Our thanks to Sareta from Kiki Blah-Blah for kindly sharing her experience of group B Strep.

I’m a mother of three boys, and each one of their births was different. My eldest contracted Group B Strep infection, and he seems to have been suffering ever since.

My first pregnancy, like any first, was an entirely new experience. Not knowing what to expect I dived in head first, learning everything that I could. I attended antenatal classes, read a book and got a DVD. I prepped as thoroughly as I could and did everything that professionals recommended. In my mind, nothing could go wrong, which is why I had planned to have my son in a birthing unit. A natural birth was something that I wanted, that was, up until my final hospital appointment.

I had swollen feet, protein in my urine and high blood pressure. All of this indicated that I had Pre-eclampsia. None of my prior pregnancy research had prepared me for that – that wasn’t what was supposed to happen!

Professionals sent me straight to the hospital, it was serious enough to admit me from roughly 34 weeks and induce me a week later.

After breaking my waters and very little progression, they decided to give me a C-section. It had been well over 24 hours, and my son’s condition seemed to deteriorate, along with mine. They tried to perform an epidural, however, due to “tight ligaments”, they couldn’t find the spot. Movies make this look easy, but a needle in your spine 4-5 times over isn’t the most pleasant experience.

They took a break as my blood pressure skyrocketed, I felt faint and spaced out, which then resulted in a fit. It was time to get in me the operating theatre and have an emergency C-section. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t the birth that I was hoping for. I would be the last person in that room to meet my newborn son as I was put to sleep.

I woke up on a ward with other mums, their babies next to them and I could see mine with a nurse. Why is she holding him? Why haven’t they noticed that I’m awake, this is so unfair! Lots of thoughts raced through my mind until the nurse holding my son saw that I was awake. It’s funny, I hadn’t been introduced to him, but somehow, I knew it was him.

She handed him to me, and I held him for the first time. He was tall and quite skinny. No chunky baby fat, so he looked older than a newborn baby. The nurse walked away, and I had some alone time with my new baby. I looked at him and with happiness and thought, hey kid, we made it. It was a blessed moment, and I felt relieved that we were through the other side of his traumatic birth.

At this point, I wondered why my son was making what I can only describe as a “goat bleating” noise. He was grunting, and it looked like it was difficult to breathe. This isn’t normal I thought, the DVDs and parenting books didn’t describe this. I called the nurse back over and asked if newborns usually make this noise?! I was clueless, I’ve never even held a newborn before, but I knew something wasn’t right.

She looked concerned and took him away, and they left me in the room with other parents and their babies while I wondered what was going on with mine.

I was in and out of consciousness, the meds that they gave me were strong, and my mind was still foggy and confused. A doctor came back and explained that my son had contracted an infection, Group B Strep. Again, this wasn’t something that I was even aware of. First pregnancy, I read all the books and did my research, but I’d never heard of this.

Newly-named Dylan was in intensive care for roughly three weeks. At first, his chances of pulling through seemed pretty weak. But the little fighter got stronger, and we were finally able to take him home, he made it.

The infection wasn’t explained, the Internet was still in its infancy and it was all about MySpace in those days, there wasn’t anywhere that I could find out about Group B Strep. It was only when I became pregnant with my second child that I found out more.

The second pregnancy was deemed as a “high risk”, so I was seen more frequently and given more support. As doctors were aware that I carried the bacteria, they were extra cautious when it was time to have my second son.

My waters broke on my due date; he’s an impatient one. However, nothing progressed. Unlike a lot of women in labour, I wasn’t told to stay at home and wait for contractions. As Group B Strep can be passed from mother to baby after the waters break, I had to go straight in and be given antibiotics.

As time went on and no contractions were felt, we decided that things needed to be sped up by having another C-Section. This time I’d be awake, and I wouldn’t be the last one to see him.

Born with a full head of hair and a scrunched up little face, my son arrived healthy and happy. No grunting noises, just a first cry and content cuddles with his new family. Although quite intense, his birth was less traumatic than his older brother’s.

The phrase third time lucky isn’t coincidental. Baby boy number three arrived four years later, and this time by a scheduled C-Section. Everything ran smoothly, and they found the spot and the epidural could be done after only 2-3 attempts. I had a playlist full of Beyoncé and current hits, and my last child was born happy and healthy.

Fast forward four years and I’m blessed with three boys that keep me on my toes.

Looking back at my eldest’s development and behaviour, we’ve put together all of his quirks and suspect that he is on the ASD spectrum. We’ve had problems over the years, however never really knew what the root of the issues were. They didn’t have a massive impact socially or on his schooling, so professionals didn’t see the need to investigate.

A few counselling sessions here and there put everything down to his way of thinking which would probably get better with age.

He’s now in secondary school, and his world has changed. Masking his behaviour would no longer work, it’s somewhat difficult to get away with things when you’re not a cute little 6-year-old.

The causes of Autism are poorly understood – it’s an area where more research is needed.

I think that more awareness should put there. Group B Strep can be tested during your pregnancy but isn’t offered. For the sake of a few pennies, even if it wasn’t available on the NHS, it’s something that parents should be made aware of.

Some families haven’t been as fortunate as us, and it’s a shame that so many of these situations could have been prevented.

Sareta Fontaine