On the 13th December 2020, I had just dropped my partner off at the bus station so he could make his way to Heathrow Airport for work.
I was 29+6 days pregnant and, deposite a rough 14 weeks with nausea and sickness, I had a smooth and low risk pregnancy. At the 20 week scan I found out I had an anterior placenta (at the front) which I knew could mean that some of babies movements might be cushioned. This caused me a lot of anxiety. How would I know when something was wrong? I was so happy when I did feel those first kicks (felt like flutters!) and espcially when Daddy was able to feel them a few weeks later too.
At 24 weeks pregnant I was suddenly really confused about my babies movements. I knew it was still very early in the pregancy but I thought the movements should be increasing? Plus I thought baby had a bit of pattern. I ended up getting myself in a panic, calling the maternity unit in floods of tears. They told me to come in and they would check that baby was ok. The lovely midwife on the phone even said she had an anterior placenta in her pregnancy and could completely empathise with how I was feeling.
Once in the hospital the midwife carried out checks and thankfully everything was looking perfect. She told me that I must call straight away, the moment I had any doubts about movements. Never assume it's the Placenta. She made me feel so reassured and even booked a scan for me the next day as she thought it would make me feel better seeing my baby again. I also arranged more frequent checks with my community midwife to try and help reduce some of the anxiety I was feeling. The next few weeks went by so smoothly I even started to get planning for when baby would be here, ordering a pram and nursery furniture. It was such a special time.
Fast forward to the 13th December, I remember having quite a relaxing day. I noticed baby moving alot but I clocked that I hadn't felt any very big kicks. I thought I would keep an eye on things but wasn't too worried. That night I woke up for my religious 3am wee, some nights I would feel baby move at this time but i didn't feel anything that night. When I woke up the next morning, I waited to see if I would get the usual morning kicks but again I didn't notice anything. Was it my Placenta? It was my day in the office, so I decided that if by the time I got to work and had some breakfast, if I still hadn't felt anything I would call the materinty unit.
It got to 10am and then I realised I had not felt any movements since yesterday evening. I googled "anterior placenta baby movements at 30 weeks" to try and get some reassurance. I looked at the stories on kicks count but so many were much further into the pregnancy, I was only 30 weeks! Then I came across Lorna's story and I started to panic. I called my midwife and she told me to ring the unit straight away "I'm sure it's just your pesky placenta but you need to get checked."
I managed to get seen in ANDA (antenatal day assessment) at around 1400, they were so busy but due to my gestation and reduced movements they wanted to assess me straight away. The first thing I had to do was a urine sample and then a midwife came in and explain what would happen next. She asked me what colour my urine was on the chart and if I was even a bit dehydrated, as this can cause the babies movements to slow down, so it's really important I stay hydrated. She handed me a glass of water and explained I wouldn have CTG (I had never has one before!) Which would monitor babies heartrate. She strapped me up and handed me a button which I thought I had to keep held down with my thumb at all times (maybe it was tracking my pulse?). She said she wouldn't be able to stay as was so busy but she would be able to see my readings and would pop back to check. The CTG wasn't very successful, apparently the baby kept moving away from the sensor so the trace would drop and the midwife would come back, find it and try again. After the 3rd or 4th time, the midwife came back to say that it wasn't working and we hadn't achieved a criteria trace. However what she can see isn't concerning, baby is moving a lot and you have felt a lot of movements? I was confused, I hadn't felt the baby move at all! But you have pressed the button all these times? I felt so embarrassed when I explained that I thought I had to keep the button pressed at all times. She told me it wasn't my fault at all and that if she wasn't so busy she would stand with me the whole time. She came up with a plan for me to come back in a couple of hours to redo the trace when it would be quiter. She also said she would try and get me ultrasound appointment. I remember feeling quite reassured and convinced I just needed to drink more water!
I was lucky, she had managed to get me an ultrasound at 1630 and after I would have another CTG.
I called my partner (who was 100s of miles away in Aberdeen) to reassure him things seemed ok, I was just going back out of precaution and I was going to have an ultrasound! I hadn't even told my Mum as I didn't want her to worry unnecessarily.
I got called into the ultrasound and after a while I thought this wasn't like the scans I had before. I remember the sonographer spending a lot of time on the dopplers on my babies brain. She also asked me to hold my breath a few times which I thought was odd. At the end she very matter of factly said that she would give my notes to the midwife but I would need to have further checks. Baby hadn't moved much during the scan, was plotting lower on the charts than expected and that the blood flow was being diverted to the brain which can be a sign of distress. Even at this point I still wasn't too worried, the sonographer seemed calm and extra checks were ok! I was waiting for my CTG when my midwife walks past very fast telling me that someone else will come to start my CTG as she needs to discuss my results with the doctors in delivery.
Delivery??? But then maybe that is just where the obstetricians are.. I still wasn't panicking.
But then 5 minutes into the CTG the midwife comes back and says very simply "I'm really sorry but you've got to come to the delivery suite, now."
I just burst into tears. What is happening? I can't have my baby now, it's too early, I'm not ready.
Everything else is a blur. My mum made it just in time but I had to have a general anesthetic as they couldn't wait any longer to get the baby out.
When I woke up I was told I had a baby girl, she was ok but was in the NICU. I saw my mum was able to stay with me in HDU and be there with me the first time I saw my baby.
My daughter Orla, was born at 1917 via emergency c-section at 30 weeks weighing a tiny 2lb 9oz. We spent 9 weeks in the neonatal unit before we could finally go home as a family. Over a year later she is a healthy, thriving One year old.
It's taken me a long time to come to terms with Orla's birth and to not feel like I failed my daughter. But now I can see I saved her life and this is endoubtly down to kicks count for alerting me to the importance of movements (and a fast acting maternity team). I am forever grateful.
If you've made it this far, thank you and please never think yourself as a burden to the maternity unit. Kicks really do count.