For Suzette Price having a baby was a long held dream, and one that she feared might never come true. On a Christmas holiday in Spain, pregnant with her first child, Suzette’s fairytale ending very nearly turned into her worst nightmare.
SETTLED BACK in her London home, chatting about her beautiful daughter, Honey, and meeting other mums through the NCT it’s easy to imagine that Suzette’s path to motherhood has been plain sailing. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Ten years ago Suzette was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, and although she longed to have children, she had been forced to face the possibility that it might never happen to her. However, in July 2007 she was delighted and surprised to discover that she was pregnant.
“I was 36 when I found out that I was pregnant, and I’d wanted a baby for so long I was really worried that something was going to go wrong.” For peace of mind, Suzette paid for private care and monthly scans to monitor her baby’s progress.
In December 2007 Suzette and her partner, Richard, were planning a short trip to Spain to visit Suzette’s parents. Two weeks before they were due to set off Suzette had a scan and was reassured by her midwife that everything was fine, her baby was growing well, and was likely to be over 9lbs by the time she was full term.
Richard and Suzette, now six months pregnant, travelled to Spain and spent Christmas with Suzette’s parents. They had planned to fly back to London on the 27th, but at 1 am on the day they were due to return, Suzette woke up to find that something was wrong.
“I thought I’d wet myself! Richard was laughing and telling me to go to the toilet. When I stood up there was water dribbling down my leg and I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Suzette phoned her midwife back in the UK and was told to come straight in to hospital. When Suzette explained that she was in Spain her midwife told her to find a hospital there.
“Richard took the phone,” Even six months later Suzette is struggling to hold back tears at the memory of those terrible moments, “I didn’t realise what was going on. I think I was in denial, and Richard was trying to protect me, so he didn’t explain everything.”
‘Suzette was whisked off to Valencia in an ambulance. Richard wasn’t allowed to accompany her and she still wasn’t sure exactly what was happening. ’
Suzette was whisked off to Valencia in an ambulance. Richard wasn’t allowed to accompany her and she still wasn’t sure exactly what was happening. It was three hours before Richard was allowed to join her in the hospital. They were told that Suzette was likely to go into labour and that she should rest there and try to delay it for as long as possible.
In hospital in Valencia Suzette managed to hold on for seven days, but on New Year’s Day the water changed colour, which meant that there was an infection. The doctors had to weigh up whether it was better to allow the baby to be born, or to try and keep her inside for as long as possible, despite the infection.
In the end Suzette’s body made the decision – she started to have contractions. She was wired up and given anti-contraction drugs intravenously to try and stop the contractions.
“After a couple of hours the contractions stopped for half an hour, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. But then they started again.”
This time there was nothing that could be done. Suzette, who had been planning to give birth privately at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, was about to give birth, twelve weeks before her baby was due, hundreds of miles from home and in a country where she couldn’t understand what the medical staff were saying to her. As if this wasn’t enough, the Spanish approach to childbirth was somewhat different from the treatment Suzette had been expecting in England.
“I was taken into the delivery room, hoisted onto a bed by two men, and my legs were put into stirrups.” The situation pushed Suzette to the very limits of her endurance. “I felt guilty about Richard, because, although he was with me, I wasn’t really there. I went very quiet and I had to go deep inside myself to find inner strength. I could hear a baby crying, but I didn’t want to look at her. I was in shock.”
It was Richard who brought Suzette back out of herself. “I heard him saying “It’s ok, she’s crying, she’s waving her arms and legs.” Then they put Honey onto my shoulder and she was perfect. She was just like an ordinary baby, but in miniature.”
Honey weighed 3lb 2oz at birth, a good weight for a baby born so prematurely. She had to be put in an incubator and was on a ventilator, but although she had jaundice and had been infected by the streptococcal virus, she responded well to treatment for both and made good progress. After ten days she was able to come out of intensive care.
Richard had to go back to London, and Suzette and her parents rented a flat in Valencia so that they could be close to Honey. “Richard came out at the weekends. He felt bad that he couldn’t be there to see all the changes in Honey, and that he missed some of the milestones, but he had to work.”
On the 9th of February, still only the equivalent of 34 weeks gestation, Honey was allowed to come out of hospital. “I was terrified,” says Suzette, ”In hospital Honey was still wired up to monitors and I was worried that we wouldn’t know if something was wrong.” Suzette was advised to keep Honey away from any possible infections, so she and Richard decided that it would be best if Honey and Suzette stayed on in Spain. “My parents’ house is near the sea, and with all the fresh air there it seemed like a better place for Honey than London.”
On the 10th of April Suzette and Honey finally came home. Richard flew over to collect them. He and Suzette had only been in their London house for a couple of months before they had gone to Spain and Suzette was preparing herself for all the work that still needed to be done at home. But, after everything she and her miracle baby had been through, nothing would be good enough for them but a fairytale ending.
“When Richard took us into the house there was a huge pink ‘Welcome Home Honey and Suzette’ banner and each room was full of pink flowers and balloons. While we’d been away he’d finished everything.” Suzette is welling up with emotion. “He’d decorated Honey’s nursery – and it was beautiful. I had a brand new bedroom too with a little white crib for Honey, and he’d changed all the light bulbs so that the house was bathed in a pink glow. There was pink champagne in the dining room and there were little presents for each of us everywhere. It was like coming home to a perfect dream house.”
Three months on, Suzette and Honey are now well established back at home. Having not had a chance to celebrate when Honey was born, they’ve been busy catching up with friends and relatives, “Honey’s developing well and it’s been wonderful seeing everyone and introducing Honey to her English grandparents. We’ve had lots of visitors and presents and Honey’s got so many clothes it’s been hard finding time for her to wear them all!”