Premature birth: Ruth’s story

Ruth shares her incredible and yet shocking story of her daughter’s birth, when she was just 25 weeks and 1 day along. Her experience makes for uncomfortable and upsetting reading in places but and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who finishes reading the piece in awe of Ruth and her daughter. 

After finding out I was pregnant I was elated, this would be my fourth child. All of my previous pregnancies had been plain sailing, no morning sickness, no symptoms apart from a bit of tiredness. My elation soon turned to devastation when my partner decided to leave. He walked out of our home when I was 6 weeks pregnant leaving me to raise my children alone.

At  11 weeks I started bleeding, not much but enough to be concerned, I was taken to hospital for a scan and they couldn’t find the cause of the bleed so they sent me home. The bleeding stopped over the next couple of days and life resumed as normal.

About a month later I was walking my children to school when I felt a gush, I thought my waters had broken, I looked down and to my horror It was bright red blood. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital but yet again they could find nothing wrong and sent me home. Once again the bleeding stopped after a few days.

The next time it happened I was in the bath, I went to stand up and I suddenly  went faint and fell back into the water, when I looked down the water was completely red. I remember standing up and my body was covered in blood similar to the film ‘Carrie’. Another hospital trip followed and they finally found some bruising (haematoma) between the wall of my uterus and the placenta. They said that the baby was fine and to go home and rest.

Over the next few weeks the bleeding stopped and started although it never got as bad as it had previously. I had many scans, each one found baby hanging in there but the bruising was getting worse.

On the 27th May 1996 I went into premature labour at 25 weeks and 1 day gestation.  My mother drove me to the hospital. Unfortunately there was a festival on in our town and the roads were closed due to the procession. I remember sitting there and my mom said “You know it’s too early, don’t you?”.  I just nodded, I knew deep down that the chances of survival would be very slim. We finally got through the road blocks and the 35 minute journey to hospital was one of the longest journeys of my life. The bleeding had started again earlier that morning, it was so heavy I was using hand towels and tea towels to try and soak up the blood. I was weak and tired and I just needed to sleep but the contractions were keeping me awake. I was rushed to the delivery suite so they could try and halt my labour. Unfortunately it was too late, I was already 5cm’s dilated and the baby was coming. I remember them saying they needed to prepare steroid injections. A doctor was trying to find the heartbeat with a Doppler after a few minutes had passed he looked at me and shook his head. He apologised and said that there was no heartbeat, my baby had died. Although I knew that this would be the outcome it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The room was stripped of all machinery and the steroid injection lay on the table unused.  I continued to labour with no one in the room except my mom. A midwife popped in and out to see how I was doing but there was nothing for her to check. An hour or so later I needed to push so I buzzed for the midwife. She bought in a tray (it looked like a litter tray) and a tag. She explained that there would have to be a post mortem and that I would need to bury my baby as I was over 25 weeks. I was completely numb. There was no cot for me to lie my baby in, no wrist bands for them to put a name to.

I started pushing and the midwife told me to stop. I asked what was wrong and she told me the baby was breech and that one of it’s legs was stuck by it’s head. She tried to make it as easy as possible but because the baby was still born I felt her just pull it by it’s leg.

I delivered her at 5.25pm. It was a girl.

She was laid in the tray and I was asked if I wanted to hold her, I looked over to see this tiny little baby who was bruised from head to toe. I said that I needed to hold her. The midwife picked her up and we thought we heard a gasping sound very faintly. I looked at the midwife and she just shook her head, as she passed me my daughter we heard it again, this time the midwife snatched her away from me and held her face to my baby’s head. All hell broke loose, the midwife screaming at me to put her under my top as she was pressing the buzzer with one hand and racing for the door. Within minutes there are 5 doctors in the room and my baby is taken away from me.  Two midwives come in to clean me up and as the placenta is delivered fragmented and incomplete, I have a huge bleed. I have suffered a  placental abruption with post partum haemorrhage. My blood loss is severe so they put me straight onto a transfusion. By this time I am losing the fight, I was weak and tired and just wanted to sleep. Some time later I am woken up by a midwife and I see my mom, pale, gray and tired. During this time I am not clear on what happened. I ask after my baby and the midwife comes back with a poloroid photo of my baby girl. She weighed 1 lb 4oz and was alive, very weak but definitely alive.

Some time later my baby is brought to me in a transport cot. I was not allowed to touch her but I could see her through the glass. They told me they were transferring her by air ambulance to a hospital 60 miles away as they didn’t have the facilities to look after such a premature baby. I said goodbye to my baby as they wheeled her away.

The polaroid picture of Ruth’s tiny baby girl.

It was 10 days before I saw my baby again. Over the coming weeks there were a variety of problems, her heart failed, her kidneys were failing. I was told to prepare for the worst. Each day she clung on, the nurses fought for her and with her, keeping her alive. After 4 weeks she was strong enough to be transferred back to the hospital where she was born. She spent the next 2 months in SCBU suffering chest infection after chest infection until finally on the 12th August weight 4lb 3oz she was allowed home.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the last time we saw the hospital, on the 5th October her face started turning blue around her mouth and nose, she went limp in my arms just as the ambulance arrived. She arrested twice on the way to hospital, she stayed there all through Christmas and the new year. She came home in March. The next 2 years she was in and out of hospital and only spent about 4 months of those 2 years at home. As she grew older she grew stronger and the hospital admissions became less frequent.

It had a huge impact on me and honestly I found it very hard to bond with her. I loved her unconditionally but I think the fear that I was going to lose her at any minute made me detach myself from her.

She is now 16 and still has various problems. She has a global developmental delay and learning difficulties.  She has the mind of a child around 5 years younger. She also suffers from some more personal problems that I won’t go into to protect her. She went to a SEN school and now is in college where she is doing a course on ‘living’ how to live life as normally as possible and to learn social skills to help her in the world and help her to be as independent as possible.

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15 million babies are born preterm around the world every year—that’s 1 in 10. More than 1 million babies die due to complications of preterm birth and many of those who survive face a lifetime of disability. Both Tommy’s and Bliss raise funds to help both babies and families who are born prematurely and require special care.    You can find more about what they do, or make a donation, by clicking the links provided. 

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9 thoughts on “Premature birth: Ruth’s story

  1. My little girl is about to leave hospital after 351 days, born at 25+2 weeks… she has chronic lung deases and has had her ups and downs she is still on oxygen but only 0.02. Just weeks before her 1st birthday…..

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