by KATE WALTHER
Last year I thought I was going to lose my baby. Actually, I was assured time and time again that I would go into labour before they could save my little girl. At the time my mother said to me, ‘you will get through this and in a year you won’t remember how you did it.’
It started the night before a routine scan. Something was nagging at me. We had just bought a house and hadn’t yet sold our own property. I was 5 months pregnant. All a little stressful, but that wasn’t it. Instinct was telling me something wasn’t right.
At the scan the radiologist smiled kindly at me. “I’m going to get your doctor.” Never something you want to hear.
Dr Peters spoke gravely. “This is a disaster. I am surprised you are not in labour. We won’t be able to save her.”
We were told our baby would have a 1 in 100 chance of survival – in Australia babies born before 24 weeks are not resuscitated because their quality of life is poor. If they survive, they have a 1 in 100 chance of being ‘in-tact’, meaning they will most likely have some minor movement and developmental problems requiring ongoing treatment, but they will not be severely disabled or developmentally delayed. At 23 weeks it was utterly hopeless.
I started watching the clock, hoping I could make it another minute without giving birth. One minute. Still pregnant. 60 more ticks. Still pregnant. Keep going. Eventually 5, then 10. I watched the clock incessantly, filled with a deep slow moving dread that swept over me in waves. All I could do was watch the clock and wait for the imminent heartbreaking loss.
The next night the on-call doctor did another exam. “This baby is coming. I don’t know how you haven’t given birth yet. You won’t last the night.”
I was inconsolable, but the doctor said, “Please don’t blame yourself, it’s just one of those things.” I cried and cried. There was no one else to blame. My baby was healthy. I was healthy. And yet I was completely incapable carrying her to term like everyone else did. My body was about to kill her by going into labour.
I loved her so much already. How would I say goodbye? Why couldn’t my body do this? Of course there was a tiny hope that she would defy the odds and be the one-in-a-million that gets through unscathed. Doctors can be wrong.
It occurred to me that she might survive but not be ‘in-tact’. I had a sick brother growing up who lived a very painful life for two years before he slipped away. I remember things I didn’t ever want my son to see. I knew the uncertainty of spending weeks at a time away from my parents, the confusion of waking up in the middle of the night to a neighbour in your home because they had to rush to the hospital. The breathtaking fear of witnessing a convulsion. I realised what I was most afraid of – What if she survived and was really sick?