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The Roller Coaster Ride of Pregnancy and Motherhood
As I crept towards my thirtieth birthday with a speed I ordinarily aspired to achieve, I found myself taking a close look at my life. I thought about and analyzed my achievements so far (or as I thought at the time, my complete lack of them) and I explored where I would like to be in the future.
I had recently married the man I had known when I was only nineteen. We were together for ten years before we got married. I was, I am, one of those people who lives sensibly and safely hour after hour and day after day. I don’t make hasty decisions. As for the family, the possibility of having difficulties with pregnancy had never entered my mind so sensitively and I always thought that I would have children by the age of thirty.
After our wedding, we decided it was the right time for a family and naively thought it would just happen – just like that. It wasn’t. And it didn’t happen for another two years. Many doctors and investigations later revealed that I had a slight fertility problem, but not one that should be harmful. I started a course of Clomid.
It’s funny how obsessed I am. I think about the children constantly. I looked at pregnant women with envy and was convinced that the pregnancy population in my hometown had quadrupled. Everywhere I looked, friends, colleagues and even family – everyone seemed to get pregnant very, very easily. Just as I was about to pass out in utter mental torture of many “woe is me”, I checked my calendar and realized I needed to take a pregnancy test. Boxing Day 2001 and I tested positive. Amazing. The pregnancy was incredibly easy. (If you ignore the absolute chronic vomiting from week six until two days after delivery). Then followed an exciting time at week 30 which resulted in a week of hospitalization and a near premature birth. Happily, the pregnancy continued and in August 2002 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, born at 38 weeks and weighing a tiny 5lb 3oz. Fantastic! Jessica Rose.
Funnily, without much planning at all – I fell pregnant again in 2004. This pregnancy was very difficult. Again, I had chronic vomiting, but in contrast, I did not feel happy or healthy during pregnancy. I feel constantly tired – not a little but completely tired. During week 30 (obviously a little point for me) I developed obstetric cholestasis. Cholestasis is an uncommon complication of pregnancy, which causes an accumulation of bile acids in the blood. The main symptom is persistent itching. It was taken during a routine visit to see my Obstetric Consultant. I had arrived for my appointment feeling pretty bad. I had been off work with constant vomiting and fatigue. Literally, in the hospital waiting room, I developed chronic itching – mainly on my hands, but then it spread elsewhere. The itching made me so desperate that I would scratch until my skin bled. I have been hospitalized here and there and there. Back then, I didn’t know anything about cholestasis, I hadn’t heard of it. Although now I feel like I know too much. When I had been in the hospital for a few weeks and had daily blood tests, I was informed that my bile acid and liver function results were significantly increased and could be a risk for my newborn, who knew it was a girl. I didn’t really understand the exact medical terminology back then, nor did I really understand exactly what was happening, but when a lovely midwife came and took my hand and very calmly explained that having obstetric cholestasis could possibly result in a stillbirth and that i have I had to prepare for that – my world came crashing down.
The next day, my consultant came to see me and informed me that he was going to start an induction immediately so that hopefully my baby would be safe. The induction began without delay and had few complications. I was attached to a heart monitor belt continuously and I remember at one point it felt like the pain had reached an absolute pinnacle. My husband had looked at the heart rate monitor and had noticed that the machine was no longer detecting a heartbeat. Having not seen a midwife for some time, my husband pressed the alarm bell and a midwife immediately appeared. Within seconds there was a team of midwives, a pediatrician and nursing assistants present in the room. My husband is panicking – I was busy dealing with the pain, but then realized that there seemed to be a problem. The next thing I remember is that my daughter was born. At 7:20 am on April 15, 2005 – week 35, I gave birth to a very healthy and very lively 5lb 11oz baby girl. Elisa Mae. Everything was fine, luckily and I was relieved.
So there I was, 33 years old and the proud mother of two beautiful girls. How lucky.
Then, at the end of 2006, I found out that I was pregnant again (bearing in mind that at one point in my life, I thought that I would not have any children – this was quite shocking). This time I went into pregnancy with my eyes open. I know that having suffered cholestasis during my last pregnancy that it was 60-80% likely to return. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. The pregnancy was, like my first, very easy. I didn’t have the disease after week 14 and because of that, I was convinced that I had a baby. My logic was that when pregnant with a girl, there is an increase in estrogen that cause the disease. With a child there is no. I continuously watched the symptoms of obstetric cholestasis and was revived when none appeared. I got to week 30 and then I started itching like crazy. I couldn’t sleep at all because of the need to scratch. I was up several times during the night to shower to try to reduce the itching. I was exhausted and referred to my consultant. Many blood tests were done, but there was no increase in my liver function or bile test results and therefore cholestasis was not diagnosed. I was kept under frequent observation for the next few weeks, for which I shall be eternally grateful. After meeting with a stand in consultant, I was informed that I would be taken from the register “at risk” since I obviously do not have cholestasis and should therefore have treated my pregnancy as “normal”. This, I could not accept. After going through the worry of a significant chance of stillbirth last time, I’m not taking any chances this whole time. I became a fussy pregnant woman and consulted my midwife, GP and consultant for numerous blood tests as the itching was still unbearable. This was in itself, I believe, a significant sign of cholestasis. I understand that the chances of stillbirths increase towards the last stages of pregnancy and I know that many consultants of diagnosed cholestasis patients think that it is better to deliver the baby at around 35-38 weeks, since labor induced at this time they have a tall height. child’s chance of survival. Armed with this information, I continued my search for a premature birth. Something I know many people frown upon. But, my conscience is clear. I did it because I thought it was best for my child. Finally, it was agreed that I would be induced at 37 weeks – July 2007. After a highly traumatic birth – in which my child was descending through the birth canal, but was not dilated and after a distress signal from the my baby – I am happy to be able to say that my third GIRL was born happy and healthy, weighing 6lbs. Emily Grace.
Now I am a mother of three beautiful, charismatic girls. My life revolves around them and thankfully they are unaware of the trials and tribulations of getting here safely.
My family is complete. While I may secretly long for another child – I know my family could not endure another pregnancy and all the trauma it can produce.
My advice to anyone would be not to ignore any kind of health problems during pregnancy and to visit their GP. I do not know how things would have gone if I had not met with my consultant during my second pregnancy and I would not have spent on what would have happened during my third if I had not been so persistent.
Every pregnancy is different. But we, as parents, have to take responsibility for our unborn children and make sure that nothing is overlooked.
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