In this day of digital media, apps and a news system that reports everything by the second you would probably like me have thought it's pretty difficult to keep anything secret. Our lives are published everywhere and we tell people everything.
Well somehow it seems that my crazy bonkers life where if it's going to happen it could really only happen to me has struck again!
We managed to keep a huge secret, we didn't even really do it intentionally and it's meant a series of peculiar facebook posts in the last two weeks with posts about hospitals and announcements on the Barks & Bunnies website about deliveries and not even the chance to update my own personal social media with my immediate friends and family many of whom were also completely unaware of what I am about to say below...
In January 2018 Leigh and I were delighted to find out we were expecting another baby, we were a little surprised too after all it took 5 years for Erica to arrive! After the initial shock our thoughts quickly turned to enjoying thinking of a sibling for Erica to play with (we always wanted her to have a sibling) and of another person to torment and tease Albie or Kizzie our long-suffering and amazingly tolerant dogs.
Early on we had a few stumbles, nothing terrible but just enough that it made me/us a little cautious in telling anyone other than immediate family. We hit the three-month mark and had another scan which showed everything to be absolutely fine.
Still, though I felt cautious, in fact for the entire pregnancy I felt something was not as 'whole' or 'complete' as when we were pregnant with Erica. I always had a nagging feeling that this pregnancy was different, a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle just didn't seem to click into place like they should have and even when we first found out we were pregnant in the very early weeks I turned to Leigh and said baby would be coming early, mothers instinct I guess.
Baby had a due date of September 22nd (although they first said September 15th) but I knew deep inside it would be earlier than either of those dates and everytime anyone who knew we were pregnant asked to be reminded of the due date I always said to them take it with a pinch of salt!
Long story short Leigh and I (actually to be truthful mostly I) kept finding reasons to delay telling people 'oh I haven't washed my hair I can't take a nice bump photo' or 'it's too busy today to take a good photo, let's do it tomorrow'.
The 20-week scan came and went, and everything was fine and we fully intended to tell people but again something held me back inside and still, we didn't say anything. Not a word to anyone.
By now keeping Barks & Bunnies going was becoming hard, I was exhausted, the pregnancy was making me more tired than I had ever experienced and looking after Erica along with everything else left little other time to just relax but still we plowed on. The summer of 2018 was one of the hottest we have ever had too, temperatures regularly in the high 30's throughout July which sapped all my energy even further.
As with Erica, I grew a tiny bump so at one of my later midwife appointments around 30 weeks they requested a growth scan. Right, this is it I thought, growth scan and then we tell everyone. By then I will be about 33/34 weeks and even if I am right that baby is coming early and have this odd nagging feeling about things we know our baby is really well developed and happily kicking away at my ribs!
So the growth scan came and was absolutely fine, no problems with our baby at all, I just grow small bumps! Our scan was a Monday and my birthday the following day, Tuesday. My birthday was a lovely sunny day and we went into our garden to finally get a 'bump photo' to share with everyone so we could have that happy announcement moment that so many people these days seem to do.
Yet we ran out of time to get our lovely bump photo off the camera and the next day Leigh felt poorly followed by a very busy day packing orders and before we knew what had happened it was Friday night and I had felt incredibly unwell all day getting Braxton hicks that were far too strong to be Braxton's but also not regular at all to be labour pains.
Fast forward through a weekend of feeling poorly and at 1.37am on Monday 20th August 2018, I woke up pain tearing through my back with full contractions that I recognised so well from when we had Erica. Every 6/7 minutes for 4 contractions but then immediately down to every 3 minutes and after two of those, straight down to 2 minutes. Our baby was coming, and coming fast.
We somehow managed to get to the hospital and this is where the story becomes long, painful, outside the realms of what you believe could actually be real and put life completely on hold for 2 weeks.
Our second baby was born naturally without intervention at 35 weeks on Monday August 20th in the early hours weighing 4Ib 13oz and I am delighted to say that now after almost 2 weeks as I am able to write this that our baby girl is a happy bundle of wonderfulness.
Baby has spent all her days so far in NICU while I was restricted to my own hospital bed. Some sort of protocol appeared to dictate that I had to be separated from my new baby and so within a couple of hours I was told I couldn't be with her.
What followed for baby was a brief 24 hours spell on a CPAP in her first few days along with some help feeding, but she soon pulled the equipment off herself and is currently doing really really well with no complications at all (everyone keeps saying how feisty she is!).
Her arrival was unfortunately followed by a catalogue of mistakes for my own care which resulted in me experiencing a traumatic birth that I wouldn't wish on anyone, the worst flare of my Ulcerative Colitis that I have ever had and a mild cardiac event resulting in a 4/5 day stay on a coronary care ward hooked up to an ECG which arose as a complication of factors over my treatment that were all interlinked.
As I sit here typing this I myself having been separated from her at various times for various reasons have only spent a few hours in my baby girls company and she is now almost 2 weeks old! Speaking with some of the staff they've said they aren't aware of any other mother and baby who have been backed into such a strange corner where they have been separated for this long in duration and even now I'm not sure quite how much of the separation was really required or could have been avoided/worked around in a more managed way. I just know we did everything we could to spend as much time together as could with everything that was happening.
Some days I spent from almost 9am until 3pm talking to doctors or having various tests and x-rays done and in between that I was trying to rest and get better along with getting to see my daughter and understand what on earth was actually happening. I was getting more disorientated and confused almost with every hour that passed, partly due to the length of my hospital stay, but mainly because of the actual medical conditions themselves and all of that was further exacerbated by the medication.
I have spent 12 days in the hospital since giving birth and was finally discharged late last night with a number of doctors agreeing I really had been through enough and that for my own wellbeing recovering at home was the best option. As many medications as possible have been changed to oral so that I no longer need an IV drip and together we all hope that being home surrounded by everyone I love that we can get this show back on the road and where it was meant to be. It does mean we have to navigate our way through taking about 20 different tablets a day at different times which is a little confusing at times but nothing a good pill box sorter won't fix!
Leigh, Erica, Albie, Kizzie, Libby Chuzzlewit and Mummy are all now reunited at home at last - just one more person needed at home with us where she belongs and then we are complete.
So what does this mean? Well.... we would like to thank everyone for your patience while we got your orders posted as quickly as we could, Leigh has worked incredibly hard to keep everything going while caring for me, visiting our newborn in NICU, caring for our 2-year-old Erica along with everything else you can imagine life demands. Both our immediate families have also been amazing helping us look after Albie, Kizzie, and Erica too. We couldn't have managed it all without them.
I have been at home for 12 hours now (and even had a shower!) and it's currently 8 am on Saturday morning.
I somehow can't believe that not only did we manage to keep the entire pregnancy secret but that there are even many people out there right now who have no idea that 2 weeks ago we had a second baby!
Life has some mysterious twists and turns to it and my mother's instinct seems is still right on form knowing baby would be born early and absolutely knowing she would be a girl too just as I did with Erica - it's those internal strong feelings that I now plan to wrap myself up in surrounded by the warmth and love of our family.
We didn't buy anything for baby until I was about 33 weeks and even then it was just a mixed set of 5 babygrows in white (although I knew what colour to buy really, just didn't quite dare!) but they are all normal newborn size so we have no teeny weeny clothes, baby has no toys of her own, no cuddly toys, no flowers, no balloons, no banners - literally nothing.
Perhaps being at home with some retail therapy and a serious amount of online shopping will be just what the doctor ordered!
I plan to turn our home into a princess fairycastle, fairy lights will be hung everywhere, beautiful pink heart banners and as much 'girl' as I can manage. Well Leigh will have to do it all really as I am too exhausted and unwell recovering from everything but I'll be a great director for him!
As soon as I can get the doctors to let her! Baby girl needs to show she can feed with us at home in an amount the hospital are happy with but with everything that we have been through we are hoping that everyone will see sense and let her home with us today. In addition to which I exclusively fed Erica until she was 15 months old and having been separated from new baby girl for so long now I need to be with her to give myself even a fighting chance to be able to breastfeed her, it's already going to be incredibly challenging for a number of reasons and there isn't any time to waste!
I'm so low in energy to fight now but it's time to bring this story to an end and start a new chapter so I will give them every reassurance they need in terms of her feeding and weight, she is the most precious thing in the world and as a family we aren't going to do anything to put her at any risk, in fact the NICU is less than 5 minutes drive from our front door!
UPDATED details and a name reveal can be found here!