Shit Happens


We are frequently about how we are enjoying parenthood. For the most part I suspect that not everyone fully comprehends the situation in which we find ourselves. There is nothing normal about where we are. In some warped sense however, this is our normal.

Tomorrow our magic bean is 28 weeks old and instead of being nestled safely in her mothers’ womb, she is nestled inside a state of the art incubator named ‘Giraffe’. I miss the feel of her moving and kicking inside me, I’d only just started to feel her before she was so suddenly taken out. It’s an immense loss I cannot explain. We’d spent weeks trying to get dad to feel her wriggling around inside, that connection between them was so important to me. The day before our caesarean was the first and only time that dad got to feel our magic bean wriggling around in my belly.

In the four weeks leading up to her birth I spent most of my time as a permanent resident of the maternity ward. Daily I lay and meditated, hoping to buy us more time. From a medical point of view, before 26 weeks gestation, our baby didn’t count as a life, I had to get to 26 weeks and beyond if she had any hope of surviving. Daily we had blood drawn to check for the signs that would indicate that we had reached the end of the road. Daily I meditated, prayed and hoped that by some miracle we’d make it past at least 30 weeks. Daily I got to see the joy of birth and the connection between new moms, dads and their beautiful babies. Daily I got to see a happy families head home for the first time, huge proud smiles on their faces, eyes filled with wonder at the sight of their little bundle of joy. The stress of trying to fake a smile for visitors and trying to explain our situation became too much and I blocked visitors, I basically shunned my family and friends.

When admitted I was told that our chances were slim and that my childs’ life came second to mine as she wasn’t 26 weeks in gestation yet. That, if shit hit the fan, that I would be the priority, not her. You can imagine the terror at hearing this. I’ll be honest, I gave up and broke down after being told that. I was informed that my doctor was going on leave for a few weeks and it was doubtful that we would meet again when they returned as my situation ‘really doesn’t look great’. Trust me on this, when you see not a single ounce of hope in your doctors eyes, it becomes near impossible to even fake positivity yourself. I was wished the best of luck in a not-so-optimistic voice and was handed over to a replacement doctor. I wept that night, I felt powerless, like a complete and utter failure. By some miracle, the replacement doctor happened to be an expert of our condition and was someone who believed in us and that we had a fighting chance, someone who gave us hope, someone who undoubtedly saved our lives and got us further down the path than we ever could have done without her. We owe her so very much and I cannot fathom how to thank her for all she has done.

The night before the caesarean I was placed on a special drip that was prescribed to protect both my and the magic beans brains for the trauma that lay ahead. I was placed in a cardiac ward for constant observation as there was a 1/1000 chance that I’d develop a reaction to the treatment. I was placed next to an old senile woman who had it in her head that I was having an abortion and who spent all evening telling me how disgusted she was with my life choices. I don’t think I slept a wink that night between the fear of what lay ahead, the sensory overload of noises inside that room (spend a month in a quiet ward meditating and someone scrunching a piece of paper becomes deafening) and Granny Craycray beside me.

Thankfully the caesarean itself went relatively smoothly, better than anyone anticipated, well, except for the fact that the first epidural didn’t work and I had to endure a second one, one of my biggest fears of the procedure that came true. We were warned that bean would be too small to cry and that we should not panic about that, but by God did she do her best to let us know she was there with the tiniest of cries that you’ve ever heard. With my arms tied down she was brought over for a brief second for me to kiss her before she was wheeled off by a specialist team. With my husband supporting me on one side and a mystery assistant on my other side keeping me calm, I made it through with relative calm, I apparently joked and told my doctor and her assistant that if any jewellery was discovered at a later stage, that I laid claim to it.

After the op my kidneys shutdown and I was placed under 24 hour observation to keep an eye on them and make sure that they rebooted, thankfully they did so on their own. I was not allowed to do more than stare at the ceiling and wait for someone to tell me what was happening with our baby. I got to spend another 24 hours with Granny Craycray, berating me for murdering our baby. No amount of explanation would sway her assessment of me. I begged and pleaded to be moved, but due to my condition I was too high of a risk to be moved to a different ward. Nothing to do but wait until I was safe to be moved back to maternity.

The moment that I was wheeled into my own private, quiet room in the maternity ward was overwhelming, I recall having a bit of a meltdown in front of everyone who had come to welcome me back, friends, family and staff. I think I even chased everyone out to give me a moment to have a good old fashioned weep fest. Getting back into that ward was a massive victory for me.

I can carry on with stories of this experience, and in later posts I will likely share other snippets and moments but through all of this so far I am painfully aware that we were robbed of the idyllic pregnancy that was promised to us. My councillor has told me that I have a right to grieve and be angry about what’s happened, that I’m allowed to grieve for the experiences that we’ve been robbed of, and I do, daily. It’s part of the healing process. But as much as I grieve for lost experiences, I have so much to be thankful for.

My husband, I would not have made it through this without him, coming home finally and being able to sleep beside him, to hear and feel him breathing and being able to touch him, there are no words to put into perspective how I feel about him. Our tiny, beautiful, wilful magic bean who has shown us levels of strength and determination that nobody expected to see in her. Every single day is a miracle and a blessing and every time I look at her I cannot believe that such a thing of beauty is our creation. We’ve a long road ahead to heal, both physically and psychologically and we take it one day at a time. Every two steps forward for our bean has one step back and we’re in this fight for a while still, but we tackle things one day at a time.

Our story is one of many, but it’s the story that is seldom told and I can completely understand why, there are still emotions that I am unable to comprehend, understand or control, some I doubt I’ll ever fully get a grasp of. It’s okay to feel cheated and robbed of an experience that we’d come to expect and look forward to. While we’ve lost out on many ‘standard’ experiences and moments of pregnancy, we’ve also experienced an influx of love, support and strength that we never knew was possible.

Milking the Cow


My breasts come with a bit of a reputation. They have always had a mind and presence of their own. I’ve never thought them to be outrageously large or particularly special, but somehow they’ve always had their own presence. In my squandered youth I can honestly say that I had no issue ‘flashing’ anyone who asked nicely, provided that I’d had a few shooters down, honestly, 50% of the population has them so what was the big deal?! My flashing made me very popular amongst the guys, and very unpopular with their partners. I’m well aware of the names and accusations placed against me from ‘friends’ about my behaviour, being more comfortable around the guys than the gals and not having an issue with going topless probably did not endear me to many women. Hubby often jokes that he knew my boobs before he knew me. Thankfully we all grow up at some point and my flashing days are but a distant laughable memory.

Well, that’s what I thought at any rate. Up until the day we had our child. At a little over 26 weeks of pregnancy, when most women are shopping for goodies and starting to think of themes for the nursery and baby name options, we were faced with the hard reality that our little girl would be making a severely early arrival. The very last thing on my mind at this point was breastfeeding.

From the second I was wheeled out of the recovery room and placed in a special ward for 24 hour post op monitoring I was told that it was of absolute critical importance to start with breast stimulation as soon as possible. Not having the faintest idea of what lay ahead and on the opposite end of the hospital to the maternity ward, I lay flat on my back with the daunting task of providing my baby with breastmilk.

At some point in the middle of the night, the curtains around my cubicle were drawn and I was connected ‘Matrix’ style to a very strange machine. I had suction cups attached to my breasts and was told that I should start expressing like the dairy queen soon. Imagine my horror when nothing more than 3 drops made an eerie appearance and I was informed that this process had to continue every 3 hours in order to start producing sufficient quantities to nourish my child. The mysterious and terrifying milking machine was then wheeled off into the night and I got to lie flat on my back for a further 12 hours without access to said milking machine, ever aware of how many sessions I had missed and how utterly unprepared I was for all of this. Cue husband…

My rock and sanity arrived at my bedside with promises to deliver something that would assist me in becoming the ultimate milking machine. My sanity depended on his success. So, he called on backup in the form of Bob, the Thelma to his Louise, his partner in crime. Cue the theme music to The A-Team and these two blokes saw the despair and panic on my face and ventured off into the world of breastfeeding. The details are somewhat foggy, but somehow they got in contact with a rep for Medela and ended up hiring the Rolls Royce of pumps for my personal use.

So, armed with a special machine I had to set a schedule to hook myself up every 3 hours to stimulate. Sounds lovely doesn’t it. The best part? Anything I produced was totally and utterly useless because of all the medication in my system. So, I was still of absolutely no use to my own child.

I’ve become accustomed and comfortable with my breasts being exclusively available for my husbands viewing pleasure. That luxury does not exist in a hospital and no sooner have you hooked yourself up and are rendered totally exposed, vulnerable and incapable of covering up when a Nurse, Sister, tea lady, cleaner or lost visitor comes barreling into your room . Nobody is bothered by what they see, even though you are mortified. That’s on day one. On day two you’ve given up trying to cover yourself and to hell with the shame, at this point you may as well be walking around topless in the ward, everyone has seen them at any rate. And suddenly I’m having flashbacks to my squandered youth and realising that you really don’t need Tequila to flash your breasts.

The skill required to connect the suction cups at the perfect angle and position to ensure that there are no gaps for air to interrupt the flow is astonishing and requires utmost attention. In order to give me a bit of a break we purchased a special ‘bra’ that holds the caps in place, so I am able to sleep upright while a bizarre machine milks me. I can totally understand and appreciate why women breastfeed in public without covering up. Ensuring that the connection between suction cup and boob is tricky, imagine replacing that stagnant item with one that wriggles and moves and I can imagine how impossible a task this must be.

Feeling uncomfortable with all the titty talk? Imagine how I feel…

More weirdness – The Rash

I woke up with a rash.  I didn’t know about it because I couldn’t see it.  I couldn’t see it because my eyes were swollen shut. My eyes were swollen shut because I just don’t seem to be able to catch a break at the moment.

Yesterday I opted for jail break food, from a reputable national chain of restaurants. I wanted a good quality pasta. I got a good quality pasta, quality crap that is. I’d already started feeling somewhat suspect after a special pizza that the kitchen had made for me out of pity. The pasta was the cherry on top of a sour ice cream sundae of meals it seems.

The stomach cramps had me doubled over and crawling to the toilet. I held onto Ralph for dear life and hit the dreaded red panic button on the wall beside me, knowing full well that my last ounce of dignity was about to be put on display for all the night staff, all of whom came running to see if I was okay and all stood huddled in the doorway with a look of pity and horror. Horror because I suspect that they felt the same as I did, that our time was up and that madame was on her way. Pity because, well, who doesn’t automatically dish out pity when someone is doubled over the porcelain throne serenading it with chunder lyrics. Heave ho.

My poor doctor was called, the blood labs were called, my husband was summoned and I lay, sat, hunched, rocked and writhed doubled over while we waited to find out what was going on. The long and short was, a severely upset stomach.  However, while we waited for these results I was instructed to hang around in bed, so was given a lovely little bowl to donate my stomach contents into, in front of my husband, oh yippeeee.

When the results came back I was told I’d be receiving two injections to alleviate nausea and the stomach cramps, I did not want to take pain killers as my poor kid is already going to be drugged to the gills. So, a fiery jab to each butt cheek, just to spread the fun, and an hour or two of waiting for the jabs to take effect. While my poor husband looked on helpless, rubbing my back to try alleviate some of my massive discomfort.

By 5am most of the pain had subsided and had been replaced by some delightful new pregnancy, pre-eclampsia and food poisoning side effects.  I could barely open my eyes as they had swollen almost completely shut, most of this has been contributed to a night of bawling my eyes out as my kankles and hands aren’t more swollen than usual. Another lovely reaction that I woke to was a rash, all over my upper body, from just below them boobies to my jaw line and cheeks.  I’m pretty sure I resemble Freddy Kruger currently.

The rash has been attributed to either heat rash from the sweats last night, or another delightful pregnancy side effect (I should put together a list of possibilities for you, it’s quite extensive).  My eyes swell shut every time I lay flat on my side or back so every naptime I wake up looking like the Pillsbury Dough girl.

On the positive side though, we’ve reached 26 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy, the paediatric specialists that have been assigned to me are very positive about madams odds if she arrives now, but we’re hoping for at least another 1-2 weeks, but my blood pressure is increasing and my protein levels in my urine are starting to increase as well.

‘Pregnancy is such a beautiful time, one that you’ll be looking back fondly at’.  Many, many people will tell you this and if you are like most women, this may well be true, but realise that for every 9 of your friends who had that sickeningly perfect pregnancy, there was at least one who experienced some level of massive discomfort or even horror experiences like me, and they don’t talk about it, because somehow we feel like failures and inadequate.

I’ve dealt with some pretty shitty situations in my life so far, but not one of them prepared me for this feeling of being totally and utterly out of control.

Hospital Food

Most patients are fortunate enough to spend but a few evenings in a hospital and the menu appears to be broad spectrum enough to keep every taste bud marginally happy.  When one is however confined to these four fine walls for an indefinite amount of time, that menu becomes something of a game of Russian Roulette, you need to make decisions every day on what you are going to offend the least the following day, your taste buds or your constitution.

A week ago I took the opportunity to explore and ordered a ‘gourmet’ chicken salad, which consisted of iceberg lettuce, chunky tomato wedges and chicken covered in something resembling a marinade.  It was a meal that left me in a literal panic attack and agonising stomach cramps. It required the services of my specialist doctor, two nurses, a handful of calming medication, a traumatised husband and a weeks worth of careful monitoring to rectify.  You see, in my current condition, severe stomach pains can indicate that I’m entering full Clampsia, which would require an emergency c-section.  After one of the most terrifying moments of my life, it was established that I was suffering from nothing more than a bad meal, but one that had certainly provided me with some grey hair.

Navigating hospital food is a daily challenge, one that can only be mastered after having experienced it in all of it’s glory.  For example I have learnt that boiled potatoes is a perfectly acceptable lunch time meal, do not ever order it for dinner however.  I’m pretty convinced that lunch’s leftovers are placed on the hot paving in the parking lot and left out in the sun all day to stay warm for dinner time.  Mashed and boiled potatoes are also considered to be the same thing. I play out the insanity game daily by ticking the ‘mashed’ box and expecting to actually receive mash and not the floury dry coaled lumps of potatoes which I receive in place of mash.

Deciding on an evening pudding after dinner is also quite the challenge. How does one select between the wall plaster and custard (baked malva and custard), unrecognizable cheesecake, jelly and custard, cheese and cracker board or fresh fruit (the only fruit in season is Winter Melon and 3 Naartjie wedges).  My husband didn’t believe the Malva was good enough to repair our boundary wall, so he gave it a try last night, he licked up every ounce of custard, but could barely get through half the portion of wall plaster.

The only fruit provided for snacks is an apple, which looks much like any other apple, except that it smells and tastes like Pear, and it matters not how many times I eat it, I’m pretty sure the exact same apple is placed on my bedside every evening for a midnight snack, it seems to have the same blemish in the same spot every single time it makes an appearance.

Crackers and cheese. We are given a plate of nibbles for an afternoon snack, a handful of bland crackers, a little sachet of margarine and a small tub of something resembling grated cheese.  It has the texture and consistency of playdough, is totally odourless and tastes as amazing as the air in my room. This is considered a treat.

PS:  This morning I changed things up and opted for the fish cake instead of bacon or mystery sausage for breakfast. I can attest that you should avoid the fish cake at all costs.

Happy munching!

Call me Mommy

I’m a mommy apparently, even though our little lady has not made her debut.

We’re 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant, very specific numbers there, as every extra day of being pregnant counts.

Up until our 22nd week of pregnancy, all our scans and visits indicated a ‘perfect’ pregnancy. Sure I had plenty of the standard side effects that one is told you may experience in pregnancy (the things that none of your friends ever actually seemed to experience). Nausea for one, was a constant friend, I named my toilet Ralph at one stage and I started feeling guilty that I felt him up more often than I did my own husband. I developed restless leg syndrome at night, my heartburn was a killer, sneezing became a horrific experience, one that left me wanting to never leave my home in fear that a sneeze would result in wetting myself, I could fall asleep at a moment notice, I was always exhausted and on days of extreme summer heat my blood pressure would drop and prevent me from being any more than a sloth. My skin turned blotchy and I would wake up dreading looking in the mirror as I knew I looked like the perfect candidate for a new series of Clearasil adverts. I became allergic to my cosmetics, the sight and scent of raw meat, one unfortunate exploration of a new butchery in town resulted in a cookie tossing competition in the middle of their pristine, hygienic store. Nobody tells you any of this, so you don’t speak of it, somehow you think it will make you a pariah, a leper.

I’m 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant and am in hospital with early on-set pre-eclampsia, fighting to keep myself and our little girl healthy and safe and my husband sane!  Not much seems to be said about pre-eclampsia and I still find friends and family who struggle to comprehend the severity of our situation, that I am not leaving the hospital until our child is born is simply unfathomable, that we don’t know how long we’ll be here for is impossible to comprehend myself, so I guess I should understand that there could be confusion about an illness that I was never forewarned about, it was something I happened to stumble upon in one of my baby books, and thankfully so, because if I had not known the symptoms and been able to immediately identify a massive concern, I, our baby or us both would not be here to speak of it today.

This is my blog to vent, to bitch, to moan, to motivate, to sulk, and to share a side of pregnancy which seems to be a well kept secret. If you are under the illusion that all pregnancies have been created equal and if you have been lured in with promises of glowing skin and radiating beauty then let me break it to you now, it’s all lies!