I watched on as my husband told our son off for fighting with our daughter recently. My husband said to him “we had her for you”, which made us both laugh because it is true.
Having been diagnosed with high blood pressure during my first pregnancy, I was told that I would not carry a baby to term. I will always develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy and for some unknown reason I get the early-onset kind, which means I will only ever have premature babies.
My first baby, our son, was born by emergency c-section at 27 weeks. Not only did I end up in and out of hospital throughout my short pregnancy, my son spent 110 days there. At the time, there was no doubt in our minds he would remain an only child – we packed up our bags, carried him out of hospital in his car seat and assured everyone that they wouldn’t be seeing us again.
However, as he grew the memories of our hospital stay started to fade. As we watched our healthy baby laugh, play and cause mischief our emotional scars started to heal. Little nagging thoughts started to appear in my mind…what if?
What if he wasn’t an only child?
What if he had a brother or sister to fight play with?
What if I made it much further in my next pregnancy?
What if I defied all the odds and went to full term?
All these unanswered questions started to drive me mad. My sister, a midwife, suggested that we go to our GP and ask to be referred to an obstetrician for a pre-conception consultation. I’m not sure if these are offered to everyone on the NHS, but they should be! We went and spoke to a doctor who looked after us in our first pregnancy, she told us that having another child wasn’t a silly idea. She said that although there were no guarantees I should carry a child longer the second time around.
I left feeling just as confused as I was before I went in, but at least I felt we had all the facts. Both my husband and I decided that we’d talk again in a few months and put it out of our minds for a bit. But within that time something happened, I got pregnant anyway.
I frantically googled “early onset pre-eclampsia” and “second premature baby” to try and find someone who had been there and done it. Thankfully there were a few, I’m not the only one to have gone through SCBU twice (some would consider me lucky). But no amount of googling could help me find the answer to my real question – how far will I get this time and how sick will my baby be? I didn’t feel like I could go through all of the turmoil again.
Throughout my second pregnancy I did allow myself to hope. I made a little deal with the baby that we’d get to 32 weeks. I felt healthier and initially things looked good. But it didn’t last long, I still was in and out of hospital and at 25 weeks I was told the blood flow to the baby was restricted and by 28 weeks they told me I certainly wouldn’t make it to 30. The disappointment was just as crushing as the first time around. I remember sitting in the hospital toilet during one of my admissions feeling cross – how had I forgotten how depressing this place was? The smell of the ward and the terrible yellow paint in this toilet, how had I let myself get in this situation again? It was just as hard as the first time around and I felt foolish for thinking it’d be any different.
When my daughter was born she was much stronger than my son. She wasn’t as sick, nor growth restricted and her blood supply hadn’t been as limited. Plus, she had made it past the all-important threshold of 28 weeks, so she was less prone to infection. However, she did get sick and she did have setbacks and each episode just as hard as it was with my son. Every heart-wrenching setback brought back painful memories of our firstborn. My recovery was just as hard the second time around, I stopped taking my blood pressure tablets (as I did so with my first) in fear they were being passed down into my milk and stopped taking care of myself.
After I had my son at 27 weeks, I looked at the parents of 30 weekers and thought they had it easy. And I was right, in premie terms 27 weeks is a whole world apart from 30, but I still had to leave my daughter and come home empty handed, she still got sick and we still had to try and get to the hospital everyday. But she did bounce back quicker from illness, she was off her oxygen quicker and came home after 6 short weeks.
I felt so guilty every time my daughter needed a blood test, new cannula or a lumbar puncture. I had known that this is what would happen to her yet I selfishly went ahead. I am lucky that I have been able to make it up to her, if the outcome would have been different I am not sure I could have forgiven myself, the guilt would have lived with me forever.
Now I can say I am glad I have two children and even though we went through hell and back, twice, I wouldn’t trade my pregnancies for someone else’s. Luckily for me I have never felt broody, so I’m not yearning for any more, but I do feel sad that the decision to have another child has been taken away from me. I am glad I accidentally decided to have my second premature baby, she has changed our lives for the better.