeat, which was there, but it was faint. Later that day, the obstetrician who cared for my baby during the operation, came to visit me. He asked whether I had heard the heartbeat, to which I explained I had, but it was faint. He told me that if there was a heartbeat, but the baby would be fine.
At my 20-week scan, the baby was well, and we found out we were having a little boy. I decided that surely nothing else could go wrong, so I began to enjoy my pregnancy again.
Then, at 2 am on the 28th of November, another rollercoaster ride began. I woke feeling like I needed the toilet, but when I stood up, I felt a gush. I thought I had wet myself, but when I got to the toilet, I smelt the familiar smell of amniotic fluid. My waters went three days before my due date with my first, and I’d always remembered the smell – to me it smelt like pear drops! I was in denial, I was only 30+4, so decided to go back to bed, but thirty minutes later, it happened again. I woke my husband and told him I would have to call the hospital. I arranged childcare for my eldest, and two hours later I found myself in the hospital.
The midwife did all my observations, and I was taken to a room to await a consultant. The consultant did not even need to do an internal examination as he was able to see a pool of waters immediately. He explained I would need to be admitted for observations and that my baby may arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours. I was put on a ward where inductions were started, and I spent the next two days praying my baby would not be arriving as soon as those other babies. I was visited by neonatologists who assured me that babies at 30 weeks do extremely well. They also made me aware of possible risks of the baby being born early but told me that it would most likely be behavioral issues that the baby would suffer from when he was older.
I was in the hospital for a week in total. During my nighttime pleas for help on social media, I was guided to little heartbeats. Ciara was extremely helpful and sent me one of her care packs which contained so much information. It enabled me to take control of a situation that I had found confusing and scary. The information leaflets enabled me to make sure that the medical staff were doing everything they should be for myself and my baby. She even messaged me every few days to check-in.
After that week, I was discharged home, and although I was not advised bedrest whilst in hospital, the posts on the little heartbeat group encouraged me to take it easy. I had to return to the hospital every three days for monitoring and once a week for a scan. My baby stayed put until my consultant recommended that I should be induced at 34 weeks due to the increased risk of infection.
The big day arrived, and I walked into the hospital for the last time of a mother of one. They did all their monitoring and then showed me to my bed to begin being induced. It was then postponed for 24 hours whilst a neonatal bed was unavailable, but I was relieved to be in a hospital where they could keep a close eye on us both. Early the next morning, they began my induction. I was started on a gel, with the agreement that if nothing had happened by lunchtime, that I would be moved to the labour suite and put on the drip.
My labour finally kicked off after having the drip for several hours and at 3 AM I felt the need to push. Our beautiful baby boy Harris was born just 4:17 AM on the 23rd of December weighing just under 5Ib. He was placed on my chest and let out a cry, which was the best sound ever, but he was whisked away as I began to hemorrhage. Little did I know, he began to struggle, and he had to be rushed over to neonatal and ventilated. I was stabilised and due to covid restrictions my husband was told he could go and visit our son in neonatal, but that he would not be allowed back to see me. I spent a further 6 hours on the syntocinon drip to help my uterus contract, not knowing the condition of my baby, scared and alone.
Around lunchtime, a neonatal nurse came to visit me. She asked what I’d been told about my baby, and I cried as I told her I hadn’t had an update since my husband visited him that morning. She told me it was early days. He had a hole in his lung and had to have a chest drain in. But he was strong, and he was about to prove to us that he may be little, but he was mighty.
He began by pulling his tubes out daily. On day 4, he pulled his own ventilator out, and showed them he was able to breathe on his own, be it for a short time, but as he had shown great improvement, he was put on low flow. By day 7, even though his hole had not fully healed, his observations were perfect, so his chest drain was removed. He was then moved into SCBU to learn to feed and grow. He was discharged at 16 days old. In 16 days, he went from this incredibly frail-looking baby that the doctors could not promise us would survive, to a small, but perfectly healthy baby.
He is now 5 months old, meeting all his milestones, and the happiest little baby you would meet. We have had to call an ambulance on one occasion due to croup, and he suffered awfully with reflux, but since putting him on anti-reflux milk he’s been a lot more settled.
It was a rocky road to having Harris in our lives, and we have been traumatised by it all, but I can certainly say our sweet little boy was worth it.