Stories

The gut-busting lifesaver

My baby bump was huge- so what else was going on?


Published by: Lucy Laing and Jean Jollands
Published on: 27 September 2012


The midwife's eyes were almost on stalks. ‘Wow, that's some belly you've got there!' she winked as I lay down and she stretched a tape measure across my bump. ‘Are you sure it's not triplets?!'
At 36 weeks' pregnant with my first baby, I'd grown used to people commenting on the size of my belly.
‘Nope, it's no good. I can't even see my feet now!' I'd joked to my hubby Michael, 26, that morning.
I'd enjoyed a normal pregnancy but, at 30 weeks, my belly had suddenly popped out big time! I'd been a size 12 before I got pregnant - now I couldn't even get a car seatbelt over my bump!
At my last midwife appointment, my baby had measured up 2cm bigger than it should've been for my dates, but I'd been reassured there was nothing to worry about.
Only now, the midwife looked anxious as she slowly put her tape measure down.
‘Your baby's measuring 6cm bigger than it should,' she said.
‘Six?' I spluttered. ‘Is everything okay?'
‘I'm going to book you in for a scan,' she said, gently.
Back home, I broke the news to Michael.
‘Probably just a precaution,' I smiled, trying not to panic.
You see, we'd waited so long for this - we'd tried for a baby for four, long years. Doctors said I had ‘unexplained fertility,' and I feared I'd never be a mum.
But unwilling to give up, I even took a course of fertility drugs to kick-start my ovaries.
Then, just three months later, I'd discovered I was expecting.
‘Let's not find out the sex,'
I'd said to Michael. But something told me we were having a girl... ‘I think you're right,' Michael smiled. ‘What do you think of the name Ruby?'
‘It's perfect,' I'd grinned. So now, I couldn't believe something bad might be happening to our precious baby.
Neither of us slept a wink the night before our first scan but, frustratingly, it came back inconclusive so we had to go for another one.
After an agonising wait, we went to see the consultant.
I looked up at the scan picture of my baby on the screen. Staring back at me was a big, black mass blotting out its tummy.
‘What's that?' I asked, horrified.
‘We don't know for sure,' the consultant began. ‘But we think it could be an ovarian cyst.'
‘Ovarian cyst? In a tiny baby?' I spluttered.
It wasn't the way I'd wanted to find out, but it was confirmation I was expecting a girl. My joy was overshadowed, though.
What was that monstrosity doing inside her?
Shuddering, I listened as the consultant explained the mass was growing bigger by the day.
‘It's wrapped itself around the bottom of her lungs, bowel, liver, and kidneys.
‘If it gets any bigger, there's a chance it might start to squash her organs,' he said.
‘We need to deliver your baby as soon as we can.'
It was too much to take in.
‘As soon as your baby's delivered, we're going to have to operate to remove the mass,' the consultant finished.
The thought of a surgeon's knife slicing into my little girl sent my skin cold. But it was the only way they could rid her body of that thing burrowing away among her organs.
‘At least you're both in safe hands now,' Michael reassured me as I was admitted to hospital.
He was by my side at 38 weeks as doctors performed a caesarean and little Ruby came into the world, a screaming 7lb 6oz bundle.
I was only allowed to hold her for a few precious seconds before nurses whisked her away.
‘She looked so pink and healthy,' I sobbed to Michael. ‘Maybe the doctors have got it
all wrong?' I had to be patched up after the delivery, and it was hours before I could see Ruby again.
‘She's beautiful,' I whispered as I gently placed my hand inside the incubator and stroked her tiny, balled-up fist.
‘She'll be okay, love,' my mum Marjorie, 42, insisted.
But two days later, consultants told us she would have to be moved to a specialist children's hospital.
Because I was still recovering from the caesarean, they refused to let me go.
‘Please take good care of her,' I told Michael, as tears streamed down my face. ‘She'll be fine,' he whispered, kissing me goodbye to leave for the hospital with Ruby.
After they left, I broke down.
‘My baby needs me,' I sobbed to doctors. ‘Please let me go with her.' I was haunted by the image of her lying there, crying in pain.
Later that night, they agreed. But it wasn't until Ruby was seven days old that doctors finally decided to operate and remove the mystery pouch of flesh inside her. ‘You'll get through this,' I whispered, staring into her big blue eyes as she was wheeled into theatre.
Finally, after two hours, there was news.
‘We've removed the mass,' the surgeon announced. ‘It was a 5cm ovarian cyst.'
‘Is she okay?' I gasped.
‘We got it out just in time,' he admitted. ‘It could have burst at any point, fatally flooding her organs.'
The cyst had started growing in Ruby's left ovary, then spread across the rest of her vital organs.
Doctors had drained it of fluid before finally cutting it away.
Ruby was 6oz lighter once the cyst had been removed!
‘But it stretched Ruby's ovary so thinly, we had to remove it,' the surgeon admitted.
I snatched a look at Michael, remembering my own struggle to be a mum. The surgeon knew what I was thinking.
‘Ruby still has her remaining ovary and there's no reason why she won't become a mum herself one day,' he smiled.
There was even more relief when tests on the cyst revealed it was benign and not cancerous.
‘Your big pregnancy belly was just a coincidence,' he chuckled.
‘But if you hadn't been sent for a scan because you were so big, we might never have discovered what was happening to Ruby and got her out in time.'
My belly had saved our baby!
A week and a half later, we were finally allowed to take our little girl home.
She's 17 months old now, a cheeky little tomboy who loves kicking her football around.
Doctors can't explain what caused the cyst, only that it might be down to excess hormones.
But whatever it was, we've certainly got my big belly to thank for saving her!
Laura Horne, 27, Stirling