I was one of those lucky people who just “knew” when she was pregnant, and it was confirmed via a test (in the toilets at work – predictably enough) at just four weeks.

The initial feeling was excitement, then a little trepidation – was I really ready? This would be the first grandchild in my family, my dad had passed away just two years previously, so I decided to tell my mum straightaway.

The first few weeks passed with little incident – I was in good shape and healthy so was hopeful of having a relatively straightforward pregnancy and birth, hopefully midwife-led. That was to change!

Stayed healthy

At my first hospital appointment, I got a shock – my blood pressure was high and I was put on some medication and admitted to the blood pressure clinic.

Any hope of having a natural, midwife-led birth was gone. My hospital visit schedule was also increased – but thankfully I stayed healthy throughout.

At my “big scan” everything looked good and we chose to find out the sex. It was going to be a baby boy – which was a shock as I honestly thought it was going to be a girl! I did like finding out the sex though, because it made the baby very real in my head.

We had chosen a name too, so I got used to talking to Baby Danny. I even secretly bought a tiny fluffy blue jacket, which got me through some tough weeks prior to the birth – I even slept with it on a few worry-filled nights.

Everything changed

At my 30-week check-up, everything changed. I felt good, in fact, so good that the only thing on my mind was if I’d have time after my appointment to nip into the Ilac Centre for a pair of maternity jeans before having to be back in work.

But when the doctor took my blood pressure, I was immediately bundled into a wheelchair and sent for blood tests. Apparently, it’s true what they say about high blood pressure being an invisible disease – my readings were off the charts.

Urine tests showed a trace of protein, while blood tests revealed that my liver function had worsened. I was promptly admitted and injected with steroids in case they needed to deliver the baby within hours.

Thankfully things stabilised and I was allowed home after a few days – but I had to go into the day clinic every few days to be monitored. Finally, after my seventh stint in the day clinic, I was admitted to a ward again – at this stage, I was 35 weeks pregnant. The aim was to get me at least to 37 weeks, which is considered term.

I made it through to exactly 37 weeks; however, a failed induction followed by an emergency Caesarian section meant I finally welcomed Baby Danny into the world at 37 weeks and 2 days. He was a healthy 6 pounds five ounces.

My biggest takeaway

I learned that every pregnancy is different. You really don’t know what will happen but you need to listen to your body, seek help if you think you need it, and surround yourself with medical staff you trust. I was so lucky with the staff in the Rotunda in Dublin – they couldn’t have done more for me.

My advice for preparing for baby

Make a list of what you need and narrow this down. You really mightn’t need absolutely everything in the shop. Instead, spend money where it matters – a great car seat, a buggy that will last you for years (and perhaps for more babies), a good-quality mattress.

My best baby buy

It has to be a crib, rather than a Moses basket or straight to the cot. I thought it was an unnecessary splurge, but after winning the World Cup draw in work I put the money towards the latest model. This crib was great for Danny until he was seven months, and I also used it for his baby sister. They are super-cute in the bedroom and small enough to fit in beside our bed for those early days.

My most surprisingly useful baby buy

Something of an impulse buy was a baby changing unit. I packed this with nappies, cream, spare clothes, etc, and it lived downstairs with the changing mat. It was wipe-clean and roomy– I used it on both Danny and Ellie and even have it to my sister-in-law when she had her first baby.

Penny Gray is a freelance editor and writer specialising in beauty, property, parenting, health and lifestyle. She has worked for TVNow, Salon Ireland, Irish Beauty, and was Editor of Maternity & Infant magazine. Most importantly, she is a proud mum of two!