24 July 2008

My second scan

A second scan was scheduled in four weeks time. By this time I was presumed to be nearly 8 or 9 weeks pregnant. On arrival at the hospital, I was a bit excited to find out how the twins where doing, as by this time I was getting used to the idea of being pregnant, even looking at baby clothes in shops, friends and people who knew, wished me well. My mind was going over and over the prospect of having twins. And I hoped my disability would not interfere to much with my pregnancy.

As my second ultrasound scan got underway, I noticed my obstetrician was really concentrating on the images showing on a monitor. She was moving the scan probe all over my tummy with a curious expression on her face. I begun to feel nervous and uneasy, thinking something terrible was wrong. When I am nervous, I begin to have a lot of involuntary shaky movements. I asked if anything was wrong, and was finally told that I was expecting Triplets. One Embryo had been hiding behind the other two. This was yet another bombshell which shocked me to the core. My obstetrician now voiced major concerns about me carrying triplets. She informed me I would need to be referred to a Professor of Foetal Medicine, for examination to see what his medical opinion was. She discussed with me, that he may advise me to reduce the pregnancy by removing an embryo, leaving two remaining. Taking in all this new information was almost impossible. Physically I was experiencing an increase in shaky movements, the more I tried to relax, the more tense I became in every muscle. Mentally, I was fearing my tension spasms would harm my babies, and for the first time, began to have feelings of not being quite in control with what was happening to me.

My appointment to see the professor was arranged very quickly, the very next day in fact. Upon meeting him for the first time, he came across very friendly and down to earth. But I felt very nervous and worried. The Professor was well known in his profession, as he was involved in the pioneering of operating on a foetus while still in the womb. I was examined by the Professor and a couple of his colleagues. They spent some time studying ultrasound images. I was becoming increasingly anxious. The Professor, approached the bed where I was laying, with a serious look on his face. He spoke in a matter-of-fact manner, telling me I would not be able to carry three babies. He said, the space between my pelvis and breast bone was very small, and if I carried all three babies, they would be born dead or disabled, and my heart and lungs could be pushed out of place as the pregnancy progressed. At this point I was feeling devastated, and crying uncontrollably. My involuntary movements went from moderate to severe. The Professor's face, took on an expression of contempt an disdain. With me feeling and looking wretched, he announced it may be best to terminate the entire triplet pregnancy altogether. Hearing this, I voiced that I must try to at least carry one baby. He then asked each person in the room their opinion. Everyone present adhered to the Professor's evaluation of the situation, except my obstetrician. My obstetrician, god bless her, said 'woman with Cerebral Palsy are known to have babies'. It was then decided I would undergo an embryo reduction procedure to reduce the pregnancy from three to one.

The terminations would be carried out early the next morning. On the way home in the car, I felt very alone and isolated, as on top of everything, my relationship with my boyfriend had broken down. No-one had asked me, what I thought about the terminations, how I was feeling or anything. As soon as I got home, I felt terrible, trapped in something out of my control. The discussion at hospital had been in the context, here is a woman with CP presenting a triplet pregnancy, deal with it quickly. No debate on any other course of action. There was also never any mention of how I was feeling emotionally or otherwise. I had always been against abortion, yet here was I, bereaved at the thought of having two babies killed. In utter desperation, I telephoned the College of obstetricians and asked if there was an obstetrician anywhere in the UK who specialised in pregnancy and disabled woman. I was urgently seeking a second opinion. There is not one Obstetrician in the UK who has extensive knowledge on disability and pregnancy.

Embryo reduction, is a procedure first used when IVF treatment produces multiple pregnancies. The procedure is performed by holding an ultrasound transducer on the patients belly; injecting a needle and manoeuvring it into a position near the fatal heart; and drawing out the metal rod at the core of the needle and replacing it with the vial of potassium chloride that stops the fatal heart. The dead foetuses gradually dissolve and reabsorb into the bloodstream over a three month or so period.

The next morning I felt completely empty and saddened by what was going to happen. On arrival at the hospital I was shown into a medical room where nurses were busy making preparations. As I was helped onto the bed, my legs felt like jelly. Not much was said either. The Professor entered the room with an air of arrogance. During the procedure I felt pain. I was also shaking quite a bit, which the Professor frowned upon and almost lost his patience with me. I caught a glimpse of the monitor and saw the needle inject the babies hearts causing them to stop beating. My heart sank further. When it was all over, the Professor stood up, and said 'two dead, one alive', and left the room. Another sad car journey home, two babies less and the remaining one under threatened miscarriage.

The remaining embryo was the largest of the triplets, so had a good chance of survival. A couple of weeks after the two terminations, I began to feel a bit calmer about the baby I was carrying. Reaching the first trimester (3 month period), was a milestone for me. I was now three months pregnant, and felt quite well. I looked forward to my ante-natal appointments, to see how the baby was progressing. My obstetrician always assured me everything was going well. I was scanned more frequently than usual, as they had to check the other two embryos were dissolving. It was so comforting seeing the baby growing inside me. During scans, measurements were taken, which showed my baby was developing normally.

My growing bump

As the weeks passed I noticed my tummy expanding. I started to rub moisturiser on my tummy each day to avoid stretch marks. At the time I became pregnant, I had been studying a diploma course on counselling. To study, I would sit at my desk most of they day typing. At around 6 months pregnant, I begun to feel very uncomfortable sitting so upright in my wheelchair all the time. I begun to get some pain in the pit of stomach, and the only way to relieve the discomfort was to lay down on my bed. One day I was in more pain than usual and went to the hospital. After a scan, I was told everything was fine, and the pain was probably due to ligaments stretching. I eventually had to pack up studying, as I spent most of the time laying down to feel comfortable. When laying down watching television, I loved feeling the baby move inside me. I used to rest the television remote control on my tummy, when I would feel a fluttery feeling across my bump, and suddenly the remote control was tossed off my tummy where the baby had kicked.

One morning I discovered a slight spotting of blood on my underwear. Panic ran through me, and we immediately made our way to the hospital. I was seen as soon as we arrived. The results of a scan showed everything was OK, but as I was by now 27 weeks pregnant there was a real concern I may go into premature labour and deliver the baby to early. I was placed in a labour ward for a few anxious hours. All this lead to an increase in spasms and involuntary movements. The tension in my muscles was so bad I became unable to pass urine which was very painful. In the end a catheter had to be inserted to empty my full bladder. Having not gone into labour I was placed on a maternity ward to be closely monitored. After a week in hospital the bleeding stopped and I was allowed home. A few weeks later at an ante Natal appointment, I was in pain again. This time, my consultant obstetrician took no chances and admitted me into hospital. At 35 weeks pregnant I was to stay in hospital until I had the baby. During the next two and half weeks, I was closely monitored. Then on the 5Th October 1994, at 11.05am, I had a Cesarean section to deliver my beautiful daughter Laura.

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