In terms of what happens from here, we have been told to prepare for an early arrival of our son. The first "goal" that they gave us was 34 weeks, as this is the point from which he wouldn't necessarily need to be admitted to the neonatal unit. His lungs will be mature, and although he will be little, he will just need help to feed and grow and keep warm. The Consultant told me on Friday that once pre-eclampsia has been found, you generally have anything up to 3 weeks until delivery needs to happen, but rarely any more than that. That would take us, to the very maximum, up to 36 weeks, at which point, although still premature and probably quite tiny, our little dude would behave very much like a 'normal' newborn, and should be able to stay with us the whole time. He may just need a little extra help to learn how to breastfeed, as the sucking reflex is usually the last thing to develop.
So, a week in, and possibly another couple to go. To be honest, it's not been too bad. But if you do find yourself in my situation, I have a few tips to keep you and your other half sane!
1. Ask for your own room.
We were very lucky that we didn't need to ask - as I worked here for a long time, and a lot of the staff are my friends, it was automatically assumed by the midwife we first saw in Triage that I should have a private room. However if we weren't in this position I would without doubt have asked for one. Generally you have to pay, but if you are staying for a long time, staff will often try and accommodate you in a side room as hospitals are noisy, noisy places, and lack of sleep over a prolonged period is seriously detrimental to your health. You are woken frequently throughout the night for the midwives to check on you or baby, so being in a bay with a number of other woman all of whom are having the same checks at various points would mean no sleep whatsoever!
2. Accept help.
Sarah and I are a strong and capable couple. We are the people that others come to when they need help, need advice, need someone to talk to, need a lift, need childcare. And we do it because we can, and because we want to. However now the tides have turned and we need those people to help us, and it has been amazing and wonderful just how many people have come forward with offers of help, in so many ways. We have had offers of walks for Willow, as Sarah is out at work all day and then with me in the evenings, offers of meals to be cooked for her (Sarah, not Willow, although Willow would gladly accept!) for when she gets home after a long day, offers from people to go shopping for us, and then for people to help us prepare for little man's arrival. Knowing he may come any time in the next few weeks meant that all of a sudden we needed a hospital bag packed for him, tiny weeny clothes and nappies bought, and bigger things like his room be sorted in to some sort of organisation, and his car seat to be fitted and checked. Initially the list of what we had left to do, which ironically we had left until I was on maternity leave so we could have some time just to focus on his impending arrival, seemed enormous and overwhelming, but with the help of others we now have quite a few things ticked off our list, with plans of how to get the rest done soon. Of course when I say we, what I actually mean is I've had updates via texts while my incredible wife, along with our wonderful family and friends, have really got a lot done this week!
3. Accept visitors.
As people found out about my admission to hospital, many of them said "I'll come and visit." At first I found it a bit strange. I couldn't help but feel that if I was at home, on maternity leave, as planned this week, then all of these lovely people wouldn't necessarily be wanting to come and see me. But I accepted their offers all the same, and I have to say, it's made the world of difference to being here. The good thing about staff knowing I'm here is that so many people have popped in to see me, have spent their lunch breaks with me, or come in early before a shift to see me for half an hour. On top of that I've had visits from family, Sarah's family and our friends. Sometimes we have done little more than sit in my room and chat away for a while, other times we have wandered round the hospital grounds, had coffee in Costa, or taken a short walk to the shops down the road. It has really helped go break the days up, and has reminded us both of how many people we have close by that really do care for us.
4. Go with the flow.
The first night I was here I think I slept for about 90 minutes. Blood pressure checks happen at 10pm, 2am and 6am, and baby's heartbeat is checked at midnight. Add in to that a new, noisy environment, with a clock tower outside that chimes every hour on the hour, it was pretty awful. In the morning I was a bit unsure as to what happened - where did I get breakfast from? Do they tell me it's ready? Can I make myself a cup of tea? Then the checks continue in the morning, usually blood tests, urine tests and a good long tracing of baby's heartbeat to check he is OK. And then there's seeing the Consultant, which happens every morning but all at different times. At first all of this was very alien to me, even though I've done it for so long on 'the other side', but after that first morning I just decided to stop worrying about what I "should" be doing and go with the flow. Sure, they serve you lunch at11:45 and ordinarily at home my wife and I would not long have got up from a morning full of cuddles, and I'd be cooking us breakfast. But this is a short space in time and just a part of our journey to meet our boy. I've stopped comparing life in here to what I would / want to be doing if I wasn't in hospital, and instead I am just going with the flow each day and finding my own little way through.
5. Remember each other
Amongst all of the chaos of being admitted to hospital, suddenly having to think about the preparation for baby's arrival, and needing to keep everyone updated and in the loop, I imagine it's easy to forget that in the middle of all of that are two people who are madly in love, and are about to become parents together. Of course there are many parts of a marriage that you really can't do in hospital, but we have focussed on the things we can do, and make sure we have time together, just the two of us each day. My favourite part of the day is seeing Sarah, we sit on my bed together, we hold hands, we share kisses, she holds me in her arms, we talk about the future, the present, what it'll be like, what it is like. We watch Netflix, we catch up on TV programmes we would've watched at home together, and in those moments there's no pre-eclampsia, there's no hustle and bustle of an antenatal ward, there's just me and her, and it's perfect.
6. Stay positive
Being pregnant is something I've dreamed of my whole life. A lot of it has been far far from reality, which the physically hard first trimester and the emotionally hard (thanks to my job!) second trimester, and so I was so so looking forward to maternity leave so I could just enjoy being pregnant. I knew exactly how I would spend my days; practising pregnancy yoga and meditation, walking Willow, cooking nourishing food for me and my wife, meeting people for lunch, washing his clothes, packing our bags, painting his nursery, wandering round the shops at the weekend with my wife getting the last few things, having his baby shower, going on a short babymoon. Of course none of these plans are now able to come in to fruition but at the end of the day, I'm here and I'm well. I don't feel ill, although I guess I don't quite feel myself either, and our baby is happy and healthy. It's easy to get caught up in the "why me, why now" cycle but instead try and take a step back and think, you can't change the fact this has happened but you can change how you handle it. Stay positive, stay focussed, at the end of the day the pregnancy hasn't been a dream come true but we are having a baby, we are about to bring a new life in to this world, we get to parent him, love him, cherish him and he will, as his already does, mean the whole world to us. So so what if we can't do the things we originally planned, he will be here son and he will be perfect, surely that's all that matters?
After writing this post I saw the Consultant on for the day, and asked if I could have some time at home today. So I guess my final point has to be - ask for some time at home. We are lucky that although the trend of my blood tests and urine tests show that the pre-eclampsia is slowly getting worse, I am on the whole, stable, so thought I'd ask about going home. The Consultant agreed to let me go for 4 hours between checks this afternoon, so after lunch I escaped! It was so wonderful to be at home for a while, to see Willow and feel a little more normal. Sarah and her family were painting our little man's nursery, so whilst I was completely banned from helping with the painting itself, I got to be there and feel a part of it, and it was wonderful! Plus it has been such a beautiful sunny day that we took the opportunity to sit outside for breaks and enjoy the gorgeous weather. It really is hard to feel anything but happy and peaceful right now!