When childbirth isn't that joyous occasion we all hope it will be.
One of our lovely members, Rym, tells us her traumatic and personal story about the birth of her children - this moment should be full of joy and wonder not fear and anxiety, or worse still, mourning.
Childbirth should be a cause for joy and celebration - not fear and anxiety, or worse still, grief and mourning.
The day my firstborn daughter Laya came into the world should have been the happiest day of my life. Instead, it was the scariest. I was faced with life-threatening complications, having had a partial placental abruption, and had to go to the operating theatre for an earlier-than-planned delivery, with my life and that of my baby on the line. I was admitted to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital A&E, 18 weeks pregnant, haemorrhaging, and at risk of going into early labour - or worse still, dying if the bleeding wasn’t controlled. The sheer amount of blood and the fact I could not feel any movement inside my womb was terrifying.
We managed to keep Laya in my womb for a few more weeks, thanks to Mark Johnson (the obstetrician on call that day), his team at CWH, and, I sometimes feel, some divine intervention. We had no certainty about whether the pregnancy could go to term, or if the baby would survive. Every minute of every day was crucial for her survival.
Thousands of women go into premature labour every day, and I know that I was one of lucky ones – Laya was borne on the 21st February 2012, eight weeks early, and I got to take my 4.4lb baby girl home after a few weeks in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). The next stage was not without its issues – from jaundice and breathing problems to the constant struggle to get Laya to gain weight – but, in light of the bigger picture, these were minor. I felt blessed to have my child home with me. She is now a bright, very active 9-year-old who fills my existence with love and joy, and I could not imagine life without her.
My next pregnancy, 18 months later, with twins, seemed to be smooth and healthy. There were no signs that I was high risk, and I hoped again for that joyful, exciting experience that childbirth should be. Sadly, I didn’t get my wish.
Once again, I went into labour early, and once again my life – as well as the lives of my twins – was at risk. I had lost six times more blood than an average delivery in a very short space of time, and it took a whole week to control the haemorrhage - after which my body was so weak, I contracted pneumonia and was having difficulty breathing. I was incredibly fortunate to have access to a blood bank and life-saving medical care – care that kept me alive, and meant that I was eventually able to take my twins home with me. I couldn’t help but think about other parents who are not as fortunate as I was. What happens to them and their babies?
I also struggled with the fact that, with both pregnancies, I didn’t know why I went into labour too soon. Why didn’t my babies stay in the womb until they were ready for the world? Why were both my childbirth experiences filled with fear and panic? Why me?
I never got an answer to these questions.
Borne is a medical research charity that invests in pioneering research to advance our understanding of premature birth. They work to find answers, improve care, and nurture talent in this underfunded and overlooked area of research.
Professor Mark Johnson, the charity's founder and the obstetrician that delivered my babies, says: "Far too often, I have seen first-hand the trauma and upset that preterm birth causes. The most frustrating thing is that we simply do not know enough. Borne was founded to advance our understanding of pregnancy and birth so that we can stop babies being born too soon - everywhere and forever.”
Premature birth affects some 60,000 babies in the UK, and 15 million in the world, each year. It is not only the leading cause of childhood mortality, but also the cause of lifelong disability - not to mention the emotional scarring and financial implications to our society. Yet it still remains misunderstood and unexplained – like me, almost half of all mothers who deliver preterm do not know why.
If you are in a position to give to charity and are looking for a positive and purposeful way to do so, I hope you’ll consider supporting Borne at their Annual Charity Clay Shoot on July 1st. Hosted at Purdey’s Shooting Club, The RBSS in Pangborne, Berkshire, this will be a fun-filled day in support of a wonderful and important cause. There will be coaches on site, so the day is open to everyone – whether you are a keen shot or a complete novice! – and will include lunch and a special auction. After a difficult few months for us all, this is the perfect way to come together and raise funds and awareness to prevent premature birth – everywhere and forever.
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Grapevine also believes in supporting young people to get a strong start through internships and work placements. We also help a number of charities including Heads Together and The Injured Jockeys Fund.