I’ve been thinking about starting a blog about Jack ever since he was born prematurely, at 28+6 gestation but was not sure about putting my life out there for the world to see, particularly my weaknesses.
I had a textbook pregnancy up until the day before Jack’s birth. We weren’t trying and thought that our circumstances meant that having a baby was heartbreakingly far away. I’d hidden pregnant friends and new mums on Facebook as it was too painful knowing that we couldn’t even try. But then fate stepped in and told us we were ready!
My pregnancy was completely normal. Nausea, cravings, hormones etc… My check ups with the midwife were normal. Until 17th November 2015 as 28+5 gestation when the midwife said my blood pressure was a little higher than normal and protein was present in my urine sample. She sent me the the hospital “just for monitoring” so off I went. Texted my hubby but told him not to worry and I’d let him know. It all happened very fast once I was there. They hooked up my bump and confirmed he was moving about normally with a normal heart rate. They took blood from me every two hours, the result of which get worse throughout the day.They took by blood pressure every 15 minutes which also got worse. Medication was started but didn’t help. The doctor started to say that an overnight stay would be happening so I texted hubby to come and bring some toiletries. I had a scan of the baby. My boy. He was fine. The consultant came. He explained to me that I had pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome which is bad and the only cure, to save my life, was to the deliver the baby. My world crashed down.
It was too early! I was given steroids at 3pm to help Jack’s lungs develop and was told I’d need another dose in 12 hours time. I explained to every nurse who came to see me that my baby was so important but they didn’t care. On the HDU unit their priority was to save me by removing my baby from me. NO! NO! NO! NO! Don’t bother saving me unless he will be ok I said!
The consultant finally came to explain that I would have had the baby by tomorrow and that there is no time for the second steroid dose. They said they’d get someone from the NICU to come and see me but no one came – they were caring for babies and prepping for Jack’s arrival. I had no idea what his survival rate was for a 29-weeker.
Mum came to the hospital, in case hubby couldn’t handle the operating theatre due to his squeamishness. Luckily he came through for me. He has a picture of me before I was wheeled in for surgery, with two drips in each hand, a blood pressure cuff and the monitor for my bump, amongst other things. I was given the horrible form to sign. I told Andrew that there are funeral requests in an envelope in the bottom drawer, you know, just so he knows. I had decided that me and Jack are a package deal, together or not at all. The doctors did not agree.
Jack was born by emergency section at 1.41am on 18th November 2015. He was 34cm long and weighed 1089g which in proper money is about 2 lb 6oz. He made a little noise like he was surprised at being evicted from his home and the doctors confirmed he was definately a boy! I won’t go into detail about how horrible the spinal injection was or how scared I was in the theatre. I will just say that hubby held my hand throughout and everyone was amazing, especially the consultant Miss Hamilton.
I looked at my baby from across the room before he was whisked away. I was empty. I hadn’t really written a birth plan as I wasn’t far enough along I had thought. My two requests I knew I wanted were gone, never to get back. I had wanted kangaroo care straight away (skin-to-skin cuddles) and for the baby not to leave my sight (you hear all these things about babies getting stolen!) I had got neither of my wishes.
As I recovered in HDU, with many drips and medications, Jack was taken to the best NICU in the country (in my opinion), Royal Derby NICU. He was ventilated and had a drip put in his hand and lines in his tummy for all sorts of medicines. In short, they saved him and stabilised him. My mum and Andrew (my hubby) went to see Jack and brought back pictures for me. Andrew said that Jack is really tiny and he was overwhelmed. The NICU had taken footprints for me and a card with a printed off picture on it. I kept it on my bedside table for the rest of my hospital stay.
I went to see Jack at about 10pm that night. I had to fight for the chance because the nurses said I couldn’t go until I had my drips out and I could move to the wheelchair by myself. Urgh, my tummy muscles and core were completely bollocksed. But I managed it, even though I was all bent over and couldn’t stand up straight and I still had drips in one hand. I think they must have wanted me to stop demanding to see my boy and have a sleep. I did not sleep a wink until after I’d been to see him I don’t think.
There you go. All these pictures going round Facebook that say “This is what postpartum looks like”. NO. This is what it looks like for 1 in 8 mums. See how tiny he is? See that plastic box he’s in where I’m not allowed to cuddle him? In reality its about a centimetre thick but lets be honest it might as well be 10 feet thick. I was allowed to stroke his hand and we each had a little knitted square that smelt of each other. I think that’s Fiona in the background. She and many other nurses looked after Jack in the next 89 days. Then I was wheeled off back to HDU to sleep a little bit in between waking up every two hours for blood pressure, meds and learning how to express breast milk.
Well there you. That’s the start of our NICU story. Jack stayed in hospital for 89 days. He came home on home oxygen in nasal cannulas as he has what is called chronic lung disease. Not as scary as it sounds – it just means he still needs additional oxygen beyond 36 weeks gestation. We had our first cuddle, skin to skin as I wanted, when he was a week old. We learnt how to feed him through a tube before learning how to give him a bottle. he never mastered breastfeeding properly so I pumped for the entire NICU stay and beyond for a while too before we decided he wasn’t gaining enough weight and switched to high-calorie formula. He progressed from ventilator to bi-papp to c-papp to high flow and finally onto oxygen prongs only.
The best part of our NICU stay was rooming in for 3 nights before bringing him home. Just me and my boy for 4 days and 3 nights in our own little cuddly bubble. Jack came home on Valentine’s Day 2016. BEST VALENTINE’S PRESENT EVER! For those who need reassurance – Jack is now nearly 6 months old and fine. Amazing. Beautiful. Brave and strong. He even has several hours in air everyday. We’re getting there.
More of our story next post.
Thanks to anyone who reads this. I hope it raises awareness for pre-e and hellp as well as premature birth. It’s really scary getting all my thoughts and stuff out there for everyone to see but it’s going to be an important part in me trying to get past what happened. I need to accept that none of this is my fault. I am struggling to accept that my body let me down in the worst way possible. I am getting symptoms of PTSD a little as well.
This is my first step to recovery from what happened.
This face helps everyday.