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The week that was … update on The Spaniard

December 19, 2011

I scarcely know where to begin with this as so very much has happened in the last week and it has been so terribly terribly hard … but I guess the best place is with the positives. If I ever doubted the love and support of my friends (which I don’t think I did), I have been constantly and consistently reassured and have felt enfolded by support and warmth through very dark times – so thank you so much for that.

Our very precious little Spaniard – the active little soul as was is now a very still little person. Thankfully its heart still beats well, it is receiving all the nutrients etc (we and the doctors believe) that it needs from me and it is the right amount of amniotic fluid with seemly perfectly functioning kidneys and so on. It has had its little lungs strengthened by me having steroid injections to protect it as and when it needs an early delivery. A very dear friend made me laugh yesterday in a way that only he can by teasing that I am a medical anomaly with all the things I’ve had wrong over the last few years with my annoying immune system, and asked me how I expected that The Spaniard could be anything other than a medical anomaly. If anyone else had said that I would have I think punched them or wept but he has and always has had the ability to make me laugh.

I type this utterly exhausted and very weary and afraid of what we might expect over the next few weeks, but reassured in having the three best doctors imaginable on our side and some truly wonderful midwives and fetal nurses (all be it that there were far too few of the latter to support the volume of ‘patients’ with such a wide range of issues), something which makes the hospital experience even harder as you end up feeling guilty for asking questions alot of the time as other people’s need often seems greater than your own.

So – the week that was – in brief:

on Monday I went over to the MFAU as The Spaniard’s usually boisterous movements had stopped and I was feeling nothing and also had a huge amount of pain on my right hand side low down. We had a scan, we did the heartbeat monitor and the long and the short was that I was admitted to the blue curtained twilight world of the Lady Mary Annex in the Rosie. Wonderfully kind midwives kept an eye on me and the next morning after very little sleep (so many sad stories around me and so many alarming noises from women in pain coming from along the corridor and voices in my head that really did need stomping on) I saw my consultant. At the time I begged her to send me home, but she, sensibly sent me for further scans and tests and said that both I and The Spaniard needed to be monitored. So we were … CTG heart tests with a machine bought to my bed, CTG heart tests in a special ‘zone’ with a large plastic chair which reclined and ultra sound scans to measure everything from the level of amniotic fluid, to the oxygen and blood flow through the umbilical cord, to the functioning of the placenta, to the chambers of the heart and brain and all stops inbetween. Everything came back “textbook normal” except the fact that the little soul wasn’t moving… I asked if it was due to lack of space, or to the fact that I’d been flung around in a taxi on Friday in London and maybe the placenta was failing to fretting about too much walking and so on … the answer to all my questions was a calm and patient “no” … on a scan you can’t see behind the placenta but the fact that there was no issue with the flow of life through the cord and there was no visible blood or additional fluid indicated that this wasn’t the case.

The time wore on, still no movement, but a little less stressed about being in the hospital … until Tuesday afternoon. I had an extremely detailed ultra sound scan to measure everything and the lovely sonographer when all that was evident was The Spaniard floating seemingly lifeless in its little wet world went and got one of the top consultants … he came back in and bashed me in the tummy with the scanny thing to try to make The Spaniard move. Eventually it’s had ‘floated’ and it’s leg just slid sideways but not ‘proactive movement’ not the dance moves of my active Spaniard. This had to be one of the most distressing things I have ever experienced, being totally alone and watching the little soul float inert and still … other than its rigorously beating heart. I was absolutely numb with fear. Back on the ward with thoughts of an imminent delivery at 33 1/2 weeks I really lost it and just wept and wept. The consultants were by now 3 not just one – all of whom were incredible – and seemed to be of the mind that while the heart was fine and the placenta seemed ok etc it was better to leave The Spaniard in utero rather than remove it early – but I was injected with part one of the lung strengthening steroid just incase – part 2 followed the next day a huge jab in the bottom.

The view from behind the blue curtains

Nights behind the blue curtain are interminable in that situation, lying there wondering if The Spaniard would ever move again, what was right and hearing both the joyful sounds of new-born babies crying and the very distressing sounds of people in the build up of labour or just scared … not much sleep. I was moved after a few days to a window view – and awoke looking forward to the seeing fields where I walk and the Gogs in the background, but could just see the bleak building site where they are building the ‘new Rosie extension’ and lots of dismal fed up looking builders. It kind of reflected how grim it was to be in the hospital … and the fact that they started work at 7am and often didn’t finish til around 9pm did nothing to help with rest.

The days went past with the heartbeat remaining perfect and all the other tests stable, still no movement. Each of my 3 consultants spent time themselves monitoring the scan – just sitting patiently and quietly the scanning device stock still waiting for movements, “come on baby, move” said one as she just willed it on.

It is moving, in a couple of ways, our small Spaniard. It has ‘fine’ movements – like a little sucking motion, and it’s spine seems to flex slightly and straighten again, and the abdominal cavity is showing ‘practise breathing’ (obviously it gets its oxygen through the cord at the moment but at this stage in development it learns how to prepare for post birth proper breathing), occasionally its little hand and fingers move like seaweed or feathery leaves in a very soft breeze, but nothing forthright … gone are the kicks and the dramatic firm limb movements. It sometimes ‘lurches’ or seems to correct itself – you know like when you fall asleep in a meeting and wake up with a bit of a start and then just start to drift off again. However, nothing that was previously ‘normal’. My consultant describes the motion it does have as ‘wafty’ (a non technical term which makes me smile wistfully) … the last few heartbeat monitor scans while ‘fulfilling the criteria’ – a bit of a computer says ‘yes’ type of situation, have also shown longer periods with no ‘acceleration’ – ie no peaks. As I understand it (and please set no store by this as I’m probably wrong), the sign of a great baby heartbeat is a heartbeat that varies its speed between around 110 and 160 beats per minute with lots of ups, a few downs and a few reasonably steady along the average line kind of times. Cold water or a shot of sugar, or a meal before a scan should mean that some good ‘accelerations’ show … over the last couple of days this hasn’t been the case – well maybe one sometimes two but not the textbook ups and downs of earlier on in the week.

midnight on the heart monitor

The dilemma is that nobody knows what is causing The Spaniard to be so very still, or what is the best course of action. Is it better to deliver it at 34 weeks – still pre term and premature, if it is poorly when it won’t be as strong to fight its own little corner in the big outside world, or is it better, assuming it is getting all the right ‘stuff’ from me and from its support system in my uterus to let it grow and build in strength before a probable early delivery. At the moment they are monitoring us test by test … the current decision is that a decision may be made on Wednesday following another huge growth and measurement scan assuming nothing changes in the next 48 hours … but this may change. Last week at one point it seemed the little person might have anemia which indicated an urgent need for immediate cesarean and a tiny blood transfusion. This would have answered lots of questions about its lethargic state … however a few hours later once all the tests had been repeated it was found that it definitely doesn’t have anemia and this was ruled out. So – we continue in limbo. I’ve also to cap it all become allergic to the scanning goo that they use, so have to have KY jelly and now have a bright red scaly tummy which itches fearsomely at night.

I’m very fortunate in that my mother’s house quite literally backs onto the hospital grounds, it is quicker to walk to the house from the ward than it is to walk from the car park to the ward or even from the main concourse or physio department. So because of that, and because I was just getting no sleep I have been allowed to come ‘home’ to sleep but have to be back at the Rosie in the day time for heart monitor tests twice a day (thank goodness not 3 times – each time was taking up to 2 hours plus ‘plugging in time’) and having first tests at around 8am and last tests around 10.30 at night was giving me little sleep – that and the very stressful atmosphere on the ward at times – the sad stories of the girls in the Annex with me and hearing the tears, the pleas, the anxieties and the jubilation of the other in mates… also the limited range of food stuffs. So, last night I slept for about 5 hours which was good and must have helped both me and The Spaniard. Today, I’ve been at the hospital for 4 hours and will go back for another 3 very shortly … so as I said I am lucky – so very lucky to be able to be an in-patient and an out-patient at the same time … and to be able to walk from comfortable sofa to uncomfortable plastic monitoring chair in under 4 minutes. All that being said if anything remotely changes or concerns me the hospital doors will slam shut behind me in seconds – but for now I’m thankful for the consideration shown by the consultants in letting me lead this double life.

I’ve tried endlessly to be positive, to be calm and to be patient – but I do feel a very real terror, and I think it’s important to acknowledge it, that I may never meet my little Spaniard, I wake up at night willing it to move, I lie and stare at the heart monitor my finger poised on the button I’m to press when / if it does move just pleading internally with it to give me a sign. I am realising now that if our little person does make it to the outside world, the chances are that it will be a poorly baby and we and it will have much more to deal with – and that feels bleak and frightening. However, I talk to a few friends, I find it hard to talk to people at the moment other than in tiny ‘chunks’ via Twitter @e11ie5 and I have been for a couple of short walks as they seem to clear my head, I’ve sat and prayed in the chapel in the hospital and I’ve stared out at snow, at rain, at the moon and the sunrise looking for answers. Earlier in the week two very special friends lost their baby after a precious 8 hours of life, it was born at 37 weeks, it had a number of issues that its poor little lungs just didn’t have the strength to deal with … this has been on my mind endlessly, as has their gentle quiet dignity and the way they have dealt with this most unthinkable of situations and I send them all the love I can at such a heartbreaking time. This also underlines the reality of situations like this and the fact that miracles don’t always happen however much we crave them.

As I said at the start of this long waffly post I am so so so grateful for the love, the words, the messages, the tweets, the texts, the facebook comments that I’ve received – each one eases my angst and my worry and helps me picture people and kindness so again thank you. Roy is back now from being away, he is struggling with his own emotions, with mine, with work and with his own sadness at not spending as much time with his other 3 children as he’d like to … walking in the dark in and out of hospitals not knowing what to expect is so hard. So tough times for all of us … my little brother is over from the far East which has been a tremendous comfort for me and especially for my mother but we’re all operating in different kinds of limbo. Somehow made doubly hard because it’s Christmas time as well.

Right then – I’d best put my coat on and head back round to my next batch of tests … if I have the energy tomorrow I shall put up a post about the effect of the Govt’s cuts on maternity care in Cambridge … being cross and having something to rail against has kept me feisty this week at times, but the main use of my energy is clearly to try to keep my Spaniard strong and to try to keep me sane and together and keep those horrid tigers which do come at night – and increasingly in the day time as well – at bay.

If you’ve made it this far you deserve a medal – thank you for caring and please keep all the positive sounds coming – I do appreciate them, if I don’t update the blog it’s because I can’t in hospital or I’m just not up to it, but I try to put news on my twitter page.

Come on Spaniard … do what you can, you’ve come this far (34 weeks and 3 days now), been such a miracle and proved so many people wrong.  I’ll do everything in my power to protect you, you’ve got the most amazing doctors and midwives on your side and you have so many supporters out here waiting to meet you and willing you on. Just do all you can little one.

The Spaniard on Tuesday 13th December in the afternoon 33 weeks and 4 days old

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Joan Lawton and Neill Murray permalink
    December 19, 2011 8:16 pm

    Bless you and the Spaniard what a hard time you have had , our thoughts are with you both, everything is crossed and we are here if there is anything we can do to help, just shout
    Joan and Neill

  2. Frank permalink
    December 19, 2011 8:48 pm

    love and best wishes from beaming from Aus….
    Fingers and toes crossed, eyeballs to0
    Frank and Sally

  3. December 19, 2011 9:46 pm

    Thank so much for your long and moving posting, Ellie. I have so wanted to know how you and The Spaniard were and I was so anxious with the lack of news – although we did manage to exchange text messages which was great.
    So much has happened to you both since I first met you at the end of July and SO much has happened since we had dinner in London just days before this latest crisis. You have been so courageous and I am literally in awe of all you have done and experienced for this little one.
    I just hope that in a few weeks you can look back and look at the baby and say that it was all worth it; I just hope that I can one day soon visit you all and give the baby a loving cuddle; I just hope that some day I can introduce the baby to my granddaughter (currently coming up to one); I just hope that one day in the future I can take your young child around the Victoria & Albert Museum and say: “This is where i met your mummy”. I just hope …
    Meanwhile all the support and thoughts and love that I can possibly send.
    Roger

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