I feel very odd at 6 a.m. Palpitations, pounding heart, very light headed and I am still lying flat. I mention it to the midwife who says that tests from last weekend show I have a thyroid problem. She gives me a temazepam. I feel very shaky, slightly hysterical, but recall the advice of another midwife the previous day who had stressed that I needed to present a rational image of myself, as terminations need to be approved by psychiatrists. I make a huge effort to stay as calm as I can under the circumstances.
Blood tests from last night reveal hyper-thyroidism and I am put on beta blockers along with the three anti emetics, vitamin K and whatever else is going into my line. When a thyroid doctor arrives to examine me he finds the beginnings of a lump in my neck.
A couple arrive on the ward, to be induced. I overhear them talking about their two year old at home with grandparents and feel gutted with jealousy, resentment and grief. Why do other people pop out new babies so easily, grow them with the ease of a tomato plant, not always noticing at first, and then sailing through pregnancy, blooming and buoyant, with legions of grandparents on hand willing to drop everything and help out?
I spend the rest of the day lying still, fighting the nausea and trying to nibble on the sandwich I am brought.
The Obstetrics and Gynaecology registrar arrives. He is the man I need to see for the termination. He needs to agree to it. I want to curl up and die with embarrassment – I saw him in clinic following my emergency endometriosis operation the previous year. He is pleasant but follows protocol in saying I need to see a pregnancy counsellor in a GP clinic across town before he can sign the forms. It requires two signatures, one from a psychiatrist. I feel myself start to shake, tears at the ready, and stutter out that I can’t get to a clinic across town – that if I could I would not be in a hospital bed. That the reason I am asking for termination is because I cannot get out of bed, let alone get to a clinic on the other side of town for a chat with a counsellor. At once I am struck with the fear that he will think I am mad, the midwife’s warning echoing in my ears. I need to be rational. I blurt out a half solution – I can get my counsellor to come in to the hospital if that would help?
He says I need to leave it with him, but he doubts it will be this week.
I tell him it has to be this week. He leaves.
I slump onto my pillows and cry. I have not spent the weekend in total torment, destroying my poor husband, contemplating losing my much longed for baby, to have to wait another week before I can feel better. I waited until I hit rock bottom before I even dared to utter the word “termination” – but now that I am here, and have made the most difficult decision of my life, I have to get on with it. It feels like there is a cancer inside me, draining away my energy and resources, killing all that I hold dear, alienating me from my husband and daughter, poisoning me and my life, slowly killing me. They cut out cancers to save lives and that is how I see what needs to happen next.
The registrar returns in 15 minutes.
“Wednesday,” he says.
“I see the counsellor on Wednesday?” I ask, perking up.
No, I am booked for theatre for Wednesday. But….I frown….two signatures?
Only for termination for social reasons, he explains. My termination is a medical necessity, he says, so his signature is sufficient.
I could kiss him. I feel overwhelming relief that he recognises how ill I am; that I am not just a pregnant woman who doesn’t like being sick. I will be home for my darling daughter’s third birthday next weekend, able to celebrate with her, and not stuck in here for the rest of the pregnancy, which was the only alternative anyone could see if I did not terminate. The fear of my daughter not having her mummy around for eight months of her life, at this tender age, was unthinkable. I will be able to return her to the life she had before I fell pregnant. That – and the end of this debilitating, degenerating nausea and wasting away is something to celebrate. I know however that I will grieve for the rest of my life over this decision, over the impossible solution to the problem we find ourselves faced with as a family. But I also know that living with that guilt, the anger, for the rest of my days, is preferable to continuing with this battle I am currently, on a daily basis, losing.
A new midwife comes on in the afternoon. They have all been truly wonderful and this one is no exception. She places my bell in my lap and says that whatever I want, at any time, I must ring for her. I spend several hours alone. The fight has gone out of me. For over two days I have been gathering my strength to cope with this momentous and so very sad decision. The end is reached and I go over and over my decision. I am quite exhausted with thinking. But still I continue to think and to examine the arguments from every angle. By six o’ clock I have had enough. Three days of being alone in this bed, of being ill, of being strong, searching my every experience and cognitive facility for the right answer. My head feels like it is exploding. My heart is in pieces.
I ring my bell.
The midwife comes. I ask her, could I possibly have….a …. please…sorry to bother you……chat, and then I burst into tears.
She does something amazing. Without knowing it, she does what I most need. She gives me a hug. A genuine one. A long one. I know I smell – the hyperthyroidism has seen to that. I cry and cry and cry. I realise that I have had no physical contact over that long, awful weekend. And I am so horribly, unremittingly lonely.
I terminated at 9 weeks and was already suffering from Severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I had lost 13 per cent of my body weight in three weeks, had ketonuria, developed hyperthyroidism, was at risk of Wernicke’s and was immune to all of the oral anti emetics available. I am certain that had I not terminated I would have had to stay in hospital for the duration of the pregnancy. I am not convinced that the baby would have survived to lead a healthy life – new research has found a link between HG and developmental issues which was not known about then. I am certain that we will one day have more idea of what it was that caused my extreme illness, but until then I urge everyone who hears of anyone suffering with SHG, to offer a helping hand if you can.