How Life Changed

Isn’t it funny how life can change? I was chatting to an old school friend the other day and she casually mentioned her 30th next year. I was like wow she’s got that wrong – til I realised she was indeed completely correct. Mine’s not til the following year as she was older in the year and I was one of the youngest. But still, it’s been ten years since I did my A-Levels this year. Ten years since I left school and started journalism college. Nine years since I moved out of my parents’ home and into my first little flat with a grand sum of a microwave, a couple of towels and some clothes to my name.

Nine years since I took a job at a newspaper as a junior reporter (which means I’ve known Dylan nine years) and eight since I moved and settled in a new town where my job was based. Eight years since I became acting deputy and seven since I passed my senior exams. Six since I moved again and five since I ran a half-marathon, launched a paper and also began running a mental health group. Four since my own mental health took a turn for the worse and I spent a summer as an inpatient on a ward. But also four since the guy I sort of liked who I knew through work asked me on a date and also four since we got engaged and booked our wedding (it took five years for him to ask me out but once we got past that hurdle, we moved fast!).

Three years since we found out we were expecting a baby girl, since we moved in together, since we had our amazing honeymoon in Thailand and since Alexandra Cavanagh was born. Yeah, three years ago was incredible but also some of the hardest days of our lives. Three years since we were forced to cancel our wedding 48 hours beforehand, since I spent what should have been my wedding day on oxygen being taken to the bathroom in a wheelchair, since Dylan was told I might not make it. But also three years since we put our middle fingers up to a CAPS diagnosis and the shoddy odds of survival that offer and three years since I came home and we began life as a family.

Which makes it two years since we got married! Finally! The best day of our lives, so incredibly full of happiness and love. And two years since we found out that a baby boy would be joining our family (oops! But also yay!). Two years since we took Alexandra abroad for the first time.

And a year since Max Llewellyn Arturs was born. A year since the days of NICU and operations and ventilators and medicine and nurses and so many ups and downs. A year since we brought him home and settled into our new life together. A month since the turn of the year, bringing with it the hope of a calm and peaceful 2018!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Max’s Birth

I was just about to write a post about the differences between both my births and the advantages of having an amazing midwife, then I realised while I’ve written about Max’s first few weeks in hospital, I haven’t actually dished out the gory birth story details. Here we go:

We had always known I’d be induced and we’d had a date for weeks that we were working towards, although a hospital stay at 32 weeks had meant we knew there was a fairly good chance we’d go earlier than 37 weeks.

As it was, we had a growth scan at 34+6 so the three of us (myself, Dylan and Alexandra) went along to the hospital with the intention of doing something fun in the afternoon before having some friends over that evening. At the scan it became apparent quickly to me that there was an issue. Normally they’d talk me through the details straightaway but instead the sonographer asked us to go and talk to our obstetrician. She said it looked as if our son’s growth had slowed down from the 50th centile to the 10th since the last scan four weeks previously. There was also a concern over the blood flow from the placenta indicating it had potentially started to fail.

The doctor said all this, combined with me having slightly raised blood pressure, meant now was probably the time to start the induction process.

We had to wait a couple of hours and my sister came to pick Alexandra up while my parents sorted out the arrangements for getting all our bags and hers sorted. Then we were shown to our bay in the induction suite.

At around 7.30pm that evening (Friday) I had the first prostin tablet inserted. Overnight Dylan stayed at my mom’s to try and get some rest (it’s nearer to the hospital than our house) and I had another tablet in the morning.

They ended up doing a third one because, while I was getting tightenings, they weren’t regular enough and my cervix wasn’t dilating very quickly. Then the doctor came at around 4pm on the Saturday to check if I could have my waters dilated, this was the most painful part of the process including giving birth! In fact the doctor who did the check came back a few days later and apologised to me for how awful the check was.

It was then a wait to get a room on the delivery suite: we were told it could take days although I was given priority because of my condition. In the end it was about 12 hours before we went round. In that time we’d gone on endless walks to try and progress things. I tried sitting on the birth ball but found it really uncomfortable this time round (although it did wonders helping me dilate during Alexandra’s labour).

It then took an hour and a half to get a cannula in my arm before they could break my waters. Nothing much happened and then at 8am our midwife Antoinette came on duty. She was fabulous! She got everything organised straightaway and then after a couple of hours it was time to start the drip to see if they could progress my contractions.

Nothing happened for a while and then all of a sudden it was like a switch had been flipped. I went from 2cm to 5cm in a matter of minutes. They decided I could have an epidural (they’d said no originally because of the blood thinning injections I’m on – but it had been long enough since my last dose to make it safer) so I said I’d like one.

The anaesthetist came to have a chat to me about the procedure and I agreed to it but it became quickly apparent there wasn’t time. I had a check as Max’s heart rate had dropped a little, to see if he could tolerate the epidural, but by this point I was 8cm. I was just using gas and air (although probably mentioned a few times that it was painful and I’d really like some more pain relief!) and feeling really out of control during contractions. I then realised instead of concentrating on breathing in the gas and air during a contraction, I actually needed to focus on the fact my body wanted to push.

Because I had a ventouse delivery with Alexandra, I’d never experienced the urges to push so it took me a while to realise I just needed to trust my body and go with what it was telling me. Dylan said he could visibly see when that happened and I became much more focused and wasn’t thrashing around the place like I had been previously.

All of a sudden I was fully dilated and it was time to push. Then his head was out and one push later our son Max was born at 11.57am weighing 4lb 13.

He was lifted onto my chest and Dylan got  to cut the cord (for the first time even though Max is his fourth child – with Alex because she needed a bit of oxygen straightaway the doctors cut it). We had 15 minutes of skin to skin before he was taken for his checks and taken upstairs to transitional care while I was sorted out. Although that process was a lot easier this time (just a small tear with no stitches required compared to an episiotomy with 27 stitches).

Antoinette had said to us it would all happen quickly once it started and wasn’t she right! It was amazing to actually get to push the baby out by myself this time. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely want to discuss the differences between the births soon!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Two Under Two

The brighter and more mathematically minded among you will have worked out by now that Alexandra doesn’t turn two until late summer and we’re due our second baby in the spring, which means we’re soon joining the magical ‘Two Under Two’ club. I say magical, more apt words could include terrifying, scary or frightening.

There is probably no age gap in the world which is perfect and every family (and every child) is completely different so in reality, what works for one set of parents probably won’t work for another. I think it’s pretty much universally accepted though that popping out two tiddlers in less time than it takes for us to orbit the sun twice is either really brave or really stupid. We’ve been very open about the fact Baby 2 was a complete surprise to us, and I genuinely don’t know what we would have done had we planned to have him in terms of the timing (I suspect Alex would have been closer to two by the time we started trying but we’ll never know). As it was I was five weeks pregnant when we found out a few days after her first birthday that she was set to become a big sister, add in a planned early delivery on the cards for 2 and you’ve got yourself an estimated 19 month gap.

There are some positive things about Two Under Two (there are, right?): you don’t get used to more independence and no nappies and then have to go back to it all again, they’re more likely to enjoy the same things as they grow up because they’re similar ages, fewer years til both are in school and you can consider your career options, everything you learned with Baby 1 is fresher in your mind.

There are also some things which, quite frankly, scare me: what the hell do you do if they’re both crying at the same time, the likelihood of Baby 2 being a good sleeper considering we were so blessed with Alex is slim – can I cope with that on top of the daily demands of a toddler, Baby 1 is likely to try and climb on/poke/otherwise maim her brother if I leave them alone for even a second and most of all: two turd-factories to change all day, every day.

I’m sure that you just cope. Before I had Alexandra I just didn’t get how it all worked, even after I had her it took a long time before I was fairly confident both of us would survive the day until daddy got home. I’m sure the TV will be on more, I’m sure the hoover will be out less and I’m sure there will be more than one day where I phone Dylan to have a little cry even though the extent of how much he can help when he’s 20 miles down the road and working is very minimal. But I’m also fairly sure that we’ll get along okay.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x