"Some time at the beginning of 2015, I was thrilled to find out that I was pregnant with my second child. I had experienced a miscarriage a few months ago, so I was hesitant about getting excited too early on. In fact, I took five tests before I actually came to terms with the fact that I was expecting.
I was only truly happy when I heard my baby’s heartbeat during the first ultrasound scan. But my happiness was short-lived because at week 11, I was hit by the results of the OSCAR scan – the risk of my little one having Down Syndrome was 1:289, which was considerably high.
I decided to take the Harmony test, which was a more accurate test for Down Syndrome ― we were extremely relieved to find out that the risk was very low, and what got us even more excited was that we found out we were expecting a boy!
When I was in my 22nd week I woke up one morning at 5am with a damp feeling in my underwear. I felt fluid flowing out of me and thought I was peeing. I slid my fingers down my underwear and brought it up to my nose for a sniff. It was then that I realised, to my shock and horror, that I was smelling blood.
I stood up and walked to my daughter’s room where my husband had fallen asleep to wake him up. By this time, blood was trickling down my legs. When we got to the bathroom, blood was gushing out continuously, some even in clot form.
Surprisingly, I was still calm at this point and was even considering washing the bathroom floor with water so that my husband would stop looking so petrified. I was telling myself not to panic, because any agitation or anxiety I experienced would only cause more blood to flow and might even bring on contractions.
I called my mum to ask her to come over and help me to watch my older daughter, who was 2 at that time. I then prepared to go to the hospital with my husband. When I realised I was still bleeding profusely, I decided that calling the ambulance might be a better choice. Probably for the best, so that I don’t stain the hubby’s car, I remember thinking to myself.
I suddenly felt a huge blob slide slowly from me and fall into my shorts.
Just as we dialled 995, I suddenly felt a huge blob slide slowly from inside of me and fall into my shorts. My heart stopped. Was that my placenta? Was it my baby? I touched it lightly through my clothes but I didn’t have the courage to check any further.
I started to feel faint and panic, but knew that this was not the time for me to collapse. I needed to be strong and awake for my baby’s sake. My husband brought me a chair, so that I could sit down and control my breathing. I took some sips of water and felt a little better.
The ambulance finally arrived. I had to go to the hospital alone as my mum hadn’t arrived, which meant that we couldn’t leave our little girl on her own in the flat.
Did her baby survive? Read on…
I was brought to the labour ward at the hospital. Everything seemed calm and peaceful ― there was no crying, panic or hysteria. The nurses seemed to be more concerned about cleaning me up, than on the bleeding.
When the doctor arrived, he asked me how many pads I’d bled through. I replied, no pads ― blood is still gushing out. I was then asked how much of blood, as much as two cups? I replied that my bathroom was flooded with my blood. They looked disbelievingly at me because my vital signs were still surprisingly good.
They did an ultrasound scan and thank goodness, my baby was still in there. I could feel him actively moving and his heartbeat was good. I heard someone say the words “pretty major”, and suddenly the nurses starting preparing me for a possible operation, plus a blood transfusion.
The information I was given at this point was:
· At week 22, the baby would not be able to survive outside the womb. Hence, if he was to be born at that moment, he would not be resuscitated.
· If the bleeding did not stop and my life was in danger, they would save my life instead of my baby’s.
· There is a risk of pre-term labour as contractions can be triggered by massive bleeding and this may cause a miscarriage.
While these thoughts were going through my head, I could feel my baby’s strong kicks and hear his steady heart beat through the CTG machine. My whole being was screaming, 'Give my baby a chance!'
If my baby was to be born at that moment, he would not be resuscitated.
Deep down, I knew the only person who could give my baby a fighting chance was myself. I had to hold him in. I needed to do it till the 24th week, at least so that the doctors would give my baby steroid jabs to help his lungs mature.
While waiting, I learnt that my mum had to go back to work, so my husband had to send my daughter to school before coming to the hospital, which meant several more hours of me waiting alone in the hospital.
Everything felt surreal. But each time I felt my baby kick, I believed that he was reassuring me that everything was going to be alright and cheering me on to do a good job at saving him. Eventually, at around 1pm, I was told that my condition was stable enough for me to go to a regular ward. I went for a scan ― my baby was fine and my cervix was still fully closed.
I later learnt that the bleeding had been caused by placenta previa major ― where my placenta was fully covering the cervix. Though I was discharged after three days, I was put on complete bedrest.
But unknown to me then, my days of hospitalisation had just started…
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Two weeks later, I was at my mother-in-law’s place. We moved there since she lives closer to the hospital. While helping out with dinner, I felt a sudden gush of blood. I rushed to the bathroom and found that I was bleeding profusely again. I called for an ambulance right away.
At the hospital, I was put under observation and thankfully, the bleeding stopped much faster than the first time. I got myself discharged (against medical advice) after two days because I wanted to be with my daughter.
This dramatic bleeding happened to me three more times, and each time I was admitted into the hospital. Each time, they would talk to me about preterm labour, and even tell me about the possibility that my uterus might have to be removed if I didn’t stop bleeding after delivery.
During each and every hospital stay, I was put on an IV plug to prepare me for an emergency delivery. It was a very difficult time for me as having the plug constantly in my arm was uncomfortable, plus it needed changing every three days. I also monitored by the CTG machine twice a day, to make sure that my baby was doing well.
The doctors advised me to stay in the hospital until I delivered my baby ― they told me about the risks linked to getting discharged. But since I insisted on leaving the hospital, they made me sign release papers.
I wanted to be home for two reasons ― I felt that I would be able to rest better there, plus the cost of staying in the hospital was getting too much. When I left I was given strict instructions to come in ASAP if I had any further signs of bleeding.
At week 33, I discussed my delivery options with my gynae. Because of my condition, I was strongly urged to have a C-section. Disappointed as I was at the thought that I couldn’t deliver my son vaginally, I knew the doctor knew best and prepared myself for the procedure by signing the papers.
A day before I was due for my C-section, I visited with a senior consultant, who after assessing my condition, said I might be able to do a vaginal delivery should I want to. When I jumped at the chance to do so, they sent me for a few tests first.
I realise how lucky I was, to not just have delivered my baby safely, but also come away with my life.
During my ultrasound scan, they found that my placenta had moved up, but my water levels were getting low. However, the doctors decided there was no medical reason why I needed a C-section, so we decided on an induction and a natural birth.
At week 37, in October of last year, I delivered my healthy baby boy, Ethan, vaginally after a short and smooth labour. Amazingly, my placenta was still intact.
The doctors kept telling me how life-threatening my high-risk pregnancy was. So when I think everything that’s happened, I realise how lucky I was to not just have delivered my baby safely, but also come away with my life.”
Priscilla Chua, a marketing executive, is mum to Ethan, 1, and Eva, 3.
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