October 10, 2023 By Gemma Ockendon
I always wanted to be a mum. I just knew it was inherently part of me.
I met my husband and I knew I wanted to have children with him. At 26 I fell pregnant with my first baby. They classed me as high risk due to being diabetic and reeled off a load of complications. I believed I was immortal and they wouldn’t affect me.
Every scan looked good. I was fit & relatively healthy and my mother had three healthy pregnancies- I assumed I had her genes. At 30 weeks my blood pressure started to rise. Again I was completely unfazed; was prescribed some pills and off I went. Except it didn’t lower. So they tried some different meds and still no affect. And then my body started to swell.
They admitted me to the ante-natal ward to keep an eye on me. I felt like a fraud, in truth apart from feeling tired they didn’t seem to be anything wrong. And I was certain my blood pressure would come down and off I’d go. It was weird- I was in a ward with ‘over cooked’ women-those who were over the 42 week mark and being induced. There I was with my small 7 month tum. But then I started getting head aches and throwing up. At one point I was so sick I passed out. They decided they needed to deliver. I was 31 weeks pregnant. At this point I was doing so poorly I couldn’t help but agree.
And so my precious boy Teddy was born via c-section. All I saw was his little hairy head- so much hair! But I wasn’t allowed to hold him. He was so small he needed to be taken to the ICU immediately. I was whisked off to recovery. I had no idea what to expect. They took me up to NICU to see Teddy and I suppose the real terror started then. This perfect little person with all these wires and tubing on his little body. I felt helpless. But elated he was perfect, I’d never felt anything like it, he was magical to me. I prayed (to a god I don’t believe in) every single day he would be ok. I remember a nurse asked if we had registered him and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What if something awful happened. What if I couldn’t take him home, but she explained either way the baby has to be registered. And so NICU very much felt like a tightrope.
I didn’t sleep at all for 6 weeks. I was so wired. Teddy developed sepsis and was rushed back into NICU, again watching doctors rush around wiring up your precious baby, and you are helpless. I found the experience terrifying. But these wonderful angels who cared for Teddy and the support they offered us parents was astonishing. I am forever indebted to them, they have given me everything.
And they gave me a sort of resilience. So much so that after 5 years I decided to have another baby. I felt more equipped this time round and I was told by the consultant that the risk of developing preeclampsia again were much less.
At 29 weeks pregnant I became gravely ill, my blood pressure wouldn’t lower and my liver started failing. I had such severe sickness I was throwing up blood where my throat was so sore. I had severe acid reflux that was also damaging my stomach lining, I couldn’t eat or drink. They IV’d me up, I think I had a canula everywhere on my body -9 in total. On the 30th of January at 2.30 the doctor said "we need to deliver this baby, can you phone your husband?" And I say yes when should he get here for? She says "the next 20 minutes, we don’t have time Gemma."
And so within the hour Willow was born at 30 weeks, another preemie. And I was minutes away from dying. I felt like I was dying this time as well. Every part of body was shutting itself down. But on delivery I felt instantly better.
Willow spent 8 weeks in NICU, and I spent all that time next to her, again praying, all my old fears returned, I didn’t feel wiser to it, if anything I felt even more fearful. When she was discharged I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. 7 months on and it is starting to dawn on me the real close call I had, but thank god for the amazing team who cared for us!