Amelie’s Mumma Says…
A visit to the midwife
Throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I had often joked that we would like our baby to arrive early … With him being 6’4” and me only 5’2” I was concerned about how I would naturally deliver what was set to be a looong baby! We just didn’t plan on our Amelie arriving QUITE as soon as she did!
I’d been to a friend’s birthday party on the Sunday, and had eaten like a horse since rediscovering my appetite at 30 weeks! I went to bed feeling fine but woke early with cramp-like twinges across the top of my bump- at first I blamed the pulled pork burrito ;-). Having been to the Pregnancy Assessment Unit 3 times with reduced movement during the previous month, I thought I’d better get checked out. I would urge any expectant mothers to do the same and ‘count the kicks.’ Trust your gut instinct if you think anything is amiss.
I had a midwife appointment scheduled for Thursday but called and asked if they could fit me in sooner. They could, so off I went. The midwife checked me over, and through our mutual appreciation of pretty shoes, she noticed I had swollen ankles. I just thought this was normal being 7 months pregnant in a very hot June. She asked for a sample and for the first time ever since being pregnant, I couldn’t wee. 3 pints of water later I produced a tiny sample that tested positive for protein. My heart sank when my midwife asked if I had someone at home (my husband was working away in Essex) she said that I would need to take my hospital bag (which I hadn’t packed!) and go to labour ward. It was all a blur but I never for one moment expected what happened next…
I arrived at the labour ward with my Mum, ready to apologise for wasting their time and be sent home again, especially when the Midwife greeted us by saying “I don’t know why they’ve sent you.” Another tiny urine sample, blood pressure, and blood tests later it became clear I wasn’t going anywhere. I was admitted to the High Dependency Unit with severe Pre-eclampsia and was told that I wouldn’t be going home until I’d had the baby. By this time my husband had arrived at the hospital. The Consultant explained that they don’t know what causes the condition but the only way to cure it is to deliver the baby. GULP. We weren’t ready.
So, this was the Monday, and all the professionals I encountered explained that the next few days/ weeks would be a delicate balancing act. They prepared me by giving me steroid injections to help with her lungs, and gave us a tour of the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. They didn’t want to deliver Amelie any earlier than they needed to and wanted me to ‘cook’ her for as long as possible. But also if I/ she deteriorated then they would have to take action. Ideally they wanted me to make it to the weekend and 32 weeks, but by the Wednesday, my blood tests came back and they weren’t good and also my scan showed that Amelie’s abdomen growth had slowed. So a c-section was booked for that afternoon. (For more information on c-sections, see Nathan’s Mumma’s blog)
I can’t deny that my husband and I were absolutely terrified. We didn’t know if our baby would make it and nobody could reassure us otherwise. But at 14:19, a little lady weighing 3lb 3oz let out the most amazing little cry, and I was able to kiss her on the forehead before she was whisked away to NICU.
(For more information on what exactly Pre-eclampsia is and warning signs to look out for, visit: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pre-eclampsia/Pages/Introduction.aspx)
Life on the NICU
So, when I had envisioned the birth of our daughter, this was not at all what I had imagined. I spent the first 2 days after giving birth lying in HDU sleeping, crying, regaining strength, attempting to express some milk (I had wanted to breast feed but wasn’t sure if this was even a possibility anymore) and focussing on being well enough to go and see my little girl. My husband was an absolute pillar of strength and kept rushing between the 2 of us, taking photos of our daughter so I could see her and filling me in on her progress. By the Thursday evening, for my own mental health and sanity, I was given a 30 minute pass out to be wheeled around to NICU to go and see her. The first things that took my breath away were the smell of sanitizer and the beeping of the machines. It all looked very futuristic with tiny babies in their own little spaceship-like incubators. Amelie was wearing an oxygen mask to help her breathing so I couldn’t see all of her face, but when I put my hand through the tiny portal, I knew at once she was mine.
We spent a total of 31 days on the NICU and I will be eternally grateful for everything the doctors and nurses did for us and our little miracle. I could call them anytime day or night (and often did while I was expressing milk at 3am!)
Everybody’s NICU journey is completely different, and we by no means went through what most parents endured but I will let other parents tell the stories of their journeys. Amelie was a good weight, breathed independently after 4 days and could maintain her temperature, we were very lucky indeed. There were occasional lows for us – at one point Amelie was rushed back into intensive care with suspected NEC http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/medical-information/search-for-medical-conditions/necrotising-enterocolitis/ and had to be nil-by-mouth for 3 days and placed on a caffeine drip to prevent sleep apnoea. But at every moment, we felt completely confident in the NICU staff and they always explained various procedures and terminology.
There were also incredible highs:
- Learning to care for our baby and complete nappy changes and temperature monitoring through the doors of the incubator.
- See her face without an oxygen mask and being able to hold her for the first time.
- Progressing from room 1 (intensive care and incubators), to open heated cots and no breathing support meant being able to hold our baby whenever we liked (as long as we monitored her temperature closely.)
- Learning to breast-feed with the support of incredibly well-trained nurses,
- Meeting and talking to other parents. Sometimes just sitting in silence with them or making them a cup of tea.
- Spending days by our baby’s side watching her grow stronger each day. Knowing we were getting ever closer to the day we could bring her home where she belonged.
The day we brought Amelie home.
I am thankful every day for being over-cautious and trusting my instincts during my pregnancy. We are so incredibly in love with our little girl. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still feel twinges of sadness when I see other Mummies with big round tummies. Not because I am not happy for them, but because I grieve those last months of pregnancy still. I still occasionally feel that Amelie was ‘torn’ from me unexpectedly and I wasn’t mentally prepared. Of course I am happy my daughter is here safely, but I think it’s okay to long for the ‘normal’ experience and feel like I lost out on some parts of it. However, our little impatient lady is a fighter. She is now approaching 17 months old and astounds us every day. She has an amazing little personality and makes us laugh uncontrollably. She is ahead with some parts of her development but behind in others- but isn’t every child? I try not to get hung up on the facts and figures, because as her Mumma, I know that she is doing brilliantly. (see Development milestones.)
And finally, some ways you can help parents of a premature baby:
– Be patient with visiting. The parents are not being rude, and of course they would love to introduce you to their baby, but the NICU is an incredibly sensitive area with some incredibly poorly babies therefore space and visiting times are limited. We simply had an open house when we brought Amelie home.
– Food parcels! We were at NICU from first thing in the morning until late at night, so cooking was the last thing on our minds when we got home. Therefore home-cooked food that we could bung in the microwave was amazing!
– Lifts to and from the hospital. Having just had a c-section, I wasn’t allowed to drive for 4-6 weeks. My husband decided to save his paternity leave for when baby was home and we ‘really’ needed him so I relied on lots of lifts to and from the hospital.
So here’s: What NOT to say to a Preemie Mom
Although well-meaning, the following sentences stung a bit for me….
“You are so lucky that you didn’t have to be pregnant for nine months and gain all that weight!
When is your baby coming home?
At least you can sleep through the night and recover from surgery; once the baby comes home you will have your hands full!
Your baby is so tiny and cute!
With all those nurses around, you and your husband should just go out…you’ve got great babysitters!”
Useful websites/ blogs/ support groups that kept me sane!
Derby Friends of the baby unit/ BURPs https://www.justgiving.com/friendsofbabyunit
Little Miracles UK (Facebook page) https://www.facebook.com/littlemiraclesunitedkingdom
Tommy’s Charity: http://www.tommys.org/
Stockists of prem-baby clothing:
Because there was nothing nicer to be able to dress your baby in clothes you had chosen. Here are our top 2.
www.mothercare.com We found Mothercare fit the best with Velcro allowing easy manoeuvring around the wires and monitors.
www.asda.com Asda have since brought out a range of affordable premature baby clothing starting from size up to 3lbs.