When my mum called to tell me my sister was pregnant, I tried not to get too excited. My sister had suffered 2 miscarriages in the previous 18 months. The most recent having happened on Christmas Day, the very day that she had announced the pregnancy to the family. Whilst my sister and her boyfriend had not planned to have a child, they had begun to fear that they would never be successful and so some months after the second miscarriage, began trying to conceive. Out of fear of a further miscarriage, my sister didn’t tell my mum until she was almost 12 weeks pregnant.
When my sister was 16 weeks pregnant my mum called me for advice. My sister was unable to keep even the slightest quantity of food or water down and was losing weight rapidly. They had been to see a doctor who had sent them away with “it’s morning sickness.” My mum didn’t know what to do and my sister was exhausted and terrified that her baby wouldn’t get the nutrients he/she needed. Fortunately (though my poor friend may not think so) one of my closest friends had suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during her pregnancy so I recognised the symptoms. (The Duchess of Cambridge was in hospital with it during her pregnancy.) I emailed my mum some information and told her to go back to the doctor, tell him what we thought it was and to request a second opinion if they did not take the situation seriously. My mum and my sister visited the doctors again the next day and when the doctor tried to brush them off, they did as I suggested and asked for a second opinion. The doctor called up a specialist at the hospital to placate my sister that she was just overreacting. However, upon answering the specialists questions, the doctor was surprised when the specialist requested my sister be admitted to hospital immediately. At this point in her pregnancy, about 16-17 weeks, my sister had already lost 2.5 stone. Now my sister is pretty stubborn and refuses to go to hospital if she can possibly avoid it. The doctor and specialist eventually agreed on twice-weekly visits to the doctor to test her hydration levels. If her level of hydration dropped below a certain point, she would be admitted by ambulance to hospital immediately. The doctor prescribed some medication to stop my sister from being sick and sent her home. Although my sister was sick through almost her entire pregnancy, the medication reduced the frequency, meaning she was able to eat properly and didn’t lose any more weight.
At 28 weeks my sister had a scare. She’d stretched in bed one morning and heard a ‘pop’. She leaped out of bed in fright to find a wet patch between her legs. Her waters had leaked. At the hospital, they checked the baby, deemed that there was plenty of fluid around him/her and he/she wasn’t distressed, and sent her home. The rest of my sister’s pregnancy passed without major incident.
My sister went into labor in the morning of 22nd February 2013, 3 days before she was due to be induced. She spent the day with my mum and went home to attempt to sleep through the contractions where possible. The next morning she went to hospital with her boyfriend and both grandmas to be. My sister has a slipped disc in her back and before long the pain in her back was too much to bear and she requested an epidural. Unfortunately, her baby’s heart rate dropped just after the epidural had been carried out. Apparently this is a common effect of the epidural. The doctors decided the safest thing for the baby was to deliver him by emergency caesarian. My nephew was born by caesarian section on 23rd February at 17:27. My sister and her boyfriend named him Leo.
Before Leo was even an hour old, my sister was convinced there was something wrong with him. She called a nurse to look at him and said that he kept shaking. The nurse told my sister that there was nothing wrong and that it was natural, as a first time mother, to worry unnecessarily. My sister wasn’t convinced and resolved to ring the bell every 5 minutes until a doctor was called to take a look at Leo. Eventually the nurses got so fed up with the constant bell ringing that a doctor was called up from SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) to calm my sister down. From what I have been told, it was clear that the nurses had spoken to the doctor before he entered my sisters room because he was talking before he was even through the door.
“Right Miss Harvey, now it’s perfectly normal for a newborn baby to…”
The doctor stopped mid sentence as he glanced down at my nephew in his cot. A split second later, he had snatched Leo out of his cot and gone running out of the ward. My poor sister was left alone in her room with no baby and no explanation.
A nurse quickly came to find her and let her know that the doctor had taken Leo for some emergency tests because he hadn’t been shaking, he had been fitting. At just an hour old, doctors took spinal fluid from Leo for testing. The results came back confirming the doctor’s fears. Leo had meningitis. He was moved to SCBU an put on an antibiotic drip. The doctors warned my sister that Leo could have some brain damage, or loss of vision or hearing as a result of the illness, but that thanks to her determination to have him seen, he had the best chances of a full recovery.
Leo responded so well to treatment that he was allowed home after two weeks of antibiotics. The relief of finally being allowed to take her son home was obvious in my sister and she soon settled into motherhood. My sister was only 21 (and two weeks) when she gave birth and she was invited to attend a local group for young mums. The staff at the group were impressed with her story and invited her to talk to the younger mums there about a mother’s instinct and how important it is to listen to it. The nurses told my sister Leo was fine. If she had been any less stubborn, she may have accepted this and Leo may not have been diagnosed for days. This could have had devastating consequences. On a fairly regular basis my sister repeats her story to younger girls who are expecting or who have just given birth, teaching them now important their instincts are. My sister theorises that her mother’s instinct is as strong as it is because of everything she had to go through to have him. While my sister has been careful not to become too over-protective, she knows that her mother’s instinct saved her son’s life.
My nephew turned 1 just over a week ago and I am happy to say that he suffered no ill effects from his upsetting start to life. He is intelligent and cheeky and already running around causing my sister all kinds of trouble. Her advice is always this. Never let anyone talk away your fears without investigation and never be afraid to ask for a second opinion. You know when your child isn’t right because you know your children better than anyone in the world.
This post is inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge.