It was like everything had gone numb. I was sat here listening to the doctor tell me that my baby – who was currently in my stomach with a healthy beating heart – might not survive. I was in labour and I was 22 weeks pregnant. It was all too early but there was nothing the doctors could do to stop it. I was already 4cm dilated. This was happening.
“Not again, we can’t have this happen again,” I said to myself silently, cradling my bump. I prayed for a miracle, but with what we had been through before I had no hope. I was resigned to burying another one of my precious children. This was the second time we had suffered. We had been blessed to have our daughter Aisha, now 10 and then were over the moon when we fell pregnant again in 2013 with another girl. But it was not meant to be.
From early scans we were told there was a clot that was preventing her from getting everything she needed. At 27 weeks we went for a scan to be told she had died inside me. There was no heartbeat and at that time, I thought my heart would stop too. There is nothing that can ever prepare you for a moment like that. You become a mummy when you first get that positive pregnancy test and I’d lost my baby. I was induced a few days later and our girl Aaliyah came into the world as a stillborn on Mother’s Day. She was utterly perfect. I remember just cradling her, looking at her little face, so sad that we wouldn’t see her grow up. I’ll never ever get over her death.
It took me a while to get back to a point where I was functioning normally. Every day I’d wake up and realise she wasn’t there and I’d relive the pain, wondering what milestones she would have been hitting at different points. It took us a while to decide to try again and when we did it took me three-and-a-half years to fall pregnant. It felt like I was being punished all over again. Month after month it would be like a knife to the stomach when I realised I wasn’t pregnant. Disappointment after disappointment and I wondered if it would ever happen again for us.
Doctors were not concerned and looking back now I believe it was the grief and the stress that stopped us. But when medical experts are telling you to calm down and try to relax, it doesn’t happen. It just makes you blame yourself more. Luckily my husband Malik was incredible, he is my rock, and he has been there every step of the way. It was actually him last year who persuaded me to take a pregnancy test. I was late but kept putting it off and off because I was convinced I wasn’t and I just didn’t want to face the disappointment yet again. But when that positive result came back you could not wipe that smile from my face.
We were literally jumping for joy and our daughter was excited too, but she was also nervous about it going wrong. We had to appear positive for her sake and told her, “We take it a day at a time.” I was determined to enjoy this pregnancy as much as possible. Of course I had anxious moments, but scan after scan showed up as everything going perfectly. We passed the 12 week scan, the 20 week scan – all looked good.
We didn’t find out the sex and it was lovely, sat there as a family, feeling for movements together and coming up with baby names. I started to think this could be it for us. But of course that came to a halt.
At 22 weeks and 6 days, it all went horribly wrong.
I had a bleed and I called my midwife who told me to go straight to labour ward. They confirmed my worst nightmare. I was in labour, and because I was already 4cm dilated, they could not stop it. My heart sank. It was too early. The baby was ok inside me, we had done a scan and their heart was beating away strong as anything. But outside my womb, I had already been warned – there was little chance for survival. And even if they did survive, there was a high chance they would suffer a form of disability because they just were not ready to come out.
“It took me a while to get back to a point where I was functioning normally. Every day I’d wake up and realise she wasn’t there and I’d relive the pain, wondering what milestones she would have been hitting at different points.”
As I listened to all these statistics telling me basically bad news, I just sat there wondering why they were telling me. We couldn’t prevent it, so why make me feel worse? Surely we should just get on and hope for the best? I was admitted and the consultant at the hospital then started frantically making calls to try and get us into a specialist premature baby ward. He phoned hospital after hospital and eventually we managed to get me a spot in Swansea. I was transferred and I managed to keep the baby inside for a further two days.
Then my waters broke and the midwives and doctors gave me a final warning: If the baby comes out breathing, we will do all we can. If they don’t, we will not try and resuscitate. I thought I was going to have to watch another of my babies die. My labour didn’t even last two hours and I remember praying repeatedly: “Please be breathing, please be breathing.” And then she arrived, breathing. And the relief was overwhelming. They whisked her off, my perfect but tiny baby girl, to an incubator. She weighed just 1lb 1 ounce.
We named her Ayah – which means ‘miracle’ in Arabic, and we prayed for one. Every day was touch and go. She got infection after infection, and we battled through the first 24 hours, then 48 hours, then two weeks. I never left her side. The doctors kept telling me to eat and sleep but how could I leave her, not knowing how long I had with her? They told me that breast milk was her medicine, like liquid gold. So I threw myself into pumping, day and night. That was my job. If she was fighting, we were fighting with her. And our little Ayah was a fighter. She surpassed everything they expected and at 8 weeks she was stable. We were warned it would be a while before she came home and when she did she would probably need a feeding tube and an oxygen machine.
But she came home at 22 weeks old, weighing 9lb. She did it all by herself. My amazing girl. Now she is six months old and still doing so well. I thought I had lost hope when Aaliyah died, but Ayah – our little miracle – brought it back. By the grace of God, she is doing perfectly.
Story submitted by Anon