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Interview 12

Age at interview: 33
Brief Outline: Normal first pregnancy. Premature labour and birth at 33 weeks. Had to transfer to another hospital because no neonatal intensive care places were available locally.
Background: Children' 1, aged 8 months at time of interview. Occupations' Mother (aged 33)- trainee teacher, Father (aged 34)- IT consultant. Marital status' married. Ethnic background' Mother- British Asian, Father- White British.

More about me...

 

They had been trying on and off to get pregnant but not very seriously, so they felt a bit taken...

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Mother' I think, well, when we got married we thought about having a baby, I think from sort of that time, really. And we sort of had tried on and off, I suppose. I think we weren't really serious about it. We just wanted to sort of let things happen. But then, when things didn't happen and I'd applied to do a PGCE, so I think we thought, 'Oh, we won't, you know, I'm not pregnant so let's just stop, and I'll perhaps do a course and then decide.' So we decided that we would - well actually it was down to me really - that we would go for a, a sort of like a sexual health check just to make sure that everything was okay, that we can conceive and if we did need any treatment for anything then that could be sorted out first. But the results for the test were due on a Friday and I'd already found out on the Thursday that I was pregnant, so it was a week, in that week everything sort of happened really. So that was a bit of a shock, really, a surprise. But we, we hadn't sort of thought about, 'Oh, well, we'll be seriously stopping trying for a baby' or, 'We will seriously be trying for a baby.' So I mean it wasn't really a long process or a short process, it just sort of happened.

What did it feel like from your perspective?

Father' It was quite a shock. It was funny the way she told me, I had to laugh. But it was just so out of the blue as well, because I was kind of getting ready for possibly moving away from here and setting up house somewhere closer to where she, we were going to do the PGCE so, completely unrelated to having a baby. So then to be told that we were going to have a baby was quite surprising, especially as we hadn't really been trying that hard, you know. We hadn't seriously looked at dates of ovulation and stuff like that, so it was completely out of the blue.

Was it a good feeling, though?

Father' Yes, it was, wasn't it? 

Mother' Mm. I think we were ready definitely to have a baby that time, by that time. I think we just decided then, 'Oh well, we have tried for a little while.' And we'd decided that I had, wanted to change career completely. I hadn't wanted to do the jobs that I'd been doing in the past. And perhaps do that, and then maybe just try for a baby after that. You know, it's only nine months that you, you do a course, something like that, it's very quick. So it made sense, in a way, just to wait for that short period of time before we really tried properly and took it seriously I suppose.

But, you know, we were still ready. I think we were still in that state of mind where we thought, 'Oh, yes, it would be a brilliant thing to happen.' But just the way, the fact that we weren't trying at the time, really we weren't being that careful either just came as a bit of a, out of the, bolt from the blue, didn't it?

Father' Mm.
 
 

A mix-up in arranging her booking visit meant they had little time to discuss screening choices.

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A mix-up in arranging her booking visit meant they had little time to discuss screening choices.

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Mother' I think I was about 7 or 8 weeks pregnant. No, probably before then a little bit, actually, probably around 6 weeks pregnant, I think, something like that, 5 to 6 weeks. And I had, I said, 'I'm pregnant', and I wanted to just ask about what the process was, because I wasn't sure what, what do you do now? And she sort of said, 'Oh, yes, well, I'll fill this form in and you sign it. And we send this off and the midwife will contact you. It's all done for you. You don't, you don't have to worry.' And I had asked at that time about antihistamines, 'What is the, you know, the process on antihistamines?' I know that obviously when you're pregnant there is, you have to be careful, but if I need to take any anti-, antihistamines, and she said, 'Oh, no, I advise against antihistamines totally.' And that was it really, and that was my appointment.

Father' But it was more a, from the way it was described to me, it was a case, it was like going in and saying, 'I think I'm pregnant' and they went, 'Yep, okay. Well done. Go away.'

Mother' Yes.

Father' And they even failed to send the form off, didn't they?

Mother' Yes, well --

Father' Because the midwife never got in touch with us.

Mother' No, I did wait.

Father' So that was quite---

Mother' And I was almost sort of like, 'Oh, when am I going to get to that stage when I'm 10 weeks and they're going to contact me for my appointment?' And I waited and waited and waited, and I just thought, 'Well, I don't want to be sort of harassing people to say, 'Why haven't you contacted me?'' So I did, I just thought, 'I'll wait for them, because they said they would contact me'. And I never expected them just to forget about it, which was apparently what had happened, and somehow this form had got mislaid and hadn't reached the right person or it wasn't written up in the book. 

And so eventually when I got to, I think I was between 12 and 13 weeks when, by the time I got to see the midwife. But I'd just, I'd rung the week before and said, 'I'm really sorry to bother you but, you know, I'm expecting a call from, from you or from a midwife to arrange a booking-in appointment, and I just wondered when that was going to happen.' And the, the midwife contacted me to say that, 'Oh, I'm really sorry, we just totally haven't got your details, because whichever procedure has broken down, we don't know. I do apologize.' Anyway, and, and when we actually went in for the booking, booking-in appointment, to fill out all the forms, this midwife was falling over herself to apologize, because one thing that came up in the booking-in appointment was that the nuchal fold scan that you have for Down's syndrome was done at 13 weeks, and of course I was almost there. And so we literally didn't have any time to think about, 'Well, do we want to do this? Do we not want to do this?' And in the end it got to the stage where I thought, 'Well, no, I think we'll just leave that for now.' And I think because of that breakdown in communication, wherever it happened, you know, I just felt some choices had been taken away from me, really. I didn't have enough time to think about things, which would have been a very good thing to do, because I think those things are import
 

She was upset that her GP advised her to avoid antihistamines in pregnancy but then prescribed...

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She was upset that her GP advised her to avoid antihistamines in pregnancy but then prescribed...

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Mother' Well, when I discovered that I had this horrible viral rash I went to see this particular doctor again, and she'd seemed very vague about the diagnosis and didn't tell me what the name of the rash was, which I found out later was pityriasis rosea from her sen-, the senior doctor there. And she didn't really seem to explain things very well, and if I did ask questions she sort of seemed to dismiss them, which I found quite frustrating. And so I just felt that I couldn't really talk to this particular doctor very, and sort of open up to her very much. 

And one of the things that I'd asked about previously was antihistamines. Well, the funny thing is she'd prescribed antihistamines for this rash. And so I just thought, 'Well, she'd said previously that antihistamines were not a good idea, which is fine by me, and I can then make an informed choice about what I want to take and what I don't want to take during my pregnancy.' And so that sort of made me think, 'Well, mm. I don't really trust what she's saying now, because of what happened in, in my previous appointment.' So, my father-in-law is a GP and when I got home I had these tablets that she'd given me and I rang him up and said, 'Please could you find out, well, are these, what these tablets are?' And he looked in his index that he still has, gets every year, and apparently these, these particular tablets were contraindicated in pregnancy. And that just really upset me and I just thought, 'How could she just prescribe these knowing that I've already talked to her about antihistamines, she knows that I'm pregnant.' I think I was about 14 weeks pregnant at the time. And, you know, 'How can she just prescribe these and not even give me any information about them to say, 'Well, you know, they are contraindicated, it's a low dose, you know, take them if you want to, really need to take them but otherwise...?'

And did she say whether there was anything else that you could do with the rash? Was this the only possible treatment or... ?

Mother' Well, she did give me hydrocortisone creams or - which is 1 per cent, and she - because it was very, very itchy and not very comfortable - and she said, 'Oh, put this on if you need to' but I...

Father' Did we use calamine at all?

Mother' I think...

Father' I remember daubing it all over you.

Mother' I did, I put calamine on because it was so itchy. But in the end I decided not to put anything on at all, apart from a bit of calamine, because I just thought, 'Well, I just don't want to, you know, take anything while I'm pregnant.' I think the only thing I did take while I was pregnant was paracetamol, but every so often, if I really needed to, otherwise I didn't take anything at all. But I think it's just the fact that I felt that she'd taken choices away from me again, and that's what made me quite annoyed about it. 
 
 

A group of colleagues were having children around the same time. He suddenly felt more grown-up.

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A group of colleagues were having children around the same time. He suddenly felt more grown-up.

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Father' Well, it's quite funny because at work there was just a big group of us all of a sudden were, were having children - people I already knew quite well, so, and had worked with. There must be about four or five of us all had children in around four months of each other. So it did feel quite like we were in part of a gang because we were all talking about the same sorts of things and sharing experiences so.. And it also made you, because the company I work for, everyone's quite young, and so all of a sudden I felt quite grown-up amongst my peers because I was married and was having children. And some of the people I still spoke to were single still, were going out every night and getting drunk or whatever. So all of a sudden life had changed quite dramatically.

Mother' Poor you.

Father' Exactly.

Mother' [laugh]

Father' Poor me.
 
 

She worried whether she would be a good mother and how she would react to the baby.

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She worried whether she would be a good mother and how she would react to the baby.

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Did the thought of becoming a parent worry you or was that also...?

Mother' [nods] [laugh]

Tell me more?

Mother' Well, I think it's things, for instance, you think about, well, how are you going to handle it when, if your child doesn't particularly like you? Well, you haven't been a parent before, so you think - well, I was thinking about these things - and 'If you need to discipline your child how will you feel about that? Will will you use smacking? Will you just reason? How will you handle things?' Those type of things, which is very far off. And I think I did think about, 'Well, how will I cope?' And 'Will I be a good mother?'  And those sort of things did run through my mind. But I just, and I just thought along the lines of 'What if I don't like the baby?' That was very strange though, because I just thought, 'Well, what if I really do not like this person?' But that hasn't happened [laugh].
 
 

When she went into preterm labour, the local special care baby unit had no spaces. They were...

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When she went into preterm labour, the local special care baby unit had no spaces. They were...

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Father' No, they, there was just no room. They didn't have - it wasn't that there was no room for us. There was no room for the baby. So, if the baby did, was delivered there wouldn't be a specialist bed for it.

So it was simply a precaution?

Father' Yeah.

In case...

Mother' Yes.

...the treatment didn't work and you were... How, how soon afterwards did you in fact give birth?

Father' Next day, wasn't it?

Mother'  It was

Oh, right.

Mother' it was, well, yes, I suppose you...

Father' So this was --

Mother' It was 36 hours from...

Father' this was about eight o'clock in the morning when we were finally told we were going to have to be moved. And then they started ringing round and they must have rung ten hospitals, they said, before they finally found somewhere

Mother' Yes.

Father'...that could take us. And when they said that, I thought, 'Oh my God, we're going to be in Scotland, or something stupid like that.'

Mother' Mm.

Father' And so then it took them a little bit longer to arrange for an ambulance to take us across and make sure they had a midwife to go with us. And then we must have travelled over at about half eleven, twelve o'clock to the hospital, the other hospital. The stupid thing is we were going from the referral centre, where a baby should be transferred to, to the hospital but, so it was back to front, completely ridiculous. 

To a less specialized place?

Mother' Yes.

Father' Yeah.

Mother' Yes, exactly.

So you knew that at the time, that, that you were going from a sort of more specialist to a less...?

Father' No, they only told us when we got there, that normally they would refer children or babies back to where we'd come from.

How did you feel when you discovered that?

Father' I just thought it was ridiculous, really, that we were in such a state and that this was going on. Because we were there, there was another couple who were, lived quite far away, and then on the news they were talking about a couple who had to travel 200 miles to visit their child because it had been, that was the only hospital they could find. So it seemed all of a sudden it was all over the place, this thing was happening. And then what made it worse was that the, the procedures that were put in pla
 

She felt unsupported and lonely in labour, and did not know what to do. It helped when one doctor...

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She felt unsupported and lonely in labour, and did not know what to do. It helped when one doctor...

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Mother' Mm. That's - well, the other thing is that I was left in this delivery suite. My midwife said, 'Oh, hello, my name is whatever.' And she was very nice and she said, 'I'm really sorry, I've got to go and do a tour of, of the hospital for potential parents.' 

So she had to go off and she said, 'Oh, this midwife here will look after you.' And she was actually, the midwife that was going to look after me was a senior midwife. So my, the midwife that was going to help me went off, to do this tour. And the senior midwife was in the room, and she said, 'Oh, right, here's the table. Get on the table. Here's the gas and air. If you need me ring the bell' and she went out. And that was it, really. And I was just sort of left on my own in this room. And all I could hear through these contractions, and I just took this great big gulp of gas and air thinking, 'Oh, I'll have a go, have a go at this and see how it feels' was all this laughing outside the room. And I was thinking, 'Oh, it just looks, sounds like they're having a coffee morning out there or something', you know. And I couldn't believe that I was just lying on this delivery bed and I'd just been given this gas and air and this button nearby to press if I needed her, and she'd just gone swanning out. And I just thought, 'Well, what do I do? Do I press the bell and say, 'Well, can you come and wait in here with me? It's my first baby, I don't know this hospital, I don't know what the procedures are, I don't even know what the breathing is I'm meant to be doing'. Well, you know, do I do that? Or do I just stay here by myself and play it by ear?' So I just stayed in there by myself and waited for [husband]. And I think it's when you came that the other midwife came into the room with you.

Father'  Which one?

Mother' The older one that was just looking after me.

Father' Oh, yeah - matron. She was a bit...

Mother' And she was so...

Father'  -old school, wasn't she?

Mother' -awful, she was awful.

This is the one that was covering while the other one was doing the tour?

Father' Mm.

Mother' Yes, that's right. And she, I think because I hadn't got, had a birth plan written down, or I hadn't really, really thought about what was going to happen during birth, I think I said something like, 'Oh, well, when..' - I didn't realize how quickly it would happen or how slowly it would happen - I said, 'Well, when the baby's born, could we discover the sex for ourselves?' Because that's one of the things I'd read about. You should mention things like that just in case they say, 'Oh, it's a boy, it's a girl.' And she said, 'We don't do things like that at this hospital' and just had such an attitude, didn't she, when she spoke to me? And I said, 'I've never been here before. How am I sup-' you know. And then I was thinking, 'Well, how am I supposed to know what they do at this hospital and what they don't? And it's so obvious that this midwife obviously has no interest in finding out about, well, where have I come from? You know, what's happened to me? Why am I..?' You know, she had no interest at all in what was happening to me, and while I was, you know, having these contractions and I was
 

She stayed in hospital for five weeks while the baby was in special care. The nurses were very...

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She stayed in hospital for five weeks while the baby was in special care. The nurses were very...

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Mother' It was not nice being somewhere else. It was sort of, you're in a difficult situation because you want to be with your baby - I wanted to be with my baby - and I wanted to be at home as well, but obviously not without my baby, which would, you know, that was the case. So I did feel sort of, I felt guilty for wanting to be at home, but I just knew that I had to be there with him and I didn't want to go home really. And there were a few nights, I think I spent over that five-week period altogether, on separate occasions, three nights at home, I think. And I just thought, 'Oh.' When I did eventually come home, I think the first time was probably about two and a half weeks later, something like that, and it just felt very strange and odd because I was without him. I'd got used to doing things for him, and I was just away from him. And being here, because I hadn't been here for a while, it was almost like I was in a stranger's house. It was very strange. And also certain things had been moved and changed. There was a table where it wasn't before, because there were flowers on it, you see, and that was a bit odd. And because the routine was totally alien to being here - you know, I had to get up in the middle of the night and express what little milk I had - and so that was really strange as well. I just felt sort of out of odds with myself, you know. I didn't really know where I was and I just wanted to get back to normal, feel normal again. I didn't feel normal at all. I just felt I was in limbo, completely in limbo. So I just wanted to work up until that point that we took him home and begin to sort of live my life again, as it were. Because I think up until that point we were just thinking, 'Oh, you know, we're just waiting for things to happen.' Nothing seemed to be progressing at that stage and I just felt quite down about it. We'd had that initial high of giving birth and I felt very happy, but then eventually it came to sort of, 'Oh, God', just plodding along and waiting and waiting and waiting.

Did you feel you got much emotional support from the, the staff on the neonatal unit?

Mother' Yeah, there were a few of the nurses that I really connected with, that gave that kind of support. And I think that's, I think that was with everybody. There was always a certain nurse that you could really talk to. I mean I'd get up in the middle of the night and I'd go down to look at him or change his nappy or feed him. And I'd be the only one, only mother there on many occasions, because quite a lot of them were going home because they lived closer to the hospital. So I would be there and I'd just chat to the nurses. And that just, even if I was chatting about nothing in particular or it was nothing to do with babies, it just really helped, you know, having somebody to talk to.
 
 

She wanted to breastfeed her baby in special care. In trying to support her, staff made her feel...

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She wanted to breastfeed her baby in special care. In trying to support her, staff made her feel...

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I mean it's weird, though, because we were encouraged to breastfeed, and I wanted to breastfeed, which was fine - because they, they did ask me. They gave me the choice, you know, 'What would you like to do?' Once you've decided that you want to breastfeed, they will help you and support you all the way and really focus on that, which is great. But the, also the, they have, there's this pressure as well, all the time. You know, you're expressing, you go into the milking room, which is what I called it, with all these machines and, you know, you're expressing milk, and you're doing it in the night and, and then you're feeding him. And then you do the kangaroo care that you do, which is skin-to-skin contact and you're, you know, you're, you're changing his nappies. And it's such a long day for you, because you're doing all of that, plus you're expressing, and also you're trying to breastfeed as well. So it was absolutely shattering. And then the other thing is because we - well, because I was actually staying there most of the time, overnight, and we were quite a way from home, it was, you know, I had to make sure, 'Well, I have got some food in the fridge.' And there was only a microwave there, so you weren't actually eating properly either. And so if you're tired, you're not eating properly, surely those are the two main things that would affect your breastfeeding? And I thought that in my case that was the case, that because I was tired, stressed and I wasn't actually eating properly, I wasn't actually producing a lot of milk. And I just thought that I was going backwards rather than forwards. 

So I just thought, 'Well, I don't understand how I can establish breastfeeding if I'm not producing enough milk and I'm stressed.' So in the end, I think, it was because I burst into tears in the end because I, I just couldn't get him to breastfeed, because he was very little at that stage, that they actually took notice and thought, 'Oh, yes, well, she has been trying for nearly five, four and a half to five weeks, and she's got to the stage now where, it's got to the point where she, you know, she's so frustrated and stressed that it's affecting her ability to produce milk.' 

And I think it all sort of culminated in, in that sort of me bursting into tears and saying, 'Oh, I just want to go home', that they realized, 'Oh, well, actually, you know, perhaps we ought to say, well, change tack.' But up until that point, though, they were sort of, 'Oh, no, you must be doing this every three hours, you must be doing this every so often.' And they didn't sort of give any options, 'Oh, why don't you just relax and not think about it for a day?' or something. You know, they would say, 'Oh, go to the canteen and have a nice lunch', but that was about it.
 
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