Being the parent of a premature baby is never how you’d expect it to be, not that you would ever expect to be a a parent of a premature baby.
Unfortunately when first trying for a baby, we lost two pregnancies.
Then my third pregnancy seemed to go swimmingly, once we got past 12 weeks we relaxed and at 16 weeks we found out we were having a boy, soon after we decided on the name Jack. At a Consultant appointment at 17 weeks for Depression, she mentioned I could be at risk of Premature Labour due to the shape of my Uterus, she said I could go into labour from 28 weeks. Everyone around me seemed to think that wasn’t likely and she would have just been warning me of a minor risk, so I put it to the back of my mind.
At 25+5 weeks of pregnancy, I noticed I had felt less movements, I hadn’t worried about it too much and then saw a post shared by “Count the Kicks” and thought I should get it checked out just to be safe, I’d also been losing a bit of fluid so thought I’d mention that too.
When I arrived at the Maternity Assessment Unit, the midwife gave me some icy water and that soon got Jack kicking away, she told me I should have done that before going in and she could send me home but had to quickly do a swab because I had told her I’d been losing fluid but she told me “You’re the fourth person I’ve had in today with leaky waters” I was embarrassed, feeling like a bit of a time waster. She did the swab and went away for a minute.
I started to get my belongings together, assuming she’d come back to tell me I could go home. I was soon greeted by the same midwife, but instead of looking at me like a time waster she looked like she had seen a ghost, she was with a consultant, I will never forget the sick feeling I felt when she opened her mouth and said: “So what time did your waters go”. What?! My water’s had gone?!
I was 25+5 weeks pregnant, suddenly I felt like I was on a waltzer, my head was spinning. I don’t remember it happening but Paul, my partner, must have called our families, before I knew it my mum, dad and brother were there and Paul’s mum and sister soon arrived. I was having injections, blood tests, scans, then suddenly my mucus plug came away and I had a show. They told me there was 70% chance of Jack surviving.
The local hospital I was in had no cots available in their NICU, plus they only took babies from 28 weeks, so I had to travel over 20 miles to the nearest hospital and NICU that would have a cot for my baby. I was getting spoken to by so many different health professionals it was a blur, I was rushed to an ambulance and Paul had to follow behind in our car, he broke down on the motorway but somehow he got to me not long after being there.
I was monitored continuously, after being given drugs to stop labour, it seemed like it had worked. I had steroid injections and after 2 days I was allowed home. Jack still had enough amniotic fluid to survive in without infection, but I was put on long term antibiotics just to make sure. The sonographer reckoned, he’d made a hole in the sac and then turned and plugged it with his head, so as soon as he moved I would go into labour.
It was a waiting game.
I could have gone into labour at any time and I was still leaking fluid, having blood tests and heart beat monitoring on Jack every 3 days.
Then one Sunday morning I was laid in bed watching TV, suddenly I had the sensation that I’d wet myself. I thought to myself, I’ve got to this stage of pregnancy where I can’t control my bladder, how embarrassing! But then I looked down and it was still coming out and it was pink……my waters had well and truly gone.
I was so amazed to see Paul jump out of bed and ring the maternity ward, I’d been so focused on Jack and making sure I knew all the information that I hadn’t realised how much Paul had taken in. He rang and the midwife only got the chance to say “Hello?” he replied with
“Hello my girlfriend’s name is Emma, she is 29+4 weeks pregnant, she has a Bicornuate Uterus, her waters went at 25+5 weeks, she went to Preston but was discharged with long term antibiotics, she has been having blood tests and heart beat monitoring every 3 days, she’s had her steroids and her waters have just gone”
There was no questions for the midwife left to ask, she just said “OK, bring her in”.
When we got there we were told they had secured an NICU cot for Jack, which was amazing news, it meant we wouldn’t have to travel very far to see him and we even had the chance of getting a room to stay over on the ward.
They told me I’d have a very short labour, well that wasn’t accurate, I thought it would be less painful, that wasn’t accurate, I thought he’d be easier to push out being so small, that wasn’t accurate either.
After 22 hours of labour and having to have an Episiotomy to get him out, Jack was born! Apparently premature babies don’t like to help along with the pushing process which makes getting them out even harder.
So at 29+5 weeks Jack was born weighing 3.5lbs, as soon as he came out I saw his long legs, heard him cry and saw him pee on the doctor. Then before I knew it he was rushed away to NICU.
Then I was alone…
I has Paul and my Mum with me, which I appreciated, but I’d just had my baby and I didn’t have him in my arms. He was born at 04.32am but I didn’t get to meet him until 9am. It was heartbreaking, I felt like a part of me was missing.
The first time I saw him in the incubator my heart fluttered, he was covered in wires and was breathing through a ventilator.
Paul broke down, I don’t think he was prepared to see his baby like that. During my pregnancy I was terrified, but this was on another level, it was so out of my control and there was nothing I could do to help him, yet I couldn’t show it, I just felt numb, like if I broke down and showed how scared I was that somehow it would stop Jack getting well enough to come home.
We got a bed on the ward and were able to spend every minute with Jack, after 2 weeks paternity Paul went back to work but only worked 5 minutes from the hospital. I threw myself into being a mum, but it wasn’t how a usual mum would be, I was a preemie mum.
That meant waking up to express milk every 2-3 hours, I was mimicking was he should have been doing but he couldn’t latch and he definitely couldn’t have all the milk I was producing. The Colostrum produced in the first few days was referred to as liquid gold. Jack was only allowed to have 0.5mls of milk every 6 hours through a feeding tube. He was being given Sodium for a deficiency and a bag full of nutrition through an IV and had the lights on him for Jaundice.
Over the time we were in NICU, Jack grew stronger, he came off the Oxygen support, managed to have more milk and began to put on weight.
When Jack was 3 weeks old we were told he had a PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) a heart condition in premature babies, for the first time I was panicked, I had always worried but this scared me. They told me they’d try to fix it with a drug and if that didn’t work he’d need open heart surgery. I found out the drug they’d use would be….Ibuprofen!Well three days of Ibuprofen did the trick. Who’d have thought such an everyday over the counter drug would fix such a life threatening condition?
He grew stronger and stronger, he came out of his Incubator into a heated cot, then into a regular cot and after a frustrating fight trying to Breastfeed he went onto bottles of Breast milk and Premature baby Formula to help him put on weight. I was desperate to Breastfeed but babies born before 36 weeks don’t have a sucking reflex, so it’s much harder for them to learn to latch, in the grand scheme of things, getting him to latch wasn’t of great importance. He was getting the milk he needed and it was making him strong.
Then 6 weeks exactly in NICU, Jack came home 4 days before Christmas!
When you go into NICU they tell you to expect your due date to go home, well Jack came home nearly 5 weeks before his due date!
The first few weeks being home were terrifying. They’d told us that if he were re-admitted to hospital he couldn’t go back to NICU, he’d have to go to the children’s ward and they told us that’s the last thing we want with older kids being in there with Bronchitis, we didn’t want our tiny baby catching it. So we kept him in the house, limited visitors and made me people use alcohol gel before holding him, if anyone was ill, they strictly were not allowed near him, it seemed harsh but it wasn’t it was all for the health of our baby.
Of course I got the label of being an overprotective, clingy mother, but the months of terrifying pregnancy and then even more worries once he was born, can you blame me? I really don’t think you can understand the journey of being a Preemie Parent until you’ve been one.
Our boy has gone from strength to strength and has just turned three!!
You wouldn’t even know he was premature, he is surpassing all his milestones and is a cheeky happy little monkey.
He’s even a big brother, to Mikey who has just turned two and was also premature being born at 35 weeks, but luckily didn’t need an NICU stay and Nicole who is 9 weeks old and was born at 37+6 weeks.
Today is world prematurity day and we should all take the time to think about the battles these tiny babies fight against all the odds, unfortunately not all of them survive and that really hits home for how lucky we are. My beautiful Jack is one of the lucky ones to come out of his battle unharmed, he has the tiniest little white scars on his hands and feet from all the IV lines, but other than that there isn’t a single sign he was premature.
I am so grateful to the NICU for taking care of my tiny little boy and I am so unbelievably happy that he is with us and he is healthy, I can’t imagine my life without him.