It was a shock to find out I was pregnant. I had done all the right things - or thought I had (I suppose I will never find that out for sure unless time travel allows me to go and review those few weeks). I was at a mature student in my first year of my Law degree at University and for once had tried to plan out the next 5 years of my life. Maybe that was why it happened, to teach me that you just can't plan what goes on in life!
My due date was 25th December, my little Christmas baby was nicknamed 'Santos' by my good friend and on that cold 2nd November night as I sat up on my parents sofa having just finished watching a movie with them I would never have predicted that my waters would just 'break'. Of course I didn't realise that this had happened, I was merely laughing with my mum about the film and suddenly stopped laughing when I thought my bladder had given up on me!
Being a first time mum and completely green to what was going on, off I waddled with just my handbag and a towel wedge between my legs. Little did I know that I would not be returning home for another 3 weeks and I would be coming back with a brand new, premature baby boy and a permanent look of shock on my face.
For three days I was monitored, I had an extra scan and was told that there was still water around the baby and if the leaking had stopped they could replenish themselves. The baby was approx 4lb 7oz. The doctor visited on the Wednesday morning and said if the waters continued to hold I could be discharged the next day and they would try and get me to at least 34 weeks. I started to pack up in anticipation of going home and went and had dinner in the hospital restaurant with my cousin who had come to visit.
Then I felt the, what I now know was inevitable, happen. My waters started leaking again. The midwives put me straight on the big belly monitor and my brother came to visit. Just as he was leaving I was checked again and told that they just wanted to Registrar to come and check me. They suggested that my mum stayed. O.k I said with no idea of what the next 24 hours would hold.
The Registrar arrived and after much being talked about and not too (very annoying) I was told I was to go to the Early Delivery Ward as the babies heart rate kept dipping. Nothing to worry about they said but in the EDW they would be able to monitor the babies heart rate all the time at the nurses station. I remember asking the nurse if I needed to take anything with me. I was told, yes take everything dear. Looking back now I should have sensed the pity in her eyes that I didn't have a clue I was imminently going to be delivering an 8 week premature baby.
On arrival at the ward I was hooked up once again to the Big Belly monitor. The Registrar popped in several times to update me that there had been no improvement and eventually broke the news that I was going to have to deliver by emergency c-section. Now? I questioned. Yes, now. I was told the nurse would be in to prep me. I realised at this point I really had not done my homework, I vaguely knew that a c-section meant that they were going to deliver the baby by surgery but that was about it and I had no idea what dangers having a premature baby were. But as stated before, it was probably for the best in one way but not in another. By that I mean I didn't question anything, I literally knew I had to put mine and my babies wellbeing in the hands of some complete stranger. I had a strange sensation of it being like on a crashing aircraft, you just had to hope.
What seemed to be an eternity later, the fear having had time to attack, I was taken down for my emergency c-section and at 3.02am on 6th November I became a mum to a 4lb 9oz little boy. All I saw was a grey, floppy little body being vigorously rubbed before being wrapped up and was told he had to go straight to intensive care in the NICU. I was left shaking uncontrollably with a vision of a scrunched up little grey face flying past me, the door closing on it's soft shutter and hearing just the faintest little warble of life as the door clicked closed.
Thus I set about my first few days as a mum in, quite frankly, complete shock. I hadn't even chosen a name and it seemed like an enormous task to do so. I decided I couldn't pick one until I had been to see him. My mum warned me that when she had been to see him, he had a large mask (CPAP) covering his tiny face and not to be shocked. But when I arrived that had gone and 13 hours after he was born I was allowed to hold him. I remember thinking 'My god he has got big feet' they seemed huge against his little cocktail stick legs. Little folds of skin covered him everywhere, where he had no fat! He also didn't have nails on his fingers and toes or eyebrows. But he was the most beautiful miracle in the world to me.
For some reason I had it in my head that at 32 weeks he would still be undeveloped facially and alien like, you don't imagine for a second that they are a perfect little baby inside of you. I decided on a name and had visitors just like normal but it was so hard being on a ward with all the mum's and their babies while you are laying there minus the crib. And you feel torn, having had a section I was in pain and needed to recover, but all I wanted was to be by my baby.
We had a relatively smooth run in Special Care, no unforeseen infections or problems. I had been told not to expect him to be out until the original due date and had steeled myself for that, but he progressed quickly, gained weight and started to bottle feed along with tube feeding after two weeks (apparently he was too young to have the 'suckle' ability prior to that). I was allowed to hold him and give 'Kangeroo Care'. Eventually we were transferred back to our local hospital by which time I was told that I could have a private room with the view that I would be fully caring for him as I would at home, but for a few nights would have the hospital on hand should I need it.
After successful completion of those few days we were discharged, a full month before he was even due to be born. My tiny little scrap was all mine to love and care for. We had no idea at the time that we would discover J1 had suffered brain damage during the last hour of the birth and that he would be diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy at 11 months, no idea of what to expect or not to expect.
Life has obviously never been the same and never will be. He brightens every day and is packed full of character despite his physical disabilities. Life is wonderful, as is he and I hope to be able to write about his achievements with as much glowing pride as any mother within my blogs.