One year ago, we stepped out onto a path unknown. Unchartered territory for us as parents to be. We’d done this all before. We knew the score. A growth scan was no big deal. We intended to humour the doctors for this one appointment, then opt to cancel the rest. We were so sure they would tell us that baby was small, but everything was fine. We were so sure this pregnancy, my last, would see it’s natural end around 42 weeks or so. We were so sure.
We were so wrong.
As expected, baby was small. We smiled knowingly and told the monographer that all our babies were small. And all were fine. A lot of fuss over nothing, but at least we were being checked. And in the waiting room, we chatted about names and and we talked about where we’d go for lunch. Normal things. My name was called and we trotted off, again so sure that all was fine.
It was a different doctor this time, and her demeanour was strange. She slapped my files down on the small table and asked me to sit on the bed. A student wanted to feel my tummy and listen to the heart beat, was that ok?
That was ok.
The student had shaking hands but she measured and it was recorded. The doctor though, was not happy with her measurement. She took her own, and summoned the student into the side room that connected ours with another consulting room. Thin walls. We heard her tell the student that the baby was ‘too small’ and she must make sure she measured from x to y for an accurate result.
We rolled our eyes. That damn measuring tape!
And so our patience was wearing thin. We wanted out of here. What we got instead, was a calendar full of appointments.
Baby is too small.
Yes, we know. We expected that.
We’ll try to get you to 34 weeks.
Hang on, what?
And then we’ll take baby out by c-section.
No, no. I want a VBAC.
You’ve had three sections?
You’re not having a VBAC! (laughing. Yes. Laughing)
I don’t want another section.
34 weeks is too early to induce you. And after three sections we can’t induce you safely. Baby is too small for a vaginal delivery.
They didn’t expect her to make it that far. Beyond, was grey and murky waters. Baby was not only too small, but she was too small for me. I had a personalised growth chart and I studied it that night. My baby was not growing, she was smaller even than they expected for me, who grows small babies. She was not thriving. Not fighting. She was ‘better out than in’.
And so instead of cancelling unnecessary scans, we were booked in for fortnightly appointments instead. Our next scan was a doppler scan, where detailed measurements were taken of baby. Fluid levels and blood flow to baby was analysed. These scans sound like a rainforest. Like those white noise machines you can get that play the sounds of the forest. Chirps and squawks. Life.
There was life. She was growing. Slowly. And blood was flowing, but it was reduced. It was not enough.
And so we were moved to weekly appointments. We were told to monitor movement closely. We were told to expect an early delivery. We were told they could not promise a baby at the end of it.
And I wrote about each appointment, each time I was strapped to the CTG monitor and each time I was terrified that my baby had given up and was no longer alive in there. But I’m not sure I truly captured the terror of it all. I’m not sure I can.
Stillbirth was a term that was not meant for me. This was not supposed to happen to me. Pregnancy is usually a breeze for me. It’s the rest that goes wrong, the birth. But not the pregnancy. My body can grow babies. Usually.
My baby was too small, but they never predicted her courage. Her determination. Her strength.
And these are all qualities that people comment on her now. Now that she is 10 months old. Now that she is here, in full colour and perfect health.
We made it beyond 34 weeks, but at 37 they decided my last pregnancy had to end. My body was no longer providing the nourishment my baby needed. She was to be brought out into the world, into a cold operating theatre just as her siblings before her. She was to be plucked from the warmth well before she was ready. And she was expected to need a lot of special care too.
And although she was born at a relatively healthy 5lb5, although her weight in those early days plummeted to 4lb10 at it’s lowest, and although she has a couple of minor health issues, she has proven them all wrong. She escaped special care by the skin of her teeth. She took on IUGR and she won.
It could have been so different. If she had stayed inside, there is a chance she may have grown bigger and stronger. But there is also a chance that if she had stayed inside, we may have faced a very different future. If her growth restriction had not been detected as early as it was, and if we had not received constant monitoring, we could now be different statistics.
Elsie Rose might not have been one of the 1000 babies MAMA Academy want to save. She could have been one of the babies that slip through the net. One of the babies that didn’t make it. But because my trust invested an extra 50p in a customised growth chart, she is here. She is one of the babies that made it. She was made to measure. A perfect fit, after all.
You can find out if your trust has adopted the GAP program and chosen to invest an extra 50p per pregnant women on customised growth charts here. And you can sign the petition to urge all Heads of Midwifery to take up the program here. You can help MAMA Academy to save more babies like Elsie. Thank you x