After three and a half years of trying to conceive and being told by doctors that our chances were very slim because of me having primary ovarian failure, you can just imagine our elation when we found out, very unexpectedly, that I was finally pregnant. After many consultations and periods of anticipation and then disappointment, this was the best news ever… and the nicest part was that fertility treatment was not used . God had a plan for us.
I was already 22 weeks, just past the halfway mark, and my pregnancy was progressing well. I did not experience morning sickness at all, I was healthy, I looked good and I felt great. According to the scans, our baby girl was growing and developing – this was the most precious thing in the world to us.
One week later everything changed, I started experiencing strange sensations and upon examination, my gynaecologist found that I had suddenly developed extremely high blood pressure with protein in my urine. I was admitted to hospital immediately for monitoring. Within the space of four days, my condition deteriorated to a point where I had developed the HELLP Syndrome. This is characterised by pre-eclampsia, protein in urine and impaired liver function. It is a potentially fatal condition for both mother and child, and is considered one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in pregnancy. I can still recall my gynaecologist begging me to hold out for three more weeks, as this would give our baby a better chance of survival. Should my condition worsen, she would then be forced to deliver the baby immediately, which would be way too early. The only way I would be able to survive this ordeal if I did not improve on my own, is for the doctors to deliver the baby. As it turned out, a day later I was admitted to ICU as my condition had taken a turn for the worst . I was now only 23 weeks pregnant and not doing well at all.
We hoped and prayed that I would improve while in the ICU, as we were aware of the consequences to our baby if not. It felt as though our world came crashing down around us when, the next day, after no improvement, but continuous deterioration of my condition, we were informed that they had to deliver the baby in order to save my life. This was not all, we were told that our baby would most likely not survive the delivery as she was too young and her lungs had not developed enough, and should she survive she would probably be born with some form of disability. Just to put things into perspective a full term baby is born at 40 weeks, private hospitals only consider babies born at 26 weeks to be viable and government hospitals at 28 weeks, we were only at 23 weeks, 17 weeks too early. That night, with much sadness, fear, uncertainty and prayers, we prepared for the delivery the following day, not knowing what to expect. We left it in God’s hands.
On Tuesday 04 May 2010 at 13H34, Madison Eva Emmanuel was born, weighing a mere 494grams. We heard her cry out when she was delivered and that gave me some hope that all would be well. Within minutes of being delivered she was whisked out of the theatre and taken to the NICU without us being able to see her and we were not sure what was happening to her. About 20 min later we found out that she was alive and stable.
Slowly my condition started improving, and the next day I was taken to the maternity ward. I still had not seen my baby, but I knew that she was alive, and that was good enough for me. That night, I got to see her for the first time. She was the tiniest little person I had ever seen, she was so pink and her eyes were still sealed. She wore a little diaper and a cap which covered most of her face. She was laying under plastic (to recreate the womb and to retain heat) and there were tubes stuck in what seemed to be every part of her body. She might have survived the delivery but we were told by doctors and nursing staff that we had to take it one hour at a time as she could be doing well one minute and then crashing the next.
This was our journey for the next 3 months, an emotional rollercoaster, not knowing whether she would make it through the day. In the first few weeks, it felt as though things would never come right and we would never receive the good news from the doctor that she was finally ok. But being the fighter she is, she grew and slowly achieved all the relevant milestones that doctors look for in premature babies. After three and a half months of travelling to hospital every single day to see her and hold her, Madison was discharged on the 23 August 2010, one day before her actual due date. She weighed 1.55kg.
It is now four months since she was discharged and our gift from God is thriving, weighing 4.2kg already.
Alvin and Anthea
Proud parents to Madison