Our pregnancy had been far from straightforward. We had naturally conceived triplets, but then due to the make up of the pregnancy and other complications, we had been advised to ‘reduce’ the pregnancy to either one or two babies.
Although we begrudgingly had the procedure to reduce to two babies, things were no less complicated. There were more complications, more heartache, more decision making. What should have been a wonderful time, was often heartwrenchingly sad and shrouded in darkness. It had been a difficult 8 months.
I had just been discharged from hospital after my waters started to leak prematurely. We had just over a week until the planned induction, to do important things – last minute scans and appointments, meeting our health visitor, having my work appraisal, eating ANYthing and EVERYthing to try and fatten the babies up, celebrating passing our first GP exam, getting my eyebrows threaded, watching the IPL … the list was endless.
Our last fetal medicine appointment dealt a final blow. It became clearer that Baby 2 had some bowel outside the body, BUT, the amount of amniotic fluid was better compared to the minimal amounts that had previously been documented on the scans. We were told that Baby 2, would potentially need an operation after birth at Great Ormond Street, but there was no way of knowing until the babies arrived and assessed more closely.
There were so many mixed emotions after that scan. I felt numb. Numb, as I’d become used to expecting more disappointment and heartbreak, and this was just yet another to add to the list. But there was a glimmer of hope. The fact that the amniotic fluid around Baby 2 was better, and that there was mention of an operation – this all gave us hope and we clung onto this. I remember ringing Ricky, who was at work on call that day, and feeling like a failure. I’d failed to keep our babies safe. Failed to bring them all into this world healthy. Oh, and the guilt. That’s one that just keeps on giving.
Despite the disappointment of the scan findings, we ploughed on with our week. Ricky, working long days on labour ward and looking forward to a well deserved rest on the Friday. Myself, running a few errands but also doing a lot of resting, watching cricket and eating.
We made great plans for Friday 18th May 2018.
Ricky had been on call all week, whilst commuting from my parents (our boiler was broken…) and so he needed a bit of a lie in. We had planned on a leisurely wake up at 7 am (just to clarify… this is NOT a lie in, by my terms) and then we would pop in to the Day Assessment Unit for my blood test – checking I had no signs of infection as I was leaking amniotic fluid. The rest of the day’s plans involved getting my eyebrows threaded and possibly a manicure. The babies were going to be here soon and I fully intended on looking as glam as possible for those post-birth photos. Step aside Kate Middleton … there was going to be a new hot momma in town. What a fool I was.
My Mum had made us packed lunches for our day out together, including baguette sandwiches … stuffed to the brim with cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Little did we know that these sandwiches would become a fond memory of that day.
Instead, I woke at 0515, with a slight pain in my gigantic 34 week belly. A bit odd, I thought, but I tried to ignore it and get to sleep … after all, we were having a lie in. The pain went away. Then it came back. And then it went away again. You get the jist. I remember wondering “Is this what labour feels like? … It really doesn’t feel that bad?? … It can’t be, I’m not in that much pain”. And so I ignored it.
Or at least I tried to, this silly crampy type pain just kept coming and going. I remember reaching over for my phone, so I could time how often the pains were coming. It did seem to be a bit odd that they were coming every 7 minutes. Hmm.
“Ricky?” I remember gently shaking him awake and telling him about the pains.
Poor guy, he’d got home from work the day before and desperately needed sleep. But Ricky being Ricky, was calm, patient and pragmatic as always “How bad are they? Do you think we should call the hospital and just check what to do?”
I honestly didn’t believe these were contractions, and so, I convinced him that this could wait till our 9am blood test appointment, and we could mention it to someone then. As soon as I’d persuaded him to go back to sleep, something changed. The cramping seemed more intense (as though someone was telling me ‘DON’T BE A FOOL, YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING’. Now, bang on every 6 minutes. Suddenly that cloud of naivety that was hanging over my head, was blown away, and I realised that these pains were contractions.
“Ricky, the pains are getting worse and they’re every 6 minutes. I think you need to ring the hospital to ask what to do, and wake Mum and Dad”.
And like that, he was up and in shit-my-wife-is-in-labour mode.
Weirdly, I was calm. I brushed my teeth whilst breathing through contractions, and went to the loo. There was mucousy blood – and that’s when I knew we had to go to hospital as soon as possible. I was in labour. I WAS IN LABOUR. It was happening, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Despite all this, there was an air of calmness. I showered, put on some concealer and my summeriest maternity dress, and we headed to the hospital. Sitting in the car, I was focused on the clock and now the contractions were every 5 minutes. I was desperately just trying to focus on breathing through them, but I couldn’t help but notice my Dad was driving the car as though he was taking us on a comfortable, sedate Sunday drive down country lanes. Not only this, but he was cracking ‘Dad’ jokes at the same time!
“Can you stop cracking jokes, put your foot down and drive faster?!” I finally snapped. I think I held my tongue for all of 5 minutes.
We reached triage, and I was concentrating on breathing through contractions. “Twins?! That will be our third set tonight!” said the receiving midwife… another quiet night on labour ward then. I was examined and told I was already 6 cm dilated – yay!! My only concern at this point, was to get the midwives to check that there were two neonatal beds available for the babies, which thankfully there were.
I was whizzed over to labour ward, had a cannula put in, and an epidural (there was a high risk of conversion to C-section). Then, things calmed down. My Mum joined us and we spent the majority of the day playing games to the background hum of the babies’ heartbeats on the CTG.
There were intermittent reviews by Obstetricians, Midwives, Neonatologists – who were all lovely and put us all at ease. The enormity of what was happening, and what was going to happen, lingered in the air but wasn’t consuming us. I’ll even go so far as to say that we enjoyed ourselves. Some more than others… Ricky devoured both our baguette sandwiches, fully capitalising on me being Nil By Mouth.
Things kept progressing well … 8cm, then 9cm, then fully dilated with just an anterior lip present. My epidural was working well (when I remembered to ask for it to be topped up), and the only thing bothering me was my husband’s breath – the onions in those sandwiches were coming back to haunt us. I kindly informed Ricky of this through gritted teeth, when I could take it no more!! An urgent request for mints STAT was sent to my sister and Dad who were on their way from work!! In my defence, I was very calm throughout labour, and this was my one outburst. Aside from me snapping at Dad in the car…
And then, around 7 pm, it was pushing time. I couldn’t feel my contractions properly as my epidural had been topped up, and so I was looking over at the CTG to figure out when to push! The room slowly started filling up with midwives, obstetricians and neonatologists – we stopped counting when there were 20 in the room!! After an hour or so, there was still no sign of any babies. Baby 1’s head kept coming down and then going back up again – apparently my insides were just too appealing and they wanted to stay inside. My consultant (who had come back in from home, even when he wasn’t on call), was present and a wonderfully calming presence in the room. After about 1 hour 20 mins of pushing, Baby 1’s head was just not coming down far enough. I was going to need help. I had an episiotomy (something which I dreaded, and still makes me feel nauseated thinking about) and then some small forceps were applied to Baby 1’s head.
At precisely 20.26, on the next push, Baby 1 was here!! Tiny, red, and CRYING. She was CRYING. She was laid on me, and I couldn’t believe it, Baby 1 was a SHE (We later named her Adhiya). Before I knew it, Adhiya was whisked away to the Neonates team who were waiting to assess her.
The CTG and ultrasound was placed straight on me, to confirm Baby 2’s position and heart rate. Baby 2 was still lying oblique (diagonal across my belly) and so, my consultant attempted ECV to turn baby to a more favourable position. The only way I can describe this is a forceful, somewhat uncomfortable, eye-watering massage. And that’s putting it politely. Baby 2 wouldn’t be moved to head down, and so the Obstetricians were going to attempt a breech delivery. The CTG was placed back on me, to monitor baby’s heart rate.
“Heart rate has dropped, we need to get baby out now” – was all I remember hearing amongst all the panic.
And then, I felt someone’s hand inside me. Inside my womb, grappling around for Baby 2’s legs. This was without doubt, the most painful, horrific moment of it all. I can’t even describe it in words, but at the time, my blood-curling scream did a good enough job. And then at 20:37 my beautiful Baby 2 was pulled out of me. She was laid on me. Another SHE! Tiny, purpley, but perfect. Our beautiful Ariya.
She didn’t cry. She was whisked away to the second Neonatal team, who assessed her. I tried looking over, but there was too much commotion, too many people in the room. I saw the Neonatal Consultant call Ricky over.
I can’t even remember what was happening to me during this time. There were injections jabbed in me, and I assume they were focused on delivering the placenta(s)?
The Neonatal Consultant came over to me. Ricky was crying. Ariya was alive, but her lungs were weak and hadn’t developed properly. Part of her bowel was in her umbilical cord (exomphalos) and her bladder was on the outside of her body. It was unlikely she’d survive the next few hours – even if taken to NICU. We knew we didn’t want her prodded and poked with needles and tubes, surrounded by strangers, if her life was to be short. We wanted her with us, her Mummy and Daddy.
Ariya was laid on me, wrapped in a towel, one of our beautiful baby girls. Alive, but fading. Her eyes were closed, and her chest was slowly moving, but despite all this she moved her head and nuzzled into my neck. Even though she was fading, she knew I was her Mummy.
I suddenly started to feel very ill. Even though I was lying down, I felt faint, sick and it was as though I kept going into darkness. I passed Ariya over to Ricky, and tried to tell someone how I was feeling. But there was too much commotion. I wasn’t heard.
My blood pressure was in its boots, and my heart rate racing. The team realised I’d lost 2.5L of blood and alarms went off in the unit. Cannulas were attempted and failed. Fluids were pumped in, and I was stitched up to prevent any more blood loss. Slowly, I started to feel less dizzy.
As calm was restored, Ariya was handed back to me. We spent some precious time with her. She met her Nana (maternal grand-dad), Nani (maternal grand-mother) and Masi (Mum’s sister). Ariya died just over an hour after birth, in our arms.
And that is Adhiya and Ariya’s birth story. Both, the best and worst day of our lives, but still I would give anything to go back to that day.
Follow Priya on @our_one_of_three