March 27th 1993...it’s almost twenty-one years ago now, but I can remember that day like it was only yesterday.
I was six months into my pregnancy with my first child. I was so excited about becoming a mum. Up until now everything had gone really well. I was fit and healthy and my little bump was growing by the day. Every little flutter that I felt made me feel warm inside. This was my little ray of sunshine. A new chapter in my life was about to begin. Everything seemed perfect. I had so much to look forward to. My heart was bursting with love for my baby. In fourteen weeks I would finally get to hold my little bundle for the first time. This was truly the most precious gift that I would ever receive. I felt blessed.
On Friday 26th March I had gone to work as normal. I had a nice little job in a small family run printing firm. I was going about my daily tasks. Around mid-morning I felt a very sudden sensation as if I was going to wet myself. I ran to the toilets but didn’t quite make it in time. Initially, I felt quite embarrassed and hoped that nobody had noticed, but the embarrassment soon turned to fear when I realised that my waters had broken. There was an extreme amount of fluid falling from me and it just wouldn’t stop. I had no control over what was happening. I began to panic. I was scared. I got quite hysterical and began screaming. My bosses’ wife Muriel came running in and tried to reassure me that everything would be ok. She called for an ambulance and within minutes I was carried out on a stretcher and taken to hospital. When we arrived at the hospital I was taken straight to the labour ward. This raised my level of panic to another dimension. My body was trembling. My palms were sweating. I felt dizzy. My heart felt like it was in my throat. The one thing that wasn’t present was any labour pain.
I was taken into a small room. A midwife came in and explained what was going to happen. I was told I needed to be examined to find out if my cervix was dilated and if it was, then it would confirm that I was in labour. In the mean time the hospital would contact my partner so that he could get to the hospital as soon as possible. I also wanted my mum. I needed her to be with me. I somehow felt very small, even though I was soon to be a mother myself.
My partner arrived in no time at all, as did my mum. Shortly after their arrival the midwife performed the examination and was very pleased to tell me that I was not in labour. My cervix had not dilated but my waters had definitely broken. She explained that I would need to stay in hospital to be monitored as it is quite dangerous for the baby when there is no amniotic fluid surrounding it. She explained that the fluid protects the baby from infections and also helps the baby’s lungs and digestive system to mature. Ideally, I would need to remain in hospital until I was at least 34 weeks pregnant. That would mean 8 weeks away from my family. It was like I was in some kind of dream. A couple of hours ago I was at work, just a normal average day, and now my life was turned upside down, but it didn’t matter. As long as the baby was going to be ok, staying in hospital was just a small sacrifice to make in comparison to the baby coming to any harm. So I resigned myself to the fact that the hospital would be my home for the next couple of months.
The early hours of Saturday morning, March 27th 1993 I woke up with a dull ache in my back and tummy. I was rocking from side to side, trying to ride the pain. I called for the nurse and she told me that I was just suffering from a little bit of cramp. She told me that she would run me a nice bath. “You’ve had a lot of anxiety in the past 24 hours, you just need to try and relax now, everything is going to be fine.”
Maybe she’s right I thought, but this doesn’t feel like cramp to me. I explained to the nurse that the pains were increasing but she was adamant that I should have a bath and try and relax. I followed her instructions and climbed into the bath. The hot water did nothing to reduce the pain. In fact it got worse. The pains were coming fast and strong like tidal waves. As one dispersed, another one would ascend upon me. I pulled myself out of the bathtub and tried to towel dry myself, which was pretty pointless as I was dripping with sweat. I practically crawled back to my bed and called for help. The nurse that had sent me for a bath looked concerned. She could obviously see the pain that I was in. Then another two nurses arrived with a wheelchair. I was put in the chair and rushed off to another room. It said on the door, Delivery Suite. Pretty soon the room was filled with bodies and white coats and I was in a state of shock. After undergoing a very uncomfortable examination I was then told that I was in full labour. The baby’s birth was imminent.
The paediatrician from the special baby unit explained to me that when the baby was delivered they would have to take him/her straight to the intensive care unit. Because he or she would be very small, probably little more than 1lb, there were likely to be complications. He also let me know that they had contacted my partner and he was on his way. In the meantime, he said I needed to push with each contraction as the baby was getting tired and distressed. My body went into fight mode. I pushed and pushed and prayed and prayed that my baby would be ok.
9.16 am baby Ryan was born, weighing 2lb 7ozs. Although he was tiny, he was actually twice the weight that they expected. I was only allowed a quick glimpse of him before he was whisked away in a little incubator. As soon as I saw him I instantly fell in love. He was perfect. The strong bond and the unexplainable emotions I felt for him were out of this world. He was my beautiful son, my little ray of sunshine.
My partner got to the hospital in record time, but not quick enough to witness the birth. He was disappointed, but like me, he just wanted the best for Ryan. We were given regular updates of his progress throughout the morning and then by mid-day we were allowed to go and see him in ICU. We were not prepared for all of the monitors and wires covering his tiny little body and the tubes in his nose and mouth. He looked so fragile. The nurses were fantastic though, and they explained what every machine and wire was for. We were told that we could touch him and maybe later in the day have a little hold as they were really pleased with his progress. I slipped my hand inside the incubator. His tiny hand gripped my smallest finger. I wonder if he knew that I was his mummy. I stroked the side of his face. His skin was soft and downy. He had beautiful rosebud lips. The wires and the machines seemed less significant now. All that I focused on was my little man. I was already planning a wonderful future for us. There was nothing that I wouldn’t do for my Ryan. Now he was here, I couldn’t ever imagine life without him. His daddy was absolutely smitten too. The rest of the family also came to visit but only mums and dads were able to be in the special care baby unit. We took some pictures on an instamatic camera so that everyone could see how gorgeous he was. The family stayed at the hospital though and we met them in the cafe with regular updates and photos after our visits.
As the day went on, we were able to visit Ryan for about 15 minutes every hour. I wanted to be with him all of the time but the nurses explained that it was not possible. There were other poorly babies in the intensive care unit too, and procedures had to be followed. I understood. At least he was doing well and in no time at all I would be able to hold him. That is what kept me going.
Early evening approached and we were due to go and have our next visit. One of the ward nurses told us that they were not ready for us and that they would come and get us in due course. I started to feel a bit panicky. My partner tried to reassure me that if anything was wrong they would have said so, but I could see the concern on his face too. Every minute seemed like an hour. I wanted to go and see my little man. I still hadn’t held him. I was yearning for him. My heart actually hurt when I wasn’t with him.
The telephone rang on the reception desk. The nurse that took the call frowned. She looked over in our direction. I tried to make out what she was saying, but her voice was little more than a whisper. My heart was beating out of control. I felt like I was going to pass out. I needed to be with Ryan, I needed to know that he was all right.
The nurse disappeared and then returned with a man in a suit. He looked very important. They walked towards us. He introduced himself: he was a doctor from the neonatal unit. Then he led us into a side room on the end of the ward. He offered us a seat but I stood and stayed by the door. I didn’t want to listen to what he had to tell us. I felt like running yet my legs had turned to jelly. I couldn’t get my breath. He started speaking to us but I couldn’t hear him. Everything sounded muffled. I tried to focus on his face but my vision was blurred. I looked towards my partner. He was holding his head in his hands. The doctor walked towards me and placed his arm around my shoulder and gently guided me towards a chair. I felt so fragile. He held my hand. “I’m so sorry to have to tell you that little Ryan is not going to make it through the night. We were very hopeful that he would be in with a good chance of surviving. He’s a lot bigger than expected for his term but unfortunately in the last hour he has rapidly deteriorated. We’ve done some tests that have confirmed that he has Group B Streptococcus. That’s the reason why your waters broke yesterday. His little body is just not strong enough to fight it...”
Ryan’s final moments were spent in our arms. The wires and tubes and machines were removed. I asked if the rest of the family could be with us. I wanted him to know that he had a family that loved him. The nurses rallied around and made sure that everyone was there. We also had him baptised. I was still hoping and praying that God might let me keep my baby. But it was not meant to be.
At 9.16 pm, March 27th 1993, Ryan took his last breath. He was 12 hours old. This was the happiest and saddest day of my life.
Jackie Iveson, Ryan’s mummy