We had a little break from #parentingscoop over the summer. However, we were back with a bang today as we have the wonderful Louise at Little Hearts, Big Love joining us!
For me Louise is a bit of a legend in the blogging community. She is one of the friendliest and does an incredible job of raising awareness of congenital heart defects.
Little Hearts, Big Love
Louise is a mum to two little girls. Her eldest daughter was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Her youngest is heart-healthy. She blogs about parenthood and life as a heart family over at Little Hearts, Big Love. She is passionate about raising awareness of congenital heart defects.
Tell Us About Your Pregnancies
Jessica’s pregnancy was quite straightforward in the first trimester apart from a bit of spotting around 6 weeks. I was nauseous until 12 weeks but not really sick and I remember having horrible trapped wind pain early on. The start of the second trimester was fine.
I had to give up tap dancing at 16 weeks due to having symphysis pubis dysfunction – although thankfully I had a fab chiropractor who worked wonders. Everything changed at the 20 week scan though when we found out that Jessica had a severe congenital heart defect called hypo plastic left heart syndrome – basically the left side of her heart was underdeveloped but this was also complicated by a restrictive atrial septum which meant her prognosis was particularly poor.
At 22 weeks we were told that Jessica’s heart condition was so severe that surgery after birth was unlikely to be an option. The doctor who gave us the news mentioned in-utero surgery which was being performed in Boston. He was quite dismissive of it as an option but we researched it with a view to going to the USA if necessary.
Thankfully our team in Oxford were willing to perform the surgery, having never done this particular procedure before. As far as we are aware, it was the first time it had been done in the UK. The surgery took place at 28 weeks and was successful. We were told not to get our hopes too high though – Jessica’s chances were still slim at best but we focused on enjoying the time we had with her while I was pregnant, as we were aware that that might be all the time we would have. I had regular heart scans for Jessica throughout the rest of the pregnancy to monitor her heart condition.
Sophie’s pregnancy was much more straightforward. I had no spotting this time although the nausea was worse and I remember the tiredness being quite intense in the first trimester. The SPD came back but was milder than it had been first time. We had a couple of extra heart scans which indicated Sophie was heart-healthy.
In the last trimester, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome which I found quite debilitating – not being able to write for more than a couple of minutes at a time was particularly frustrating. Otherwise though, my pregnancy with Sophie was quite smooth-sailing.
In all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed both my pregnancies, in spite of the fears and worries first time round. I loved the kicks and the feeling of growing a new life and it was quite honestly a joyful time.
What was your one essential item for your hospital bag and why?
Apart from the basics like maternity pads, nappies etc. my one essential item was a cool spray for my face – very useful during labour.
Did you pack anything you didn’t use?
With Jessica we were in hospital for four weeks. I don’t think there was anything we didn’t use. Sophie was a home birth so I guess I didn’t use anything from the hospital bag!
Where did you give birth? Did you have any complications?
Jessica was born at Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton. She was supposed to be induced at 39 weeks but I went into labour at 38 weeks and Jessica was born with the help of forceps. The midwife who was at the birth was one of my mentors back in my student midwife days which was lovely, although very surreal to be on the other side!
Sophie was a home water birth with two of my midwife friends (who I’d worked in partnership with as an independent midwife) welcoming her into the world.
What were the first few weeks like after giving birth?
We spent the first four weeks after Jessica arrived in hospital as she had open-heart surgery at eight hours old and another surgery at a week old. She was on the paediatric intensive care unit for ten days before being transferred to the children’s cardiac ward for another ten days. We were then transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for the last week before going home. It was a rollercoaster ride in many ways but we were so incredibly thankful to go home with Jessica as her prognosis had been so poor.
With Sophie I spent a week in bed being looked after and having lots of skin to skin with her. I remember the first few weeks as just being a bit of a haze of exhaustion though. She wasn’t the best sleeper as a newborn and we had one night where she woke just as we were about to fall asleep and then didn’t settle at all until 7.15am – by which time Jessica was awake. Thankfully she’s much better at sleeping these days!
Do you have any advice for new parents?
If you were to go through pregnancy again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I enjoyed pregnancy.
What is your funniest parenting story?
Where to find Louise at Little Hearts, Big Love:
My top picks from Little Hearts, Big Love
- This post gave me goosebumps: http://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/2015/07/14/what-it-means-to-be-a-heart-parent/
- I love this poem from Louise: http://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/2016/09/28/wishing-moments-away/
- A powerful account from Louise’s husband: http://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/2014/06/15/being-a-heart-dad/
- I remember reading this one some time ago, it is such an important post, especially for expectant mothers: http://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/2014/11/03/truth-20-week-scan/
- Louise runs a guest series too, check it out here: http://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/category/guest-posts/parenting-pep-talk/
Thank you so much for taking part Louise. It has been a pleasure to have you on the blog and share your family’s story. I have followed Louise’s blog for some time now, she works so hard at raising awareness of heart defect and balances these moving blog posts perfectly by including lovely stories and pictures of every day life.
Please if you have a moment, go and check out Little Hearts, Big Love.
If you would like to take part in this series then I would love to hear from you. Just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org