My husband was due to fly to Saudi to go and see his new job at six in the morning when at 4am I heard a pop inside me, like a bubble – I got out of bed as I didn’t want to make it dirty and there was a gush of water and at 36 weeks my waters had broken. Mauro was born at 12 o’clock. I had an epidural as I did not want to have labour pain and I was also given antibiotics as I carry Strep B infection (about 25% of women carry this bacteria infection in their vagina and rectum – whilst it is rare that it can be passed to a baby it is extremely serious if it does happen. Strep B is identified through a swab test at around 35 weeks of pregnancy and if you are found to be carrying then you are given antibiotics through an IV whilst in labour to prevent you passing the infection to your baby). He was absolutely perfect. I tried to breast feed but I have extremely sensitive nipples and it hurt so I have not fed any of my children.
I then had a miscarriage at 14 weeks and when I became pregnant again I was so happy. I felt nauseous for most of the pregnancy and that was not good. But what could I do? I had a baby and one on the way so I just got on with it – made sure I didn’t get too tired but there was nothing I could do to stop the feeling sick and nothing that I wanted to take so I just got on with it. When I was twenty weeks pregnant I went for a detailed scan back home in Spain and was told that whilst everything else was growing the babys heart was small so I knew that when she was born that there would be a problem. When I was 30 weeks I felt that I wanted to push but didn’t as I knew she wasn’t ready! At 34 weeks I was back home in Spain and I went for a check up. I was waiting for the doctor and I couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t sit right – I just felt ill, odd, not right. In the end the nurses insisted that I jump the queue and when they checked me I was 5cm dilated and in labour. I had no pain, no feeling of tightening, pressure. I was sent to the labour suite to give birth and I felt so ill – I wish I could describe it but I felt ill, tired, achy just not myself. During labour her heart stopped and the doctor told me that I need to get her out NOW! I was so tired and felt so ill but somehow I pushed twice and out she came. She had the umbilical cord around her neck. Victor was with us and he really thought that one or both of us may die I remember asking him about the baby and he shook his head – she wasn’t breathing, I lost a lot of blood and passed out.
When I woke up I was in the room and Victor explained to me that the baby, who he had named Martina which means ‘the warrior,’ in Spanish, had apnea (a condition where the baby stops breathing for 15 to 20 seconds and can be extremely serious as it causes there to be a reduction in the oxygen level in the blood), she also had bronchopneumonia which is an inflammation of the bronchi (the tiny tubes that make up the lungs) and polypnoea (fever with a chest infection) and her heart was underdeveloped. The chambers of the heart had not formed properly which meant that her heart was not functioning as well as it should and the blood not pumping correctly. That meant that she had to be in the SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) for two weeks and we could only look at her – not touch her as she was recovering from the infections that she had. She had tubes and wires everywhere – they shaved her head so they could attach one to top of her skull (most likely to be a heart rate monitor). We could not give her a blanket – nothing. She was fed through a tube in her nose – it was a horrible sterile environment for her to be in. After two weeks we were given the chance to take her home if we had someone to nurse her. We were very lucky as we could afford nurses to come to our house so they came and stayed with us for two weeks. Their primary role was to watch Martina and revive her if she had an apnea episode. Once the two weeks had finished I was shown how to revive her so we could start to be a normal family. How do you revive a baby from an episode of apnea? You pinch them, you make them cry – it was really hard as I had to do this to my child that had had the roughest start in life but it was the only way. We have had regular check ups since she was born and now she has been given the all clear by her heart doctor! I have to be really careful not to keep her in a crystal ball – she has gone through so much.
We knew that there would be some developmental delays as she was premature but Martina did not move – she did not wiggle in her cot, she did not sit up, crawl, any of those things. Her left arm was hanging – she could not use it at all. I spoke to my family and they said that I was just being silly but I should also trust my gut. We contacted a lady in America and paid for her to come and help us. She told us that unless our daughter had manipulation daily she would never walk. So she had three hours of massage a day, seven days a week. Sometimes she would scream as it was painful and we then agreed to try something different and used other techniques. She finally walked at 18 months. I have no idea why she was like this – I do think that although the SCBU staff moved her whenever they could it doesn’t replace her being carried by us and learning to use her muscles that way – imagine how stiff you would be if you had to lie down and have someone move your head for you for two straight weeks and that was the first experience of her life!
After Martina I had another miscarriage and I then fell pregnant again with Manuela, and her name means ‘God is with us,’ from the hebrew Emmanual and she is my miracle. I was scared but I pushed that away as I felt if I listened to the fear then something bad would happen. I always wanted a big family but when I got pre-eclampsia with my third baby I decided that it was enough which is sad. I went into labour at 35 weeks and was four cms dilated when I got to the hospital. I went into the room and thinking I had time my husband went to get a sandwich. I’m progressing so quickly that I end up calling him and telling him to come as he will miss everything! My midwife could see Manuela’s head but she could not get hold of a porter to move the bed so she pushed me with the help of my husband into the labour suite. Everything was fine so I went home two days later. I then started to not feel well, my legs were covered in bruises and I swelled up (oedema – build up of fluid) and I went back to the doctor where I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. I recovered quickly and settled down to enjoy Manuela.
I worry about Manuela’s development but I know that it is a hangover from Martina. The baby is trying to sit up at six months old – she has hit her development milestones when she should so I know there is no problem with her but I also know that I will fight for her as I have done for her sister. That is what my middle child has shown me – that I am worthy of her, that I deserve her and just how far I will go for my family and that she is amazing. And just how lucky I am to have them.