March 21 should have been my eldest daughter’s 34th birthday.
It isn’t because – typically – she turned up eight days late at 8.20pm on March 29 after an emergency Caesarean section.
It was also the first time one of the early James Bond movies was screened on terrestrial television in the UK.
The anaesthetist made no secret about his disappointment at missing the start of the film.
Hopefully, he managed to catch the ending.
It had been a difficult pregnancy throughout – for some reason my daughter enjoyed dancing on my bladder so some nights I’d wake a dozen-or-more times to go to the loo. My consultant was unsympathetic: ‘Nature’s way of preparing you for sleepless nights once baby arrives.’
Thank you, Mother Nature.
At 32 weeks I was rushed into hospital with a suspected deep vein thrombosis.
Well, not rushed exactly. It was snowing heavily and the emergency ambulances couldn’t get up the hill to our house so my husband drove us both slowly and cautiously to hospital where I was told by a junior doctor that one of the possible complications was DEATH.
Since then communication skills have been added to the medical curriculum.
It was scary but I reassured myself that at 32 weeks the baby was viable and, if there was any real danger, she’d be delivered early.
So, for just over a week I was the youngest patient – by several decades – on a woman’s medical ward.
The highlight of the stay was being asked by a very sweet old lady if, in the absence of a nurse, I’d put her false teeth into the plastic receptacle on her bedside cabinet.
I did but ‘Ugh!’
Once home, I had to inject myself twice a day with heparin. Not pleasant but better than the alternatives.
Four weeks later back in hospital again, this time in a maternity ward, because I wasn’t putting on enough weight and, therefore, nor was the baby.
By now Sprog, as we’d named my lump, had settled into an oblique lie – her head was in one corner of my tummy and her feet were in the opposite corner.
It’s quite rare so I was very popular with the trainee midwives who wanted to have ‘a feel’.
Oh well, at least we were aiding the advance of midwifery training.
A week’s bed rest seemed to do the trick: the medics decided the baby was gaining weight satisfactorily and we were sent home to wait out the last few weeks until delivery.
Except nothing happened: the due date came and went. And the next day and the next and the next…
The midwife warned I’d have to be induced if something didn’t happen soon.
Great, just what every mum wants.
However, Sprog must have taken the hint because my waters broke and we rushed off to hospital again.
And then, zilch: no contractions, no labour pains. I’ll spare the gory details but I was put on a drip that was supposed to induce labour. Medics kept coming and going, the drip was speeded up ‘to help things along’ but nothing happened.
Eventually, after probably the most boring day EVER, it was decided an emergency section was the only option.
I’m not going to lie: terrified. My husband, though who’d had a chat with the anaesthetist in the corridor and was reassured by the fact that he planned to get home in time to watch the last bit of the film, was irritatingly calm.
And I was soon fast asleep.
The birth was as straightforward as an emergency section could be.
Turns out the reason our daughter had adopted an oblique lie was because I have a unicornate uterus – in simple terms part of my womb is missing so she’d adopted the most comfortable position she could.
That was why she’d danced on my bladder – there was nowhere else to put her feet – and it was why I hadn’t gone into labour.
At the time, we didn’t properly appreciate how lucky we’d been – that came later when I learned more about the implications of a unicornate uterus and the high incidence of infertility and miscarriage amongst women with this, thankfully, rare condition.
Five-and-a-half years later, we were lucky again when our second daughter was born via a much less traumatic planned C-section.
And every year on their birthdays I remember my beautiful babies, who are now equally beautiful women.
And, yes, I know I’m biased.
By Sue Featherstone
A Forsaken Friend the second novel by Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape is published by Lakewater Press and is available to buy on Amazon.