My Life With My Daughter

2005:

Here I am 4 and a bit years on looking at my daughter Hannah. Did all that really happen to us? It seems only yesterday and then at times it feels as if it happened to someone else. All I did was observe, which I suppose is how it really was, Hannah done all the hard work and I tried to support her.

I was 16 when I was first diagnosed with PCOS. I was informed of the 4 main side effects which could effect sufferers, Acne, Weight Gain, Facial Hair and Irregular Periods/sometimes leading to Infertility. I didn't suffer from the first 3 complaints so I was not surprised when at 26 after trying for a baby for a little over a year I was advised to try fertility treatment.
I fell pregnant quite quickly, but unfortunately there was no foetal pole, then a few months later I fell pregnant again this time I had taken the fertility drug Clomid, sadly this baby stopped growing and I had to have it removed. I went on to have 3 lots of IUI, none of which worked, so Tony (my partner) and I decided to try IVF- at the same time I became an egg donor( hopefully there are now 2 women who have also got their much wanted children).

The first IVF treatment didn't work for us but the second did. I told Tony on Christmas morning 2000 that I was pregnant. It was such a wonderful Christmas, and that this time next year we would also have our baby. Then as the New Year came around I started to bleed, I had a scan and was told that I had been carrying twins and one had stopped developing. We were upset but on the other hand glad that I was still pregnant, unfortunately a few months later I started to bleed again, and found out that the remaining twin had also died.

We stopped trying for a baby as I didn't think I could go through another miscarriage and come out the other side with my sanity intact (My sister was also pregnant at the time with her son, I found her pregnancy very difficult to deal with).

Tony and I investigated the possibility of becoming Foster Parents, just before we were due to attend the Foster panel I discovered I was pregnant naturally. I was prescribed Asprin and to start taking Folic Acid again.

At 12 weeks I suffered a massive haemorrhage and was told sadly I had also lost this baby. Later that same day I was given a scan to try and see what had happened. "Your baby is fine my dear" I will never forget those words "WHAT" I tried to sit up, which is quite an achievement when you are in the process of having an internal scan. The bleeding was coming from behind the placenta, so for the next 2 months I took things very easy.

On Tuesday the 27th November 2001, I awoke with a very strange feeling (even now I'm unable to describe the feeling. I just knew that something was not quite right) I spoke to a midwife on the telephone and explained that I was 21 weeks pregnant and I didn't feel quite right, she advised me to come into the hospital.

I was examined and had swabs taken. I was told I was in labour and 3 centimetres dilated, and that if my baby was born she would not survive. I would need to hang on for at least another 3 weeks "they are the miracle babies" I found all this hard to take in as I was not in any physical pain. I was given drugs in an attempt to stop the labour. We had a very long afternoon waiting for the results of the swabs and blood test to find out if I also had an infection. I did I had strep B, but luckily my white blood cell count was not very high, so at around 9pm that evening I was prepared for surgery. in the hope that if they Kevin and Gideon "The miracle workers" could put a stitch in and close my cervix.

Even now looking back over everything that has happened since I still feel that this was the lowest and loneliest time in my life. I was paralysed ( due to the epidural) trying to explain that if my daughter was born, the doctors could not just leave her to die, they were to try and help her. I felt totally out of control, I would not even be able to comfort my baby if she were born. My legs were in stirrups although I could still feel them laying flat on the operating table, I asked someone to cover them up for me as it was freaking me out that I could see them but I felt them in a totally different position.
I was breathing quite hard trying to control my feeling, I wanted my mind to drift off to some other place, but I needed to have my wits about me, I couldn't check out from reality, my daughter needed me to know what was going on , she was relying on me. I could feel the pressure of the Doctors pushing her back up to where she should be. There was a lot of colourful language coming from down that end of the operating table. Then I heard her cry, it had all gone horribly wrong, I started to panic, I was quickly reassured by the anaesthetist that it was in fact a squeaky chair and not my baby ( I did'nt know at the time that if she had indeed been born she would not have been able to make any sound). Just after 10pm the operation was finished but the Doctors explained they hadn't been able to tie the stitch as well as they would have liked.

The stitch only lasted for 2 weeks when my cervix started to open again. My obstetrician and I discussed the possibility of me having another stitch on top of the one I had already, but there was the added problem of my membranes rupturing. I decided not to go ahead and have another stitch as my Doctor could not guarantee that it would work. I asked if I could be given steroids for my babys lungs and would it be possible if I could have a chat with a paediatrician about how my baby would cope with the labour and anything else I could expect.

I found this chat invaluable while I was going through labour. I think it stopped me from panicking knowing that if I stayed calm that in turn would help my daughter to also stay calm.
Six days later, 18th December 2001 at 22.43pm exactly 3 weeks after I had first gone in to labour. I gave birth naturally to my daughter Hannah, she had come down the birth canal in her sack, my waters broke only a second or two before she was born.

Hannah looked like a little Red Indian. I didn't want to see the Doctors working on Hannah, so I turned my back. I think I was trying to prepare myself for them to come over and tell me she had died.
I didn't go to see Hannah until the following morning. I thought they (the Doctors) would need the time and space to stabilise her, and to be honest I was petrified of her not for her but of her.
I loved Hannah deeply but I hadn't had that famous rush of love that everyone goes on about. I didn't even think she was beautiful. I felt terrible I could think like this about my own much wanted baby.
I was terrified that she would die and leave me behind. I really didn't think I could have watched her die, I needed her so much.

I could only stay with her for 5-10 minutes because I was unable to get past the fact that she was going to die right there in front of me at that very second while I was watching her and at the same time horrified at myself her mother for thinking of not being there when she would need me the most.
That thought stayed with me for about a week. I would even call her incubator her "coffin" by mistake.
I had asked family members not to buy us any baby cards or present as I felt Hannahs birth was not something I wanted to celebrate.

I had also only inform close family and friends of Hannahs early arrival. I had even banned anyone from crying while they were in the same room as Hannah ( this also included myself and Tony). I felt she needed positive thoughts and that people were more likely crying for themselves rather than Hannah.
Sadly there were the odd few friends who only visited to see the "small baby" I mention this now, as even today I still feel insulted by their Visit.
It took Hannahs dad Tony, with the help of the nurses caring for Hannah, 6 days (Christmas Eve) before they had convinced me that she wasn't going to die that very second and that I would have to buy her a present for the following day.

I was now able to visit Hannah on my own, something which I had been unable to do for the fear that it would have been just Hannah and me alone when she died. With the fear of Hannah dying not being so intense I was able to fall in love with her.
With the nurses nursing me as well as Hannah my confidence as a Mother grew. Being able to express milk that she was having was wonderful (although breast feeding was not something I felt I was going to attempt had Hannah been born full term and healthy). I got a tremendous buzz knowing I was helping to keep my little girl in this world. Drawing up her milk, tube feeding her, washing and changing her nappies may seen insignificant but doing these things were helping me to bond with Hannah, to feel like her Mum.

I was doing what all Mums did, even if we were in unusual surroundings, not the sort of environment most people would expect to find themselves.

I became aware of the extra effort some of the nurses went to, to ensure that Hannahs life was made as easy and as comfortable as possible. These wonderful nurses took their very precious time to educated me on how to position Hannah in her nest and how important it was for her to feel boundaries which in turn would make her feel secure, Also about how it would help her with her hand to mouth co-ordination.
It was explained to me about the great benefits of her incubator being kept in darkness, by having the blankets placed on top to help reduce noise and therefore to help keep Hannah settled.

One of the most difficult times I had while Hannah was on the Unit was when Hannah was 3 weeks old and had to have a PDA done at Great Ormond Street.
Although I was frightened of the operation that she had to have I was more worried that she would not actually make the journey. Michelle the nurse who was accompanying Hannah to GOSH explained to me that I would have to make my own way there as I couldn't go in the ambulance with them. I got myself in to such a state thinking that this was the last time I was going to see Hannah alive, that she thought it would be less stressful for Hannah if I did go with them.

For that kind act Michelle I will be eternally grateful.

There was also the time we thought that Hannah maybe blind or at the very least have tunnel vision, we had a very long week waiting for her next examination before we were told that her vision had improved. Thankfully Hannahs vision is now fine.

There were happy and very humours times.

Like the time, Tony was driving along the A406 and we got stuck in a load of traffic . My milk expressing was long over due, so I had to start it right there on the A406 in a load of traffic. The other drivers couldn't believe it, it wasn't like I was feeding a baby or anything, there was only Tony and me in the car!!!.Well I didn't care my milk was so precious to Hannah. It did give us all a good laugh though when I got back and told them all on the Unit.I suppose that's a "Mothers Love" thing.
Also the time when on his first day on the Unit a Doctor was unable to find what he was looking for, I popped my head over Hannahs incubator and pointed to where he should be looking.
I was there at the unit most days from 9.30am until at least 9.30pm

Or the lifelong friends we made with two other couples who also had 24 weekers.
Danny and Karen Hawkins, and their 24 week twins Jake and Molly. Sadly Molly only survived for a week.
Then along came Chris and Rebecca Becks Hankins who had their daughter Thaila, the smallest of all of our 24 weekers.

Sadly Thaila died after putting up a great and brave fight for 3 weeks.

Our friendship at first was based around our babies. We never would say "Morning how are you" it was always "Morning hows the baby" if our babies were having a good day then we didn't need to ask if we were alright.

The most shocking of all was when Jake died 4 whole months later, on his due date.

At times when a baby was brought to the unit to be given some antibiotics. We would all find ourselves looking enviously at the parents who were crying their eyes out.

I sometimes think people (the staff on the unit) must have thought we were going mad. We would have an individual weekly meeting with the "Nutty" Women we called her this because we were the only parents on the unit who had these meetings. She was a psychologist who was at least 7 months pregnant- well if the fact that your baby was on the unit didn't do you head in, then well try showing you a heavily pregnant women to remind you of your failure to carry your own baby!!!!
Strangely no one seemed to think that this was inappropriate.

I was very lucky I found Becks and Karen when I did. I truly feel I would not have got through some of the most heartbreaking moments in my life without their support.
We have since set up this charity. The support we gave to each other was invaluable and nothing that could have been offered professionally even came close.

The Girls knew how I felt because they were going through it too and that's what we want to offer to other parents.Even today four years on- we are still all very close and our relationship surpasses any friendship I could ever have.

Hannah came home on 29th April 2002.

On the morning of the 29th, When we where getting ready to leave, the senior Consultant was doing her rounds with her Doctors, She stopped to have a chat with me (I had always found her to be quite aloof and a bit intimidating) "this is the baby you would have had" she proudly said to me, while looking at Hannah, to which I replied "it is worth it you know" I was shocked to see she had begun to cry, with that she came over and gave me such a hug.
I had never witness this side to her and on more than one occasion had wondered if it even existed. I realised there must have been times when she herself would go home wondering if it was all worth it? I can now appreciate the fact that she had to be the way she was for her to be able to do her heartbreaking job.

To Tony and myself it was like leaving home for the first time, these people had become our extended family. We still pop in from time to time to show Hannah off, but a lot of the staff that were around then are no longer on the unit.

In May 2003 Danny, Karen, Chris and Becks gave us great pleasure in accepting to be Hannahs Godparents at her christening.

There are still times when it all just hits me, like at Christmas last year. I was walking through John Lewis in Bluewater and the hymn First Noel started to play (this hymn seems to have an effect on me since Hannahs birth). I stopped pushing Hannah's pushchair bent down and scooped her up into my arms, kissing her with tears streaming down my face. Once I had reassured Hannah that I was in fact very happy, she proceeded to fleece me of everything that she had wanted for Christmas- how could I say no to her.

When people meet Hannah for the first time. I can see they find it difficult to imagine her as she was- a 24 weeker, weighing 650 grams- who could have fitted quite snugly into her fathers hand.

So please believe me when I say Tony and I really do realise how lucky we are to have Hannah. She has no developmental issues, she has higher than average intelligence for a child born full term in December 2001. 

She is 4 going on 14 with the attitude of someone whos seen it all.

Who knows maybe she has.

UP-DATES

2006:

On 5th September, Hannah started "Big School". She is having a wonderful time in her class and she even comes home with "Homework".

2007:

As Hannah approaches her 6th birthday I felt it was about time I gave you an up-date on all the things that she has been doing this year.

Hannah is very very proud of herself, as she has taught herself to whistle. Believe me when I tell you it's near-on impossible to get a 5 1/2 year old to stop whistling.......................it's driving me crazy, in the nicest possible way! Hannah has also learnt to swim, ride her bicycle (without stablizers), and horseride (without a lead rein). It would seem that throughtout this year that not a week would go bye without Hannah learning or mastering a new skill. Thank God

Hannah's school report was wonderful reading for both Tony and myself. Her reading and vocabulary are outstanding for a child of Hannah's age and given the choice she will always choose to have a book over almost any other activity.

Hannah's two front teeth are threatening to fall out (I noticed her first tooth on 13th December 2002). (October 2007) Hannah lost her fist tooth on 5th October and her second on the 15th October.

I am wondering if all Hannah would 'want for Christmas is her two front teeth'!   I'll let you know.