Everything was fine up until my 20 week scan. The sonographer was quiet and there was a graph-like image on the screen that didn’t seem to be normal. He went on to explain that there was 'bilateral artery notching', which restricts the blood flow, and that our baby was a bit on the small side. He gave me a leaflet and made an appointment for four weeks' time. But before that could happen, I had a few episodes of a decline in movement and had to spend many nights being monitored at the maternity triage.
At 24 weeks, although our baby had grown, he was still small, and now there were low levels of amniotic fluid. I came back the next week for another scan only to be told the same thing. Now I had to be scanned every other day. It was all a blur, coming to the hospital for scans in the day, and often having to return at night due to a lack of movement or pains. One night I was told to go in as it felt as though I was going into labour. They did a fern test (to check for the onset of labour) that came back negative, but I was still kept overnight for monitoring.
By the time we reached 33 weeks, we had to make a decision. In two weeks he had only gained about 3oz, he was still behind in growth, and the fluid levels were declining. I was admitted to hospital for daily monitoring and scans. At 34 weeks and 5 days they decided to start my labour. I was given a pessary and waited for the contractions. Although my mucus plug was beginning to come away, there wasn’t much pain.
The next day they decided to break my waters, as the pessary hadn’t done its job. I lay with the gas and air whilst the doctor tried to break my waters, but there just wasn’t enough to break. I was given the options of another pessary, a balloon type of thing to open my cervix, or I could wait till morning to have a c-section. The doctors and midwives were not allowed to influence our decision. In the end we chose to have a c-section.
That night, my partner went home. I was strapped to a monitor all night – it had almost become strange not to hear the constant thud of our son’s heartbeat. Morning came, and at 35 weeks exactly, I signed my consent form to have a c-section. We were taken to see the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU). It terrified me that in a matter of hours my boys would be with me.
I was taken into theatre where I was given an epidural (spinal injection). It was all going well, until all of a sudden it felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I'm not sure if it was the effects of the epidural or just general anxiety, but the wonderful staff kept me and my partner talking while the surgeons performed the job.
We were warned that he was likely to cry when he was delivered. I felt a tug and we waited anxiously. His cries were the most wonderful sound I've ever heard. I took a quick look, he was tiny and had very dry skin and low fluid, but he was crying and breathing. Then he was whisked away with the neonatal staff. The anaesthetic was wearing off and I was put to sleep whilst they stitched me up.
I woke to be told our son was a tiny 3lb 13oz. Although that’s small, he was 10oz heavier than predicted. He was being tube fed on a heated mattress in the SCBU. He was so strong that he didn’t even need Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). I first held him at a day old. He was the smallest little person I’d ever set eyes on, but he was ours – our fighter.
Each day he went from strength to strength. He just needed to gain weight and feed from a bottle. At four days, he began bottle feeding between tube feeds, and came off his heated mattress. Once he did that we were transferred to the transitional care suite where I care for him.
After seven days he weighed 4lb and we were given the news we could take him home. Our boy was coming home! Although his time in SCBU was short, he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the likes of these specialist units. I’m eternally grateful to all the staff at Ninewells Hospital Dundee and Perth Royal Infirmary for their expert care, and also to my consultant, who was brilliant. Our son Ewan is now 17 months old. He’s still a bit small and had only recently learned to walk, but he’s doing brilliantly. It’s the little things that mean the most.
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