Tanishaa – 11 weeks

…Click, click… (I hold my breath and wait) …click-click… (I sigh with relief) …click, click… the apnoea monitor I borrowed from the Scottish Cot Death Trust gives me a reassurance I didn’t think was possible after Baby Tanishaa died. The clicking sounds like a bird pecking or a tap dripping when I’m half asleep, but it’s a comforting white noise. If it’s not stuck on properly, it sounds like an alarm clock. I sit bolt upright and fiddle with the buttons in the dark to reset it. This puts my mind at rest after a quick safety check to make sure everything’s ok and I won’t have to re-live what happened last March. And then I lie back in my bed going over events in my head. And before you know it, it’s time to for the next feed!

I don’t know why it took me three months to gather the courage to use it but once I started, I used it every time Baby Zahraa fell asleep. She seemed to have got used to the sound of me tearing the masking tape and sticking the blue plastic lead to her soft and warm tummy, as if it were normal for all babies. It became routine, but coming to that decision wasn’t easy.

Two months after Tanishaa died, I became pregnant with my third baby Zahraa. I received the monitor a couple of weeks before my due date. I was a little nervous but glad I could put off the worry for a bit longer. During my pregnancy, I had spoken to my midwives and to Lynda Bathgate at the Trust and they were all really understanding and helpful. I was told at the start of the pregnancy that I would need to arrange the loan of a monitor and CPR training at Paisley hospital before the Baby arrived.

There was a constant debate over where I was to deliver the baby as everything did not link in smoothly. I delivered at the Vale of Leven Hospital, as chosen and they were fantastic, as always. I was so happy to meet Zahraa and watched her like a hawk. The following day, I was allowed to go home on the condition that I would go for CPR training first. I got stuck in traffic and had to delay the training further by a few days, adding to my anxiety. My boss’s positive words stuck in my mind: you won’t need to use it but you need to know what to do. So now I felt less scared about the training.

When I went home, I didn’t feel sure how to use the monitor. The blue leads and the masking tape looked so clinical and made me remember the whole rush to the hospital in the ambulance, the doors opening, the paramedic running withTanishaa, me frantically following him into the Intensive Care Unit, the beeping of machines, a team of doctors waiting to do whatever possible to resuscitate her, me still praying and trying to remain positive…. I took one look at the monitor and put it back in the envelope along with those memories.

And then I’d talk about using it and think about using it and nearly use it and I even connected it up and nearly stuck it to Zahraa’s tummy and quickly changed my mind again. I didn’t like the look of the lead, as if she was unwell. It looked too much like a breathing pipe going into her nose, so I delayed using it further. I spoke to Lynda and what she said summed it up quite well for me- I’m afraid of the the emotions the monitor brings up. Even though I kept hold of it as a prop, I still wouldn’t use it.

It was after Lynda put me in touch with another Mum and we spoke about our similar experiences that one day, I just did it, very matter of fact and I didn’t look back. At first, I used it in the daytime and I couldn’t stop smiling, then I used it at night and went to sleep beaming! The first time the alarm went off, I used the reset button got used to the steps in my head. I finally made myself look properly at the picture on the back of the blue lead and realised I should have been placing it near the belly button and not so much on the chest, because of the way babies breathe. A couple of months later, I discovered the instructions on the back of the monitor and thought ‘if only I’d read that sooner’. The fear had stopped me even looking at the monitor or reading the instructions properly!

When Zahraa got to the age where she was learning to wriggle and lie on her side in the night, the masking tape would wrinkle and come off and set off the alarm. Then she would somersault in the cot and the lead would come off and be lying next to her and I’d worry incase it became tangled around her neck. It was when she got to the stage of actually pulling the lead off and chewing it quite happily that I thought it’s time to stop using it. Nobody said when; I had to decide for myself. If I’d used it from the first night, I may have got a little more sleep. But it’s a dark time in the winter, at night, in your thoughts and the mind plays tricks when you’re sleep deprived.

In hindsight, I think I used it when I was ready and I stopped using it when I was ready. I would highly recommend other Mums in a similar situation to use an apnoea monitor from the start. Ask a friend or partner to be with you when you set it up and once you hear that ‘click, click, click’, you’ll be relieved.

I worry about my kids every single night and sleep with one eye open. I think I’ll always get up in the night and give them a gentle nudge and a kiss or place one finger on their pulse…just to be sure. No matter how well I cope with life and even though I can laugh again when I’m happy and be ‘normal’ at work, I may never shake off that feeling of mild ‘paranoia’ or extra cautiousness. We can’t change the past but we can change our attitude towards how we meet life’s bumps and bruises. My attitude is changing very slowly, just a step at a time.