When you become pregnant, whether it’s your first, second or fifth child, you instantly have plans. From the moment you go to your first midwife appointment and they tell you your due date, you automatically start making plans for that very particular day, even though in the back of your mind you know babies rarely actually enter the world on their due date. But straight after that appointment, your first thought isn’t usually ”but what if things just happen really early? When is it too early or too late to prepare for their arrival? What if something goes wrong?”.
The past few weeks have been really tough. With one complication after another and constantly feeling like the floor is being swept from beneath my feet and like my heart is going to jump right out of my chest every time a doctor enters the room with a ”not so happy” face.
Three weeks ago, on a pretty chilled Saturday morning, the weather was quite alright even though the sun had only just about started lighting up the sky. I woke up at 6am with Braxton Hicks. Perfectly normal in pregnancy, as are a lot of pains so I’ve come to learn. These pains weren’t painful as such, they were just uncomfortable but not unbearable. I woke up just feeling like something was wrong. It was just a gut feeling, I didn’t really associate it with my pains at the time, to me those pains were Braxton Hicks and those are perfectly normal the further along you get in pregnancy. I just suddenly woke up and felt like something wasn’t right. I remember waking my husband up to tell him exactly this. He, of course, was super reassuring as always so I ended up going back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I wake up and the pains are still uncomfortable but this time the aches were becoming slightly more intense, still nothing unbearable but enough to stop me from moving or doing whatever I was doing at times. This carried on for a solid few hours at the same intensity.
That day, my husband went to work and I went by my day as usual. I had actually planned to give the house a good early spring clean. So I started doing the laundry and that’s when I had my first contraction, this was around 3.30pm, it wasn’t super intense still but it was painful enough for me to have to take a moment and take deep breaths until it was over. Then with every contraction, the pain became stronger. The tightenings became tighter and sharper each time a new contraction would start. I have quite a high pain tolerance when it comes to contractions and labour so I decided to wait a couple more hours to see if the contractions gained a pattern. I wasn’t super worried at this point, but I was starting to wonder what on Earth was causing the pain.
An hour went by, the pain had become insanely intense and I was no longer being able to stand up and breathe through these contractions. The contractions were getting closer and closer and it felt like I had barely recovered from one contraction before there was already another starting. I remembered that when I went into labour with our first born, my labour started exactly in the same way. The same times, the same pain intensity at said times and the way the contractions felt too. Something I didn’t even think I could still remember the feeling of so vividly. So I decided to call my midwife which didn’t answer so I called the maternity unit at the closest hospital to me and they asked me to go in as soon as possible to be examined. Of course, my husband was at work, so I had to try and get a lift to the hospital and also someone to look after my son. Luckily we have really supportive family so I got all my son’s things together and left him with family and then quickly set off straight to the hospital.
If I’m honest, I don’t really know what I expected when I was on the way to the hospital. By this point my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart but I was trying so hard to stay positive. I knew the last thing I needed was to panic or worry, especially without knowing what was going on first so I guess I just kept reassuring myself that it was normal, I was going to get checked over and I would be home within a few hours. My gut was still telling me something felt wrong, I was just trying my hardest to ignore that gut feeling.
Things didn’t exactly happen like that. By the time I arrived, the midwives were already waiting for me and took me straight to be assessed. They checked baby’s heartbeat and her heartbeat was great, checked my temperature, tested my urine, oxygen levels, heart rate and checked my blood pressure. Everything seemed fine, my obs were all fine and there was no sign of infection at all in my urine. So I’m thinking ”great, so it’s probably just some normal pregnancy pains, maybe I over-worked myself a little when I was cleaning and that’s why the pains feel worse”. I think I was just trying to stay positive and holding on to anything that would result in a positive outcome. I waited for the doctor and when the doctor came to see me and I explained everything, he seemed a lot more concerned than any midwife that had spoken to me so far. He asked a few times how far along I was and I repeated ”24 weeks and 4 days” quite a few times, it was obvious by his facial expressions he was really hoping I was further along in my pregnancy. So by this point, my mind is kind of starting to worry a little bit but I’m still remaining pretty chilled out. I was really surprised by how long I managed to stay chilled for.
He decided it was best to take some swabs and do a test. Between me telling him what my pains were like and how far along I was and him telling me what he was testing for, everything happened pretty fast. I was in lots of pain, my contractions were 2 minutes apart so my brain just wasn’t registering much that was being said or going on around me. He examined me and did whatever test he needed to do and he quickly took the test away. He came back and said the swab showed no infection and that everything was fine, the pain hadn’t been caused by an infection, however, the test had come back with two lines. He showed me this test that basically looked like a pregnancy test and to be honest, I had no idea what on Earth I was looking at. ”What does this mean?”… I was kind of hoping for a more positive answer and completely didn’t expect what he was going to proceed to tell me. ”This means the test is positive so you are going into preterm labour”. I think I asked him to repeat about two times before my brain actually processed what it was hearing. “Preterm labour? How? Surely that can’t be, it’s too early”. I just got tears in my eyes as soon as what he said actually hit me. I hadn’t read anything about preterm labour or premature babies. I didn’t think to read about anything like that so early, I felt like I had so long to reach 40 weeks to read everything.
He called a group of midwives over and told me that basically they were going to try and ”stop” labour, but that most importantly, my contractions needed to calm down as soon as possible so that labour didn’t progress further. Each midwife kind of went off and grabbed different things, one went to grab everything she needed in order to take blood from me, another grabbed an injection with a massive injective needle that I was later going to find out what it was, another started getting pain relief and medication ready for me and another started calling hospitals to arrange a transfer and ambulance to collect me because I could no longer stay in that hospital. I needed to be transferred as soon as possible. That particular hospital only have the right equipment to look after babies that are 30+ weeks gestation and mine was just 24 weeks at the time. So they needed to transfer me to whichever hospital had the right equipment to look after babies from 24 weeks gestation, it didn’t matter how far away the hospital was, I just needed to be transferred as soon as possible. I was going to be transferred to whichever hospital was available to take me first, they called multiple across England but I ended up going to one that was just a couple of hours away. Which ended up being quite relieving for me because that hospital is so much better and I really didn’t want to be 6 hours drive away from my son.
They started my pain relief and also gave me these super colourful tablets every 15 minutes, these were the magical tablets that would hopefully calm down my contractions and eventually ”stop” my body from progressing into labour. While waiting for an ambulance to collect me and for the tablets to hopefully start working (there was a chance they wouldn’t work at all), they laid me down and injected this massive needle into the muscle in my thigh. It was extremely painful but at the time I was beyond caring if an injection was painful or not, as long as it helped towards a positive outcome in the end and would help baby be okay. These were steroids, I was given the injection to strengthen baby’s lungs in case things did progress further earlier than they were supposed to, this would give her better chances of survival. I would later have another steroid injection the next day for the same reason.
The ambulance was getting close to arriving and I really needed to go to the bathroom so I decided to stand up and go before being taken into the ambulance. I knew I wouldn’t be able to later and the contractions were starting to be further apart so I really wanted to go in case the pain became worse again. I stood up and I felt so weak. I felt light-headed, dizzy and like I was just going to fall. Walking down this corridor, the bathroom was only four doors away from where I started walking from and it felt like I was taking forever to get there. I felt like I was using up all the strength in my body to walk this short distance. I remember getting frustrated with myself. It felt like my body and everything around me was in slow motion. I then left the bathroom and started walking back to where I was being assessed, the ambulance crew were now just getting everything ready to take me and the walk back felt like forever. I was so extremely out of breath. It felt like I’d been running for an hour. I could feel myself about to drop but I knew I couldn’t, I knew if I fell to the floor I could hurt the baby so I was just holding on to anything I came by in the corridor to somewhat balance myself on the way back. I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt anything like it before.
I got back to the bed I had previously been assessed on and I caught my breath for just seconds before someone came to insert a cannula into my hand. I have extremely difficult veins. Not only are the very thin, they bounce back and also aren’t straight so are very hard to find. I noticed he had the largest cannula so I explained to him I might need a pink one (they’re much smaller”. He was a student so he had a midwife telling him what to do, he was just doing what he was being told, which resulted into him not listening to me at all. He started trying to put this cannula into my hand, it was extremely painful, I kept my hand still and was trying to cooperate because I just wanted to get in that ambulance so I really needed this cannula to work, but the pain was really bad and I was having to bite my hand so I wouldn’t scream. I kept telling him “it’s not going to work”. He asked me if I wanted him to stop that attempt and I said “yes” many times and I could tell he was okay to stop trying but the midwife teaching him kept telling him to carry on. She told him he got it in, so naturally, he started to flush the cannula. This was saline water, shouldn’t be painful at all if the cannula is in correctly. The pain was excruciating. I just screamed. My hand started to literally bubble up like a balloon around where this cannula was. I asked them to take it out and they eventually did. I’ve had many failed cannulas and not once had I experienced that kind of pain. It has been 3 weeks and still to this day I can’t move my (right) hand properly. I need help zipping up clothing, opening jars and cans, I’m unable to write or even do something as simple as washing the dishes. It’s too painful and my hand just doesn’t move no matter how hard I try. The doctors suspect that the cannula wasn’t in my vein at all so when he flushed it with saline water, it all just went into my hand. Anyway, the midwife quickly tried to get a cannula in my other hand (spoiler alert, it wasn’t right either) because I needed to get on that ambulance as soon as possible.
My mother-in-law who had been with me at the hospital all those hours needed to stay behind because of her car so a really nice midwife came on the ambulance with me so she could explain to the other hospital what had been going on and everything they had given me so far so they could decide a plan of action from there. I was pretty out of it, I had been injected with multiple things, given multiple pain relief and tablets, and I still felt very faint. The trip to the next hospital usually took a couple of hours but I was blue-lighted there, I’m pretty sure we didn’t even take 30 minutes to get there. I was in the hospital and being wheeled into my own delivery room before I knew it.
To be continued…
To prevent this post from being really long (which it already is), I’ve decided to split my experience into three parts. This part is regarding how everything started and my initial treatment at the first hospital. I will be posting one part each day for the rest of this week until it’s over. I want to share my experience which mums that might be going through the same or want to read someone else’s experience on the matter. Lastly, I want to quickly just say that just because my experience happened this way, it doesn’t mean everybody else’s experience will be the exact same. These posts reflect how things happened with me, and that alone. How things unfolded for me, might not be the same way they have unfolded for somebody else. Every pregnancy and every body is different. If you have any pains or other symptoms at all that concern you, be sure to call your midwife or maternity unit, it’s always best to be safe.