Yesterday we had a meeting with the senior midwife at our local hospital. Having called her the afternoon before, she had moved things around to fit us in so we didn’t have to wait until Monday with unanswered questions. This small act alone meant so much to us as three days can seem like a lifetime when you are in our situation.
Walking into reception, the staff at the hospital greeted us warmly and made us feel so welcome. They all know of course, which is actually a good thing. In the UK, you see different faces every time, there is little continuity and you often feel like you are repeating your medical / birthing history over and over again to strangers. No disrespect intended to the UK health system who I know are overworked, understaffed, underpaid and under appreciated! Yet there is something refreshing and reassuring about seeing the same faces, and knowing they understand your case and your pain, and do their best to accommodate you compassionately.
The senior midwife was lovely, and happened to be the wife of the sonographer who’d taken our scan the day prior. She already knew our situation and opened herself up for us to ask questions. I wasn’t sure where to start! I’d made a long list the day before.
What is the procedure?
Is pain relief offered?
Can we see / hold baby after?
What happens to baby after delivery?
Will my milk come in, as it does with a normal full term labour?
I’m emetophobic (phobia of being sick) – will anti emetics be available?
The list went on…
The midwife was so kind and listened to me as I reeled off question after question. I apologised for the Spanish inquisition but she reassured me it was normal, and her job was to put my mind at ease.
So… the procedure. It would start with us coming in on the Monday to sign paperwork to agree to an “interruption to pregnancy”. This had to be sent with all of our paperwork to Toulouse hospital, where it would be put before the head honchos on the Tuesday at their weekly meetup to discuss particular cases. Once authorised, we could commence the interruption to pregnancy. I would need to attend the hospital and take an oral tablet which would work to prepare my body for labour. 48 hours later I would return to be induced. She explained that they recommend and prefer for the mother to have an epidural straight away. She stated that the emotional pain would be hard enough, without having to endure the intense pain of an induced labour. Pessaries will be inserted every 4 hours (vaginally) which will bring on contractions thick and fast – and painfully! She told me that as I would have had the epidural, they will do the work for me, and deliver my baby safely into the World. This could take 2 hours, 8 hours or more but does not usually take more than 12. Providing all goes well and without complications, I would stay for the night and be discharged the following morning.
We would be able to see the baby after. She explained baby would be very small and made sure we were prepared for the anencaphely which some parents are quite shocked by. I explained that I was. My husband however was not as keen to see the baby. That is his decision. As far as I am concerned it is my baby, and I would love it if it had five heads and a mermaid tail. And had it have been born full term with any disability or abnormality we would automatically love that baby unconditionally. It is part of me and how could I not love it? Regardless of its imperfections – to me my baby’s will always be utter perfection.
She explained that the midwives on the day would provide photos of our baby and hand / foot prints. This was what I wanted to hear. That I would have precious memories of my baby to cherish forever, and to share with their big brothers when they reach the right age.
After delivery, they would need to take a sample of the placenta to check for chromosomal abnormalities. The results would come in after about 3 weeks but would help them to understand the possible cause or reason for the anencephaly, but will also aid us if we decide to try again for a baby in the future. As we lost a baby early on just 6 months ago, the hospital seem keen to investigate whether there is a reason for this.
She explained that baby could be sent to Toulouse for an autopsy after birth, but we were under no obligation to agree to this. (We later discovered baby is too young to be considered for an autopsy, which was good as neither of us were terribly keen to have our little angel sliced up, albeit for a good cause, but also because our eldest son is desperate for us to bring his sibling “home” and so we may look at cremating baby’s body).
As for the milk, they will provide medication to stop my milk from coming in (or letting down I think is the term used in the UK?!) And anti emetics would be on hand should I require them.
A lot of information to take in… but she explained it clearly and incredibly empathetically. We thanked her for her kindness, and also asked her to thank her husband again for his time and generosity the day prior.
She smiled and said, ” He told me he really hopes that you fall pregnant again, with a healthy baby, and that as soon as you find out, you must go and see him.”
It seems like a lifetime away, and one I dont want to think about whilst still carrying my baby, but who knows what the future holds. In time perhaps, when the pain begins to heal, maybe we will find the courage to try again. And if we do, we can be reassured we are in the best possible hands…