Let me tell you a story of a girl who had a dream/plan/vision and how life threw a curveball that she could not have seen coming. Life can be surprising and sometimes the most unexpected things can come our way.
The biggest life lesson motherhood has taught me so far. When we decided we wanted to expand our duo it was an intentional, exciting and scary decision. Truth be told the journey had started long before the decision. I was very keen to make sure my body was “baby ready” in my definition of the term and I wanted to be in the best possible stage of fitness, mindfulness, career the works. So, we were on the exercise, the food, the apps, you know really making an effort. That was important to me before the decision and the first thing I had to tick off the list to Mum – Tick✅.
I knew how hard the TTC (trying to conceive) journey could be and I tried not to be naive about what it could potentially look like for us. And so we embarked on this journey… we fell pregnant relatively early on and I thought to myself, okay that’s one thing we know for sure. We can conceive – Tick ✅. Growing up especially in the British setting you have no real idea of how fertile you are unless you’ve had any prior medical scenarios. So that was one big first step that I didn’t take for granted.
Then I began to wonder “could my body really do this?” As a woman it’s this natural process that society tells you you’re built to do but who actually knows that they can do it if they’ve never done it before. Staying pregnant or rather keeping a pregnancy to full term was a whole other hurdle along this journey in itself. Anyway, week by week I watched my body change, grow and swell in all the areas I was warned it would & well others I wasn’t quite prepared for! (Mamas you know what I mean!). 2weeks, 4weeks, 12weeks, 18weeks & so it went.
Now there’s a turning point in pregnancy where caution and fear are at the forefront then excitement, planning and entitlement kicks in. Entitlement? Let me explain… in my first trimester I did everything by the book (I tried to) vitamins, eating well, exercise, reading etc. then somewhere between the heatwave, morning sickness and accepting the honour that is growing a human being you think well today I want that burger and whatever your guilty pleasure is at the time because either 1. That’s what you crave. 2. It’s the only thing that doesn’t make you feel sick. Or 3. Well that’s what you want and you’re growing a whole human being right!
That’s when the fun starts, you start planning and buying. All the things come to mind. Baby shower, maternity, bump photoshoot, baby’s room, clothes, to hyponobirth or not to, water birth, hospital bags oh the list goes on!
At the time circa early post covid era (2020). Black maternal health and the risks and lack of care for black women had been the topic of discussion everywhere. Mainly heighten by so many issues faced by pregnant women during the pandemic who were having to labour on their own and others sadly never making it home themselves or home with their babies.
These were all issues I was very aware of from the distant & not so distant world but also very weary to keep looking into. Pregnancy is scary enough and you’re just trying to get through it without adding more fears or anxiety. Which is easier said than done in the social media world we live in. But I carried on and spoke into a fruitful and healthy pregnancy.
Now let me say first off I had a normal, healthy pregnancy. No issues, with me, the baby, or the healthcare professionals I’d met so far. I was fortunate in that part. The medical staff I saw were present, sure not as informative as I would have liked be it limited by resources and also new covid restrictions but they were present with no issues. No red flags and no concerns.
And after my 25th week milestone I was really starting to enjoy my pregnancy and looking forward to seeing the finish line. I was over halfway, my body was doing it – Tick ✅.
Roll on week 28. Routine midwife appointment on Tuesday. All good.
Then Sunday morning I feel water dripping down my leg.
Erm?.. does the bladder inconsistency start this early?! My first and only thought. Then everything after that moment changed.
My waters had broken.
In medical terms = I had Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM) a pregnancy complication. In this condition, the sac (amniotic membrane) surrounding your baby breaks (ruptures) before week 37 of pregnancy.
I felt all the emotions all at once and for most of the time also felt nothing at all. The only thing that mattered was figuring out how to keep my baby safe, emotions were the last of my concern. But naturally my mind was racing. What will this mean? What did I do? Did I not rest enough? Did I not exercise enough? So was my body not able to do it? This so called natural thing that every woman seems to do all the time. Nothing is ready.
I don’t even have a hospital bag. Will the baby make it? Will I? If they do, what will that really look like? They said my pregnancy was viable after 23wks so does that mean we’ll be okay at 28weeks? I know lots of preemie babies who are full grown adults but I also know lots of babies who never got to make it home.
What happens now?…
Now for anyone out there PPROM is more common than you think – something I learned – but the outcome is truly case by case. It’s very possible for a woman’s waters to break and for the baby to stay happily in the belly until a safer point, 32weeks onwards. The body actually regenerates water everyday to keep the baby safe – who knew right?!
In my case that was the advisable plan of action as baby was completely fine, in fact he was kicking and dancing away the whole time this is happening. So, I was put on bedrest with 2 appointments weekly to check on me and the baby as your risk of infection is much higher. I was given steroid injections which are to help the baby grow their lungs quicker as they won’t have as much time as they should and given antibiotics for myself. Okay we have a plan…tick❓
At this point in my whole 29 yrs of life I had never been admitted to hospital, never had a drip, nothing! To doing a full 360 all in the cause of one day. I remember the first night I slept on the hospital ward the day my waters broke, my husband had gone home and thankfully my Mum managed a last minute shop at Matalan at 3pm on a Sunday to create a rushed hospital bag. And I just lay there thinking what on God’s good earth is happening. Then because hospitals are hospitals if you are a part of a group that’s where you are placed. Which meant I was on the postnatal ward with Mum’s who had either just had their baby or were under overnight observation. It was horrible, I could hear a mum with her newborn baby beside her, and though I felt happy for her a great sadness hit me because I knew from that moment I wasn’t going to have that experience. They had already explained to me that my baby coming early would mean a NICU stay and in most cases the babies have to go there straight away to make sure they are okay and everything else.
Anyway, I’m discharged and back home on Monday and only make it to my 2nd appointment of the first week on Thursday before contractions start. Okay so this is it then we won’t be going any further than this. I’m 28weeks & 5days pregnant.
I need to cancel my baby shower. Do we tell people why? What will people think? Do we even own any nappies?
What happens after that is a whole other chapter of events. I labour for 8hours thinking this is only going to get more painful so don’t ask for pain relief yet, just keep going. So I keep doing my best, the doctors tell me baby is fine but he needs to come today so let’s make that happen. 9hours later at 21:21pm through an emergency csection my baby boy entered the world.
My life had already changed dramatically in that week alone but here came the first of many lessons. What they sell you is not always going to be the fit for you.
That moment everyone tells you about, “when you hear your baby cry the pain goes away” or “as soon as you hold your baby it will be all fine” did not happen. I remember it clear as day the room was silent. My baby was too small to be able to cry. The doctors were too uncertain about what condition he was in so they couldn’t say much just yet. My husband and I just looked at each other and waited.
By God’s grace he was fine and connected up with all the tubes in his incubator to get all the support he needed and taken straight to NICU and there we were in the recovery room, a duo once again. Not quite what we expected. My child was born and taken away and I just had to carry on and recover.
My son, Ethan, was born on a Thursday night transferred to another hospital, my husband went home and I went back to the postnatal ward to the other mothers with their babies.
When people tell you that life will surprise you by teaching you how strong you can be they aren’t lying. From the day my waters broke to the day I was discharged on Saturday to go meet my son, life was just happening. I needed to be strong for my body to recover, for my son to meet me and for this whole thing to be over. Even though it literally had just started. Ethan spent 72days in hospital before he could come home growing in his artificial womb and everyday we went and sat there watching him grow, watching him be monitored, observed, poked and prodded from the never-ending tests. And it was all necessary to make him strong but my lord the whole vision I had when I was back ticking my list was way way way off the mark now. So many things were different and no one could have prepared it or scripted it. I had to learn how to breastfeed on my own because apparently once a baby is out they need milk straight away, literally the last thing on my mind but they kept asking if the mum had produced any milk and I it took me a second to be like ohh that’s me! There was no “golden hour” to hold your baby and get them to latch. To get your hormones to get all gooey and activate all those things they tell you will come straight away. I stayed for 2nights hearing newborns crying and cooing next to their mothers and nurses gushing about how cute they were during their rounds. And every time I looked beside me there wasn’t anyone there. Even when we would come home after seeing Ethan in hospital I slept next to an empty crib and pumped and sterilised bottles for a baby who didn’t live there.
It was nothing at all like what they said it would be. I remember a particular moment when a nurse told me that looking at a picture of your baby will help with milk production and at this point I had no idea who the baby in that picture even was.
But we made it. And at what would have been my 39th week of pregnancy we got to take Ethan home. Even home life was different because he had to come home on oxygen because his lungs just weren’t ready to do the work on their own. So we reconfigured everything to fit the tanks in and this new little person who entered the world in such a momentous way.
But we did in fact make it. And it’s our story. It’s my truth. Would I change anything? No. But I would have loved for it to be easier but then again what it is easier? The road to parenthood no matter your circumstance is a hard and long road. Everyone has a different journey and a different lesson to learn or gain from it. Someone who has waited and waited would choose my journey any day and someone who had a “straightforward” took their baby home the next day path could never comprehend it. That’s just how life is. I can say that now. The most important thing is to learn through every stage and embrace it. I’ve learned so much about myself, prematurity and I know all sort of medical terms I had no business in knowing before. I’ve learnt that I am stronger than I thought and most importantly I’ve learnt from seeing firsthand what a complete resilient and strong little boy I have been blessed with. And I have learnt about grief in a whole other definition. Though my story turned out well there was so much grief in accepting the way in which my story turned out. Accepting all the things I didn’t get to do, the traditional things that come with pregnancy and birth that I was robbed off and what would have been a “normal” entrance to motherhood. But if I stayed in that grief I wouldn’t have found joy in seeing my son hitting milestone after milestone, my husband being an incredible father, my body recovering so quickly after the trauma and quite frankly my mind for not spinning out completely. And my family coming together to be the best support system any new parent could ask for. I wouldn’t be sane throughout this whole thing without them.
So I say to you, wherever you are in your journey. Whatever you’re facing it will work out. It always does. It’s possible its going to look way way different to what you had planned but sometimes that’s okay. It’s okay if it does and it’s okay to acknowledge and grieve what you missed out on. But don’t stay in that grief for too long otherwise you will miss it. You will miss the good, the present and most likely the best life lesson you never knew you needed.
I ask you where do you go from here?
This story – very long story – makes tales that involve layers and layers of life, lessons upon lessons that I will share with you as I continue on this journey. This evolution of self. Reconfiguring my vision. Accepting what I can’t change. And making sure to change what I can.