In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Kathleen Brooks, 38, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email email@example.com.
I was at a party when my waters broke with my second child. I was 22 weeks pregnant and it was the tiniest dab. But I just knew something wasn’t right.
It wasn’t the first time it had happened – my waters had broken at 34 weeks with my son, Samuel, so I guess that’s what got my mind whirring. It was 26 November at this point, and my daughter Cordelia wasn’t due until March. I was shocked, of course, but it never crossed my mind on the way to the hospital that it would be anything serious.
Soon after I’d arrived, I was proven very wrong. They confirmed my waters had broken and I was told it was very likely my daughter wasn’t going to make it – a baby can’t survive at 22 weeks. I was heartbroken.
Despite the pain I felt, my emotions were split: I was devastated this had even happened, but I was so determined to have my baby healthy – ferociously determined. I wasn’t going to listen to anyone telling me she wouldn’t survive. I could hear her heartbeat.
That day, I decided to go to another maternity unit to get a second opinion, because I’d heard good things about them. They were more positive but the next day when I lost more fluid, they told me there was only a 5% chance my baby would be born alive.
I went on bed rest for six weeks. Six whole weeks to keep my daughter safely inside me. For the first two – which happened to be over Christmas – I was in and out of hospital every two days for blood tests and scans. All the while, my baby was oblivious and seemed to be growing as if nothing else was happening.
Bed rest wasn’t what I was expecting for my second pregnancy, but I got stuck in. My parents helped my husband with the care of my two-year-old Samuel. We were lucky and well-supported, way more than a lot of people would be. And I genuinely didn’t have to do anything. I remember getting to a point where I thought: I can do everything in my power this end, but my daughter is the one who will decide whether she wants to live.
Every week it got better. Every day we were one day further along – 24 weeks was a big milestone for us and at 27 weeks I sat there and thought: I think we’re going to be okay, you know?
I was always told if I got sick or if there wasn’t enough fluid surrounding my baby, they’d have to induce me. And at 28 weeks this happened.
In some ways, it was my dream scenario – a lot of people thought she wouldn’t make it, so we were happy we had got to this point. I remember the midwife telling me “the furthest along you can dream of getting is 28 weeks” – and I was 28 weeks and one day when I was induced.
The birth itself went as well as it could’ve gone. I’ll be honest, I was worried about having a baby naturally, having had a long time to read up about being a preemie mum. It was just my belief that I should have a C-section. It was a really nice atmosphere, everyone knew my baby was going to be sick so a special effort was made.
From the minute we were told they were going to induce, everyone was on it – the best of the doctors, consultants and the whole works were in with me. We were so well taken care of. My god, there were so many people in the room – neonatal teams running in and out, loads of anaethetists, students.
Cordelia cried when she came out, a tiny, high-pitched cry, and she breathed on her own initially – but it wasn’t that simple. She deteriorated, as they expected, and ended up going to intensive care straight away. I saw my daughter for the first time an hour after she was born. I was out of it on morphine just to get me over there – I knew she was sick but I felt relief. And after five days, I was able to hold her.
She had to be put on a ventilator to help to help her breathe for two weeks. But after three weeks she seemed to turn a corner, and from there she just got stronger and stronger. Cordelia stayed in hospital for 10 weeks, coming out before her due date which I was so happy about. She’s just turned one.
Doctors seem to think it was my immune system that caused my waters to break early. But those few months which were so taxing for us don’t seem to have had any impact on Cordelia. She’s standing up, crawling around. She’s amazing.
My birth advice?
Birth can be hard, but my advice would be that remember time passes – yes, a lot of kids do end up in neonatal units but in a few months or weeks or days, a lot of the time things can be fine and you can take your baby home.
As told to Amy Packham.