Mum-of-two Victoria tells us about the birth of her daughter Imogen, who arrived 5 weeks early on Christmas Day after Vic experienced a placenta abruption.
Twas the night before Christmas, my 5-year-old daughter was in bed by 8pm ready for Santa to arrive in the morning. Excitement was high in the house – this was our first Christmas in our first home together and our last Christmas as a family of 3. I was 35 weeks pregnant with my little girl, Imogen, due at the end of January 2022.
I had an easy pregnancy with Imogen. She was growing well as expected, no morning sickness however I had the occasional bleeding which they said was very common in pregnancy but they said she was fine after being assessed several times from it!
At 10pm on Christmas Eve, I decided to get myself early to bed as I could feel a headache coming on. For the first 2 hours of being in bed I slept well but that all changed in the early hours of Christmas morning. I woke up with lower back pain, it was very uncomfortable and wasn’t settling. I assumed that I must have pulled a muscle while tossing and turning in bed at some point while my partner was snoring peacefully next to me!
My daughter walked into our room at 5am, super excited to open her Christmas presents, however the back pain still hadn’t gone for me. For the next hour we opened presents (not that I remember anything as the pain was intense at this point!)
“Why don’t you call the hospital Vic?” my partner said. Hospital? On Christmas Day? For a little back pain? Don’t be silly I thought to myself – I’ve probably just slept awkwardly! He wouldn’t take no for an answer so I dialled the maternity unit. The midwife on the phone asked me a few questions, how far along are you? Have you had any bleeding? Etc. All of my answers were no concern to her, but she said to come on in anyway just to be sure I am not in early labour. By 7.30am my partner, Sam had his parents come over to look after Poppy and off to the hospital we went.
On arrival at 8am at the maternity unit, it was so packed with pregnant woman, that I didn’t get into a bed in the triage unit until 9am. The initial assessments were checked; my urine, baby’s heartbeats and movements and even if I was contracting. Everything was all fine and no abnormalities apart from my urine, they said there looked to be like I had a slight water infection which could be the culprit to the back pain but no major concerns were shown!
They wanted to discharge me. Great news I thought, I can finally get back to my daughter and spend Christmas with the family (I couldn’t wait for my Christmas dinner!) But that was to be delayed. In order to go home, I had to be discharged by a doctor because I was a high risk pregnancy – this was due to me being a bigger lady with a higher BMI.
The doctor arrived shortly after 10am, she told me to undress myself as she just wanted to make sure I wasn’t contracting before leaving the hospital to double check. The doctor closed the curtain to let me undress in private and I never saw her again. Within seconds of her shutting that curtain she had to run off to assist with an emergency caesarean. Was I going to get my Christmas dinner at this rate? I highly doubt it! 45 minutes went by and still no doctor to discharge me. Due to the fact I was up most of the night and living on 2 hours sleep, I was exhausted so I took the opportunity to get a little shut-eye while I was finally comfy enough on the triage bed. Little did I know in 15 minutes time, mine and my unborn daughter's life would be in danger.
I woke up abruptly at 11am to what felt like water dripping in between my legs – had my waters just broke?! My partner looked down and his face went white. It was blood. Not just a trickle but a blood bath. No midwife was around, they were all dealing with other deliveries and emergencies. Sam was calling out and banging on doors begging for someone to come and help me. Within a few minutes, a lady appeared (not a midwife but a receptionist) she took one look, face in shock, and pressed the emergency button overhead. It must have been 30 seconds and at least 7 midwives were in this small triage cubicle bay, assessing me and the baby; from mine and the baby’s heart rate, an ultrasound, attempting to put several cannulas in and even consoling Sam in the scenario. That was when I realised something was seriously wrong! I looked at Sam, his eyes were filled with tears unsure on what was going to happen. We were dying. Who was he going to save if he had to choose? Me or Imogen?
Within 20 minutes of the start of the bleeding, I was being rushed off to theatre. They had told Sam to get robed up just in case, but they said there was a 90% chance he won’t be able to come in as they may have to put me to sleep. Being wheeled along the hallways of the maternity unit, still haemorrhaging, all I could do was apologise to the midwives “I’m so sorry I can feel more coming out!” They shrugged it off and said “do not worry” as a trail of blood is on the hospital floor following us to the theatre room.
I entered the theatre, it was very chaotic. Around 12 doctors, midwives and healthcare assistants were all attending to me and their surroundings prepping for me to go under the knife. I hoisted myself onto the surgery bed – at this time, one of the doctors is still doing an ultrasound on me making sure that we do not lose my baby’s heartbeat.
I couldn’t understand how it got to this. Was it me? Did I do something? Was my baby going to be ok? I looked up at the midwife, who had been with me since the beginning of triage, and was facing down straight at me. The next five words that left my mouth were not something I thought I ever would say. “Am I going to die?” She locked eyes with me and simply said “You are talking to me, aren’t you?” She couldn’t say yes, and she couldn’t say no because she did not know if me or Imogen were going to survive this.
I knew I needed to get my baby out right now. They were still discussing the risks with me and getting me to sign paperwork for permission for the c-section to go ahead – what more risks could there be? I thought. Me and my daughter are dying on this bed. I shouted out “I consent to everything just get her out now!” Within a couple of minutes they put me to sleep.
I woke up, disorientated, and confused, trying to get my bearings on what had just happened. I was in the recovery room. A nurse came over and took my observations. “Is she ok? Is Imogen ok” I pleaded. “She is fine, absolutely perfect” According to the nurse, Imogen came out crying (like any normal c-section) she needed no interventions for breathing and she was a healthy 6lb 5oz baby (considering she was 5 weeks early they said, this was a fantastic weight!) I was then wheeled to the high dependency unit bay and there, in my partner's arms was my new baby girl sleeping peacefully.
I couldn’t quite believe how beautiful she was and despite all the trauma she had been through that she was so perfect! A couple of hours passed and the midwives and surgeons who saved our lives came over to visit. They explained that I had a placenta abruption. This is where my placenta comes away from the uterus, they are neither common nor rare but when they happen, they must act fast. With a placenta abruption, oxygen and nutrients are ripped from the baby and leave the mother bleeding. We lived 20-25 minutes away from the hospital and they informed me that if we had been discharged from the hospital earlier, then myself and Imogen would both be dead in the car ride home and would not have been able to make it back to hospital in time. She was our Christmas miracle born at 12:05pm on Christmas Day.
My advice will always be this; if you ever feel something isn’t right get it checked out! Externally, everything was great for me however internally was a different situation. I followed my gut, my partner followed his gut and I am super grateful we did as I can live to tell the tale.