The antenatal ward. Part 1: Nesting

For the next seventeen days, I managed to keep my girls inside me. I wasn’t able to go home as they were both breach and Twin 1 was standing on her cord. Here I write about how I survived those weeks.

Nesting in the hospital

Forty eight hours had passed, I hadn’t gone into labour and my girlies had stayed put. I felt in a much more positive headspace and had come to terms that I could keep them in for a lot longer. Maybe it was my ability to stay strong or maybe it was thanks to my lucky stars and just luck that I was still pregnant. Either way, it was time to start nesting. I spent Saturday turning my little cubicle at the end of the ward into my home.

Of course I had my cereals close to hand (top shelf in my bedside cabinet, minimal bend to get them) and I put fruit, yummy Maryland cookies and fruit juice cartons on the bottom shelf (Marylands for my midnight feast). I put my giant Gaviscon bottle, YESMUMtobe cards, water bottle and the latest scan pic on top of the cabinet for easy access. My phone, Kindle, head phones, ear plugs and eye mask (absolutely necessities to survive the night) were in the cabinets facing my bed. I stuck my favourite YESMUMtobe card on my bed (“I take control of the things I can and let go of what I can’t”). My clothes I kept in my suitcase and my shoes (Converse trainers and Birkenstock flip flops) were under my bed. My beautiful bouquet of flowers* placed on my height adjustable wheelie table and my towel over the curtain rail.  I also had my beloved Boots carrier bag** next to my bed. This bag went everywhere with me; to get my morning cereals; to the bathroom; to Costa; on my little car journeys and to get my evening peppermint tea! It contained my sanitary pads which were more like nappies, wet wipes and spare knickers (Twin 1’s waters were continuously coming out of me – very sorry if this is too much info but it’s the reason my Boots carrier never left my side!).

Every morning after my shower I would tidy and rearrange things in my cubicle for Connor arriving. He would arrive and rearrange and straighten everything. One of his first jobs was to also put my compression socks on. The first time he put these socks on was very painful. I had to teach him how the nurses put them on and took them off! He wasn’t impressed I was bossing him around whilst he wrestled with my foot and the sock. By the end of the week he’d mastered it and claimed he did a better job than the nurses.

 

* That night, before I went to bed, I put my flowers outside my cubicle so my curtain would draw properly. I was lying in bed reading a chick flick when I overheard two voices discussing how pretty my flowers were and saying they thought someone might have left them. I daren’t move, my ears felt like they were on fire. The voices disappeared back up the corridor so I peeked out of my curtain and they’d pinched my flowers. The cheek! They’d pinched my bloody flowers! I was livid so went on a mission to find and redeem my flowers. Low and behold it was the Sister and a midwife whose voices I had heard and my flowers were sitting proud on the Reception desk. I said (trying to be as polite as possible) “Excuse me, those are actually my flowers.” They were very apologetic. I thought I was hopefully going to be in that ward for a while so best to make some friends. I replied “It’s ok, they look very pretty there and nice for everyone to see.” After that, I got lots of compliments about the pretty pink flowers when I went to the toilet for the umpteenth times throughout the day and night.

** I wasn’t actually aware that I took this Boots carrier literally everywhere with me, until the Sister pointed it out. She said I should be known as ‘Amy and her Boots bag’. Before she went away on holiday she came to see me to say she hoped I’d still be there when she got back. She had also done a kitty with the team to buy me a new bag. It made me smile and I felt loved. Sadly I never did get the bag as I went into labour before she returned.

‘Nesting at home’

One of my hobbies during the day was to plan how to decorate my current building site of a house. I had nothing ready for my girls coming home and spent many hours ‘nesting at home’ from my hospital bed. Over the weeks, I managed to plan the interior design of my entire house, ,Pinterest-ing and Googling the ‘necessary’ items I needed for the nursery or home, e.g. cots, car seats and basically working my way through the Mothercare baby checklist. I literally had nothing and just felt so unprepared! I’d always imagined being so organised, with the nursery all ready, my hospital bag all packed and sitting ready to go and the house fully decorated. I never imagined I’d be doing all this from a hospital bed, with three months still to go and knowing there was little chance I would be going back home before they were born. I quite enjoyed researching everything I needed and planning my colour schemes. I daren’t think how many hours I spent waiting for my phone to load with the rubbish signal in the hospital.

Unfortunately for Con, he still didn’t get away from my ‘questions’ about decorating or ‘what did he think to this?’ He got slightly annoyed with me as he finally had the chance to watch ‘scary’ films that he listened to through his headphones. I hate scary films. The scariest film I will watch is Harry Potter. He tried his hardest to hide his frustration at forever pausing the TV and taking his headphones out. I used to tap him on the shoulder and say “Excuse me Connor, I’ve just got one more question.” He nearly introduced the 9pm rule he had at home again where I wasn’t allowed to ask him a question about wedding, houses or just life in general after 9pm. That was his TV and quiet time. He didn’t mind, however, pausing the TV to feel the girls’ strong kicks or watch my tummy bounce. These were magical and treasured moments. I just enjoyed lying next to him, feeling his warm arm against mine and chatting about nonsense. I felt cosy with the breeze gently blowing through the window, feeling safe and often drifted into a relaxed, peaceful sleep.

As we didn’t know how long I was going to stay in hospital for, Connor returned to work in the second week. They were long days for him, as he was commuting to Newcastle each day and then coming to see me in Leeds.  To make sure he didn’t get too exhausted, we decided some nights it would be better if he just went to bed rather than coming into Leeds; scared he would fall asleep at the wheel. Those evenings and nights were the longest but we knew it was for the best. Our house also looked like a building site. Connor spent daytime hours at the weekend working on the loft with my Dad. He worked so hard. I enjoyed receiving photographs of the loft from my Dad. He’s a very clever man and also worked incredibly hard to get it finished. This gave me time to reflect on how lucky I was to have Connor. He really is my everything and I’m not sure where I would be without him. We’ve always had a great relationship, I can talk to him about anything, he can make me smile and laugh and he likes me just the way I am. From the day my waters went, our relationship, our marriage became stronger. I couldn’t have survived this without him. We were able to keep each other’s spirits high and to keep the light lit at the end of the tunnel when our world seemed upside down.

Filling time

To help fill the time, I was very lucky to receive some gorgeous presents. One exciting present to arrive was a ‘Relaxing Colouring Book for Pregnant Women’. My dear friend had also bought me some felt tips too. From being a Year 1 teacher, this pack of brand new felt tips (all working and all with their lids on) felt such a luxury. I spent many hours, when it was just me and my girls, sitting on the edge of my bed colouring and eating very posh cookies, listening to the radio and sipping ‘Bettys’ peppermint tea. I felt in a good place and quite pampered. During these hours, I often opened my curtains for some people watching, a chat to the domestic assistants and a good old nosy!

I spent many hours listening in to other mums/parents- to-be talking. There was a fast changeover of patients and I soon learnt everyone’s stories. Not much gets past my ears and I knew everything going on, on my ward. I frequently updated Connor. Sometimes I would put my ear phones in but have the TV on silent so I could hear everything. Very cheeky I know but it passed the hours and kept me amused. The majority of patients were waiting to be induced. Sometimes I found them very inconsiderate and they played their TV so loud the entire ward could hear it. Quite often, Connor and I found it humorous when women who were going into labour would say they were going to smack their partner across the face if they said or suggested one more thing. I also felt a little sad at these times as that was likely to never be the case for us. Before my waters went, Connor and I often laughed about what would happen when I went into labour and how Connor would handle the drive to the hospital. He had already mapped out several routes to Harrogate District Hospital just in case there was an incident or heavy traffic one way.

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I often looked at all the mums arriving on the ward with their full term bumps and think how lucky they were. What I would have done to be in their shoes. I watched in wonder at them arriving with their car seats, hospital bags, birthing balls and ready to burst bumps. I thought they were so lucky. Not many stayed on the ward longer than two nights. They either went home as they weren’t ready just yet and the waiting list to be induced was quite long, or they went into labour. I frequently heard them scream in pain during their contractions and just wanting their baby out, whilst I lay in bed praying my girls weren’t listening and willing them to stay in for longer. I didn’t mind hearing them go into labour during the day as I was quite intrigued to hear and see what happened but during the night it was hard. Not because I was being kept awake but because I was scared. I was scared about what might happen if I was to go into labour. My babies weren’t ready yet. At these times, I pushed my ear plugs in further, told my girls I loved them and everything was going to be ok, gave them a big hug and softly cried myself to sleep.

Most of the afternoons were filled with visiting hours. It was a strange feeling being visited in hospital, knowing that you were the patient. A sense of vulnerability came with it. I rarely gave in to this vulnerability and when I did, I have my girlfriends and family to thank for picking me up and enabling me to stay strong, reminding me that I am strong and I can do this. I never did get used to the looks people would give me when I escaped from the ward and was wheeled around or waddling down the corridor in my nightie, with my compression socks on. Some days I felt quite upbeat and did get a shower and changed; other days all my energy went on keeping strong and I was more than happy staying in my nightie. I did always make sure I washed my face and cleaned my teeth though.

As well as all the support I received in messages and phone calls, I am very grateful to my family and friends who came to visit me. It was so lovely to see their happy, fresh, smiley faces. To receive a big hug, have eye contact with them and to just be held and told I was doing amazing. I looked forward to the visiting hours each day and was excited when I had a visitor. A chance to catch up on the real world and find out what they were up to. A chance to show off my forever growing bump. A chance to get them to feel or see the kicks when they moved. I used to ask the midwife, if she was free, could my family/friends listen to each of their heartbeats? I was just so proud of my girls. It was also an occasion to get changed out of my nightie, retie my hair, wash, cleanse and moisturise my face and spray some Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume. They would sit on my bed and just chat or we would go to Costa or sit on the benches outside to get some fresh air and get a change of scenery. I loved it when one friend said “Wow, you’re getting so much bigger!” We laughed deciding anytime other than this, it would be a very unkind thing to say and I would be very offended. Instead, I beamed with happiness at how big my bump was getting, as this meant one thing; my girls were getting bigger and stronger.

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