Was the most terrifying, worrying and frightening time for Mr H and I, and of course our families too. We went through a rollercoaster of emotions, felt like one long ride at Alton Towers, with a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
It was 8am, Sunday 26th June 2011, 33 weeks pregnant. I awoke feeling the need to visit the bathroom, on the way I looked down and noticed that blood was running from me. PANIC. On top of the panic, I quickly realised that I was home alone, Mr H was enjoying his last weekend away with the boys before battening down the hatches in preparation for the arrival of our baby.
After a call to the Midwife Birth Centre, one of my worst fears was coming true, I was in labour, their potentially was a problem and I had to make my way to the hospital ASAP. The only problem was that Mr H was at the Glastonbury Festival (a 3 to 4 hour drive). I tried his number, no answer, I tried his friends numbers, voice mail. I had no choice but to leave the emergency voice mail on Hubby’s phone. Would he get it in time? In the meantime a friend was kind enough to pop over and steady my nerves, drive me to the hospital and wait until Mr H arrived.
Thankfully Mr H did pick up my voice mail. My friends hubby kept him calm whilst he made the journey home. He arrived by lunch time, in the most hilarious state. Can you imagine, Mr H, stinking from 4 days of not washing, muddy Glastonbury, running through the door after door shouting ‘Kerri-Ann’ … ‘Kerri-Ann’.
It is safe to say that the Dr attending to me, advised him to go home, get changed, bring my bag as our baby was coming but that we had a few hours yet. He ran! The funniest part was the green, sparkly goggles painted on to his face.
The Drs and nurses were already proving to be the super stars they were throughout this terrifying experience. Unlike many, our labour went smoothly, that was until the final stages of labour, where our babies heart beat dropped and in flew what felt like an army of Drs and Nurses.
11.09pm our beautiful baby boy arrived. I briefly remember a Neonatal Dr visiting us during the final stages of labour to advise us that our baby would be taken at birth to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), it was likely he would need urgent medical attention and that we needed to prepare ourselves. A
little a lot drunk on gas and air, I know now that I didn’t take in exactly what was said and I’m sure Mr H didn’t either. Our baby was born, he was struggling to breathe, was rushed off, popped into an incubator, he was gone. It was heart breaking. We didn’t get to see him, to tell him we loved him or even to hold him.
As a mummy carrying our unborn child I had dreamt about the moment he would be born, that first cuddle, that first kiss, that first picture. All the things you take for granted. I was, and still am, filled with so much sadness that we never got to experience all those beautiful moments. That our boy was dealt such a difficult start to his precious life. Don’t get me wrong, we took comfort in that our beautiful baby boy survived and to a degree arrived into the world safely. There were at least four babies which passed away during our time in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We knew how lucky we were.
I was elated to have given birth, however with the complication of him not breathing, a feeling of sadness swelled through me. I felt lost, unsure of what to do. Questions formed in my head as I started to understand what was happening. Was it something I did? Had he arrived early because for the first 15 weeks I didn’t know I was pregnant and was wreck less? (2 hen parties, a wedding day, Christmas, Near Year in Bangkok, our honeymoon in Thailand). Before I continue, yes, if you’ve made the calculation we were 8 weeks pregnant on our wedding day! What a lovely announcement that would have made.
The most scariest thought I had … Will he survive? We didn’t know much, but what we did know was that the first 12 hours were critical. Confusion came across me as I tried to process how it had all happened. It quickly dawned on me that I needed to be strong for our boy.
All I wanted to do was meet my baby, hold him, tell him he was loved and that all would be ok. It was so very upsetting, more so because of the complications I began to have, which meant that I couldn’t meet my baby. I actually didn’t meet him until 10.30am the next day.
The moment had arrived, my first sight of our baby boy. My first touch of our baby boy. I closed my eyes and savoured every detail of the beautiful moment. I tried to ignore the sound of all the machines beeping and alarms going off. Wondering each time if that was ‘the’ sound and if we would be asked to leave. I can still hear that sound now. Some 3 years later.
I could only reach in and touch him through the incubator. I could feel his heart pumping through his chest. We were told at this point that we would be able to take him out of the incubator later that day for our first cuddle, he was coming off the oxygen mask, however due to the tubing and monitors, we had to be supervised.
It goes without saying that this terrifying experience brought us closer together. We looked after each other, made sure we didn’t dwell too heavily and tried to think positively each time his premature birth hit us hard. (Which happened each night as we left him at the hospital). It worried me that we didn’t really know what complications or lasting effects were ahead of us. From the second he was born to some 15 months after, we were unaware of what was in front of us, the Drs and Nurses were very supportive, however they have this knack of only drip feeding you information. Which if you’re anything like me is so difficult to manage. I plan ahead, I need to know. I can deal with a situation in a more positive manner, if I have all the information.
My days were spent nursing our ‘Gorgeous George’ as the neonatal nurses called him, Mr H’s were spent cleaning, preparing the nursery, walking our doggy, preparing meals, buying premature baby clothes, generally getting ready for our return home as a family. For the 3 weeks or so we spent in hospital it was incredibly tough, the daily routine, the expressing, the mastitis (wow was that painful). I was told by the Neonatal Drs that breast milk was a form of medicine to a premature baby, I made sure I did everything I could to ensure he received my milk, albeit through a tube. I had always planned to breastfeed George, being told this only made me more determined. What surprised me, was how many mummy’s in our ward chose not to breastfeed their premature baby.
This is invariably how our days went (so busy, bearing in mind I had just given labour but had no choice to be up, out, on my feet so that I could spend time with our baby, trying to bond) …
7am wake (eat, express)
8.30am arrive at the hospital (undoubtedly my favourite time of the day). Mr H would stay with us for a short while before leaving for a few hours. This was my time to be Lil G’s mummy, eventually when he came off the oxygen I was able to cuddle him, dress him, feed him through the tube, change his nappy, and on week two bath him.
1pm I could collect my ‘lunch vouchers’ which were given to me because I was breast-feeding. Express
5pm return home for some food, express
6.30pm back to the hospital, express
8pm return home, express and then set my alarm to wake every 3 hours during the night to express to ensure I had enough milk stored for the day and night feeds at the hospital.
Quite often we would stay later, and occasionally I went back late in the night as I was missing him. Expressing during the night, without my baby was tough. The hospital and Bliss nurses were really supportive. They never judged me. Comforted me when I was upset. Reassured me that I was doing my absolute best for our boy. They provided me with an electric pump to make the breastfeeding process easier, such a shame that it made me feel like a cow at milking time! Noisy too.
Every day, every minute and every second inched us closer and closer to taking our baby home. I had no doubt that our beautiful baby had the power to propel us into something new. Something wonderful. Something different that would change our lives forever. In many ways, I was right.
During his time in hospital, I lay in my bed, awake every 3 hours to express, often thinking of our boy, alone, in a bright room, not cosy like we had made our room and his nursery, no comforts, no love. Well actually, there was much love from the nurses. As happy as this made me I also felt incredibly sad. It should be me nursing him when he cried, kissing his head, rocking him to sleep, talking to him, singing to him.
Week 3 came and we were given the all clear, we could bring our baby home, introduce him to our friends and family and of course our doggy Alfie.
Here are some pictures of our first few days at home …
I hope you enjoyed reading our Premature Birth story. It goes without saying that we had a pretty tough 15 months what with Colic, Severe Gastric Reflux, Weight problems, Twisted Neck Syndrome, Flat Head Syndrome, monthly hospital appointments and a lot of medicine. We were a walking pharmacy. We made it and have a beautiful boy to show for it, who turned 3 in June. I am so proud of you George Archie. You are my miracle. My superhero. We love you.
We couldn’t have done it without the support of the most amazing medical care we received when in the University Hospital of Norths Staffordshire. Let’s not forget the members of Bliss who were on hand each day to support us through this very difficult start to life as our little family. Thank you.
I have published this post in support of World Prematurity Day which is tomorrow, Monday 17th November. Please help me to spread the word and raise awareness of such a powerful cause. Spare a second for the 15million babies which are born prematurely, 60,000 in the UK. Spare a thought for the parents who not only don’t get to hold their babies when they were born but also for those who lost their babies.