The Birth of Haidee Gabrielle By Anabel Houghton Print
Birth Stories - Premature Birth Stories
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 09:06
I had been a mother for five years when I became pregnant with my first child. My seven stepchildren, even though they were not shared and lived in my home at all times, were not enough. I had struggled with infertility for eight years in my first marriage, and five in my second. What complicated my case was that nothing seemed wrong. According to the doctors I was perfectly fertile and there was no reason why I had not conceived in all of these twelve years of desperate trying. Then, suddenly, in spring of 1998, I was pregnant. My expected due date was May 1999, but not caring that it was such a long time away I began to prepare for my long awaited baby. It was a good thing that I jumped into preparations when I did, because at the very end of my third trimester I was suddenly stricken with a terrible and unexplained weakness. It descended on me literally overnight, I woke up one morning and could not rise out of bed. I had no pains, but my body would not work, my muscles would not contract, and my limbs would not hold me up. I thought it might be morning sickness, though I did not have any in the pregnancy. I thought I might have come down with a flu or cold. I was content to spend that day in bed. When the second day dawned and I did not feel better, my husband went for the doctor. Worried about the possibility of anemia, blood poisoning, and a number of other life-threatening possibilities, my doctor sent an ambulance to pick me up and bring me to the hospital. I would spend over a month there, undergoing tests of every kind known to modern medicine, and a few that surely were a leftover of medieval times. I was finally sent home, since my condition could not be diagnosed, but also did not seem to threaten my life or my pregnancy. For the rest of my pregnancy I would lay in bed, and even turning the pages of a book could tire me out completely. This was very frustrating, because I did not feel ill or tired, and my mind was as sharp and clear as ever. Lying in bed this way was as bad as if I had had a full body cast put upon me for no apparent reason. I was glad when finally my pregnancy had dwindled down to the last months, because I was sure my condition would dissolve after the birth. How I knew this I can't say, because the doctors were never able to link my condition with my pregnancy. Perhaps I could not imagine lying in bed like this when my baby arrived, and so I made myself believe that I would miraculously get well as soon as she arrived. Unfortunately, I woke up in the early morning, still six weeks from my due date, and found that my water had broken. I was taken immediately to the hospital and my baby was born by c-section. I was bitterly disappointed, and also scared for my premature baby. Like most women stricken with infertility I had planned the birth of my long awaited child down to the last detail, and a c- section delivery was not one I had wanted. I watched my baby being carted out to the NICU. I cried all the way to my recovery room. I was so bitterly ill and upset that the doctors were soon worrying about my life. My husband was not allowed in to see me. He was busy at home with the children and at the NICU with our newborn. When he was finally able to see me I was too depressed to want him there. My condition was becoming very serious, because I was losing circulation in my legs. I really woke up out of my depression with a start the day my doctor came in to talk about the possibility of amputation. I was at this point feeling that my sickness would never leave, just the week before my child had gone home with my husband, and still I had not even able to hold her in my arms because I was too weak. I wanted to get better, I wanted to go home and take care of my child. I had many procedures done on first one leg and then the other, which had also deteriorated. The doctors were able to save my legs but I ended up with braces on both, and hardly able to walk. The day came, just three weeks after Haidee Gabrielle had gone home, that the doctors told me I could join her. My husband came for me only half an hour after I joyously called him. I was happy to be home at last, and my sickness seemed to be gone entirely. Unfortunately it was replaced by my inability to get around. After a few weeks struggle I left home to stay with my mother and sister, and undergo physical therapy at a clinic near their home. I did not know then that I would be gone for eight months, and unable to see my family during that time. The psychological effects of my illness caught up with me, and I suffered a breakdown. Now doctors were looking into psychological reasons for my illness, I had apparently destroyed my mental state with the stress of infertility. It spent months recovering. When I was able to see my family again I found that my daughter did not know me, and screamed when I held her, and my husband was too busy with the children to spend time worrying about me. We divorced very soon afterwards, and I started to rebuild my life. Amazingly I found that I was able to adjust to life very quickly under the circumstances. I was no longer trying so hard to come home, or to get well so that I could raise my daughter. I was just trying to get well for me. Within a few months I discarded the brace from one of my legs, and then the second one was discarded a few weeks later. I was feeling stronger and better. I was optimistic about life again. In December I walked brace-free and straight- backed down the isle with my husband Thomas. In January I became pregnant with Kathleen, who was born this September 29th. The pregnancy went along fine and without a day of sickness, and I had the birth I had always dreamed of. Haidee had been the baby I had waited for for twelve years, and yet she was not the one I got to experience the wonder of birth with, and not the one I would raise. I still feel very bitter about having been robbed by my own body of the chance to raise my first daughter. I began working with infertile women while pregnant with Kathleen. I wanted to prevent them from experiencing the anguish I did. We, as a society and as individuals, assume that a woman who is carrying a child she had waited for for years, will spend the nine months in bliss. That is not so in all cases. The stress and mental exhaustion show in many women I work with. I wonder why counseling is offered to women who are infertile, but not those who became pregnant after infertility. I found no such services in our area. We are expected to feel nothing but joy, but as I found out the mind and heart can play cruel tricks on you.