This bowl of Rice Krispies meant so much to me!

I came across this old photo from when I was pregnant with my oldest and thought it might help others to hear my story.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and a low ovarian reserve, after trying and failing to conceive. After diagnosis I had multiple operations to remove ovarian cysts before we eventually started on our IVF journey. Despite the hundreds of injections, constant blood tests and scans, we remained positive. To help me through my husband wrote a funny song about each stage which would give us a bit of a laugh.

Eventually the day of egg collection arrived and as I came to on the ward following the procedure, I could hear the women around me being told by the consultant how many eggs they had retrieved – “18”, “24”, “12” – but no one came to tell me. After a painful wait they informed me I had a measly four. The next day I got a call that I was down to just two. Emybro implantation would usually be five days after collection, but I was told to go back the next day to have both implanted before we lost any more. It was our one chance as we would have no eggs in the freezer!

The two week wait to take a pregnancy test was terrible, but eventually I cried happy tears on the bathroom floor, upon seeing a positive result. Two weeks later we had a scan and were surprised to see two healthy heartbeats!

Unfortunately a few weeks later at my next scan at 10 weeks I was informed I had lost one of the babies. The doctor told me in a very matter-of-fact manner which I really found hard to digest. I tried to remain strong for the little baby growing inside me but couldn’t understand how I could have missed even realising that I had lost one of the babies. I was paranoid about every ache and pain. A few days later worried I was losing the next baby I had another scan. Thankfully the baby was fine. I had a different doctor this time who was much more understanding. She asked if I wanted to see the miscarried “baby” and showed me how it had sunk to the bottom of its sac, and how small it was compared to the growing one. It sounds like a horrible thing to see but it really gave me some sort of closure and while I will always remember the baby that “never was” I knew I had to stay strong to focus on the baby which “could be”.

Hospitalised permanently

From 18 weeks I had terrible SPD leaving me mostly bed bound at home, only able to go any distance in a wheelchair. My usual commute to the city, where I work in an investment bank, was out of the question, so I worked on and off from bed.

Then, from 21 weeks I started heavily bleeding due to grade 4 (major) placenta previa (when the babies placenta covers the cervix, meaning if the placenta has not moved and you went into labour you and the baby could be put in severe danger). I found myself in and out of hospital. After another bleed at 25 weeks I was told I would be hospitalised permanently until the baby was born.

I was not able to leave the labour ward even to get air or go to the cafe because if my placenta abrupted they would have approximately eight minutes to get the baby out alive. I have no idea why they actually told me this, as it meant I barely slept for the six weeks I spent on the ward, incase it happened in my sleep. I had to notify someone every time I went to the toilet and sometimes even have someone in with me. I had to show them the “wipes” so they could track when there was or wasn’t blood. It all felt like a very undignified situation to be in.

I will never forget the first “big bleed” you can’t imagine what it feels like seeing over a litre of blood pouring out of you not knowing whether the baby you went through so much to conceive (emotionally, physically and financially) was dead or alive.

Following each bleed was a frantic rush to get me near the operating theatre and put on monitoring to decide whether early C-section was necessary, having been explained the babies survival rate at each gestation. I would then be hooked up for blood transfusion to replace the lost blood, put nil by mouth and on a drip.

This whole process happened about 10 times, each time my husband being called at work or in the middle of the night to rush to the hospital to be with me for a potential emergency C-section.

The photo was a rare picture I have of myself during my pregnancy. It was taken by my mum, about three weeks into my six week hospital stay, to celebrate that after another almost two day stint nil by mouth, I finally got to eat a bowl of Rice Krispies (and that a cousin had posted me a funny hairband!).

I missed out on my baby shower and going to antenatal classes, I even missed out on fresh air for weeks, or really any enjoyment at all during my much waited and longed for pregnancy – and yet, eating a bowl of Rice Krispies felt like the best privilege in the world.

Finding routine and support

Being on the labour ward (as I was too high risk to be allowed a private room) meant I saw hundreds of women come in and leave with their baby and I was still stuck there not knowing if I would ever leave with a baby, and all the worse having very little contact with the outside world. This was partly due to the lack of wi-fi or phone reception but also because anytime I did speak to a friend, as soon as someone asked me how I was I broke down in tears too devastated to talk about the reality of the situation. Instead, I focused on just getting through. I found routine in my days, became proficient in some of the monitoring machines (to the point where the medical staff let me operate them myself) and took up cross stitch as a welcome distraction. My Mum was amazing there with me every day as was my husband when he finished work.

At 31 weeks I awoke in the night to find myself in a pool of blood, having felt like I had contractions since the previous day (but being told it couldn’t be possible) it turns out my waters had broken, I had had a massive bleed and an emergency C-section was required.

Isabelle was safely delivered at 31 weeks. Having a premature baby was another whole drama in itself. I spent a further three weeks by her side at the Neo Natal Care Unit. Unfortunately mothers were not allowed to stay, which meant going through the awful pain of leaving my baby behind every night and going home, in the hope that she would still be safe and well in the morning. Isabelle proved to be a little fighter and to our delight, surprised everyone by being declared fit to come home at just 34 weeks.

Despite coming home we still had to attend weekly opthalmology appointments at the hospital, which would take the best part of the day as well as additional monitoring.

Appreciating the small things

The whole ordeal was the worst time of my life but it taught me to appreciate the small things in life (your own bed, home cooked food and being in contact with family and friends) and also gave me the strength to get through the rest of life’s ups and downs, which I have been through since, in particular getting diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and having another premature miracle baby, Amelie.

Isabelle and Amelie are now healthy 7 and 5 year olds who love dancing, fancy dress, and riding their bikes! I couldn’t be more blessed.

So please live life to the fullest, appreciate what you have, ask for help when you need it and don’t count the days but make the days count.