The Perfect Pregnancy
My husband and I after many years dating and 10 years of marriage decided that as we were not getting younger we would try for our first child. After a few false starts we finally had what we thought was success, the perfect pregnancy, one that followed the textbooks down to a tee. I ate all the right things; I rested in the afternoon, followed all the pregnancy advice books, took all the necessary precautions and followed all the rules.
At 14 weeks we had a CVS as we didn’t want to wait for an Amniocentesis, as the results were much sooner. We sat in the car parked at the hospital and declared we didn’t want to know the sex of our baby. We went into the doctor’s surgery, he told us we were having the perfect pregnancy and asked if we’d like to know the sex of our baby. We looked at each other as we had agreed and said YES. The doctor replied you were having a girl. Dad was very excited and we went home and painted the room pink.
As we were entering unknown territory we decided for the time being to keep our little girl our little secret. Decorating a room with teddy bears and pink frills we progressed through pregnancy without a hitch. At 18 Weeks I had a little bump and we told a few close relatives. At 24 weeks we revealed to some close friends and couldn’t believe nobody had guessed. We booked into our antenatal classes and for a baby due in September they suggested we join the August group, however that didn’t suit and we brought it forward to June, as we were planning a holiday in August. At 25 weeks a diabetes test was scheduled, at 26 weeks a scan scheduled and everything was going to plan.
Then everything that seemed so perfect started to fall to pieces. We went out to dinner and we had seafood (not allowed by the books). We had a lovely evening out, went to bed and at 2am I started to vomit and vomit and vomit. We went to the hospital (I drove, David had had too much to drink), vomiting all the way. The doctor looked at me gave me a needle and said if it doesn’t stop in an hour we shall admit you. The vomiting didn’t stop, however he sent me home anyway.
The next day we attended my local doctors surgery, (my local doctor was away), and a locum checked me out, gave me some anti-biotics and said you’ll be fine. The chemist said you shouldn’t be on these anti-biotics if you are pregnant, so we didn’t fill the script. Still thinking we’re having the perfect pregnancy as everybody is telling me everything is fine, we took 50 students to Moreton Island, a 2-hour trip across the bay and I began to leak, all weekend in fact. My bottom was so sore from sitting on the loo I could hardly walk the 2nd day. The females that joined us said it was normal (we found out later these ladies all had caesareans and didn’t know about leaking at all).
We attended my local doctor on Monday morning and she recommended going back to the hospital, as she didn’t think things were going right. Don’t be surprised if they admit you, were the words as we walked out the door. We drove to the hospital; the doctors had a look, did a spoon test and said everything’s fine, you are having the perfect pregnancy. That night I was with all my friends who told me I looked terrible and I should go home. I’m fine, the doctors said I’m fine, I’m having the perfect pregnancy everything is normal.
Tuesday I promised I’d stay in bed all day, watch telly, rest, I comment I think I’m having Braxton’s Hicks. I looked up Braxtons Hicks in my pregnancy book and read the definition to David, and we both agreed that it was what I was having. Friends rang to see how I was, I said I’m fine until one convinced me I was not and told me to go back to the hospital. My Braxton’s Hicks were getting stronger, so I rang Dave. You could tell in his tone, not this again, not another visit to the hospital. The doctors took me into a birthing suite, they had a look, told me I was not in labour but they would admit me for observation. 12 noon David went home to get a few things and I sat in bed waiting to be transferred to the ward and a 1pm scan. The nurses advised me to practice my breathing, David said our classes don’t start until next week.
Everybody leaves the room; the doctor puts his head in the door and asks for a urine sample, a simple request normally. I went into the bathroom and as I didn’t need to pass urine, I thought I’d wait for the pain in by belly to go so I could concentrate on the sample. As I looked down in the bowl I heard a noise and I saw a lump like a blood spot, strange I thought to myself but not as strange as when I realised looking in the bowl that there was a head. I pushed the emergency button and it seemed that nobody came. I called out for help and David ran out of the room down the hallway to look for a nurse. By this time I’m holding a baby, very carefully. You can only imagine what my mind was thinking, as it seemed to take forever for somebody to attend to me. Could they save my baby, how long is the umbilical cord, where are the nurses, (I thought everything was fine), is she alive. Questions just kept coming. The nurse couldn’t believe what she saw; she in shock, pushed the buttons and staff came from everywhere. “We’re so sorry Mrs Reberger we couldn’t help”. We were put through the process of delivering the placenta; we heard the baby cry, 2 very tiny cries, more like a baby lamb than a baby. The baby was rushed off, a nurse returned to say we had a girl and left the room. We looked at each other with no words to say. We sat and we waited, the nurse returned, asked us if we had a name, asked if they could call the minister and stated that if they could stabilise her they could send her to the Royal. At 4pm the minister arrived and we said a Prayer and the doctors said they’d send her to the Royal. She was put into an Ambulance and taken away and we were sent home. No baby and no knowing how or where she was.
Arriving at Royal Brisbane Hospital at 9pm and an hour later we found Paige. We weren’t allowed to enter the room, we could only look at a distance. We booked into Royal Women’s as I needed a check-up myself and we went to our room. The ward clerk took me back past Paige, 890gms was printed on her card, baby of Reberger. I got very little sleep that night and in the morning I found myself wandering the halls looking for my baby. I didn’t feel like a mother, I didn’t know what to feel. If I had to state my feelings I would of said I’d been robbed, robbed of my baby kicking, robbed of cravings, robbed of the right to waddle down the street and robbed of the right to wear my new maternity clothes. No chance to tell my relations and large circle of friends.
The Intensive Care Unit and the Royal was overwhelming, with lights, computers, alarms, nursing staff, doctors. As I looked at my little baby, under a perspex box, covered in gladwrap, tubes coming out of every limb, ventilator across her face the nurse looked at me and said Mrs Reberger she’s doing as well as is expected for a baby of her weight and duration. At 25 weeks, who’s to know what the outcome was to be I asked the question? The standard answer was she is doing as well as is expected for a baby of her weight and duration.
The intensive care unit is a place you can’t describe without the sounds, how long will I have to be here. We meet a lady in the hallway whose baby’s coming off the ventilator, that’s great news I said but her baby wasn’t to make it. I couldn’t look at this lady for the rest of that day as I didn’t want it to be me who was turning off the ventilator and I wanted to hold on to every hope I had. A mother comes in on a stretcher, gets taken to a humidicrib opposite ours, puts out her hand and touches the fingers of her baby (one thing I am not yet allowed to do). My job is to just sit and watch and let the nurses do theirs). The orderly pushed the lady out of the room and said ‘now let’s see twin number 2 Mrs Roland’, I felt for her as she must be going through this twice. She read the card that said 25 weeks, 890 grams and she felt for me, as she knew the chances for our little girl were not good. Together we kept each other company for the next 10 weeks. All the babies in special care room 1 were under a kilogram in weight except for the Roland baby who was a 32 weeker at 1.5 kilograms. We went on a rollercoaster ride, 2 steps forward, 2 steps back, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, the special care waltz.
David coped far better than I did, which was surprising, as I am always the stronger one of the two. He wrote a diary. Each morning that he was not there he would ring and ask what the monitor said, what’s the heartrate and what’s her oxygen level. I tried my hardest to remember the answers but with so much going on I found it very difficult. Friends came to visit, phone calls were made to tell of the birth and some took a lot of convincing because they did not know of the pregnancy at all
We learnt to jump hurdles. On the 4th day we had two hurdles to overcome. The first being a brain scan, the second to be the installation of a Central Line. We weren’t sure what this Central Line did or where it went but we were told it is what is used for feeding. It is a tube that is placed in the arm up into the chest cavity and into the top of the stomach. This was a double failure day and quite upsetting as the Resident doctor could not place the tube in the correct position after a couple of attempts and to add to the distress the scan was cancelled because of the failed attempt.
On day 5 we were booked into Ronald McDonald House. The other mothers from the ward and the manager from Ronald McDonald House became like family. The mothers and I shared our roller coaster ride and gave us hope that we never had before. The nurse showed us photos of babies as small as Paige that successfully beat the odds. We placed David’s wedding ring over Paige’s hand and she wore it like a bracelet. We took photos so we would have memories of how small she really was.
On the 6th day we got to hold her hand, we sat by the cot and read books and told her stories, sung songs, just as if she was in the womb. Day 7 was our first PIPA meeting, the other mothers encouraged us to go and talk about our feelings, I broke down in tears, proclaiming it was all my fault. The social worker tried to convince me that these things just happen, no they don’t, it’s my fault I ate seafood and I could have eaten steak. Everybody said it’s not your fault. We’ll never know why it happened, sometimes it just happens. Walking out of the PIPA meeting a little stronger realising there are a group of mothers just like me not knowing why. We found these meetings to be very comforting meeting mothers who have been through it all before. David seemed to get a lot out of the meetings too, as there were other dads he could talk to. David tried to take as big a part as he could; he practised changing nappies on a doll, so when the time came he could change her bottom.
2 weeks and the heart rate is up and going higher, we had an ECG done and they think there is a problem The Cardiologist is thinking he will take her to Prince Charles for an operation tomorrow. The ultrasounds showed that her duct was open and enlarged so they scheduled surgery at 5:30pm. We just sat and waited and hoped out the front of the lifts. Each time the door opened we hoped she was back from surgery, it took forever. We find ourselves with a very tiny baby living in Brisbane and Paige being our main focus. Everything revolves around the doctors, nurses and Paige. The nurses say she is doing well for a baby of her weight and duration, nobody will make a commitment. Oxygen still at 40% and we feed you 3mls of milk through a syringe every 2 hours. Everything looks stable but her heart is still erratic. Paige was diagnosed with SVT’s, which means a very fast heart rate that should be controlled by drugs, but the doctors found it very hard to get the dosage right.
24 days and her central line has been removed accidentally, a new one has to be put in place. I decide I am going to stay and hold her hand, but at the start of the 3rd attempt I was so upset I left the hospital grounds, until my fear of not knowing became greater than my fear of being there. I returned to find that the central line was placed into her head. Not unusual the doctor said but no other baby on the floor had a central line through the head. 3 transfusions, 3 brain scans, several attempts at tube feeding and 7 weeks on we had our first nurse and for the first time I felt like a mother.
8 weeks and the ventilator is removed and it is homeward bound, slow steps, still trying to get the medication right for the SVT’s but we are actually making progress. 13 weeks at the Royal Women’s, 5 weeks at Caboolture and home without oxygen, an achievement that even surprised the doctors.
She has progressed like any normal baby except for the heart condition. We noticed some small things that just didn’t seem right and after some investigation it was discovered that she had mild cerebral palsy and a temporary hearing loss from fluid behind the eardrums, but no serious complications. An operation to have grommets put in to drain the fluid, visits to the physio twice a week, botox treatments for the Cerebral Palsy, regular heart specialist appointments, bad lungs which result in regular asthma episodes, but we have a very happy and active 3 year old.
Some people say they don’t care the sex of the baby as long as it is healthy. We say all we want is happy and she certainly is happy. Although she doesn’t get around as good as her friends she certainly makes it up with language and the ability to make others laugh. She does most things that a 3-year-old can do and we will encourage her growth and development in any way we can. It was said to us that having a premature baby was like planning a trip to France in the summer. We learnt the language, we bought summer clothes, picked all the spots and sights to see, boarded the plane and landed at the North Pole. The North Pole’s lovely but it’s just not Paris but I’m glad we went and I’m glad we’ve got our little girl because our time at the Royal taught us that it’s not the destination that counts it’s making it to the end and becoming a family.
By Jody Reberger