6 Months after we had Isabelle we were told we could start trying for a second baby when we wanted to. With Greg still working away 4 weeks at a time and only home for 6 days, our windows of opportunity were narrowed and I was still EBF Isabelle so chances were even more slim. That's what we thought, we fell again on our first attempt.
At 8 weeks, I was bleeding with another hematoma and ended up in hospital whilst on holidays in Brisbane. By the 12 week scan it has healed itself and everything looked good. I was scared of being pregnant, every cramp or weird feeling I had, scared me. Every time I went to the toilet I was petrified. I wan't to be excited and enjoy it, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't.
When we got to 24 weeks, I was having weekly checkups, because this pregnancy was now classed as high risk. My cervix started to shorten not long after. By 26 weeks, my cervix had gone from 5cm to 2.6cm, so we started progesterone suppositories as it was now too late to get a stitch. Progesterone is like a little bullet, that is the consistency of candle wax, that needs to be kept in the fridge. Let your imagination work out the rest, oh and you have to lay down for 20mins for it to dissolve inside, then when you go to the toilet for the first time the discharge is quite gross.... But they did nothing for me.
Come 27 weeks, my cervix was now down to 1.2cm and I knew this was going to end the same way as Isabelle. In 2015 there wasn't as much information about incompetent cervix' as there is now. With Isabelle I had an APH, but these weekly scans they found out that I also had an incompetent cervix, which possibly could have been the result of a biopsy from a pap-smear back in 2011.
So, Friday the 24th July rolls around, i'm again 28+4, I wake up and think well this little babe has now baked two hours longer than her sister has so I was happy until I arrived at my weekly OBGYN appointment. We do an internal examination and I now have no cervix left, I'm fully effaced but not dilated. I had no symptoms over the past week that my cervix was shortening that I could think of. We go through the procedure of working out that I will need to go to Perth and be put into Hospital on bedrest. But being a Friday nothing could happen until the Monday. I am sent straight to hospital to be given a steroid injection for Penelope's lungs. My heart sunk, I knew what was coming, I just didn't realise how fast it was going to happen.
I pull up at the carpark at the hospital and call Greg and tell him he needs to come home ASAP. I go in and I wait for a L&D room to be given the shot. Whilst I was in there I felt my world changing, I kept telling myself I could wake up now and this bad dream needs to stop. I had this sudden urge to go to the toilet and at that moment, I knew I was about to go into labour and there was nothing I could do that would stop it.
The contractions immediately started just after they gave the steroid shot. They knew something was up and I tried to hide it for as long as possible, but the contractions became too much to hide and I had to lay on the L&D bed. I was hooked up to monitors and Greg was on speaker phone and the head midwife was talking through what was happening.
I was given a tablet to stop the contractions and my OBGYN who I had seen an hour prior had arrived and checked me. There was about 4 of us in the room and one was on the phone with KEMH organizing flights for me to be flown to Perth. My OBGYN at the time was basically holding Penelope inside of me so everyone could get ready, by this time I was 3cm+ dilated. We lost Penelope's heart beat twice within minutes, I felt pressure and I needed to push, but I wasn't allowed to. I had to breathe through the contractions, and again I had no idea what to do. I had to remember back to Isabelle's birth on how to breathe when they came on and rest in between. When we lost her heart beat again, they stripped me off and broke my waters. Before I knew it I could hear CODE BLUE going over the loud speaker and I was signing paperwork for an emergency cesarean. I was alone and I had to be strong. I was getting wheeled into theatre and getting ready for my spinal block. Before I knew it, here I was laying on the theatre table, arms out and the screen was up. I had the anesthesiologist sitting next to me telling me that it will be ok. I had a nurse holding my hand and telling me it was ok to cry. But I couldn't, I physically and emotionally felt numb. My life stopped. Everything froze in time, I laid there thinking about how I was going to do NICU again with a 1 year old, a husband who worked away 4 weeks at a time and this cut that restricted me on so many things. It was hell, Penelope was head down when my contractions started and when my waters were broken she flipped and went into a transverse lay position. You could see her outline when I was on the table. There was pushing and pulling and grunting and it felt like eternity for her to come out. I remember when they cut me open I could smell this weird smell, I didn't feel it but I felt every single motion of my body moving around, and then the noise of what sounded like a vacuum. When they eventually got her out, there was no newborn cry, there was a lot of motion, and the nurses telling me they're trying their best. I couldn't see anything, I didn't have anyone with me and I remember I just kept asking, how is my baby, do I have a boy or a girl.
They eventually manage to half sedate her to get her tubes in and a nurse came over to me and sad, you have a little girl and she is breathing. As they wheeled her past me, they stopped so I could hold her hand for a quick second before they rushed off with her. She was so badly bruised, Penelope would be 7 days old before I got to see her again.
Every day i begged to be transferred to Perth so I could be in the same hospital as Penelope and every day my request was rejected. I was in the maternity ward with all these new mums who had their babies with them, and here I was with a breast pump and no baby. When Greg arrived the next day he brought Isabelle in to see me. We had to work out where we were going to live and how we were going to get through the next few months of NICU life again, this time harder with a 1 year old who had only just started crawling.
My life changed that week, I felt like all the happiness was zapped from me. My mindset changed and even to this day, I feel as though these two pregnancies changed my life. For the best of being a mum to two little miracles, but in a way that I also feel traumatised by the situations. People often ask if we will have another, and as much as we would love to, we couldn't go through the risk again. I am now a 95% chance of having another preterm younger than 28 weeks gestation.
Penelope at birth weighed 1.2kg, she was 41cm long and she was 36 weeks gestation when we brought her home. I don't think I have ever run so fast to get out of that hospital like the day I did when we came home.
I have been diagnosed with a gene mutation called MTHFR, I also have an incompetent cervix & irritable uterus. Progesterone suppositories didn't work at all for me. Both my girls are healthy happy little cherry blossoms. You wouldn't know that they were both delivered at 28+4, 1 year, 1 month and 1 day apart.
I hope by sharing my two very unique birth stories, it brings some comfort to those who have been in a similar situation as mine, that you are not alone. For those to understand, that for a majority of us, pregnancy and delivery is not a walk in the park. It is the unspoken knowledge we hold and it is something not all of us will share. But please, from the very bottom of my heart understand each baby brought into the world, whether they are here for a long time or a short time. Each story is your story, your babies are and will forever be your babies. A child is a miracle and the future of this world. Hold them tight and always tell them how much you love them. I have learned to accept that my pregnancies have shaped who I am as a person. It has taken me almost 5 years to forgive myself about not being with Penelope from the day she was born. I blame myself for the fact she was 2 hours away from me all by herself in hospital, she couldn't hear my voice telling her she was going to be ok. She couldn't feel me holding her little hand telling her I am with her no matter what. Instead, the nurses had to do this for me. I don't know if I will ever let that feeling of guilt go. As much as I feel I have to, it is something I have to carry with me for as long as I need to.