I don’t even know where to begin! It’s a long story, grab a cuppa.
I found out about my pregnancy and March 2020. After my initial 12-week scan with my due date in September we thought we had a lot of time to get prepared for having a baby.
At 28 weeks my scan showed that our baby was smaller than expected which kick-started extra scans and weekly visits to the hospital. Growth scans are quite normal when the baby is picked up as being small. However at my 31 week scan the doctor saw something that she wasn’t quite happy with and asked me to stay as an inpatient to be monitored. This wasn’t quite the routine scan that I was expecting I was a bit shocked as I’ve never stayed in hospital before. I spent four days in the women’s centre being monitored constantly and baby being checked. I was discharged on the Thursday afternoon, super happy that I could sleep in my own bed again and my next scan was due on the following Tuesday.
My partner and I went shopping on Saturday, we took a walk to town, bought a new bed and visited a few shops. We came out of one shop and as we exited an elderly gentleman pointed at my tummy and said “3:30 tomorrow morning”. We just looked at each other and laughed and thought “yeah right”, didn’t think anything else of it and went home. Later that night we both struggled to get to sleep. My partner went downstairs to play his PlayStation whilst I tried to get some rest in bed. At 3 a.m. Sunday morning I woke up in a pool of blood. Of course this was terrifying and we immediately made our way to the hospital delivery suite 30 minutes away.
In a bit of a blur and on advice by the doctor’s and midwives I was rushed in for an emergency cesarean section* and baby Elsie was born at 7:07 am on the 26th of July 2020. She was born at 32 weeks gestation.
This is something that we had not prepared for and we had what felt like a really long road ahead of us. After my surgery I was taken to recovery I had seen my baby for less than 5-minutes, I didn’t really feel like I’d even given birth. Elsie was taken to intensive care in the neonatal unit, she was put on oxygen and into an incubator. The first time I got to spend some time with her was 7 p.m. that evening, 12 hours after she was born. Seeing her in the incubator attached to the wires with nurses and doctors all around her was really scary. I don’t think there’s much that can prepare you for seeing your baby like that and the feelings where overwhelming.
The first few days were tough, I was recovering from surgery but trying to spend as much time as possible with my daughter in the NICU. When I was due to be discharged, the NICU staff referred my partner and I to the Ronald McDonald House Charity. We were offered a room on the hospital site which meant that we could live close by and save travel and stress to and from the hospital. This was an absolute godsend, we couldn’t be more grateful to the hospital and the charity. Being able to stay close by meant that we could visit every day, we could be involved in our daughter’s care and make sure that we built up a bond with her.
She spent just 3 days in ICU, before being moved to the high dependency unit. We were in the HDU for just over a week until she was taken off of her oxygen. She was then moved again to the low dependency unit. This was a big move for all of us as we knew that it was the last step before home. It was now up to us and Elsie to get her a little bigger and a little stronger so we could take her home.
Whilst my partner was still working, I spent the majority of my days sitting at her cotside. At first, she was too small to get her food from the breast or bottle so all of her feeds were via a gastrointestinal tube, inserted through her nose. For her to be able to come home, the requirements were that she could take a minimum of two “sucking” feeds in 24hrs, 48 hours consecutively. Over the two weeks, we introduced breastfeeding. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work. I’m sure breastfeeding your baby at home is just as hard, but I had nurses watching me constantly, there was no private space, just an open ward. Other parents in and out all of the time and a baby on a to-the-dot feeding schedule. It was exhausting.
Perseverance paid off eventually, she picked up feeding quite quickly and we were allowed home on a ‘home tube feeding’ program. This wasn’t ideal, but it did mean that we could be back in a familiar space and start our own little routine. The idea was that her tube feeds would be reduced over time and all of her feeds would be by breast or bottle.
Now, two weeks after being discharged, I can happily say that our little dumpling is tube free. She’s putting on weight, and although still very small, she’s growing into a strong little human!
I’ll be paying a visit to old man in the charity shop one day to ask him what he knew! The single most strange experience of my life.
* I’m still waiting for a firm diagnosis, however it is thought that the reason I was bleeding was due to a severe placental abruption. I don’t know much about this and haven’t been provided with a great deal of information as of yet, however I am told that it roughly affects 2% of pregnant women in the UK. If you suspect that there is something wrong with you or your baby, contact your midwife or maternity assessment unit as soon as possible.