Pregnancy and birth – Alice

After my two miscarriages in 2013 I was pretty sure I was pregnant again at the end of October and took a test with the idea of telling John on his birthday (31st October). It was negative, so that scuppered that plan. I was really surprised because that was my third (I thought) pregnancy in close succession and I was getting pretty familiar with the early symptoms. I was a bit gutted that the test was negative, but it was also John’s 30th and we were going away with friends for the weekend so I figured at least I could drink. And drink I did, and we had a great time, but my period still didn’t come so I did another test when we got home. It was another negative. I was quite upset as I’d just had my second miscarriage and we both wanted to try again for a successful pregnancy, but I seemed to be in some sort of limbo. Not pregnant but with a messed up body that presumably wouldn’t get pregnant very easily if I wasn’t having periods.

A couple of weeks later and I still hadn’t started my period so I did another test and it was finally positive. I told John in a very unromantic way and he was cooking dinner as I marched into the kitchen and stuck the test under his nose with an “I knew it!”

I had the weird pink tinge and a bit of bleeding again, which wasn’t as heavy as the two times before when I’d miscarried but I did go to the doctor who booked a scan for me given my recent history. The scan showed a little blob not even recognizable as a baby yet, with a heart thumping away. The sonographer said I was measuring about 5 weeks pregnant but must be a couple of weeks further along than that given that there was a heartbeat (by my calculations I was 7 weeks). I went away feeling much more optimistic that this one would ‘stick’ as there was a heartbeat. The bleeding didn’t carry on, and we got to the 12 week mark and had that scan – and there she was, looking like an actual baby now with arms and legs wriggling around.

A couple of days after the scan I got a phone call from the hospital. They said my blood test had shown abnormal HCG levels. I can’t remember if they were too high or too low, but they thought it might be a problem because it could mean the baby wouldn’t grow properly and could be too small. They also said the scan and blood work showed a higher than average chance that the baby could have Downes Syndrome. We were given the option to go back to the hospital and have an amniocentesis which could tell us for sure whether this was the case.

We talked about it but we agreed that if it was confirmed that the baby had DS we would still have it and therefore we didn’t need further testing. I did want to know for sure, but not at the risk of losing the baby, and since amniocentesis can increase the risk of miscarriage we said no.

The doctors told us that if there were any growth issues they wouldn’t show until the second half of the pregnancy as all babies developed at a similar rate up until about 20 weeks. After 20 weeks though I was put under consultant care and given more regular scans, partly because of their concerns that she would be small, but also because of my difficult birth and emergency C-section with Katie.

We talked about whether to find out the gender at the 20 week scan and decided not to. John had enjoyed not knowing with Katie, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to have to keep it a secret again! I really didn’t mind if we had a boy or a girl and I knew from having Katie that I should ignore any feelings I might have of what sex it was as my maternal instinct was rubbish in that respect! The 20 week scan was a good experience as luckily she seemed to be growing fine and looked healthy. They checked again for any signs of Downes Syndrome and couldn’t find any.

I was quite pleased with myself at the scan for resisting temptation to find out what we were having, but as time went on I really hated not knowing! John didn’t come with me for all of the follow up scans, and at one of them the sonographer asked did I know what we were having? I had a sudden impulse and said ‘no, can you tell me?’ Another girl! So again, I had to keep it a secret, and I didn’t even tell John I’d found out, but it was so much nicer knowing we were having a girl than thinking ‘it’. And again I did keep it to myself and John didn’t know until we had her. Go me.

Because of how big Katie had been when she was born and because of her dodgy blood sugars, this time round I was tested for gestational diabetes. My test came back on the high side of normal so no further action or testing was suggested.

Part of the discussion with the consultant was whether I would try for a vbac (virginal birth after caesarian) or have a planned C-section this time. She said that there was no reason why I couldn’t have a natural birth. It didn’t reassure me much, as there hadn’t been any reason why I couldn’t have a natural birth with Katie either but I hadn’t managed it. The consultant also said this time they wouldn’t let me be induced because that could be more dangerous after a C-section, so if I got to 40 weeks and hadn’t gone into labour they would do a C-section anyway, but if I went into labour on my own she would suggest I give birth naturally. I really wanted the C-section! I’d tried and failed with natural birth, whereas I’d been there done that with the C-section and knew what it was like. My dates didn’t match up with the hospital and they had my due date as 10th July, whereas I had it a week earlier. I was certain of my dates because of the fact we’d been trying to get pregnant and I could pinpoint Alice’s conception to one of two days, so their version of me getting to 40 weeks was actually my version of getting to 41 weeks. I didn’t want to end up going into labour, trying for a natural birth and then ending up needing another emergency C-section. So I opted for the C-section and it was booked in for 3rd July (39 weeks in their book and 40 weeks in mine).

We were the first ones on the list on the day which was handy since you’re not allowed to eat or drink anything. Not that the emergency C-section with Katie had felt stressful at the time, but a planned C-section was pretty relaxed! Everyone was calm and chatty and it all felt very chilled out. I could feel the doctor tugging a bit, and I knew the moment Alice was born because I suddenly felt a load of pressure released and there she was. John happened to look over the screen just as she was lifted out so he saw straight away and told me we had a girl. She didn’t need any of the extra attention Katie had had, so we had a lovely time holding her and taking photos while I was stitched up.

It was nice having her in the morning because we had all day for cuddles and phoning people, and in the afternoon my mum brought Katie to see her little sister. She gave her a quick cuddle and then was more interested in playing with the buttons on the bed and moving it up and down!

The after effects of the C-section were a lot more painful second time round. I remember going to have a shower and finding the walk from the bed to the bathroom pretty hard going. I had to stop and sit down for a bit before having the shower, sit down after the shower, and when I got back to the bed I was properly shaking. I made use of the painkillers they gave me plus took the morphine when it was offered. It only lasted a couple of days though and then I was fine.

With Katie I’d had dissolvable stitches but the doctor when I had Alice said my scar was a bit untidy so he decided to cut in the same place but use a different type of stitch. I don’t know what it was but the midwife doing the home check up a few days later had to cut them and take them out. She said the wound looked fine but later that day when I had a look one side was coming open. It looked pretty disgusting so I went to the doctor and they put steri strips on it to help it stay closed, and gave me some antibiotics just to be on the safe side. After that it was fine, and when it had healed properly the scar was definitely neater than after I’d had with Katie.

The hospital were going to discharge us after a couple of days but I thought Alice looked slightly twitchy. I remembered when I’d had Katie the midwife said it looked like she was twitching or shivering slightly and that’s why she had called the doctor, as it could be a sign that the blood sugars weren’t right. I mentioned it to the midwife and she said not to worry and Alice was fine, but I asked if they could check her blood sugars before they discharged us. They did (I think just to humour me) and found that they were too low – nowhere near to the extent Katie’s had been, and she didn’t need to go to special care, but they did keep her in for an extra night and got me to top her up with formula after a feed to make sure her sugars stabilised. I had mixed feelings about that one. I was desperate to get home to see Katie again but proud of myself that my maternal instinct was kicking in and I’d done what was right for Alice. We got discharged on a Sunday so we went round to my mum’s as she had been looking after Katie, had a roast dinner and watched the men’s finals at Wimbledon.

Two C-sections, two baby girls, happy days.

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