Right from the very beginning my (unplanned) pregnancy was deluged with problems, both physical and mental. Alongside the crippling depression that I experienced throughout the pregnancy I also had to deal with gestational diabetes, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and going into early stage labour at 26 weeks. I doubt anyone would be surprised to know that on most days I felt almost overwhelmingly negativity about having conceived, being pregnant and becoming a mum
The day I discovered I was pregnant, sitting on the side of the bath clutching a Clear Blue test and feeling like the bottom had fallen out of my world, one of my first clear thoughts was that there was a high risk of the pregnancy being ectopic. My GP agreed and so the next few days were a whirlwind of appointments, invasive internal scans, blood tests and uncertainties.
I was first seen on the early pregnancy unit (EPU) when I was five weeks pregnant and at this stage it was too early to confirm whether the pregnancy was indeed ectopic, even with the internal scan. Instead I was told that there was a ‘shadow’ in one of my fallopian tubes which could possibly be something but equally possibly not and I was given an appointment for a weeks time.
A few days later I ended up in A&E with severe abdominal pains, convinced that my pregnancy was indeed ectopic and that I was losing the baby.
After having been left to sit in the waiting room for two hours by the triage nurse who openly admitted that he didn’t know what to do with me, one of the Northern One’s colleagues spotted us in the waiting room. He came over to ask why we were there and then made sure I would be seen next, horrified that I’d been left to wait for so long as a potential obstetric emergency.
The Northern One and I were shown into an empty cubicle where I sat down on the bed and burst into tears. I was exhausted, frightened, in pain, I had a huge cannula in my arm and I was also trying to cope with the hugely conflicting emotions of not wanting to be pregnant but also not wanting to lose the baby. I had no idea how to make it through the next day, never mind the next 35 weeks and so I lay there, alternately sobbing and shaking while the Northern One held my hand.
It was at this point that Dr H walked in.
I had never met this woman before, the Northern One only recognised her from having seen her around the hospital where they both worked and until she introduced herself he wasn’t entirely sure of her name. Today I can’t really remember what she said to me or even she looks like (apart from the fact that she has blonde hair) but I will never forget is the way she treated me that day.
The whole time I was in A&E Dr H treated me with the utmost kindness and compassion, even when all the details about my pregnancy being unplanned and how I didn’t know what to do came spilling out, accompanied by noisy sobs and a runny nose. She sat and listened while I talked and talked through hiccups and tears; handing me clean tissues and putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. At no point did she try to brush my concerns aside in favour of the immediate issue or try to persuade me that I should be happy I was pregnant and instead gently reassured me that I wasn’t a monster for feeling as I did. She also made sure that I had access to mental health support and that I knew where to go if I felt that things were really getting out of control.
After seeing us in A&E, every time Dr H saw the Northern One at the hospital she never failed to ask him how I was and how I was getting on. Each time this happened the Northern One would tell me that he’d seen Dr H and that she’d asked after me, and the knowledge that someone who barely knew me wanted to know how I was coping gave me a little lift on even the darkest days.
On the first night after Squidge was born Dr H came to see the three of us on the postnatal ward, having recognised my name on the handover board. The Northern One bumped into her in the corridor and invited her to come and see me and newborn Squidge as she hadn’t wanted to just knock on the door in case she was intruding. I was really pleased to see her, despite being exhausted, not having showered for two days and trying to get my head around the fact that I was now a mum to a tiny, spiky haired little person.
At that point Squidge was also refusing to breastfeed, his blood sugars were persistently low due to my having gestational diabetes and we were practically having to force feed him formula to prevent him from being admitted to NICU. I was also doing my best to keep a lid on the panic that I could feel rising at the realisation that, difficult as being pregnant was, looking after a newborn was going to be so much harder.
The fact that Dr H not only remembered us but made a special effort to visit really touched my heart. She told me that she was so pleased to see us both healthy and well when she knew what a rocky start we’d had and how difficult my pregnancy had been. Dr H didn’t stay long that night and I haven’t seen her since but I still remember the softly-spoken figure in dark blue scrubs who had been there at almost the very beginning of my pregnancy and who visited the night after I’d safely delivered my little boy.
The Northern One now works with Dr H and he has assured me that he will make sure she reads this post and knows how grateful I am to her. She may not feel as though she did anything particularly special but on the day in A&E she helped me more than she probably realised and that meeting her stood out as one of the few positive things that happened during my pregnancy.
So, Dr H, I want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you for everything that you did. You are a wonderful doctor and I wish that every frightened mum-to-be had the opportunity to be cared for someone like you.
Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.
In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.