*Note to any mothers to be reading this - what happened to me and Lux is rare and extreme, please
don't let it scare you and thankfully there is a happy ending!
When I first had Lux, the idea of writing a birth story would have freaked me out. I wanted to erase the memories, put them in a box and forget about it. It seemed such a painful, sad experience that I worried about even sharing it with Lux. I didn't want to show her pictures of tiny body surrounded by tubes and breathing machines, it somehow seemed cruel and completely unfair. I'd planned such a beautiful entrance to the world for her but it turned out abrupt, violent and disorientating, it pained me that I had no control over my precious baby's first moments. Thankfully I was surrounded by suportive and loving people including the nurses on the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at St Michael's in Bristol, who constantly reminded me that Lux would have no memories of this chapter of her life and that it would just be me and Jon (my partner) who would carry the physical and mental scars. With the help of therapy I've come through the worst and feel completely different about what happened to us now. I'm proud of what my beautiful, funny baby went through and continues to face. I'm proud that we got through it as a family and that we survived. So, 1 year on its time to celebrate and tell her story. I'll never keep what happened to her a secret, its Lux's unique story and I love it.
I found out I was pregnant just after Valentines day 2013 and to say I was both overwhelmed and terrified is an understatement. I felt like a scared teenager as I sat clutching the test, dressed in my leopard print PJ's, washed out purple hair and last nights makeup. Was I ready for this? The pregnancy was so planned so it shouldn't have been a shock but to see those blue lines appear on the test made me realise that my dream of starting a family had begun. When I told Jon (I wrapped the test up as a present) he was in shock too, I think a part of us thought that it might not ever happen. We had our weekly dance class that evening and I could tell from Jon's expressionless face and forgetful feet just how much in shock he was. He'd look blankly at me then have the happiest smile on his face, it was a funny night!
We told our parents early - at 7 weeks on Mother's day - as my morning sickness was pretty bad and I was feeling pretty lonely having to keep the happy news to myself. We all burst into tears, talked about names, what he or she might look like - the kinda stuff I'd always dreamed of. We even talked about the birth which seemed early but I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a home birth with my mum and sisters there, Harry Potter in the background and fairylights everywhere. She was due on Halloween, my favourite time of year and everything was going to be perfect.
We had our 12 week scan and all was well. We got to see our little baby for the first time and she was so funny! I couldn't stop laughing as she wriggled around on the screen, the nurse had to ask me to stop as she couldn't do her job but I couldn't help it - she was hilarious! Walking out of the scan, clutching our ultrasound pictures we were so excited to share the news with our friends.
At 17 weeks I felt a bit paranoid and inpatient so we had a scan done privately, mainly so I could see her again and feel reassured she was still there! We found out she was a girl and was so excited! I'd secretly loved the idea of having a girl first as my younger sister had written a beautiful speech for our wedding where she had wished that I'd have a girl first so she could be as good a big sister as I was! So sweet.
I loved my bump and she was such an active monkey. She gave me a kick to say good morning and rolled around at night, I loved it. I proudly moisturised it everyday, had no stretch marks. Jon couldn't really feel her kicks but I could. I'd get a lot of comments, most of them unwelcome saying how small I looked but my doctor reassured me that I was healthy.
Around 25 weeks I started to get groin pains. My midwife put them down to growing pains and recommended stretching and tiger balm. Well, I got through that stuff pretty quick as I started waking up about 3 times in the night in pain. I'd walk around and stretch but the only thing that seemed to work was having a warm bath and listening to jazz music. I was very clean as I was getting about 3 baths a night!
This picture was taken a week before Lux was born, my last "bump" pic.
At 26 weeks the pain was starting to happen during the day so I went back to the doctors and had some tests that suggested that I had a small infection somewhere. I was prescribed antibiotics but ended up back there the next day as the pain was getting worse. They could only give me painkillers as nothing seemed to be wrong with me. On the Friday I was getting flu like symptoms. I was freezing, had cold sweats and ached all over. I felt so poorly and the fact that I hadn't had a full night sleep for about 2 weeks didn't help. Unfortunately Jon was away with work so I rang up my Mum and hugged a pillow for comfort. She always knows what to say to make me feel better and so I relaxed, had another bath and tried to get some rest.
Saturday I took it easy and felt much better, but in the middle of the night I woke up again in pain. I stretched and ran a bath but as soon as I got in the water I knew something was wrong. The pain was getting more and more intense and turning into unbearable agony. I knew I wasn't in labour as the pain wasn't coming in waves, it was constant and getting worse with every movement. I screamed for Jon and told him to ring an ambulance. While we waited the woman on the phone thought I might be going into labour and asked him to get me to lay down and get ready for the delivery - poor Jon! This movement was so, so painful I can't describe the intensity of it and it makes me feel sick just thinking about it. The paramedics arrived and their priority seemed to be to cover me up (I'd been in the bath) which annoyed me as I didn't care about my decency, I just didn't want to be in this much pain anymore.
They gave me gas and air which did little, then escorted us to the ambulance where after a few checks and the pain getting worse the long, bumpy journey to St Micheals began. It takes 10 minutes to get there with no traffic but it felt like an eternity.
We arrived and it seemed apparent that no one seemed to know what to do with me as I wasn't actually giving birth but thankfully they admitted me to the delivery ward as they needed to check on Lux. We had been referring to our baby as Lux for a few weeks by this point, which in hindsight helped us feel in control of her when really we weren't at all! I must add at this point I was completely out of it and its hard to remember details of that first night in hospital. I remember lots of injections, pills, sensors and gas and air! That stuff ended up being my security blanket. One of the injections was a steroid, which wasn't to help me, but just incase Lux had to be delivered, it would help her lungs to inflate as she was too small at this point to breathe on her own. I just nodded my head as they informed me, never thinking for a second that it could really happen.
By the morning after a lot of pain medication I was starting to control the agony, one midwife explained to me how what I'd gone through was worse than labour (although I'm sure some would disagree), "At least in labour at the end of all that pain you have a baby to look forward to" she said comforting me. There seemed to be no end to my pain and to go into labour now would be extremely dangerous. While all this was going on with me, Lux was completely fine through the whole ordeal I'm happy to say! Her heart rate was monitored the whole time and she was calm and relaxed, how she managed it I don't know as I was making a lot of noise!
Later that morning my family turned up which was lovely but in a way I felt guilty as no one had any answers as to what was going on. I didn't feel in very good shape for visitors, but my family just wanted to be there just incase we needed them.
I had 3 doctors and countless amazing midwifes looking after me. The doctors weren't sure what was going on as my body was showing signs of an infection but they didn't know where. They asked if I still had my appendix and to be honest I had no idea! As the pain was on the wrong side of where my appendix should have been they said it was very unlikely to be appendicitis.
On the Monday the pain seemed to ease off and they wanted to do an ultrasound to check how Lux was doing and to see if they could find out where the pain was coming from. Once again my good old friend gas and air was there to help me through as they pressed onto my painful stomach. Again everything looked normal and Lux was happy, phew!
By Tuesday I was having liquid paracetamol via a drip from time to time when the pain got worse. I really liked it as I knew it worked for me! One hit and I'd fall asleep and thats all I wanted to do! I think we saw every midwife on the ward and they were all amazing and so caring. They had made Jon a makeshift bed on the floor so he didn't have to go home, I was too afraid of something happening. It was strange being on the ward and not giving birth - we could hear all the screams for the other mothers, new mummies and babies came and went and me and Jon seemed to be in a kind of limbo, never sure of what was going to happen.
Then that night, as Jon was trying to get some sleep on the floor my pain got more intense all of a sudden and turned into pure agony just like on the Saturday night before when we called the ambulance. I started on the gas and air again and called for the midwife. I was given more liquid paracetamol but this time it did nothing. My pain turned into a intense pressure and I wanted to push. In came a doctor, put on her robes and checked me over, I wasn't going into labour so she said I could push if I wanted. Nothing happened so she went away again to get more advice. In the meantime I had lots of different procedures including an X-ray. They hadn't wanted to give me one before as it could harm Lux but things were getting desperate, again Lux was checked the whole time and her heart rate was always normal.
Despite all the painkillers I was still in agony and I couldn't take it anymore. My stats were getting dangerous, I was tachycardic, which means that my heart rate was racing all of a sudden, so very early on Wednesday morning the 3 doctors arrived and reluctantly advised on taking me into theatre to operate, it had always been an option that was discussed but always as a last resort. With still no idea of what was the cause, they braced us for the worse and the possibility of finding tumours and maybe even having to deliver our baby but they really didn't want to do that as she was only just 27 weeks that day, we hadn't even got to the third trimester! Again it never really dawned on me this could happen so at no point was I scared of her arrival, it just seemed like an impossible concept and I just wanted the pain to end.
A new doctor arrived from the NICU ward which was upstairs. She calmly explained that if our baby was delivered there may be no space upstairs so would have to be transferred to another hospital. Again I nodded and acted like I understood - but I didn't. Her words ran through me like water, they meant nothing. As far as I was concerned my baby was going to be born happily at home in 3 months time, so I had nothing to worry about now.
Then we had to sign some paperwork stating that we knew the risks to myself and the baby, I could see how terrified Jon was but knowing the pain was going to be over soon, I felt calm almost instantly. The saddest and most poignant moment was when I had to take my wedding rings off to go into theatre. I've never taken them off since our wedding day and as I did tears ran down both our faces and I handed them to Jon to look after. We said our tearful goodbye and I promised that me and our baby would be back with him soon.
I wasn't scared as they rolled me down the hall to theatre, I felt peaceful and at ease and the fact that Lux had been fine this whole time kept me strong. I thanked the surgeons, chatted with the anaesthetist and counted down as they put me under, sleep at last.
I woke up back in the delivery room, completely out of it, both emotional and physically numb. My memories are fuzzy and confused at best. Jon had to fill in a lot of the blanks. One thing I do remember is a midwife saying "your daughter's upstairs." I had no idea what was going on, thats the first I heard that she was born. I looked down at my bump and couldn't connect that she was no longer there. As I no longer was carrying my baby they could give me morphine so my pain was all gone, but so was my baby. She was upstairs. I replied "Oh, OK" with a big drowsy smile on my face apparently. Jon had wanted to be the first to tell me about our daughter. He and my sister had been waiting in the delivery room when Lux was being wheeled (in her big transport incubator) past the room. Jon briefly, unexpectedly and not knowing how the operation had gone, met Lux for the first time. I wish I could have been there with him. Thankfully there was space in NICU so she didn't need to get transferred to another hospital.
Jon had been up to the ward once they made Lux stable, he came back into the delivery room with a teary smile as he proudly showed me the first picture of our baby. She was so red, surrounded by tubes, machines and wires. I couldn't see her face as she had a breathing tube down her throat, this wasn't how I'd wanted it to be and all I wanted to do was be with her again.
Lux Olympia Mavis Hardy Hunter (we wanted our small baby to have a big name) was delivered by "classic" caesarian (my scar is up my stomach not across the bottom) at 9:19 on the 31st July 2013, exactly 3 months early. She weighed 2lbs 2oz, thats 995g. She was bright red as her skin was so thin, she hadn't developed nipples yet, her eyes were fused closed, but she was, by a miracle, 'OK'.
When they first removed her from me she wasn't breathing but they had got oxygen to her which helped her tiny, sticky lungs to breath.
Later on I found out what had happened. My appendix had become severely infected. Either on the saturday or tuesday night, it burst and my body was going into septic shock - hence the horrendous pain. They hadn't seen it in all the tests as my appendix had slipped down behind my uterus, leaving them no choice but to deliver Lux.
This is the first time I met Lux, she was too tiny to hold.
I'm writing this down today on a sunny afternoon with Lux playing away happily on her toy piano, healthy, beautiful and still so funny! She has a heart murmur but they hope that will go away as she gets older. I could never have imagined or dared to dream of this day in the few days after Lux was born - it's a world away from where we are now. Her 1st birthday is later this week and me and Jon are preparing ourselves to be feeling a mixture of happiness and those terrified feelings again. I love her so much and as I can say that now, there was a time at the beginning where I couldn't say those words to her. I was so shocked and scared that I would lose her that I couldn't let myself say it. I hope when she reads this one day she'll understand.
Its a crazy start to life and it wasn't the best start of motherhood for me but its her start and even though its not what I had planned or wanted for her, I feel so proud of her and hope she's proud too.
To look at her happy, smily face today you'd never know what she went through.