2018 was a Massacre!
My first blog post!!
If I really think about it, I reckon I’ve wanted to write a blog since about 2006. Did I ever do it? No!! Why? The usual bullshit reasons you tell yourself why you can’t do something…i’ve got nothing interesting to say…no one would read it anyway…who do I think I am writing a blog and expecting people to read it…people would judge me…and my old favourite - I don’t have the time!
So why now?
Well, I’ve had a complete shitter of a year and I’ve got a lot to say!!!
I’m writing this on New Year’s Day 2019 and it seems appropriate to write a little something about 2018…aka the year everything got fucked.
I started the year living in Cambridge, a partner in a law firm practising family law, mother to a two year old and hoping to add to my family in the near future.
I’ve ended the year unemployed, back living in my old hometown in Wales, having suffered a devastating miscarriage and having nearly lost my life through various miscarriage and gynaecological complications.
But, despite feeling so lost I couldn’t recognise myself and feeling terrified that I would bleed to death and leave Delilah without a mum, I’m happy. Not jumping for joy, grinning from ear to ear cliche happy, but happy all the same. Happy I’m alive, that I have my husband and daughter, that I have an amazing family who helped me when I needed it the most, and happy that this new year is finally here and I can file away all the bad memories from 2018 and start putting into action all the fun things I want to do this year.
So, you’re probably wondering what the hell happened last year? Just to give you a heads up, this post gets gory. You may not make it all the way through. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!
I should explain that I was, and still am, a lawyer. It’s something I’d wanted to do since my school days and I’d worked hard to get my qualification. In 2008 I landed my dream job at one of the best divorce law firms in London and I absolutely loved it. My boss was amazing, the work interesting and challenging, my colleagues were fun and I spent my 30’s living the single London lifestyle I’d always wanted to.
Everything changed in 2016 when I became a mother. Delilah was born in January, 3 days after my 36th birthday and I fell in love.
The only problem was I had to go back to work when she was 12 weeks old. I was the main earner and we simply didn’t have another choice if we wanted to pay the mortgage. But I hated it. Jon, my husband, took shared parental leave so he could stay at home with Delilah and raging jealousy burned inside me. I felt trapped by my success. Becoming a Mum was all I’d wanted for years. Several awful relationships meant that that hadn’t happened yet but Jon was “the one” and, after a truly perfect and wonderful pregnancy, I’d finally become a Mum and I felt contentment and happiness that I’d never experienced before. But just 12 weeks later, I’m back in the office. I went back 4 days a week with Fridays off, which was better than full time, but I just didn’t want to be there. I completely lost my law mojo and felt indescribable resentment that Jon was able to stay home with our baby when I felt it should have been me.
Thankfully, I had a word with myself and realised that we were actually lucky and I eventually gave up my feelings of resentment, although that wasn’t easy. I realised that I was grateful that Delilah was able to spend that time bonding with Jon, which is more than most Dads would get, it felt better than putting her in nursery so soon, and she would also have a Mum who she could be proud of one day. During that time I was still the one that got up in the night with Delilah, got her up in the morning and fed her and changed her bum; I wanted to do it. Then when I got home I would immediately take over and do the bath and bed time routine, something I know Jon wishes he could have done if the tables had been turned. Then on Fridays and the weekends I was able to do everything, including dressing her and taking her out in the buggy to the baby groups that Jon wasn’t interested in and which I loved.
In May 2017 my year of 4 days a week ended and I was back to full time. Urgh. But it was at this time that I had been approached by a firm in Cambridge who wanted me to join as a partner. I thought I’d given up on the idea of making partner. But the idea intrigued me. It would be the measure of my success and something I thought would make me happy. The approach also came at a time when I was already selling my flat in London and Jon and I had decided that we would move further out of London in any event and the idea of Cambridge appealed to us. It felt serendipitous at the time but unfortunately turned to to be ‘too good to be true’.
I got the job and in one week in June I’d exchanged on my flat, handed in my notice and signed a lease on a rental house in Cambridge. We were so excited. We moved from a one bed flat in East London to a four bed house in Trumpington Cambridge, the nicest house I’d ever lived in and I couldn’t wait to move.
The transition from Assistant Solicitor to Partner, however, was much harder than I had anticipated it would be. I had been assured that I could practice in the same way that I had been doing for the previous 9 years successfully in London and that I would have a much better work life balance as they valued family life and I could work more flexibly. All of this was music to my ears and something I needed as a working mum.
Those first 18 months of Delilah’s life had been tough juggling stressful work and a new family and I was looking forward to working more intelligently and flexibly whilst being able to give Delilah more of my time. So, with those assurances, I expected the transition to be fairly seamless.
Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case. The promises of continuity of practice didn’t materialise. Maybe I was naive to believe I could do things the way I had always done them? The flexibility was also an illusion, given freely to others but not to me and the clique too strong for me to be a part of. In the end, I had to leave.
It’s not how I wanted things to work out but, if I’m truly honest with myself, looking back I didn’t want to be there. They weren’t my people and it was simply the wrong fit. And that happens. You can never be everyone’s cup of tea and there’s no way of knowing if something will be the right fit until you give it a go.
So in March 2018 life changed overnight. But in April it got worse, much worse.
In February we started trying to conceive and were successful straight away. We were both utterly elated. With Delilah we weren’t consciously trying and when we found out, we were in utter shock, completely unprepared for what was about to happen but excited all the same. But this time, knowing what to expect and being pretty confident that we would be able to cope, we were both just so happy and relaxed. The joy on Jon’s face when I told him was spectacular.
When I left work I was 6 weeks gone and up to that point had been doing fine. But I had a small bleed that week and another a few days later. I’d been checked out by the EPC but they said there there was nothing they could do, I just had to wait. I asked for a scan but was refused, saying that it was too early at 7 weeks.
I was terrified that I would lose the baby. And, at the end of April, I found out that I had. At my 12 week scan I was told there was no baby. It had stopped growing at the 6/7 week point, the time I’d had the bleed, but the sac had kept growing, which is why I had continued to feel pregnant. The morning sickness and exhaustion I had been experiencing was essentially a lie, a cruel joke my body was playing on me.
Leaving that hospital no longer pregnant was indescribable. I felt anger like I’d never felt before. I wanted to rip heads off. I fell apart. I cried. I wailed. I watched Friends to try to forget about it. And then I told Jon to get Delilah out of nursery early as I needed my baby.
I somehow managed to keep things together when Delilah was with me, but the minute she was asleep I cried. I had never felt so lost in all my life. I had no idea how I was supposed to carry on living my life. Poor Jon didn’t know what to do or what to say.
When the lease was up on our house we left Cambridge. I just couldn’t live there anymore. The memories were too painful. So where to go?
My parents still live in the town I grew up in and, with my Nan’s house empty as she had recently passed, we took refuge there. This was never in the plan. I left when I was 18 in 1997 and didn’t think I’d ever live there again. But seriously, when shit hits the fan, it can truly save you to go home and be surrounded by people who love you.
The move and settling in was fine. There was lots of interest as to why I was home, which was to be expected in a small town, but everyone was very welcoming. Jon got a job almost immediately and he’s been keeping the wolf from the door and, rather than being the breadwinner, I’m now the stay at home mum. I’m sure this won’t be forever but I’m certainly enjoying spending more time with Delilah than I ever would have had we remained in London or Cambridge. I see it as a gift.
Delilah goes to the playgroup that I went to, and even my father went to, and she plays with the children of my old school friends. Definitely not something I ever thought would happen but a genuinely lovely outcome of our situation. The best thing is that Delilah is learning Welsh and it melts my heart to hear her speak it.
But after settling in nicely and getting Delilah started at nursery, my health went haywire. With absolutely no warning, one evening, as I was sat down I felt a sudden ‘whoosh’ inside and then a wet feeling. I ran to the toilet, blood dripping down me. I sat on the loo for at least 20 minutes whilst blood pissed out of me. Where the fuck had that come from? I assumed it was the last of the miscarriage and that things would finally normalise so I wasn’t overly concerned once the blood had stopped. I had had a very bad time with the management of my miscarriage (a blog post for another time) so that wouldn’t have surprised me.
Thankfully, the bleeding stopped and I was able to get off the loo but there followed a 6 week period with heaving bleeding for at least 3 weeks of those 6. I took myself off to my new GP to fill him in on what had been happening and I was referred to the gynaecological unit at the hospital and for another scan, the worry being that there was still some retained tissue from the miscarriage which was causing the bleeding. The scan, however, showed nothing other than fibroids which I knew were there. So I was just told that the likely explanation was heavy periods caused by fibroids. I always thought that was weird as I'd had the fibroids since before getting pregnant with Delilah and they’d caused no bother pre-conception or during the pregnancy, aside from the fact that their positioning meant I had to have a caesarean section. Then after her birth my periods went back to normal almost immediately and they didn’t cause me any grief, until the miscarriage.
Three weeks after the scan that same ‘whoosh' feeling happened again, so now it was no longer a one off. I was now getting worried. Apologies but this is where it gets gory.
Over the next month I lived in fear of bleeding. And I’m not talking about the slight fear you have when you’re not sure when you might come on and you want to wear something nice or go swimming, I’m talking about the inability to leave the house for fear of bleeding in the middle of Tesco, bleeding which is not stopped by tampons or pads. On a few occasions the ‘whoosh’ actually pushed my tampon out as my vagina erupted with blood like Mount Vesuvius! When it starts there’s no stopping it. I even had to cancel my driving lessons as I simply didn’t know when it might happen and I didn’t want to ruin the instructor’s upholstery! It got to the point where I was sick of the sight and smell of my own blood and waking in the night in a pool of it.
You may be wondering what the medical professionals were doing about this? I had my gynaecologist appointment booked in for 12th October and this bleeding was going on around the latter part of September. However, things escalated when I had to call an ambulance. I’d never actually called 999 before and it was a strange feeling calling an ambulance for myself. But on this first occasion I was home alone with Delilah first thing in the morning. Jon had already gone to work as he does an early shift. I was downstairs having breakfast with Delilah before taking her to nursery when that familiar ‘whoosh’ (stupid word I know but I cant think of another way to describe it) happened. Another blood stain on the chair and another rush upstairs to the toilet. My hand was understandably at my crotch trying to stem the flow and when I moved my hand to lift the toilet seat blood sprayed all up the walls! FFS!
I was bloody petrified (pun intended). I called my mum first and she told me to call the paramedics. They came within 10 minutes but I had to get off the toilet to let them in! More blood spattered on the carpet.
The paramedics were two lovely blokes who were probably a little shocked to find me in that state at the start of their shift. My mum actually works with the wife of one of them and he later told her it looked like they’d turned up to a massacre!!
They took me to our nearest A and E department which is an hour’s drive away. The doctor decided that I needed a hysteroscopy, which is where they insert a camera into the womb through the vagina to see what’s causing the bleeding. In the meantime I was given some medication intravenously and monitored and was then allowed to go home that afternoon with the operation booked for 1st October and given more medication to take at home.
All that happened on a Thursday, but by the following Monday morning I was back in hospital again. This time though I had passed out. Again it was early morning and Jon was in work. This time the whoosh feeling woke me up, already in a pool of blood in bed. I ran to the loo and sat there while the blood poured. But then I started to get hot and clammy, my breathing got faster and shallower and I got that weird feeling in my head like when you stand up too quickly.
I don't remember anything else after that until I heard Delilah calling ‘Mummy!’ from her bed in a very distressed state. I then realised I was on the floor and couldn’t move. I have no idea how long I was blacked out for but I’m guessing Delilah had been calling for a while and was getting upset that no one was answering her (only now, 5 months after transitioning into a ‘big girl bed’ has she started to get out of bed herself without calling for us first).
I called her to come to the bathroom and when she saw me on the floor amazingly she didn’t panic or cry, she just said ‘Mummy there’s blood everywhere again’. I asked her to go to my bedroom to get my phone, which she did after finding it and unplugging it from the charger. I was then able to call the paramedics and my mum as well as call Jon’s work to get him home. Delilah then got me a pillow for my head as I was uncomfortable but couldn’t move, and she sat with me and held my hand while we waited for my mum. She was an absolute star and my hero.
I was taken to hospital again and this time I stayed overnight while being monitored and given the IV drugs again. I also must have seriously smacked my head on the sink when I passed out as I was sporting a massive painful purple and yellow bruise on my face. They dosed me up on the blood meds, the aim being that I not bleed for the next week until I had the operation.
Thankfully it worked and I had a short respite prior to the op. I was seriously bricking it about the operation. I was terrified something would go wrong and I would end up with a hysterectomy or die. But thankfully it all went fine and the doc said my womb was looking good with no protruding fibroids meaning getting pregnant should be fine.
I then saw her again on 12th October and she diagnosed me as having Dysfunctional Utrine Bleeding. I was given no explanation as to why this was happening to me as basically they don’t know. I was given three options as to how to deal with it (1) Get pregnant: this would stop the bleeding as it normally would during a pregnancy and the hope was that my body would just sort itself out after the birth. (2) Put in a merina coil: this would stop the bleeding but also stop us conceiving as it’s a contraceptive. She suggested I do this option while I get my strength back for a few months and then take it out. (3) Hysterectomy. No thank you.
For me options 2 and 3 were a straight ‘No’. All I wanted was to get pregnant again so having a doctor tell me the solution to my problems was to get pregnant was music to my ears. Jon, however, was having none of it. He wanted me to go private and get a second opinion. Also, sex was basically the last thing either of us wanted to do, especially since I was still bleeding AND the added complication of not being able to take the medication I needed to stop the bleeding once I conceived! Fucking nightmare.
Anyway, I needn’t have worried about making any decisions as exactly a week later I was back in hospital and everything was out of my hands.
I had bled again Friday morning and that evening but I dosed up on the tablets and thought it was safe to go to bed. Nope! One hour later I woke up swimming in my own blood again. This time, as it happened at night, Jon was with me. He witnessed me fall into the blackout and says that my eyes rolled back into my head and my whole body started spasming. He was so scared that he thought he was witnessing me have a stroke and that I would die in front of his eyes, poor thing. By the time the paramedics arrived over an hour later all had calmed down but the cautious paramedics took me in anyway. Jon stayed behind with Delilah and I was expecting another routine visit. Um, no.
When the paramedics transferred me from their gurney to the hospital bed it felt like the whole of my insides had fallen out. I mean, so much blood! I started panicking, this time it was bad, really bad. I started feeling the familiar ‘pre-blackout’ symptoms and thought I’d pass out again but they tipped the bed upside down and gave me oxygen and that kept me present. The next few hours were a bit of a blur but I remember thinking at the time that I wasn’t in a good state as there were lots of different people working on me, all doing different things and all talking to each other in clipped tones. At one point I heard someone shout down the phone ‘Get gynae down here now!’.
I was given morphine (which sent me loopy - I was convinced I could hear music through the oxygen mask), put in a catheter and then told me I had to go to theatre urgently. I had to sign the consent form allowing them to give me a hysterectomy if they needed to to save my life. At this point I asked the nurse to call my Mum to come. I was literally praying to the angels to keep me safe.
The nurse called Jon to tell him what was happening as he had no idea it had turned serious. I spoke to him on the ride down to theatre and just remember telling him to let Delilah watch the old Pink Panther cartoons in the morning as we’d watched some that day and when I put her to bed she asked to watch some more.
Prior to the operation I spoke with my doctor, who I think had been called in especially to operate on me. She asked if she could put the coil in which we’d spoken about the previous week and, given the state I was in, I said yes.
When I came round after the operation the anaesthetist immediately told me that I still had my womb and that they’d put the coil in. I could breathe again.
When my mother came to see me in recovery she said I was yellow and looked worse than my Nan on her death bed. I needed my mum to be there with me. She’s a machine in a crisis. Never loses her cool. She didn’t freak out (at least not to my face) and just sat with me and held my hand while I fell in and out of sleep. Her calmness in the face of the scariest night of my life allowed me to just let go and not worry.
I spent the rest of the weekend on the ward and was given 4 pints of blood. Mum left in the afternoon and took over looking after Delilah so Jon could visit.
A doctor came to see me and said that the minute the coil was put in the bleeding stopped immediately and that it was miraculous. When I asked him if the bleeding would start again when the coil comes out he said they just don’t know. Great!
As each new medical professional came to see me they all said how much better I was now looking and I started to get a complex but then Wanda, one of the nurses, sat me down and explained that I’d been in a very serious condition, they had a crash team on stand by in case they lost me! Um, what the fuck??
So, things got a bit hairy. But, I didn’t lose my life or my womb and the bleeding stopped. Having time to think about things I realised that my desire to get pregnant after the miscarriage had been an obsession and that the most important thing was to get well so that I could be healthy for me and Delilah. Having another baby is still very much the goal but the coil will be in for a few months and then when I do have it out I have to wait and see if the bleeding starts again and hope that we just get pregnant asap.
2018 was, to put it mildly, a fucker of a year. I’ve felt more sad than I’ve ever felt, more anger than I’ve ever felt and cried more than I ever had. I’ve lost so much and have had to learn to be someone new. By nature I’m a planner. I have clear goals and I achieve them. 2018 has seen all my plans go down the shitter and for months I was a quivering wreck not knowing what to do and the not knowing slowly driving me insane. But after my fairly close call with death I’m more philosophical, willing to trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing and that everything will work out for the best. Rather than get stressed about the not knowing I’m trying to embrace it and just go with it. Things could be a lot worse!
So here’s to seeing the back of 2018 and hoping that 2019 will be full of health, happiness, success, new skills, challenges accepted and smashed, adventure, finding our forever home and adding to our family.
If you’ve read this far, thank you! I hope I didn’t put you off your cornflakes. Please feel free to add any comments as I’d love to hear from you about your 2018.