After trying to conceive for seven years, Georgina finally reached her dream of becoming pregnant. But moments after her baby’s birth a small comment from a midwife led to months of post-natal anxiety. Here she discusses how, after finally telling her husband, she finally felt a release from all the worry
I’ve always been a worrier. Ever since I can remember I have worried about losing things, and things beyond my control. But apart from wasting time it never caused me any trouble.
I met my now husband when I was 17 and we married nine years later in 2006. Life was good and we were so happy. We started trying for a baby on our honeymoon. We were both desperate for a baby. Unfortunately just six months later we lost my mother-in-law to lung cancer. We were both devastated. We put our inability to conceive down to our grief and tried not to worry about it for a while.
A year later, we moved house and we were telling ourselves this added stress was another reason we were not conceiving. It took us 18 months to finally approach our GP with our concerns. All our tests came back fine. There didn’t seem to be a reason why we weren’t getting pregnant so we were referred to a fertility consultant.
He wanted to perform a laparoscopy as I had always had horrendous periods, some months the pain would make me cancel plans and stay in bed all day. I finally got the date for my operation. It was March 2009 and I was all gowned-up ready for my operation when the consultant called me into his office. The statutory pregnancy test I had just performed before my operation was positive. We were ecstatic. For a few weeks life was amazing. Until we found out that I had an eptopic pregnancy, later causing me to lose a fallopian tube.
Although we were both broken-hearted we still had hope that we could get pregnant. My consultant wanted to perform a laparoscopy so I had another one scheduled for August 2008. It showed I had stage four endometriosis, which is where the lining of the womb attaches itself to other organs. My rectum and bowel were all stuck to the womb and my left fallopian tube and ovary were not visible. In his words, it was a complete mess and IVF was our only option.
Because of where we lived I could only get one cycle of IVF on the NHS and I had to wait until I was 30. Six months after my 30th birthday things started happening. For the first time I began to get excited. This could lead to our dream. I reacted well to the drugs and we coped so well as a couple.
During this time I had acupuncture to help with the side effects of the drugs I was on as I would experience menopausal symptoms. I loved my weekly sessions. I am a really nervous driver usually and driving home after every session I would feel a calmness and I felt at ease. It really helped me cope emotionally too. Everything was going well and we got a positive result on our first go.
It was 16 December and I could finally look forward to Christmas.
Unfortunately, on my husband’s birthday only a few days later I felt a weird sensation and decided to take another pregnancy test. It was negative. The clinic explained that I had a chemical pregnancy, the embryo had tried to implant but failed a few days later. There are no words to describe how I felt. It was as if I had let my whole family down. That Christmas was horrible.
We took nearly a whole year before we decided to try again. We had to self-fund and during this time I was also stepped down from my management role at work, losing about 20% of my salary. I was being bullied by higher-management. They made my life hell and I could have easily walked out of my job but we needed my wage. We had to save money from where ever we could. We didn’t have any holidays, or eat out. It was hard but we did it.
The next cycle didn’t work but we had managed to freeze three embryos and five months later had one implanted. I knew four days later I was pregnant. I had a metallic taste in my mouth, backache and the weirdest dizzy spells. We were overjoyed. A scan at six weeks showed a tiny little heartbeat. I loved being pregnant. I couldn’t wait to wear maternity clothes and show off my bump. Apart from a bleed at 10 weeks and low iron, I had no issues at all. Everyone was so excited for us and I enjoyed every minute.
I started maternity leave at 32 weeks, as my job involved me being on my feet all day at work and I was feeling tired. When I was 35 weeks and five days pregnant my waters broke. My husband had just returned to work that day after the Christmas break and had been in the office literally 10 minutes. I’ll never forget our conversation on that phone call, we were so excited. We went to hospital and our daughter was born 12 hours later.
On our last antenatal class before I gave birth our teacher explained the checks that they do on your newborn. We were told how they check the palm creases and a single line could mean a genetic problem and is also a soft marker for Downs syndrome. This had stuck in my head for some reason and it was the first thing I checked when she was born and thinking I saw two I relaxed and had my tea and toast.
About 15 minutes later the midwife said that she had noted it down so she had to tell me that my daughter had single palmer creases on both hands. I suddenly cried and said she has Down syndrome doesn’t she? The midwife was shocked that I knew this was a marker and said she had no reason to believe that she did but they would get the paediatrician to come and see her. This was 10pm at night and they paediatrician wasn’t available until the morning. I spent the whole night staring at her, searching for clues that something was wrong, my husband as usual, was amazing and calming, kept reassuring me that if something was wrong we would love her and she was our little miracle.
The minute the paediatrician saw her in the morning he said he was 99% sure that she was ok and we could have genetic testing. But I was assured by him and so we didn’t have testing done. We were going to be discharged the next day but the midwife noticed that she was very jaundiced and she had to go straight to special care. She also lost 15% of her bodyweight and was having great difficulty keeping her temperature up. She was also finding it really difficult to suckle and so was tube fed. She was in hospital for two weeks and then was released for four days before we had to readmit her for her high jaundice levels.
I would get anxious if anyone wanted to hold her as I was worried they would ask why she did that with her eyes
There are two types of jaundice and one causes brain damage among other issues. Whilst we were in hospital I started searching all her symptoms. Everything that a doctor mentioned I would search it. She slept with her eyes open and used to roll them when having rapid eye movement in her sleep (later learning this was completely normal, especially for a premature baby) I was convinced she was brain damaged. I would get anxious if anyone wanted to hold her as I was worried they would ask why she did that with her eyes. After three-and-a-half weeks we were finally discharged. She still wasn’t putting on weight, I’d have to weigh her weekly and top up her breast feeds with formula. I also had to stop feeding her for a week to see if my breastmilk was causing her jaundice, and it was.
She was also born with a little mark on her neck and when she was finally putting on weight it was like a little dimple. My GP couldn’t tell me what it was and so I started obsessively searching that, along with single palmer creases and some other markers she had, a short umbilical cord, prolonged jaundice and slow weight gain. This is what I would do every single night. I would wait for my husband to fall asleep and then start searching the internet on my tablet. I would look through all the different birth defects that children could be born with and convince myself she had them, usually a different one every night.
I was surviving on around 2 hours sleep. During the day I didn’t think about it at all. I was enjoying life, I totally adored being a mum and loved our time together, we had a wonderful bond and it was literally a dream come true but the minute the clock would reach around 8pm I started getting anxious about bedtime and knowing I couldn’t help myself searching on the net or scrutinising photos of her to see if I could spot anything.
I don’t know what made me do it but one morning I woke up, picked up the baby who was now around four months old and went to my husband who was in the kitchen, I just thought I’ve got to tell him, I called his name and he turned around and I had the baby in my arms, he was smiling and then saw how distressed I was. He comforted me and ask what was wrong and I told him everything, how I never sleep at night and I was convinced the baby had an unknown condition. He couldn’t believe it had been going on so long and that I had kept it from him. He said let’s take her to the doctors now and get the genetic testing done to settle my mind, but I was suddenly ok, just telling him had made me realise that she was ok and it was all in my mind. It wasn’t until around this time I also noticed by looking at my hands closely that I only had single line palmer creases, as do others in my family, it was obviously a genetic link and I really wished I noticed that on the night of her birth or before, I really think it would have saved some of the anxiety.
She is now a very healthy six year old. We had another embryo implanted when she was 14 months and that worked too! Her brother was born 10 weeks premature and had numerous illnesses, one with him being placed in PICU on a ventilator, we nearly lost him and it was the scariest time of my life but not once did I search the internet, not even when he had two brain bleeds. I asked the doctors questions and openly spoke about things. When he was a year old we found out I was naturally pregnant. We were going to have three under three-and-a-half!
Life is completely crazy but I love every minute and although I still feel anxiety over some things I don’t let it consume me, I make sure I discuss it with friends and family. I also mentioned it to my GP whilst pregnant with my second baby and as I saw him so much with my son after he was born, he always asked how I was and made me open up to him, I knew that if I was ever feeling low or anxious I could speak to him too.
I can’t believe the relief I got after just telling my husband. It was instantaneous, and I urge anyone who is in the same predicament to please talk to someone. I know I was extremely lucky for him to be so understanding but I’d hate to think what would have happened if I didn’t open up to him that day.