An unexpected and eventful pregnancy ends with an unexpected surprise! This mama takes us along on her exciting journey as she brings her second child into the world. 

An Unexpected Pregnancy

December 5th 2011: Sinterklaas. I was late, but I’m never late, even after the delivery of my first son, 9 months before. It had taken more than three years to get pregnant the first time. I only have one ovary left; one was removed because of cyst & endometriosis. After the birth of my child, I had been very sick every single month making me think that my endometriosis had maybe started again and was getting worse. In October my doctor sent me for a check-up at Sint Lucas, where I had an echo and spoke to a gynaecologist. I didn’t get any concrete answer as to why I was so sick, but they assumed that it could be endometriosis and they advised me that I should either start taking the pill or get pregnant again. Since we wanted to have a second child and it had taken so long to succeed the first time around, they advised us to start trying. They gave us the green light even though it wasn’t yet a year from my first c-section. We followed the advice, though not very actively. The chance of a pregnancy was there but was so very tiny!

I decided to take a test that evening before everybody arrived to celebrate Sinterklaas. Negative. Made it downstairs just as guests arrived and didn’t think about it again. December 6th and 7th came and went, both without any sign of my period. Together with my husband and son I took a new test first thing on the morning on the 8th of December (which in Catholic belief represents the day of “Mary immaculate conception”), the three of us sat on the bath waiting for the time to pass. It was the kind of test which lets you read the result in words: “Zwanger”. We read it a few times in disbelief! I was happy, but I would only fully believe it after seeing the foetus during the echo and hearing the heartbeat. We had to wait till January 6th for that, but it was there…I was expecting our second baby! Total happiness, even though I had some concerns about how close it was to my first son, considering that it had been a very tough year, adapting to life changing motherhood and grieving the loss of my dad at the same time.

Unexpected Complications

As my belly grew my first son’s understanding did too, and he started touching my belly very sweetly and said “baby”, when I asked him who was in there. Physically I had been mostly fine, though my HB level was always very low, making me really tired and giving me headaches. At around week 30 my HB was so low that my Italian uncle (blood specialist) recommended an immediate transfusion to avoid risks for the baby and me, also because I have Mediterranean Anemia with small red cells (meaning my blood already transports reduced amounts of HB). I was so upset. If there was one thing I didn’t want, it was a blood transfusion. Luckily, however, the Dutch gynaecologist didn’t think it was necessary at this point preferring to be able to do a transfusion closer to the birth, if at all. I was relieved! Now we could enjoy the 3D echo that we had booked for the day after. At least so I thought. Instead, the echographer had to quickly disappoint us, saying that it wasn’t really possible to see the baby because the placenta was laying in front of him and quite low. She was sure I had a placenta previa marginalis and asked us whether this was not already noticed during 20 weeks echo. We all agreed it was strange since I had a medical 20 weeks echo at the VU.

While I had been doing everything up until a few hours before that echo (including flying back from Italy three days earlier), I went instantaneously into “I shouldn’t move from the couch” mode. It was actually then that I came across the Amsterdam Mamas group. I was asking other mums for their experiences, and one of them told me to join the Facebook group since “they seem to always have an immediate answer for every question”.Immediately a few mamas started sharing their experiences and their success stories and it made me feel better. I had more echoes done and the placenta kept moving down instead of up until it became “complete”. Despite wanting to have a natural birth this time, we had to schedule a c-section for the 8th of August.

Unexpected Turn of Events

July 12th at the end of week 35: Since I was totally tired of being home waiting for something to happen, I decided that I could go out. My husband agreed to drive me to a mom’s group in Amsterdam. My mum was arriving later, so we decided to first drive to the airport to pick her up. As we arrived and parked outside waiting for my mum, I felt I needed to stretch my legs and get out of the car. As I got out, I felt an amazing warmth between my legs and exclaimed, “my water broke!”. My husband thought I was kidding and said “really?!” over and over again, to which I replied, “yes, yes, quick, take a picture before my belly shrinks!” Obediently he snapped a photo and then said, “Shouldn’t you check if it is really water and not blood instead?” Excellent point, why didn’t I think of that?!? One look and we knew that my water didn’t break, I was having a haemorrhage right there at the airport. While I repeatedly called my mum to see where she was, my husband called 112. They advised that I should lay flat (which I did in the car reclining the front seat) and then kept changing their directions on what to do next until they finally concluded we should drive to the nearest hospital. We were also facing a dilemma – should we wait for my mum or let her take a taxi (without her speaking a word of English or Dutch and not even knowing which hospital we were going to go)? Adding to that was the fact that my mum was supposed to watch our 18-month-old son while we were in hospital. Eventually, my mum made it out with her luggage, had to climb over my reclined seat and squeeze herself in the little space left between me and our son’s car seat.

Just after we had left we were called and asked to stop, since the ambulance was arriving. However, in the Netherlands, the ambulance cannot take people to the hospital unless police come and check on the scene first. So as we stopped on the side of the highway, the police arrived. And that was the moment my 18-month-old son woke up to see his Italian grandma squeezed between him and his mum, our car on the side of the highway with lots of cars going by, a police motorbike in front of our car and a police man and woman both reaching into the car. The police woman put on blue mono-usage gloves, leaving me to wonder what plans they had, and then asked me sweetly, “Hoe voel je je? Wat hebben wij hier?”. I was then carried onto a stretcher, while the paramedics were discussing how serious the bleeding was and which hospital we should drive to, VU which was closer or Sint Lucas where I was being monitored and had previously delivered. I really wanted to go to SL, but the paramedics decided there was no time to take the risk. So off we went to the VU, only to be refused because their baby post-natal care was full, and being forced to drive further to Sint Lucas.

I can’t fully recall all the thoughts and emotions I experienced, as I lay in the ambulance, but I was worried, as I didn’t feel my baby moving. While riding in the ambulance they couldn’t do anything; I was expecting echo, heart monitoring, first intervention, but all they did was to prepare a needle hole in my arm. I kept praying and repeating the yoga mantra “ik ben rustig”, breathing deep in and out to calm me down.

Finally, at Sint Lucas, I was taken into a delivery room ,coincidentally, the same one where the delivery of my first son had started. They immediately did a very thorough echo, which seemed to take ages before they finally confirmed the heartbeat was there and the baby was fine. For a few hours it still seemed as if they were considering an emergency delivery, but then eventually the haemorrhage stopped and they decided not to intervene.

They hospitalized me and the following morning during the doctor visits, the very same gynaecologist, who during my first labour 18 months before had told me, “sorry things aren’t going how you planned, so we can’t go ahead with your birth plan, you need an emergency section now!”, told me with the very same with a smile: “We have thoroughly discussed your case with the other doctors and we cannot let you go home. We believe that your placenta has nestled into the scar from your previous c-section. It will require a special c-section to deliver your baby, which we prefer to plan in and do with the right doctors instead of sending you home and then you having to come here again in an emergency. So we will keep you here, give you a hormone to help with your son lungs’ development. We will plan a blood transfusion for you and then do a c-section at completion of week 36…say next Wednesday? How about that?” Once again asking me as if I had any choice or saying in it. I had to stay a week in the hospital. It felt like a long time to be away from my first son, but we managed with daily visits until he got a double ear infection and we had to Skype instead. Two days before the operation, I received a blood transfusion, and the evening before the birth, the gynaecologist who was going to operate me visited and explained how the operation would take place considering the placenta complications.

An Unexpected Celebration

On July 18th at 8:22 I gave birth to my second son, on my birthday. It was quite a strange feeling and a mix of emotions, a virtual connection to my mother delivering me 34 years before, and surely a unique way to celebrate my birthday! The operation went smoother than expected. I lost very little blood and my new son, who was also at risk since they needed to cut through the placenta to reach him, didn’t need any of the blood they had prepared in advance. I was able to hold him for a few minutes (during which the hospital took a photo of our family), before they had to take him away for further tests. In the meantime, they completed my operation and then kept me under observation for an hour or so, all the while I could look at two photos of my new son, which they had printed for me. Finally a few hours later, I could hug my new son again and get started with breastfeeding. At only 36 weeks, he was very small (only 2,235 gr) but very healthy, only requiring incubators for a few hours to help maintain his temperature.

Two days later my first son had recovered enough from his ear infections and could come and meet his baby brother for the first time. So there we were, me and my whole family cherishing this special moment, when an unfamiliar woman walks in the room with a big bag in her hands. She was an Amsterdam Mama responding to my post earlier that day in the Facebook group asking if anyone in the area had baby clothes size 44. I cannot describe how much that gesture meant to me. That day it was exactly 10 years since I first arrived in the Netherlands to start an internship. 10 years before I had experienced loneliness, as I knew no one here, even my family didn’t even know where exactly in Amsterdam I was. Now instead I was surrounded by the love, warmth, and support of my closest family and that included Amsterdam Mamas! Thank you K. and thank you AM all for being there!

 photo credit: dMad-Photo via photopin ccjaime22 via photopin cc

Rosaria Cirillo

Rosaria is an Italian, energetic and enthusiastic mother of two boys, married to a Dutch man, living in the Netherlands since 2002 and founder of Wow Now. She is a driven customer experience professional on a mission to get companies to design and deliver WOW life-enriching customer experiences! You can read her professional blog WowNow and her personal blog.