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Why this bowl of rice crispies meant so much to me! 

I came across this old photo from when I was pregnant with my oldest and thought it might help others to hear my story.  In 2011 I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and a low ovarian reserve, after trying and failing to conceive. After diagnosis I  had multiple operations to remove ovarian cysts before we eventually started on our IVF journey. Despite the hundreds of injections, constant blood tests and scans, we remained positive. To help me through my husband wrote a funny song about each stage which would give us a bit of a laugh. Eventually the day of egg collection arrived and as I came to, on the ward following the procedure, I could hear the women around me being told by the consultant how many eggs they had retrieved "18", "24", "12" but no one came to tell me. After a painful wait they informed me I had harvested a measley 4. The next day I got a call that I was down to just 2. Embryo implantation would usually be 5 days after collection, but I was told to go back the next day to have both implanted before we lost any more. It was our one chance as we would have no eggs in the freezer! The 2 week wait to take a pregnancy test was terrible, but eventually I cried happy tears on the bathroom floor, upon seeing a positive result. 2 weeks later we had a scan and were surprised to see two healthy heartbeats!  Unfortunately a few weeks later at 10 weeks  I realised I had lost one of the babies, but tried to remain strong for the little baby growing inside me.  From 18 weeks I had terrible SPD leaving me mostly bed bound at home, only able to go any distance in a wheelchair. My usual commute to the City, where I work in an investment bank, was out of the question, so I worked on and off from bed.  Then, from 21 weeks I started heavily bleeding due to grade 4  (major) placenta previa (when the babies placenta covers the cervix , meaning if the placenta has not moved and you went into labour you and the baby could be put in severe danger ). I found myself in and out of hospital. After another bleed at 25 weeks I was told I would be hospitalised permanently until the baby was born. I was not able to leave the labour ward even to get air or go to the cafe because if my placenta abrupted they had approxiamately 8 minutes to get the baby out alive (no idea why they actually told me this) as it meant I barely slept for the 6 weeks  I spent on the ward, incase it happened in my sleep.  You can't imagine what it feels like seeing over a litre of blood pouring out of you not knowing whether the baby you went through so much to get (emotionally, physically and financially) was dead or alive.  Following each bleed was a frantic rush to get me near the operating theatre and put on monitoring to decide whether early C-section was necessary, having been explained the babies survival rate at each gestation. I would then be hooked up for blood transfusion to replace the lost blood, put nil by mouth and on a drip.  This whole process happened about 10 times, each time my husband being called at work or in the middle of the night to rush to the hospital to be with me for potential emergency C-section.  The photo was a rare picture I have of myself during my pregnancy. It was taken about 3 weeks into my 6 week hospital stay, by my mum to celebrate, that after another almost 2 day stint nil by mouth, I finally got to eat a bowl of rice crispies (and that a cousin had posted me a funny hairband!).  I missed out on my baby shower, going to ante natal classes, even fresh air for weeks, or really any enjoyment at all during my much waited and longed for pregnancy and yet eating a bowl of rice crispies felt like the best privilege in the world.   Being on the labour ward (as I was too high risk to be allowed a private room) meant I saw hundreds of women come in and leave with their baby and I was still stuck there not knowing if I would ever leave with a baby, and all the worse having very little contact with the outside world. This was partly due to the lack of wi-fi or phone reception but also because anytime I did speak to a friend, as soon as someone asked me how I was I broke down in tears too devastated to talk about the reality of the situation. Instead, I focused on just getting through. I found routine in my days, became proficient in some of the monitoring machines (to the point where the medical staff let me operate them myself) and took up cross stitch as a welcome distraction. My Mum was amazing there with me every day as was my husband when he finished work.   At 31 weeks I awoke in the night to find myself in a pool of blood, having felt like I had contractions since the previous day (but being told it couldn't be possible) it turns out my waters had broken, I had had a massive bleed and an emergency C-section was required. Isabelle was safely delivered at 31 weeks.  Having a premature baby was another whole drama in itself. I spent a further 3 weeks every day by her side at the Neo Natal Care Unit.  Unfortunately mothers were not allowed to stay, which meant going through the awful pain of leaving my baby behind every night and going home, in the hope that she would still be safe and well in the morning. Isabelle proved to be a little fighter and to our delight, surprised everyone by being declared fit to come home at just 34 weeks. Despite coming home we still had to attend weekly ophthalmology appointments at the hospital, which would take the best part of the day as well as additional monitoring.  The whole ordeal was the worst time of my life but it taught me to appreciate the small things in life (your own bed, home cooked food and being in contact with family and friends) and also gave me the strength to get through the rest of life's ups and downs which I have been through since, in particular getting diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and having another premature miracle baby, Amelie. Isabelle and Amelie are now healthy 7 and 5 year olds who love dancing, fancy dress, and riding their bikes! I couldn't be more blessed.  So please live life to the fullest, appreciate what you have, ask for help when you need it and don't count the days but make the days count.

Danielle Shoffman

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