And so begins the worst day of my life. D returns from a nightshift and at nine o’ clock a girl from F’s nursery arrives to look after her while he sleeps; I am unable to sit up without vomiting, let alone look after a nearly three year old. He comes into me once he has settled F with the girl. I dissolve, sobbing and retching. I tell him I cannot do this any more. He looks devastated. He has barely spoken to me for three days – I know this is getting to him too. I ask him to ring the GP. He asks if I can wait until he has slept. No. I can’t. I have waited all night. I have waited for three weeks to see if things would improve. They haven’t. They are indescribably worse. He rings the ward. They insist on having a GP referral even though this will be my fourth admission in three weeks. He rings the GP, who rings me back. Yes, I tell him, I have stopped peeing, a sure sign of dehydration. He says he will arrange a letter that we must collect on our way in.
Tight lipped, D has gone to bed. Cruelly, I wake him and ask him to drive me. It is only five minutes. I cannot face the smell of a taxi, knowing it will make me vomit.
Downstairs a stranger is playing with my little girl. My daughter is agitated – does she know that something is happening? I hug her and tell her I am just popping out. I try to tell her I love her, but my mouth is weirdly furred up.
The ward is empty. I tell the midwife, all of whom I am on first name terms with now, that I cannot go on; that I am considering termination. I say the same to the young doctor who arrives soon after. She touches my shoulder when my eyes fill, and says, in a heavily accented and kind voice, “Don’t you worry my darling. I too terminated a pregnancy. It’s OK. It’s your life.”
It’s my life. This is a new concept to me. Surely motherhood means giving up your life – or part of it at least? I realise that actually I had just reclaimed my life, after the first hyperemetic pregnancy and post natal depression, had just established a relationship with my daughter that wasn’t haunted by the ghosts of nine long months of suffering, and a pretty traumatic birth. This pregnancy is jeopardising all the hard work we had done to get to this place, as well as my relationship with my husband. Not to mention my health. The way I feel I seriously do not think I will be around much longer to have a life.
The doctor has half a dozen attempts at inserting a line in my wrist, hand and arm. She too tissues a site and says that I am indeed very hydrated. Why is it so bad, I wonder. I have been eating a little and drinking two litres a day for a week, and have not had a huge vomiting fit since last Sunday. It does not make sense. The medics are only really interested in the vomiting, but the level of illness and dehydration is not directly related to the vomiting. There is something else going on I am sure but nobody knows what. The only way I can explain it is that my body is refusing to take anything. Finally she gets a line in but she cannot, no matter how hard she tries, get any blood out of me. I realise that she thinks I am quite poorly too. I feel appalling. I care about nothing but myself. Not the baby, not D, only F very distantly. I cry a lot. I cannot contemplate termination but I have to. If only to dismiss it.
Once the drip is in and an anti-emetic injection has been administered, I am left alone. I think. And cry.
Later the midwife comes into my cubicle and I tell her I am decided. This is news to me – my voice seems to be several steps ahead of my brain, but the relief washes over me. Maybe I am just trying out the idea, to see if I will be struck from on high, if people will recoil from me in horror. I tell the midwife I need to talk to D, to buy time to get used to what I have just said.
When D comes in later, with F in tow, we cannot talk properly but it doesn’t matter as he is not talking. He sits, tight lipped, shaking his head. He says nothing to dissuade me but he also says or does nothing to comfort me. I suspect he is annoyed that I will not be home tonight so he cannot do a nightshift. I do not care any more. I am so desperate, so bound up inside my own prison of misery and torment. I know this could end my marriage, but I also know that I would rather cope with that than this unremitting weakness, nausea, deterioration. It is not actually possible for me to think about anything except ending this hell. But I know that I have to force myself to think about this potentially life changing decision. It has to be right. For me, for D and F too.
My world as I know it, is ending. My husband may not be able to deal with what I am about to do and that could drive us apart. My happy family is breaking into a million pieces around me and I cannot bear it. The mental anguish is horrific but it doesn’t even touch the physical pain. I cry again and throw up. There is nothing else to come up – I wretch up the paracetamol they gave me earlier for the raging headache.
Twelve hours after I am admitted and started on fluids, a midwife manages to get a dribble of blood out of my arm. I spend the night in a dark room, on my own, watching the drip as it counts backwards from 1000. I have had dextrose and I have had potassium. I am now on Hartmann’s. It is a long night.
I know, from conversations I have had with the medical staff that it is likely I will end up staying in hospital for several months, if not the whole term, being fed through a line, conducting my relationship with my daughter in short visits. With no extended family on hand, D would have to apply for unpaid leave, or employ a live-in carer. So far he has refused to do either. What alternative was there for our little girl? My mind goes round and round, trying to puzzle out a solution to what seems to be an unsolvable problem.