Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Hannah & Calvin's story

I never even thought I wanted children. Until I hit 30.  Then it hit me like a train, a huge overwhelming urge, that started with a flippant comment by my (now) husband in Asda.  We agreed we wouldn't ever become the couple that used ovulation kits and charts.  We'd just lose the protection and hope for the best.  Initially, it took a year to get pregnant, and when I had my first scan, they told me they thought I was carrying 5 babies.  I nearly died with fright.  As it happens, there were 6 babies, but I sadly miscarried at 11 weeks. They told me at the first scan they weren't that hopeful as there were so many of them, but although I quietly hoped, they were right and they lost their heart beats.

We took a little time out, terrified it might happen again.  A doctor told me that this could be something I just do...maybe one month I release no eggs, the next month 6.  That this could have been why it took me a long time to conceive.

I eventually realised that the need to become a mother, outweighed my fear of having a multiple birth, even a multiple miscarriage.  So we tried again.  This time I got pregnant within about six months.  I spent the first 14 weeks or so switching from terrified to horrendous morning sickness, literally hugging the toilet between 10 and 12 times per day.  I eventually got signed off work for 4 weeks, as doctors were worried I might become dehydrated.  Thankfully, I was only carrying 1 baby, and after the 14 week period, everything became calm again, the whole pregnancy was pretty easy and calm, and the only crazy aspect was my ridiculous craving for Elton John music.  All the time, from first thing in the morning, listening to him all day in work, right up until bedtime...I was never even a particular fan of his prior to this pregnancy...but ridiculously, I couldn't get enough of him.

At the end of the pregnancy, I was huge, and shattered pretty much all of the time.  I left work at the end of my 36th week and had a month of peace. Sleeping, walking my dogs, eating fruit, and preparing my nest.

I ended up going 8 days over when I finally started contractions. It was 15 May 2010, early afternoon.  I was so excited, as was my fiance (now husband), Paulo.  I knew it was early on, but I was having light contractions around every 7 minutes.  That evening, I called the hospital.  They told me if possible to wait till they were about every 4 minutes.  I told them I would do my best.

Although the contractions weren't incredibly painful, they kept me awake all night.  The following morning, 16 May 2010, I called the hospital again and said the contractions weren't regular, but were coming between every 4 and 7 minutes.  They told me to come in to be checked.  When I was checked by the midwife, she said it was very early labour, but I was only 1cm dilated, and that especially the first baby, it can be very slow.  They sent me home.

Around 6pm, the contractions were about every 4-5 minutes, but still inconsistent.  I called the hospital again, and they invited me back.  After checking me out, they said I was still only 1cm dilated and sent me home again.

That night, although still inconsistent, they got a lot more painful.  I think partly due to the lack of sleep from the night before, I got a bit tearful and worried I wouldn't have the energy to actually give birth when baby decided to make an entrance.  At 2am on 17 May 2010, my fiance told me to call the hospital again.  He was worried and didn't know what to do.  Again I was asked back.  When they told me I was still only 1cm dilated, I burst into tears and told them my fears.  This was now my second night without sleep.

Because it was late, and because I was upset, they said to me, why didn't I stay there overnight.  They told me I wasn't being admitted, but that it might make me calmer to feel like I was at least in the right place.  In my hospital bed, I tried to stay quiet, to give my fiance at least a little sleep, as it would also be a long day ahead for him too, but at 6am, with no sleep once again, I pressed the buzzer for the midwife.  I was desperate not to be seen as an hysterical first time mother, but the pain was hugely magnified by the lack of sleep.  She offered me paracetamol, and I told her they did nothing.   She said she'd speak to a doctor.

She came back, and said more than anything, due to the lack of sleep, they would give me pethadine.  If I wanted it.  She said it wasn't normally given under my circumstances, but due to the lack of sleep, it would probably just help me rest for an hour or 2.  So I agreed.  Maybe too easily.

I woke up at 7.30am, just as a midwife came in.  She told me I would shortly be examined, to see whether I had progressed during the night.  If I had, then I could stay.  If I hadn't, then I would have to go home again.  She went to get her examining implements.  My heartbeat and blood pressure were fine.  She just had to check my baby's heart beat.  Calvin.  That was his name.  Calvin.

She couldn't find it, but said it was perfectly natural, he had probably turned and in a funny angle.  She got a different piece of equipment. Tried again.  Still couldn't find it.  Got the senior midwife in.  She couldn't find it either.  With either piece of equipment.  They each tried to reassure me that everything was still fine, and I refused to think about the unthinkable.  They said the easiest way forward, was to just give me a scan...it was accurate, it was clear, there would obviously be a picture for me to look at and reassure myself with. I said ok, and they went to get the mobile scanning machine.

I think I knew my son had died when they came back. They brought a consultant, the head midwife, a whole bunch of other people.  There were 9 of them in my room. Plus my fiance and me. I looked at him, and he gave me his most reassuring look. His look made me scared, I could see the fear in his eyes.  The consultant looked at the scanning machine for a long time. It actually could have been a minute.  It felt like a decade.  I could hear my own heart hammering away in my ears, and then she told me, the consultant I mean, she told me.  She was sorry.  There was no heartbeat. A piece of me died that day. A piece of me that will never recover.

They induced me, to help me get into established labour quicker.   They gave me an epidural, and so much more pethadine, to make it as painless as possible.  Cutting off my head would have been less painful. I gave birth at 12.33am on 18 May 2010.  I pushed so hard to deliver him before the 18 May, as that was my mums birthday.  She had been so excited about Calvin, she had recently retired, and had promised to have him when I returned to work.  It was such a bitter irony to give birth to him on her birthday.  Even when he was born, I felt a strange elation, I had been so looking forward to seeing him.  And when I did, well, he was just beautiful.  Perfect in fact. And I kept looking, just hoping for him to prove the Consultant wrong, that they had made a mistake. I just said, "breathe baby, just one little tiny breath"...and waited.  It obviously didn't happen.

We had our cuddles.  For an hour or so I held him.  Then they took me away.  To a private room.  I'm pretty ashamed to say I slept.  I think my body just shut down.

The next day, I left the hospital.  Went back to my empty home.  It was torture. It's like the sickest joke in the world to be on maternity leave with no baby.

The postmortem revealed nothing.  They had no idea why or how he died.  Possibly pethadine had an effect, but they said it wouldn't kill a healthy baby, only a baby in serious difficulty.  Who knows what happened? It's torture not knowing.

In November 2010, I found I was pregnant again.  It was a horrible pregnancy.  Full of worry, full of stress. Physically, it wasn't a difficult pregancy, but I was going out of my mind with worry.  I was now classed as high risk.  I was called to the hospital regularly for scans.  I was 7 months pregnant when Calvin would have been 1 year old.  My fiance and I wanted to 'celebrate' our boy, our beautiful angel.  I told him I was terrified that 18 May would forever be the saddest day in the world for us.  We wanted to do something, something good, for us, for our beautiful boy, for our families, who had been a tower of support for both of us.

So we got married.  A very, very quiet service.  We told our parents on the day.  And that was it.  We had Calvin's ashes with us when we got married.  And then we had a dinner out for all the family that night.  And told them what we had done.

On July 12 2011, after being induced at 38 weeks, I gave birth to a beautiful son, Daniel, who is now 6 months old.  I adore him, he is perfect and my honeybee.

But I will never forget my firstborn, Calvin, who would have been 2 on 18 May 2012.  Daniel cannot fill the void I have from Calvin. It is indescribable the pain, even now, nearly 2 years on.

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