“Hi…I think my baby just had a seizure…”
I wouldn’t say that I’m the most confident of mothers which may surprise people reading this that know me but it’s true. Known as a straight talker with a strong personality (which is code for stubborn, loud ball breaker), I thought I’d be a firm, no nonsense type parent that might be that bit too strict. Being back at work with more distraction I’m definitely less of a bag of nerves these days but truth be told, I’m just better at hiding it!
Thinking back to those early weeks of becoming a parent, I don’t really remember much. It all feels a bit like a dream and when I hear myself talking about it, I wonder if some of the things I’m recounting actually happened or if they’re something I might’ve overhead someone else say and mistaken for my own experience. I wasn’t especially present in the first 2 weeks particularly as I almost lost my marbles over trying to breastfeed. After that it felt like poor Dotty just couldn’t catch a break what with jaundice and an infected belly button followed by a bought of constipation that saw us praying for a poo for 7 whole days before she gave one up. She cried a lot and barely slept which I mirrored perfectly.
Through the fog & sleep deprivation, I knew that I was finding it especially hard but I didn’t know why. I do remember feeling a lot more introvert than I had ever before and felt anxious and nervous most of the time but tried my best not to let that show. Any time I worried that I might be that bit too stressed or upset, I told myself that “Of course I was finding it hard, I was tired and emotional and all the things a new parent would be feeling.” I decided to suck it up, soldier on and hope that something would eventually click and I’d perk up knowing I could cope.
As we hit the end of the 3 week marker, on an unsuspecting Sunday in late February, Dotty had her first seizure. I hadn’t realised until writing this piece that this was precisely the moment that something ‘clicked’. Up until this point I felt like I’d been constantly swimming upstream desperately trying not to drown but on this day, the day she started twitching and rolling her eyes, I was focussed. It was like I’d snapped back into my old self and knew that I had to pay attention. Something was wrong and it was my job to protect her and come to her rescue.
The day started fairly well, Dotty was sleeping a lot (which never happened!) which we put down to her finally realising she was knackered and needed some rest. We had friends around in the afternoon and Dotty was still very sleepy, not waking as she was passed from person to person for cuddles. She rarely slept so it felt unusual but I thought it best to let her rest and tried not to worry (Pah!).
It got to the point where she was way past her feeding time so I began to undress her in an attempt to rouse her. Half naked she eventually obliged and woke enough to take her feed. Shortly after, our friend Dan was holding her and that’s when I saw it. A flash of something that looked odd and unnatural for her. Something that winded me and sent a hot streak of panic right through my middle. I tried to remain calm as I carefully took her from him and told my husband Mark that I thought something was wrong.
Our guests picked up on my distress quite rapidly, made their excuses and left. At first, Mark wasn’t convinced, which we can’t blame him for as each time she farted, blinked, moved or didn’t move, I’d wig out thinking that something was wrong. He thought I was worrying unnecessarily… until it happened again. It only lasted 5 or 6 seconds but it was definitely there. He made a very quick and genius decision to film* her. She was laying on the sofa, her limbs on her right side were twitching and pulsing and her head was rotated to the same side as her eyes rolled with it. “There!! Look! Can you see!!” I shrieked at him as I lunged for the phone and immediately rang 111.
“Hi… I think my baby just had a seizure…”
After answering the standard set of questions, we were of course advised to take her to A&E.
We decided to decline the offer of an ambulance and took our own car as we were minutes from the hospital and would inevitably get there quicker. We travelled in silence, me in the back watching Dotty the entire way. I held her close, upright on my chest and carried her into the hospital and then into an examination room where we were seen by an out of hours Doctor straight away.
The Doctor checked her over whilst asking me to run through what had happened. Mark showed him the recording of her and he studied it intently for a few minutes, playing it over and over again. When he finally spoke he looked at me and said “Is this your first baby?”. I gulped and said yes, trying not to cry, I knew what he was getting at. I was clearly sleep deprived, hormonal, emotional and worried about my baby. I’m sure I could’ve been imagining it but I knew I wasn’t. If you see the film, it’s hard to tell what’s happening and yes, trapped wind or random twitches might also look similar but something in me was certain I was right and was beginning to become distressed as I felt him wrapping up the discussion.
His advice was to “go home and keep an eye on her” and to “come back if it happens again. “Try no to worry… babies do funny things”, etc, etc. Just as I was about to lamp him, Dotty did it again. This time she was lying on the examination table and her movements became that little bit more obvious. This is going to sound weird but I remember feeling immensely proud of her in this moment for showing him exactly what he needed to see. He observed her, timed her and then said “Wait here, I’m going to get you admitted to the children’s ward upstairs for further monitoring”. I exhaled as the silent tears fell down my face.
Relieved that he finally appeared to believe us, I scooped up our baby and held her as we sat in silence waiting for his return. Mark perched beside me, his hand on my knee, we were more terrified than ever about what might happen next.