We had been waiting for this day for over four months.
I was certain the ultrasound was going to reveal I was having a baby girl. I just had this feeling. And plus, I had passed all the “old wives’ tale” tests – all I wanted to do was eat chocolate and that pregnancy glow I was so looking forward to just wouldn’t arrive.
As she squirted the cold gel on my belly, I shuddered thinking about the closeness of the reveal – we could finally buy baby clothes, we could finally decide on a name. My husband sat in the corner, eagerly attempting to decode the black and white image of my insides on the tiny screen. Unlike me, he was convinced a little boy would be joining us in a few months.
“If you look closely between the legs, you will see this little thing sticking out” the technician said, at which point my husband yelled out “my little man!”
I remember feeling sad. I remember feeling guilty for feeling sad. Having persuaded myself that I was having a girl had meant I had also pictured my life as a mother of a girl. I had done that for 18 weeks. The emotions I was feeling were simply the fairy-tale I had concocted dissolving away.
We picked up the ultrasound report that afternoon.
Placenta Previa. Apparently, I had placenta previa. What on earth was placenta previa?
Our internet search history consisted of questions like “is placenta previa dangerous?” “can placenta previa harm the baby?” “can you eat chocolate if you have placenta previa?”. We asked and we read. We read so much. We knew everything – the complications, the chance of excessive bleeding, the possibility of a hysterectomy, the dangers of internal ultrasounds and the inability to have a natural birth.
My doctor scheduled a caesarean for 39 weeks. A planned c-section was much easier than an emergency one and we wanted to avoid labour.
I also had to avoid bending and lifting and limit regular activity. There was a high chance of bleeding. Having lost a pregnancy 2 months before this one, I knew I would not be able to bear any more. I was so scared. I was so careful.
Our antenatal clinic visits were about 3 weeks apart. At each one, I would be seen by a new midwife or doctor. We’d run through my file and I’d cringe as the numbers on the scales kept rising at each visit.
I was 36 weeks and 2 days. It was cold outside but I was sweating. The clinic waiting room was full of expectant mothers, pregnancy glow and all.
They called out my name and my husband and I walked into a room where we were told to wait for the midwife. Shortly, a lady walked in and introduced herself. I remember she had short (ish) light brown hair. She sat down and, after a brief glance over my file, said “you haven’t had an internal examination!”
“Well no” I said. “I have placenta previa and I’m not supposed to have anything internal.” I said this with a touch of disdain, and a pinch of self-pity.
She insisted. She explained that an internal examination was fine, so long as the placenta wasn’t disrupted.
The next day, we attended the Women’s Ultrasound Clinic at Penrith.
“Well you certainly don’t have placenta previa” the doctor conducting the ultrasound said.
I was ecstatic…but the joy was extremely short lived.
She completed her sentence “you have what we call vasa previa and you need to have your baby out immediately”.
In two days, my little boy was born.
That caesarean was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. I lost 2.5 litres of blood. My blood pressure stooped so low during the procedure that I was in and out of consciousness. I was so cold. When they put him near me, I looked at him, attempted to smile and said “I am going to vomit”.
The first words that came out of my mouth when I saw my son were “I am going to vomit”!
Vasa previa is a condition in which some of the blood vessels grow along the membranes in the lower part of the uterus at the cervical opening. The blood vessels can rupture during labour, causing massive blood loss for both mother and baby. More than half of instances of vasa previa that go undiagnosed result in stillbirth.
Three days after the birth, I was lying in the hospital bed when the midwife I had seen last walked in. I burst into tears. She hugged me. She told me she was a believer and that on the day she walked into the room, something – “somebody” told her that I needed to have an internal examination.
I will never forget this lady and the role she played in our lives.
I will never forget the doctors and nurses at Blacktown Hospital who worked tirelessly to support a very weak, a very clueless mother.
And I will forever, for as long as I live, be mesmerised by the little miracles that are happening all around us.