A few of you have asked about Smiley and it's taken me a while to get started on her story: until recently I used to physically shake when talking about what happened. So if you don't already think that I'm a true drama queen, you probably will after reading this. I will try and tone down the details, but really everything was just sooo dramatic. And I swear it's all true.
It all began in October 1996 when RH and I both had great jobs, a wonderful little girl, and another baby on the way. We has just moved into a beautiful old redbrick house near the City Centre. It needed a a lot of TLC, but we were young, we had plenty of time, didn't we? Well, we got our answer just three days later when our whole world began to change.
I was having lunch out with a friend from the office when I began to feel that something was not quite right. Very quickly I was bundled into a taxi and packed off to the Maternity Hospital, briefcase in hand. There I was marched past the snaking lines of bottom-shuffling women, who I don't think were too impressed, and straight in to see the doctor. After a couple of tests, I was told that I was losing my waters and was likely to go into labour within 24 hours. I was 24 weeks pregnant.
I remember crying and friends visiting and then....nothing. I did not go into labour and it was like the hospital did not know what to do with me. I was parked in the prenatal ward and left to wait. I watched other women come and go. For some everything went well and their babies were delivered safely. Other times I saw weeping families and did not dare ask why. Some women who were there when I arrived were still there when I left: some spent most of their pregnancy walking the hospital corridors. I made one very good friend who arrived on the ward during my second week there and we are still in touch today.
Meantime my hormones were in overdrive. I did weird things - I normally read uplifting books, but while waiting on the birth of this baby, I read Trainspotting, why?? For some strange reason the hospital catering staff only served tea, but there were two coffee machines. One dark morning, both were not working, and I went back to bed, pulled the curtains and refused to come out, until someone got me a mug of coffee. I missed Angel horribly, and very quickly decided that one hour a day visiting was not enough - so I negotiated day release! I only lived a 5 minute drive from the hospital so they agreed that I could go home in the afternoons once the baby seemed to be okay. Just in case you were wondering: I was a public patient and all the care up until I went into labour was fine: I was regularly checked, I was given the most disgusting injections ever to mature the baby's lungs, and the staff were supportive and helpful.
On the second Friday there were signs that things were starting to happen and an infection was mentioned. For whatever reason, I don't remember being given any medication for this. Soon after I started to feel mild pains - and so did my friend - and she kept my sanity intact as we struggled through the weekend together. On Saturday I asked to be checked again, but was told that I was not in labour, same on Sunday, same on Monday. The SHO (Senior House Officer) checked me on Monday morning and said again that nothing was happening. Pains continued and sleep became a distant memory. By Monday night I was miserably tired and almost felt abandoned when my friend was wheeled down to the labour ward by the SHO. So some pethidine was prescribed, and it made me feel a lot calmer. I just lay and listened to music with my eyes closed - Oasis I think. Of course the staff assumed I was sleeping. But the pains continued to get stronger and about 3am I called for help. I was checked and suddenly people started running around, finally they were admitting that I was in labour. As he pushed me down to the labour ward I remember asking the SHO what my chances of a live baby were, "about 30/70", he replied. I was now 26 weeks pregnant (27 by the hospital's dates).
RH was called and I was hooked up to various monitors. Initially everything seemed to be going well, then things started to go wrong, you could see the worried faces, but as there is no agreement over what happened, all I can say is that the consultant was called in the middle of the night, no caesarean was performed, and the SHO apologised to me for "what I put you through." Actually, physically I recovered pretty quickly and shortly after the birth I trotted off to have a shower (the benefits of no epidural).
By the time Smiley was born, there was a whole team of people in the room waiting to work on her (I'll never be embarrassed about anything ever again!) The shocking thing was the silence, there was no new born cry, my baby was just whisked away. "Is it alive?" I asked... and it seemed a long time before I got an answer.
Part 2 Failure to Thrive is here: http://www.lookingforbluesky.com/2010/05/smileys-story-part-2-failure-to-thrive.html
Part 3 Living in the Hospital is here:
The one where we go to La Manga…. - We stood at the door, collectively a bit sweaty, a bit hot, a couple of us a bit tipsy. Six of us. Normally when we are together we are to be found in ou...