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The Roller Coaster Ride of Pregnancy and Motherhood
As I hurtled towards my thirtieth birthday with a speed I would ordinarily aspire to achieve, I found myself looking at my life closely. I thought about and analysed my achievements so far ( or as I thought at the time, my complete lack of them) and I explored where I would like to be in the future.
I had recently married the man I met when I was just nineteen. We were together for ten years before we got married. I was, am, one of those people who lives sensibly and securely hour after hour and day after day. I didn’t make rash decisions. In terms of family, the possibility of having difficulty getting pregnancy had never ever entered my ever so sensitive mind and I always thought I would have had children by the time I was thirty.
Following our wedding, we decided that it was the right time for a family and naively thought that it would just happen – just like that. It didn’t. And it carried on not happening for a further two years. Many doctors and investigations later it turned out that I had a slight fertility problem but not one that should prove detrimental. I was started on a course of Clomid.
It is funny how obsessed I got. I thought about babies constantly. I looked at pregnant women enviously and was convinced that the pregnancy population in my hometown had quadrupled. Everywhere I looked, friends, colleagues and even family – they all seemed to be getting pregnant very, very easily indeed. Just as I was about to lose myself in an absolute mental torture of many ‘woe is me’s’, I checked my calendar and realised that I needed to do a pregnancy test. Boxing day 2001 and I tested positive. Amazing. The pregnancy was startlingly easy. (If you ignore the absolute chronic vomiting from week six until two days beyond delivery). Then followed an exciting time in week 30 which resulted in a weeks hospitalisation and a near premature birth. Joyfully, the pregnancy continued and in August 2002 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, born at 38 weeks and weighing in at a tiny 5lb 3oz. Fantastic! Jessica Rose.
Funnily, without much planning at all – I fell pregnant again in 2004. This pregnancy was a very difficult one. Again, I had the chronic vomiting but in contrast, I just did not feel happy or healthy during the pregnancy. I felt constantly tired – not a little but completely overwhelmingly exhausted. During week 30 (obviously a bit of a blip point for me) I developed obstetric cholestasis. Cholestasis is an uncommon complication of pregnancy, which causes a build up of bile acids in the bloodstream. The main symptom is persistent itchiness. It was picked up during a routine visit to see my Obstetric Consultant. I had arrived for my appointment feeling quite poorly. I had been off work with constant vomiting and tiredness. Literally, in the hospital waiting room, I developed chronic itching – mainly on my hands but then spreading elsewhere. The itchiness made me so desperate I would scratch myself until my skin bled. I was admitted to hospital there and then and there I stayed. Back then, I knew nothing about cholestasis, hadn’t heard of it at all. Although now I feel I know too much. When I had been the hospital for a few weeks and had been having daily blood tests, I was informed that my bile acid and liver function results were rising significantly and could pose a risk to my unborn baby, which I knew to be a girl. I did not quite understand the exact medical terminology then, nor did I truly understand exactly what was happening, but when a lovely midwife came and took my hand and very calmly explained to me that having Obstetric Cholestasis could possibly result in a stillbirth and that I should prepare myself for that – my world fell apart.
The next day my consultant came to see me and informed me that he was going to start an immediate induction to hopefully deliver my baby safely. The induction began without delay and was with little complications. I was hooked up to a heart monitor belt continuously and I remember at one point feeling as though the pain had reached an absolute pinnacle. My husband had been watching the heart rate monitor and had noticed that the machine was no longer detecting a heartbeat. Having not seen a midwife for some time, my husband pressed the alarm bell and a midwife appeared immediately. Within seconds there were a team of midwives, a paediatrician and nursing assistants present within the room. My husband panicked – I was busy coping the pain but then realised that there seemed to be a problem. The next thing I remember is my daughter been born. At 7:20a.m. on 15th April 2005 – week 35, I gave birth to a very healthy and very much alive 5lb 11oz baby girl. Elisa Mae. All was well, thankfully and I was relieved.
So there I was, 33 years old and the proud mother of two beautiful girls. How lucky.
Then, in late 2006, I discovered I was pregnancy again (bearing in mind that at one point in my life I thought I was not going to have any children at all – this was quite mind blowing). This time I went in to the pregnancy with my eyes wide open. I knew that having suffered cholestasis during my last pregnancy that I was 60-80% likely to get it again. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. The pregnancy was, like my first, very easy. I didn’t even have the sickness after week 14 and because of this I convinced myself that I was having a baby boy. My logic was that when pregnant with a girl, there is an increase in oestrogen causing the sickness. With a boy there isin’t. I continually watched for symptoms of Obstetric Cholestasis and was relived when none appeared. I reached week 30 and then I started to itch like mad. I couldn’t sleep at all because of the need to scratch. I was up many times during the night for showers to try to reduce the itchiness. I was exhausted and I was referred to my consultant. Many blood tests were done but there was not a rise in my liver function or bile test results and therefore cholestasis was not diagnosed. I was kept under frequent observation for the next couple of weeks, for which I will be eternally grateful. Then having met with a stand in consultant, I was informed that I would be taken of the ‘at risk’ register as I obviously did not have cholestasis and should therefore have my pregnancy treated as ‘normal’. This, I could not accept. Having gone through the worry of a significant chance of stillbirth last time, I was taking no chances at all this time. I became an annoying pregnant woman and pestered my midwife, my GP and my consultant for numerous blood tests as the itching was completely unbearable still. This was in itself, I believe, a significant sign of cholestasis. I understood that the chances of stillbirth increase towards then latter stages of pregnancy and I know that a many consultants of diagnosed cholestasis sufferers think it is best to deliver the baby at about 35-38 weeks, as induced labours at this time, have a high chance of baby survival. Armed with this information, I continued my quest for an early birth. Something that I know many people frowned upon. But, my conscience is clear. I was doing was I thought was best for my baby. Finally it was agreed that I would be induced at 37 weeks – July 2007. Following a highly traumatic birth – in that my baby was descending down the birth canal but I was not dilating and then a distress signal from my baby – I am pleased to be able to say that my third GIRL was born happy and healthy, weighing 6lbs. Emily Grace.
Now I am a mother of three beautiful, charismatic girls. My life revolves around them and they, thankfully, are blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations their arriving here safely encompassed.
My family is complete. Whilst I may secretly yearn for another baby – I know that my family could not endure another pregnancy and all the traumas it may produce.
My advice to anyone would be not to ignore any kind of health related issues during pregnancy and to visit their GP. I do not know how things would have turned out if I had not met with my consultant during my second pregnancy and I dare not dwell on what would have happened during my third had I not been so persistent.
Every pregnancy is different. But we, as parents have to take responsibility for our unborn children and ensure that nothing is overlooked.
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