I have recently had an online conversation about Tristram's problems when he was born. Strangely I was mostly unaware of his difficult start despite him having a very low Apgar Score and having to undego emergency resusitation.
Having had three large (all around the 10lb mark) healthy boys previously while not on epilepsy medication Tristram was my second pregnancy while on sodium valproate. I had become pregnant just after starting the medication but sadly miscarried after the third month. I remember it clearly. I started bleeding on the day of Princess Diana's death. I had to go into hospital for a D&C and was watching the funeral in the hospital ward during my recovery. It should have been quite traumatic but I remeber being fairly pragmatic and assumed that miscarriages happen for a reason. I was a little sad but not distraught. Just four months later I was pregnant with Tristram.
It was a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy, apart from the normal morning sickness that was familiar to me, and I was healthy and sailed through each month. I even started a Further & Higher Education teaching course and my first lecture was on stress management to a group of midwives when I was eight and a half months pregnant! The only difference with this pregnancy is that I didn't get so big and I went into labour a couple of weeks before the due date instead of my more usual overdue time of nearly three weeks with my eldest boy. Standing and moving around until the last half hour I suffered very few labour pains and his delivery was textbook.
I burst into emotional tears when he was laid onto my tummy and cuddled him to me but it wasn't long before the midwife took him from me and said he needed 'cleaning up'. I wasn't told there was anything wrong and I had no idea that anything was different. Even when the Doctor came in and they were both working with Tristram I was unaware of any problems. I vaguely remember being warned that he might be a little floppy when he was born due to my medication. That was it. I was told nothing else. I assumed he just needed a little oxygen and attention to help his lungs function properly while he came out of his mini fog.
I remember thinking that it was taking a bit longer than normal and so I asked for my baby. The midwife brought him to me and I tried to breastfeed him. He seemed too weak to suckle and the midwife felt inside the roof of his mouth to see if there were any deformities. There was nothing so I just assumed that because he was small (under 5lbs) and probably suffering the effects of my epilepsy medication he was too tired to feed yet.
The following days I stayed in hospital and it was soon decided that Tristram had jaundice so needed to be put into a cot with special suit which meant he could receive his light treatment at my bedside. Feeding wasn't the normal easy ride. He struggled to suckle and we had to top up his feeds regularly. I remember regularly sitting on the side of the hospital bed expressing milk so that staff could feed him while I slept. I was encouraged to sleep at nights to make sure I didn't have problems with my epilepsy over lack of sleep. My extended stay in hospital (three weeks) meant I had to be treated for the start of a thrombosis in my leg. It was all starting to feel a bit personal! I knew that I wasn't allowed to take Tristram home until he was up to 5lbs so I was sort of settled and had even got used to the staff shifts!
I have to say the hospital staff at Scunthorpe General were lovely and I cannot complain about about my stay. They were very supportive and friendly. But I was getting fed up and wanted to go home. I assumed that things were difficult because Tristram was early and a small weight. I was vaguely aware that he would have my epilepsy medication in his system but I had no idea that he wouldn't be fine after his period of 'cold turkey'.
Finally the day to go home arrived.
At that stage I had no idea how poorly Tristram had been at birth and I wasn't going to have any suspicions about him being on the autistic spectrum for another 9 months. And even then I kept it to myself for quite a while because I wanted to be sure...