And Then There Were Four...

My amazing son, who I'll call J, is three, and was diagnosed soon after birth with a relatively rare genetic condition. We don't yet know how it will affect him as he grows older, but so far he has battled an array of medical problems. One thing's for sure, our little family's life will never be 'normal'...

As I sit here looking at my baby daughter sleeping peacefully, I still can't believe she's real. For all my worrying about her coming along early, and all the reassurance I had from doctors, she turned up at 35 weeks on the dot, and took us all by surprise.

It was a Monday morning and I felt some weird stomach cramps like period pains. Just a few days before, I'd felt something similar and gone to the hospital to be checked out and they had sent me home. This time, though, the feelings were stronger. And then my waters broke.

Within 10 minutes my husband and I were in a taxi, having rushed around the house throwing things in a hospital bag. (J's labour was just four hours from start to finish, so I'd been told to get to the hospital asap this time).

Thankfully J was with his babysitter, but I felt strange waving goodbye to him as he watched us drive away in such a rush.

That taxi journey seemed to take so long. My contractions were two minutes apart and getting sore, and suddenly I was terrified by the prospect of giving birth. But I wasn't too worried about our baby, because I knew that 35 weeks is barely premature.

I suppose if it was my first premature birth I would have been more scared, but having had all my experiences with a seriously ill 32-weeker who was in hospital for his first five months, I knew a 35-weeker was going to be fine by comparison.


Still, at the back of my mind, I prayed she was not going to need the neonatal care unit.


Once we were in the labour suite, the consultant agreed - she came in promptly to tell us everything would be fine.

The last time I'd seen her, she'd been at one of J's heart scans at the same hospital, when he was in the neonatal unit and had just been saved from heart failure. It was surreal to see her again.

The doctors didn't know why M was coming a bit early, but suspected it might be because I had been ill with a high fever the previous week. They didn't think she had the same condition her brother J has, since all the scans had been normal and the pregnancy had been healthy.

My labour with J had been, ironically, a perfect labour physically - in that it was fast, all natural (no time for an epidural) and despite the pain, some sort of adrenalin and being in the moment carried me through.

But emotionally, for me, it was a very tough experience. J was desperately ill and as soon as he was born he was rushed to neonatal intensive care.


​I was left with just a photograph of him and a suddenly empty belly.


This time, emotionally it was of course so much easier. I knew our daughter was going to be all right. Perhaps because of that, I had the space to feel the physical pain more. And it really hurt...

Thankfully, I got an epidural early on, though by the time M came along thanks to a ventouse nine hours after my waters broke, it had worn off.

Luckily, just before I gave birth, in came the main neonatologist who had cared for J three years ago, to welcome our new baby into the world. It was so kind of her to want to be there for us again.

Our little girl M cried straight away when she emerged, and right from the start I knew it was going to be different from what J went through, because he didn't cry and needed to be taken away and ventilated.

With M it was so different. She could breathe unaided and was a healthy size and colour. She was brought to my arms and immediately began breastfeeding (again, with J, something he wasn't well enough to attempt for months, by which time it was too hard for him to learn).

I lay there on the hospital bed in near silence in the night just gazing at her happily for many hours.

I thought: 'This baby is going to have a wonderful life.'

Click here to read previous columns from The Secret Diary of a Special Needs Mum.