This is my brave face

As I was carrying twins, I was a high risk pregnancy. I had more appointments with the consultants and as my pregnancy progressed I would get more scans. As much as scans scared me in case they found something was wrong, I liked that fact I didn’t have to wait too long between each scan to see my girls. On the Monday, in my 24th week, I had an appointment with the consultant. He informed me everything was fine and just how it should be and in the next appointment we would begin to think about a birthing plan.  On the Tuesday, I went out for a lovely dinner with my Harrogate girlies. They were full of compliments and told me how glowing and well I looked. They also couldn’t believe how big I was getting and what size I would be by the time they were full term. We had an exciting chat about the twins, their scan pics and how to prepare myself for their arrival. They even felt them kick and were impressed with how strong they were.  On Wednesday night I felt in a lot of pain so went to bed early. Everything felt tighter than usual and I just couldn’t get comfortable.  However, I wasn’t at all worried by these pains, I just thought it was because my body was having to get bigger, twice as fast.

On Thursday 23rd June, I just couldn’t wake up. I was in the deepest sleep. My body just felt so exhausted. I stirred a bit, checked my phone, it was 9am and I drifted back to sleep. I was jolted awake by a sudden feeling I had wet myself. I lifted up the quilt and the sheets were covered in blood. My waters had gone. That couldn’t be my waters. I’m only 24 weeks. I leapt out of bed and whilst running to the bathroom I was screaming for my Mum. My Mum was out at yoga but Linda, who is a close family friend, was in and heard the fear in my voice. She later told me it took a long time for her to forget that tone of fear. (I am writing this now and my hands and feet have begun to shake and that dizzy, light headed feeling of anxiety has returned.) As I sat on the toilet in my bra and pants, I looked at the trail of blood that followed me. There was blood everywhere. Linda came rushing in and asked what I needed. She remained so calm. She was a saint. I said my dressing gown but just in time she managed to grab a towel to cover me as my Dad followed her into the bathroom. I sat on the toilet trembling and hiding behind the bath sheet Linda was holding up. I told my Dad to find my red folder with all my notes in. I smile at this part because my Dad says that trying to find my folder was as if he was in a scene from Dad’s Army, “Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Paaanniiccc!!!” He found it and phoned the hospital. I called out answers to the midwife’s questions (still behind the towel). I couldn’t think straight. What was happening to me? Why had my waters gone? I’m going to lose my babies? Am I going into labour? Linda got me some clean underwear and a panty liner. I got up, walked unsteadily to my bedroom and looked in the mirror. I was white with a red rash going diagonally across my forehead. What was happening? I shouted Linda again and she calmly said, “It’s ok love, you’ve just had a very traumatic experience.” I managed to find my favourite Zara dress, sandals and scrape my hair back into my standard top knot bun.

Trying to stay calm even though in a blind panic, my Dad drove me to Harrogate District Hospital. We didn’t really talk much and when we did we were cursing every tractor and red light. I phoned Connor, who was at work in Newcastle and told him that I thought my waters had gone and he needed to leave work and come to the hospital. When we arrived, a midwife (who I recognised from my first hospital appointment) asked if we were ok (we certainly didn’t look it) and kindly took us to the ward. We were taken into our own room and I had to show the midwife my pad. She confirmed it looked like my waters had gone but this wouldn’t be confirmed until I had a scan. This is the point where I experienced what it was like for time to stand still. It seemed to take forever to be seen by the doctors or for the midwife to return with any information. Waves of sickness kept passing. I messaged all my girlfriends and brother and sister to let them know what had happened. My Dad phoned my Mum. Everyone was so supportive and sent me so many positive messages, I began to calm down a little. The consultants came in to examine me to see if my cervix had opened and I had to awkwardly remind my Dad, he might not want to be in the room now, so he sat outside. My cervix had remained closed, which I was told was a good sign as it didn’t look like I was going into labour. I had my first dose of steroids. This was to help the girls’ lungs as the lungs are one of the last things to develop in pregnancy. It was painful but I didn’t care. I was willing to do anything to keep my girls alive.

Connor arrived (after a panicked drive down from his office in Newcastle) and I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see him. I remember desperately wanting to clean my teeth and put on some deodorant. And in all the chaos there was something I had got right. It put a little smile on my face as it was the only thing that I had timed perfectly if this was all happening at full term. I had been to the beauticians for a wax and my toe nails done as we were supposed to be flying to Northern Ireland the next day for Connor’s birthday trip home.

Two different consultants came to see us over the next few hours. As caring as they were, they filled us with dread, fear and anxiousness. We were told that the next 48 hours were crucial. It was likely that since my waters had gone, there was a high possibility I would go into labour. Harrogate District Hospital only takes babies from 32 weeks, so they needed to phone around hospitals and see where there were two available incubators. We could be moved to Hull, Sheffield, Liverpool or Leeds. We started to pray for Leeds General Infirmary but were told this was highly unlikely. We were also informed by a paediatrician and the consultants that there was a high chance, if I was to go into labour, the girls wouldn’t make it and if they did they might have disabilities. By this time, Connor and I were white, seeing stars and so petrified we were nearly sick. I was later wheeled down for a scan, in which the sonographer confirmed Twin 1 (Charlotte) was without her waters.

The midwife came in to inform us I would shortly be transferred to Leeds. We couldn’t believe our luck. I’m a Christian and have always been religious but that summer I felt a lot closer to God and my Grandad, who I loved dearly and whom had died a few years earlier. I felt so relieved to be going to Leeds. I sent a message round to all my family and friends to tell them what had happened. All of their support was incredible. By now it was mid-afternoon and I still hadn’t eaten. For the sake of my girls, I forced a bowl of Rice Crispies down me and had a sugary cup of tea. I never have sugar in my tea, but that afternoon I needed it! I wrote down a list of things I would need from home. It still upsets me I never got the chance to pack my hospital bag.

Before I was blue lighted to Leeds, I took a selfie with Connor to send to family and friends to show that we were ok. Together, we were handling this just fine. This was the first time I smiled knowing I could do this and with the support from my husband, I could handle whatever the future held for us. I learnt to put on my brave face.

harrogate hospital

12 thoughts on “This is my brave face

  1. Reading this whilst sat on the bus, ready for my next shift as a nurse on the Neonatal unit. I know your story will resonate with so many other families. I was so privileged to be able to be a small part of your journey by looking after the beautiful Charlotte at SJUH but also Connor and yourself as you prepared for home! Lots of love to you all! Xx

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    1. Thank you so much Sophie, I’m so happy to hear that it will help others. I hope to do a poster which can maybe go up in the parents room? It was a pleasure getting to know you and I looked forward to you looking after Charlotte xx

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  2. I think it’s wonderful that you’re encouraging others to share such scary, emotional experiences. You and Connor are setting a great example xxx

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