Being home was bizarre. I almost felt like a stranger to begin with. Perhaps because these walls harboured such visions of a future with three children running through it, one of whom would be our Arran. Now my home felt a little cold and not quite like home at all.
I lay on the sofa as everyone whizzed around me, making dinner and playing games and watching television. I don’t really remember much from that first night home because I was in a daze. Another dimension looking in on my family and my home as it once was, except I was estranged from it all. I promised to read the boys a book before bed, but even still, I felt like an outsider looking in. I wasn’t quite present.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt anxious and sick. I picked up my laptop and just started writing. It had been days since I had. And just as a self-harmer cuts themselves to find relief, I found relief in offloading my soul onto the virtual page in front of me. It helped. A lot. I managed to sleep and I slept well.
The following morning I woke to two angelic faces perched on the bed besides me. They gave me kisses and cuddles. Justin told me how much he had missed me.
I took them downstairs and helped them to get dressed. As I was doing so I felt dizzy and a little overwhelmed. I stood up and ‘wham’ – the pressure in my forehead hit me like a cricket ball. I nearly fell back. My husband helped me to the sofa where I lay down, and the pressure immediately lessened. I assumed I had stood up too fast and so stayed on the sofa with some paracetamol and hoped it would pass.
I was unable to lift my head without the pressure forcing me back down, and the stiffness in my neck and shoulders was intense. I was drinking gallons of water and Pepsi (believe it or not, they prescribe caffeine for these types of headaches. Will explain more later). However all that fluid meant frequent trips to the little girl’s room. I would have to shuffle to the toilet, my back hunched from the pain and my head hanging down low to try and relieve some of the pressure. I was like a little old lady. As soon as I lay down, the headache would relent slightly but the pressure in the neck and upper back would build. By lunchtime I was feeling pretty darn awful and fed up.
By 230pm, we called the hospital as it was becoming unbearable, and they advised us to come immediately.
I had to lay the car seat flat, and as we drove the 45 minutes on windy roads to the hospital, motion sickness consumed me. My husband dropped me right at the main doors and went off to park and bring my bags in. I slowly and painfully made my way to maternity. I was almost crawling by the time I got there. They bundled me into a wheelchair and ran me to a room. Room number 19 I remember seeing.
The instant relief I got when I lay on that hospital bed was incredible. My breathing regulated and my heartrate slowed and with that, the nausea eased. If I could have stayed like that forever I would have been okay, but that wasn’t realistic.
The reality was that I needed a second blood patch.
My husband had to leave to collect our boys from school so I was left alone. Two ladies came in and asked if I had showered that day. I told them I wasn’t physically able, and so they rather directly, told me to take my clothes off for a bed bath.
Oh yes. All my clothes. Not just the top half and then the bottom half. Everything. At once. I lay there cold and exposed as she sponged me down to prepare me for theatre. I felt hugely undignified.
I was taken up to the operating block pretty much straight away. A lovely nurse called Brigitte inserted a catheter into the vein on my left hand and chatted away sweetly with me, distracting me from my fears. I kept telling myself “it wasn’t that bad last time. You have nothing to worry about!” However I was scared. Scared of it not working. Scared of something going wrong.
This time I was not allowed to lay down. I would need to sit, despite sitting causing me horrific pain in my head. A male nurse appeared and I recognised him as being the kind smiley man who had held my hand and reassured me in theatre just after giving birth. It was so comforting to see his smiley face again. He introduced himself as Davy, but I thought he said Daisy. Everyone in the room giggled as he responded “Davy, not Daisy!” He lifted me into a sitting position and I rested my head on his shoulder. He smelt amazing. I told him and he joked that he wouldn’t tell his wife.
Davy held my hand the entire procedure. I apologised profusely for squeezing it too hard and for digging my nails into him. He laughed and replied, “I will tell my wife an English woman did it.” We laughed together about everything being the fault of the English.
When I felt the pressure in my back, I let out a long tuneful hum to which Davy started singing to. We sung good old French classics such as “Comme D’habitude” and “Nuit de folie” whilst blood was pumped from my hand and into my back.
“Oh shit” cried Brigitte as my blood squirted across the floor. I smiled to myself. These nurses and midwifes claim not to speak much English but their command of the swear word ‘shit’ is impeccable!
I would say I felt more pain in my hand as she struggled to suck blood from my veins, than from the actual blood patch itself. But before I knew it, the procedure was done and Brigitte and Davy congratulated me and called me ‘Wonder Woman’. Again I instantly felt the pressure in my head drain away and a sense of relief flooded me.
Davy laid me down on the bed. My lower back and tail bone was so numb and tense that I was unable to lower my legs. I lay there on my back like a beetle, legs in the air, unable to get off its back. So they rolled me to my side and after a few minutes the tightness in my back eased and I was able to lay flat.
Brigitte stayed and talked to me for a while in recovery. A few times she called for “Daisy” to come through. Davy appeared next to me with pliers in his hands and asked if I would like a tooth removed.
“Ah, you’re a dentist aswell?” I laughed.
He told me that he had actually been a dental assistant in the military. When I asked if he was a soldier, he stood upright and saluted. He did make me laugh. And I was so grateful for his humour at times like this, where fear and despair could have consumed me. He squeezed my hand and winked kindly just before I left the ward and was returned to my room.
I can’t tell you how much my spirits were lifted. I felt so positive at that time, and I rung my husband and boys to reassure them I was ok and on the mend. I would be home soon.
I’d had several messages from my mum who was worried for me. I know this past fortnight have been difficult for her. For starters, she is grieving the loss of a grandchild. But she has always been beside me when I am ill, sad or in need of help. She has always been there for me during labour or dental / hospital procedures. She has offered so many times to fly out to be with me, but she has a life of her own, and you know that old worn out record that goes a little something like, ‘Wimpy Mum does not like to inconvenience anyone.’
I decided to ring my mum to reassure her I was feeling much better and not to worry, which I did in my most upbeat voice. During the call a midwife came in, looking very grumpy, so I told my mum I’d call her back. The midwife was very cold with me and asked sarcastically if I was feeling better. I told her I was feeling so much better than earlier that day. She raised her eyebrows and said I should be relaxing and not talking on the phone, before exiting the room, leaving the door wide open.
I felt like a naughty school girl in punishment. Laying there in my room alone I could hear all the families with their babies in surrounding rooms. I could hear them chatting and cooing over their babies happily. Meanwhile I was bed bound, on my own, and not even allowed to speak to a family member on the phone. With the door wide open I felt exposed to the outside World, so I pulled the covers over my head and cried desperate tears of self pity.
After such a positive experience with the blood test and the lovely nurses who supported me through it, I felt so deflated, and alone.
Grief is a lonely place, and I’d not even started to grieve for my baby, until then. This midwife had forced me into a place of no distractions, where all I had were my thoughts and my emotions. Perhaps she did me a favour. Perhaps I needed to release some emotions to be able to start healing, physically and emotionally.
Someone entered the room and removed the covers from my head. It was her. She asked if I was crying because of her. In my best French, I explained I had been on the phone to my Mum who was concerned for me, and I’d wanted to reassure her. I also explained that it was reassuring for me to speak to my Mum and therefore relaxing. I sobbed as I told her that I was alone, with no family, missing my children and grieving the loss of my baby. She stroked my leg and apologised to me before offering me a sedative to relax me and help me sleep.
But I was unable to sleep, my head racing with emotions and trying to process the events of the past few days.
I began to feel sharp shooting pains in the side of my head, and panicked. Had the procedures messed up my brain? If I fell asleep, would I ever wake up? I was so scared that I messaged my husband asking him to tell the boys I loved them, and that should anything happen to me, please would he bring the boys up to be kind loving men?
I decided to practice reiki on myself which thankfully aided me in falling asleep. During this sleep I dreamt of Robbie Williams, hugging me and telling me everything would be ok. Its bizarre all these dreams of my idols comforting and reassuring me. Perhaps its my subconscious telling me I need a big hug, or that I need to be more gentle on myself.
And I did wake up… obviously. The question was, had this second blood patch worked and would I be able to return home and try to move forward with my life, and our life, without Arran? I guess only time would tell.