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Jasmine Harvey: My birth story

Pregnancy with cerebral palsy and epilepsy

Author Jasmine Harvey
Categories   Birth Stories

The Edit

I’ve always been a person who likes to know what’s going on. Then suddenly, at the age of 21, my luck began to take a turn for the worse.

I experienced horrendous spasms, fits and agonising cramps which left me bedbound. After lots of tests I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and focal epilepsy (epilepsy down one side of your body). I’d always wanted children and I was told it was still possible. My disability didn’t mean I couldn’t be a mother.

Luckily, we were referred to a preconception consultant. She said I could have a healthy baby if I reduced my medication. The withdrawal symptoms made me feel so unwell – hot sweats, sickness, headaches and shaking constantly. I knew I had to get through it as I wanted a baby so desperately and I wanted to give my husband a baby so desperately too. Finally, I got to a point with my medication where having a viable pregnancy was possible.

I fell pregnant within two months of getting married, but unfortunately my pregnancy wasn’t meant to be and I miscarried. This wasn’t down to my medication; it was just sheer bad luck. We were heartbroken.

Unbelievably I fell pregnant again two months to the day that I had miscarried. But I tried not to think about it. I read lots of books, like I did before, but used no tracking apps. I went to my early six-week scan shaking with nerves, and then there was a heartbeat. The most magical sound I’ve ever heard. The same beautiful sound we heard every two weeks. I had extra scans due to the fact I was still fitting, however the pain and fitting became much less as my pregnancy went on, as my specialist had told me.

Pregnancy was hard. I struggled with sickness a lot, but the more I was sick, the more I felt reassured that this was a healthy pregnancy. During my second trimester I was constantly worried about baby’s movements.

Fast forward to the day of our delivery. I had my best friend Wilma - my assistance dog - by my side in the hospital. Wilma is specially trained to sense when my seizures take place and aid with the daily physical tasks I might struggle with. We had our wedding playlist on in the background and our beautiful daughter Evelyn was born via elective C-section to the sound of Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli.

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of blood during the delivery and the theatre team quickly leapt into action – it was like a choreographed dance. I can’t remember or explain everything, but I was given a lot of help with my breathing whilst the doctors stopped the bleeding in my uterus and saved my life.

There are no classes for elective C-sections and honestly I felt a failure that I couldn’t give birth naturally, but there were too many risks involved in my case. There’s so much pressure on women to give birth naturally, but in reality you can’t plan what’s going to happen during labour. In my view your birth plan shouldn’t exist – the plan is there is no plan!

After surgery I was reunited with my baby Evelyn. At first there was confusion as to whether I could breastfeed her due to medication I was taking. With the help of my amazing community midwife, I had managed to get a lot of colostrum for Evelyn and this was such a relief to me.

Evelyn decided the bottle was much easier after having it for a few days while the confusion over my medication was cleared up, so I decided I was going to exclusively pump. I did this with a huge support system for almost six weeks and I’m forever grateful to my husband, my two closest friends, my parents and my in-laws who made this possible.

Our birth story wasn’t what I planned for, or thought would happen, but I feel beyond lucky to have the support I did I have no words for how grateful I am to my midwife.

Author Jasmine Harvey

Jasmine was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and focal epilepsy at the age of 21. She shares her experience of pregnancy and labour with a disability, from reducing her medication in order to get pregnant, to having her assistance dog Wilma by her side in the hospital.

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