Our son Samuel was born on the 23rd of March at 8.14pm at 23 weeks. The following day we issued the below statement to family and close friends:
“Samuel arrived sound asleep and very peacefully at 8.14 last night. Troy and I spent the night with him. We are ok and will be ready for visitors tomorrow. Love, us.”
Bub made his presence felt very early on in the pregnancy. I suffered morning and evening sickness throughout the entire pregnancy. I gained weight quickly and became a little alarmed when my hands showed signs of oedema. I could no longer wear my ring. Concerned about my vomiting and weight gain I spoke to my GP. I was assured that everything I was experiencing was normal.
At 19 weeks we flew to Canberra to attend a wedding. Canberra was incredibly hot and over the weekend my feet and ankles swelled to the point at which I could not fit into my shoes! The swelling continued when we returned home. I consulted my pregnancy books and read about fluid retention. While reading about fluid retention we also read about Pre-eclampsia. We discarded what we read as the books said that it was something associated with the late stages of pregnancy. I continued with work. As a teacher I was on my feet all day. By the end of the working day I was exhausted.
On the 9th March we had a scan. Bub was simply moving too much for clear pictures of some of his vital organs to be made. Bub refused to settle so an additional scan was booked for Wednesday the 14th of March. Troy and I were not concerned, as from our point of view Bub was simply very active, if not a little uncooperative.
On the 13th of March, Tuesday, we had a routine check-up. I was visibly bloated. My blood pressure was noted as being high and we were immediately referred to the Pregnancy Assessment Centre. For six hours I was monitored. At 11pm that night I was admitted to the maternity ward. Troy was incredibly calm during this whole time. I spent the night in a worried state and slept very little, as I did not know what was happening.
The next morning we had a scheduled scan to attend. We found Bub’s movements very reassuring. The scans revealed Bub had two rather than three arteries in his umbilical card. I was informed that his growth would be restricted because of this. The doctor spoke to me about my blood pressure, evidence of protein in my urine and placental insufficiency. He said that I would need to be monitored for the remainder of pregnancy but as I was only 22 weeks into my pregnancy, things should be fine for a while. The doctor used the words ‘High Risk Pregnancy’. I was allowed to go home provided that I returned to the hospital the following morning.
The next morning Troy returned to work and I returned to hospital. My protein output and blood pressure was monitored. I had a very kind nurse, Anne, who talked me through what was happening. I was told the likelihood of making it to 30 weeks gestation was unlikely. At this point I was scheduled to return to the hospital every Wednesday for tests and monitoring. It was only when I was standing in the lift by myself that the tears came. I walked around town aimlessly looking at baby clothes and wondering what we needed. I bought Samuel a couple of hats to wear in the neonatal ward, because that was the reality of what I thought we were facing. Troy was at work. I wanted to talk to him but I waited. In the meantime a close friend rang and I just burst into tears.
The next week passed quickly. Most evenings I would vomit until I had nothing left in me. I also developed sharp pains under my right shoulder blade. Bub was very active. It was during this week that Troy felts Bub’s kicks. I packed a bag for me and a bag for Bub. On the 21st of March, Wednesday, we returned to hospital. A scan showed that Bub was growing well. I was absolutely shocked when I was told that I was not to return to work until Bub was born. I was 23 weeks pregnant!
The doctor advised us that we should visit the neonatal ward and he made arrangements for this. We left the hospital in a state of shock. I called work and said I would not be returning. We had only been at home for 30 minutes when the hospital rang and said I needed to return immediately. We returned to the hospital. It was at this point that we were told that Bub and I were at risk. My blood pressure was incredibly high and I had a protein plus of six. At this point, bloods were taken for further tests. My platelets were dropping and my kidneys and liver were showing signs of breakdown.
We meet the neonatal specialist who spoke to us about our immediate birthing options. He handed us an A4 page of survival rates of premature babies and asked us to read it and consider what we wanted. We decided on a C-section – anything to give Bub a chance. However we made the decision that, if Bub was not breathing, we would not resuscitate him. At this point I sat on the bed and cried. The doctor came in and spoke to us. My platelets were continuing to drop and I was also showing signs of hyperreflexia. We were moved to a birthing suite.
I was inserted with a catheter to monitor protein output, given Labetalol and Hydralizine in IV drips to control and stabilise my blood pressure, and also Magnesium Sulphate to prevent brain seizures. I was hooked up to drips and was unable to move. Compression stockings and some sort of machine were also attached to my legs. I was also injected with steroids to help Bub’s lungs mature over the next 24 hours. My blood was tested every three hours as the doctors focused on the best way to manage me. The night came and I slept restlessly. Troy slept in the hospital. He stayed with me the entire time and kept family and friends updated as to what was happening.
The next morning things had not changed. I was taken to the anaesthetist where a central line was inserted. Unbeknown to me, Troy was talking to the neonatal specialist who informed Troy that Bub and I were in serious danger and a C-section could not be performed as my blood was not clotting. Essentially the doctor told Troy that they had to act now to ensure my survival. We had no choice but to proceed with a vaginal birth. Despite all the talks with the doctors I still thought that Bub was going to be okay. I was induced with prostaglandin. I remember saying to the midwife, “I am not ready for this”. Our midwife, Jeanette, was amazing. She stayed with us the entire time and provided a great deal of care, understanding and reassurance. She even made us laugh at times. Even today Troy and I do not know how to thank her and the staff.
The rest of the day was a blur. I became a little panicked when staff from the ICU introduced themselves. It was at this point that I thought for the first time that Bub was not going to make it. I was given an epidural. It was incredibly painful and frustrating. I could feel the doctor poking and prodding between my vertebras. It took five attempts to get it in as I was so swollen. The night passed in a blur of tears and conversations.
Friday arrived. Contractions began mid-afternoon. At 7pm my waters broke. Troy held me for the entire labour. Samuel arrived at 8.14 and the midwife gently said, “Jaynee and Troy, Samuel is not breathing”. The midwife bought Samuel over. He was perfect in every sense. Troy held and bathed him. He had such striking features – Troy’s nose, lips, feet, ears and hairline and my chin. I was exhausted after Samuel’s birth and ready to give in to sleep, however my placenta had not separated and was posing a real problem. The doctor was concerned that I may begin to bleed internally. I was given morphine and gas and the placenta was removed manually.
The hardest moment was the next morning when Troy and I farewelled Samuel. Watching Troy hold Samuel and saying, “I wish I only got to know you better”, was heartbreaking. I spent six days in hospital. When it was time to leave our doctor sat down with us and congratulated me on the fact that I had survived and said that he wished that things could have been different for us. He also explained that Pre-eclampsia will be likely to re-occur in future pregnancies.
It has been 12 weeks since Samuel’s birth. We miss Samuel and take comfort in the knowledge that he would have been so loved. Not just by us, but by our extended family and friends. The notice that we placed in the paper said it all:
‘Much loved son of Jaynee and Troy. Perfect, longed for and painfully missed.’
There is a lot more to our story, as there is for anyone that has experienced Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome and the loss of a child.