29+5 weeks gestation
When you have just experienced the loss of a premature baby, it is hard to think about whether or not you want to follow this particular path again. After losing our beloved Alexandra, we decided that it was best that we did not follow this road of heartbreak again and that our family was now complete. Sometimes fate has a way of proving you otherwise.
About four months after Alexandra died, I could no longer stand to see the nursery and baby items in it and decided to have a garage sale to sell it all. The only thing that we did not sell was the cot. About two weeks after this, I was still in the midst of all the emotions of grief and guilt, when I realised that my period was late. I did not really give it a second thought as I thought that perhaps my hormones were still out of kilter and about a week later, I was suddenly hit with the notion that I might be pregnant. After more thought over the day (which I remember was a Sunday) I jumped into the car and raced to the chemist and bought a home pregnancy kit.
I don’t think that I was really prepared for the positive result and I proceeded to do three more tests, which were all positive. I was in complete shock, this was not planned and how on earth would we cope with another pregnancy, so soon after our loss? I found Stephen and sat him down told him that I was pregnant. I had to show him the positive pregnancy test to convince him and then pick him up off the floor. Just to make sure, I made an appointment with my doctor for first thing Monday morning, and he indeed confirmed the pregnancy. He suggested that I contact the hospital straightaway as he felt that with my past obstetric history, I would be classified as a “high risk pregnancy”.
When I phoned the hospital to book in, they asked me “Weren’t you a patient not long ago?” and I was very apprehensive when I went for my booking in appointment. I cannot say for sure how I felt about this new pregnancy, I was experiencing so many different emotions. Fear of what could happen; grief for my lost child, bewilderment – why was this happening to me again; confusion about my mixed up emotions – why wasn’t I happy about this pregnancy; guilt – was I trying to replace my daughter with another child; apprehension – of returning to the hospital where we had just experienced such a loss. Even now, I am not really sure how I dealt with all these feelings.
On my first visit, I was relieved to again be under the Senior Obstetrician, Dr Wilson, who had delivered my two other children, a friendly face to look to. As we were not sure when I had conceived, he thought that I should book in for a scan to see how far along I might be and when I might be due. The scan the next week showed that I was approximately 11 weeks pregnant and my due date would be 24th December 1998.
With my past history Dr Wilson decided that we would not take any chances and thought that this time I should have a cervical stitch inserted, to prevent my possibly incompetent cervix from dilating too early, and I was booked in for the next week. The thought of this procedure totally terrified me, but Dr Wilson assured me that it would be ok and that I would have a general anesthetic. I remember arriving at the hospital the morning of the procedure and wondering if anyone would notice if I climbed out the window and down the drain pipes and ran away! It was not as bad as I had imagined, but I do remember being terribly ill from the anesthetic.
I was on fortnightly antenatal visits, but I was constantly apprehensive. Anytime I felt I a small twinge of pain or any movement, I panicked. I remember several late night visits to the hospital, all false alarms but I always felt safer when I was at the hospital. Luckily, the staff knew my past history and never turned me away. My blood pressure was constantly high, but appeared to be manageable with medication. I felt uneasy and tried very hard to be positive about the baby, and I think that I found some relief when I had my 18 week scan and I wanted to know the sex of the baby. I had never bothered to find out with my previous pregnancies, but this time I wanted to know and found some joy when I was told that it was a boy. I was relieved that I was not going to replace my daughter with another, but a little boy and started to think of names. At this scan, he was seen to have his head right down and engaged, just like his sisters before him.
As the nervous time of the 23/24 week mark approached, I was so very worried that I would go into labour at this time again, like the pregnancies before. At 23 weeks 4 days, I started experiencing premature labour contractions and we sped to the hospital where it was found that I was having mild contractions and I was given some ventalin to hopefully control them. To everyone’s relief, especially mine, the contractions subsided but I spent a week in the hospital on bed rest.
After we passed the magic figure of 24 weeks, this was now a new experience for me and I started allowing myself to think of a positive outcome, I knew that each day my baby stayed in the womb, the better off he was. After 27 weeks, I was becoming more relaxed and told everyone that if I got to 30 weeks, I would call that term! At this time, I started to cautiously buy baby things.
I awoke on the morning of 29 weeks 3 days gestation very early, as we were having a garage sale. It was a fine October morning and I was starting to finally look like I was pregnant, when I felt some mild contractions. It was also our 6th wedding anniversary and the contractions started getting stronger. I said that I would pop up to the Medical centre to make sure that it was nothing, and would be back soon. When I arrived, they found that I was indeed labouring and organised for me to be sent straight up to the hospital. When I arrived at the labour ward, they tried the ventalin again to starve off the contractions but this made my heart rate drop dangerously so this was stopped.
By the next day, I was continuing to have contractions and it was decided that they would let me deliver and they would remove the cervical stitch. They then couldn’t remove the stitch (Dr Wilson did such a good job) and I had an epidural so it could be removed.
By 3am Monday, I was only 3 cms dilated and they broke my waters hoping to hurry things along, but it was still a slow process. The night nurse was just going off duty, when she had a look and I was full dilated and the epidural was just wearing off. It all happened so fast, that within 20 minutes, Daniel Allan James was born at 7.11am 12th October 1998, 1730 grams, with a huge scream, and I was relieved that it was over. He was taken away but brought back again for me to see before he went down to ICN and I couldn’t get over how big he was. Unfortunately, I had torn during delivery and was starting to haemhorrage, so I was whisked off to theatre to fix me up, but when I awoke I had a Polaroid photo of him and was so happy that he appeared to be ok.
It was two days before I was able to go and see him, and I was very apprehensive about returning to the bad memories of ICN, but was relived to see some staff members whom we had known when Laura was in hospital.
It was so wonderful when he was four days old, when the nurses asked if I would like to hold him, I could not believe it could hold him so early and when he was give to me, I cried and cried, I just could not stop. I cried for him, for his lost sister and for his older sister and I think for me too, that I didn’t believe in him during the pregnancy.
Even though he was quite stable and doing well, I insisted that we have him baptised in the ICN, as we had done with both the girls and I felt better when this had been done. Daniel was quite fond of oxygen and had some jaundice, but did not have any overwhelming problems. I kept waiting for the bad news, but it never came and after nearly three weeks, we were transferred to Special Care.
It was extremely difficult having Laura at home and then racing up to the hospital to be with Daniel, I was torn between them, they both needed me. With Laura being our first, I spent 9-10 hours a day at the hospital, but this was just not possible with Daniel.
About two weeks later, we were phoned early one morning, Daniel had contracted a type of pneumonia and was taken back to ICN. What I did not know until I arrived at the hospital, was that they moved Daniel into Room 2 where his sister had died. I broke down and sobbed and screamed like a banshee and refused to enter the nursery until he was moved, it was still only ten months since Alexandra died.
It was at this time, that I started to develop a distinct dislike for the hospital and I just wanted to go and never come back.
Daniel slowly recovered and started to move forward and I was getting impatient, I wanted to take my baby away from the hospital and never return. Daniel was still having some oxygen and it looked like we might take him home with it but after being in hospital for 8 weeks, he decided to kick his oxygen habit and pulled out his feeding tube, he wanted to come home.
Daniel playing footy at age 7When we were finally discharged, we were lucky that he was home nearly two weeks before his due date. He was one of the biggest babies there when we left, he was 3300 grams on discharge, nearly double his birth weight. Daniel is now nearly five years old and at preschool this year, how quickly time flies! He does not look like he was 10 & half weeks premature, he is as big as kids his own age and nearly as big as his sister who is three years older than him. He is a busy and mischievous boy who loves playing in the dirt, eats everything in sight, is very independent and loves his pets.
I love him dearly as he is my baby and is a special gift that we thought we would never have.
Daniel is Kim’s 3rd prem. Read his big sister Laura’s story and her angel prem Alexandra’s story on this site.
Story by Kim Rivers