Group B Strep awareness: our story again

July is group B strep awareness month so I thought I would re-share our experience of group B strep below, with a few edits:AntibioticsOur daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

Back in November 2015, I gave birth to a ‘healthy’ baby girl. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and would be fed my expressed breast milk by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first two years, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. So far her check ups have revealed that she is developing normally. Every milestone that she reaches – smiling, rolling over, giggling at her brother – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation that our daughter was born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. The group B strep support website provides some of the following information. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects”. There is a one in 300 risk that a baby will develop group B strep if its mother is carrying it. Group B strep is the most common cause of infection in newborn babies, however many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it, that it was life-threatening or that you could be tested for it. To have the test done privately it costs £35, however the test would cost the NHS £11 and could provide it at no cost to pregnant women. One of my friends actually got tested after we announced on facebook that our daughter had been born and had group B strep. As well as the support website, there is a petition to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not necessarily cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. Plus all of the antibiotics potentially unnecessarily being pumped into pregnant women in case they pass group B strep on… There is a helpful section on the NCT website about this here.

Well after months of pondering, I have signed the petition for women to be tested. Even now, 7 months later, I still think about what happened. I am so grateful that our daughter seems to have come through it unscathed but I know other women will lose their children to group B strep. If we can stop that from happening, let’s try.

Original post published 16 March 2016

Our daughter and group B strep

Apologies that it’s been so quiet over here lately. I’ve been rather busy being a mum of two – we had a little girl at the end of November!

I wrote a draft of this post a few weeks after she was born but was too scared to post it. It’s very personal and there are areas of debate about it, but last week a friend encouraged me to share our experience and another friend admitted they hadn’t realised how serious the situation was. So clearly it needs to be made more public. Here goes…

Our daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

I had a quick labour and much better birth experience than with our son. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and needed to be fed by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Since then we have been adjusting to life as a family of four. It’s incredibly stressful at times and incredibly incredible at others. Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. I struggle to talk about what happened. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first year, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. She has already had one check up which went well. Every milestone that she reaches – her first smile, her first giggle, kicking her legs, looking around the room when she hears a voice – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation after our daughter being born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

So there you go, that’s what happened and that is why I haven’t been blogging lately. I hope to blog occasionally about the random things I used to blog about!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects” (from GBSS website). The reported facts differ but it doesn’t appear to affect many babies per year (300 on one website, 700 on another!). Many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it or that it was life-threatening. There is a support group and there is a campaign to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. It is routine in some other countries to test pregnant women but this hasn’t reduced the incidences by much.

Given my baby girl was affected by group B strep, you might think I’d be out there lobbying for all pregnant women to be screened. However, I can see where the NHS is coming from. I know that might sound awful because I know that babies get very sick if they get group B strep and some die. Really, I know! It pains me to say it because if I had been tested, my daughter would never have got poorly. But I don’t know the way around it. Private testing is available but there doesn’t seem to have been enough research on group B strep, or not enough available. And it’s definitely not a well-known illness.

I absolutely endorse the support groups for trying to get more information and research. And I’m definitely not against testing!

Waiting

So this is what it’s like hanging around waiting for a baby to arrive.

Yes, I’m still here. I’m not even due for another week but our son was already 10 days old by now. We had honestly thought he would arrive late and nowhere near moving day so I never did any waiting around for labour to start. Which means I feel like I’m overdue.

So last week I was twiddling my thumbs a bit. I have been prepared for the baby to arrive for a while and the things I tend to think of to keep me occupied are often too physical and tiring. I obviously have a small boy to keep me occupied the majority of the time which helps, but there are those moments when he’s pushing Thomas around the train track for the umpteenth time and my mind wanders onto ‘where is this baby?!’ Perhaps the baby has realised that if it stays inside, it can ‘eat’ gelato. Well, the gelato cake is all gone now!

There are two sides to everything, of course. Whilst baby is inside, I am getting a good amount of sleep and spending time one to one with my little man, even if sometimes that means watching TV having cuddles because Mummy doesn’t have the energy to do anything else (having cuddles is a huge thing actually because he has only become affectionate in the last few months!). I have time at the moment to do things like baking and catching up on TV. But baby being outside will mean, after a couple of weeks, more mobility for me and no more waddling.

When baby is outside, though, sleep will become a distant memory. And how is our son going to react to sharing Mummy and Daddy with a tiny person who requires a lot of attention? Beans on toast will probably become a regular evening meal and shop bought cakes may well become the norm for a while. Plus I’ll wish I had all the hours I have now to do things I want to do or need to do. But we’ll have our baby!

All of this means I am quite up and down emotionally at the moment. I know, that’s also called ‘pregnancy’! But after a weekend of being a bit poorly, today my energy returned and whilst our son was at pre school I was (comparatively) very productive – I did some washing, vacuumed the house and put dinner in the slow cooker. I didn’t rush around doing these so I don’t imagine it will encourage the baby to make an appearance, but it has been really nice to feel a bit more like me. Productive me. Albeit still waddling.

I’d still love for the baby to come sooner rather than later. Our son was only tiny when he was born but caused a lot of damage, so I’m very aware that every day the baby stays in, it is getting bigger. I need to learn to be patient, trust God more and keep myself occupied. And enjoy all the things I can still do before baby comes.

Pros and cons

We’ve been in our house for about 2 months now. It’s gone really quickly!

There are so many good things about living here. And, of course, a few bad things. We discovered a fox den and leaks amongst other things. And the lights in the bathrooms show up the, ahem, lighter hairs on my head. But focusing on the positives is definitely the way forward!

Parking on our driveway is such a huge blessing. Mainly because I am now that – huge. We get junk mail! I know, it’s annoying but we now get things like the weekly newspaper through our door, full of interesting stories… And we’re part of the residents association “for the greater good.” Ironically one of the things that a lot of people, ladies in particular, are fussed about is the kitchen but I wasn’t really that bothered. We’ve always had a modest (a.k.a. small) sized kitchen so I’m used to working with limited work surface space. And yet the kitchen here is crazily big. And I still only use a limited amount of the work surface space when cooking!

One thing I’ve really noticed is that I feel so much more relaxed living here. I hadn’t realised how stressed I’d been in our old place. Perhaps I was starting to think we wouldn’t move before the baby arrived. I don’t know. But I definitely feel more chilled here.

Hubby has a long to-do list and there are all sorts of things we won’t get round to doing for ages. For example, we’d planned to decorate the living room before the baby arrives. We finally bought some paint samples last weekend but we’re not actually going to decorate until after the baby arrives. I’m too tired and there are other things that are more important that need to be done.

It’s really nice feeling ready for the baby to arrive this time, too. The Moses basket is up in our bedroom, clothes are washed, hospital bag is packed. So different to when our son was born! This baby has been told to stay put until hubby’s 30th birthday celebrations are over, but after that I’ll be 37 weeks and baby can come whenever. I wonder if this baby got the memo? Our son certainly didn’t!

Baby expected

In the next few weeks I will be having a baby!

I’m due in just over a month but our son arrived early so who knows when this one will arrive. Probably in December…

But I’m just reminding you as it will all go quiet over here once the new baby has arrived (as in nothing new to read. It will be noisier in my home!). I have no idea when I will be back to blogging after our new bundle of joy joins us. I imagine that in the next few weeks my posts will become fewer anyway as I’m getting more tired.

 

Trying a friend’s recipe – ‘quin and cheese’

I am slowing down. I have random surges of energy but generally I’m doing things slower. Even putting my socks on is becoming something of a chore at almost 8 months pregnant. I’m also getting clumsier – I broke a glass and a plate in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

I’ve been batch cooking one meal a week so that, in our little freezer, we have about 3 meals for after the baby is born. And I’ve washed baby clothes up to 3 months so we’re kind of ready.

Whilst I am still relatively ‘with it’, I thought I’d try a new recipe. I tried a friend’s recipe which she recently wrote up on her blog and uses up some of the quinoa in the cupboard which has been neglected since we moved house. It’s called butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’.

Butternut squash 'quin and cheese'
Butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’

I thought I was making half the recipe just for the three of us but it made enough for the three of us plus two portions of leftovers for lunches! This could easily have been due to baby-brain. It was really yummy and nice the next day, too. There were a few variations, such as I used cow’s milk and cheddar in the cheese sauce as we had no parmesan, and I used frozen spinach. I also attempted to make the cheese sauce in the microwave on recommendation from another friend, but it doesn’t quite work if you don’t measure your ingredients first!

Time to get back on the wagon

Confession time – I have been eating sugar.

I’ve eaten ‘sugar free’ Rennie, biscuits, chocolate, cake, ice cream, jam, BBQ sauce…

As I recently announced, I’m pregnant. Feeling sick and tired and just eating plain foods all the time to ease the nausea made me quite grumpy, particularly one night as hubby tucked into an Easter egg, so I had a bit of dark chocolate. I thought it’d be ok but oh was that a slippery slope! I was soon back on cake, milk chocolate, biscuits… Particularly ice creams from about 10 weeks as I felt hot and wanted to eat ice cold things. Keen-eyed readers might have noticed that I ate gelato and cake on holiday.

Yes I could have been more organised. Yes I could have made things to prevent this from happening. But I wasn’t feeling up to any additional baking or time in the kitchen than was absolutely necessary. Kitchen smells and even the smell of our home sometimes made me feel sick! I went right off eating nut butters on their own on toast or in porridge (I’m not eating peanut butter anyway due to my brother-in-law’s allergy, and ironically that’s the one I really wanted to eat!) and just eating a piece of fruit on its own took a fair deal of effort.

Of course, all of this has in some ways been wonderful as I’ve tasted amazing chocolate and lovely cakes. But it has been to my own detriment. I’m bigger than I was when I was pregnant with our son at the same stage. Now this is probably partly because my tummy muscles have evaporated from being pregnant before, but I’m convinced that eating sugar has encouraged weight-gain, especially as I haven’t been running since soon after we found out I was pregnant.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon. I can handle most kitchen smells again and I love eating fruit and veg again so I can prepare some healthier snacks. I’m finding it harder to turn down sugar this time around and I don’t think I’ll be completely sugar free but I’m at least trying to cut down. I’ve actually been trying to do this for the last two weeks but I realised that I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing, so it was easy to just say to myself, ‘oh, a little bit of cake…’ Yesterday I said to hubby that I’m back on the (almost) sugar-free wagon as of today, so I know he won’t offer me anything. Thankfully there’s lots of scrummy fruit like juicy nectarines about so I’m planning on enjoying those instead of sugary snacks.

Why ‘almost’? Several reasons really. I haven’t made any bread for a while so we’re having shop-bought wholemeal bread which inevitably will contain sugar. I’m loving mayonnaise at the moment, particularly in a cheese and tomato sandwich, and I can’t make my own – firstly, well I’ve never tried, but secondly, I’m not supposed to eat raw egg. I don’t want to do a blanket ban because I don’t think it’s realistic at the moment – I’m carrying healthy snacks but if I suddenly feel hungry or sick or faint and I’m without snacks, I’m not going to say ‘no’ to sugar if that’s what’s available.

But also because my birthday is coming up and hubby isn’t up for making me a sugar-free birthday cake, which is fair enough, and I’ll definitely be having a slice of whatever cake he makes for me!