17 May

Sarah’s Birth Story

Sarah is now a busy childminder and this is the story of her son’s dramatic entrance into the world 4 years ago

I had had a fairly stressful beginning to my pregnancy, bleeding at 7 and 14 weeks, but knew I wanted a home birth and was very excited, read all the books had my relaxation CDs at the ready and was about to book my birthing pool when I was told I had low lying placenta at my 21 week scan and was devastated that my plans had been for nothing, but from then on my pregnancy was fairly smooth.

I developed a bad cough at about 30 weeks, the kind that leaves you fighting for breath and I could feel it putting a strain on my whole body, I worried about that placenta with my baby right on it!

The doctor told me there was nothing they could give me, as they could detect no infection. At 36 weeks, a day after my last scan to check if the placenta had moved (it hadn’t and was completely across the cervix), at 8pm 14th December, just about to order a takeaway, it all happened. I popped to the loo, had a terrible coughing fit at and thought my waters had broken, but when I looked down I was haemorrhaging heavily. I called my husband and told him to call an ambulance, too scared to let him too near just in case he fainted, and told him to get my bag (thankfully already packed) and a towel (but not a white one!). I was then rushed to hospital, sirens blazing and the senior consultant was called to deliver my little boy. I was monitored and his heartbeat was steady, but I was still bleeding heavily and skipped the emergency queue. He was delivered safely by emergency c-section, about as far from a homebirth as you can possibly get, with me unconscious and my husband shut outside to wait. Jamie was taken to NICU as he had some breathing issues, but was otherwise fine and I was taken still unconscious to the recovery ward without seeing him.

A little over half an hour later I suddenly had severe breathing difficulties and my memory from here is sketchy and has been filled in by my husband and from my hospital notes. Both my lungs collapsed and I was haemorrhaging again, writhing in pain and screaming my head off in a normal recovery ward, I still really feel for the poor other new mums!

They took me back into theatre, ventilated me and inserted a balloon into my uterus to try and stop the bleeding I was given a lot of blood to replace what I was rapidly losing, and they gave me a CAT scan to check for clots.

They tried every medication they could to stop the bleeding and re-inflate my lungs… but nothing worked. In a last ditch attempt they put me on life support in the hope that my body would recover and fix itself, all other management of my condition was stopped and my husband was told to call relatives, as they didn’t believe I’d make it.

Two days later I woke in ICU, they tested me and everything seemed stable. I have no lasting effects apart from migraines when I get over tired or stressed and some short term memory problems..but then all mothers have that!. Jamie and I were very lucky, if he had still been inside when the AFE struck he would have suffered with me, many ladies who have survived have lost their babies during childbirth or the children have serious disabilities due to oxygen deprivation, I was very lucky to avoid a hysterectomy at the very least. My husband suffered the worst as he had to go through it all alone and face the possibility of life with a newborn and 10 year old daughter with no mother and the loss of his wife, I can’t even imagine how that must have felt but he still doesn’t like to talk about it, too many bad memories. I get frustrated that I can remember barely anything from when I collapsed, but then again perhaps I am best off not knowing.

I was diagnosed, after the fact, with an Amniotic Fluid Embolism which is when some amniotic fluid gets into the blood stream. This can occur before, during and after delivery, and has also been known to happen during miscarriage and abortion. Although this isn’t unusual sometimes for no particular reason, some women have what is akin to an allergic reaction to the minute hairs in the fluid, which stop the blood clotting and cause an embolism in various parts of the body, mine went to the lungs. Many of the fatalities have them go to brain or heart, just the luck of the draw. It is normally only diagnosed in post-mortem as so few of us survive and is only done so on the living by exclusion, all my symptoms were text book so AFE was added to my hospital records.

Jamie is now a 4 year old little monkey , going to start school in September and I am happy and healthy, love a story with a happy ending J