The following post was originally published for enemenemini.eu
After 13 weeks of unexplained bleeding and several emergency room attendences, my labour commenced on day 6 of week 25 of pregnancy. Due to her breech position, Amelia was delivered by emergency Caesarean-Section 5 hours later weighing 780 grams. She required resuscitation at birth, was administered the life-saving surfactant for her lungs, was immediately intubated and taken to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where she would spend the next 77 days. And so begins the journey of endless hand washing to the point of drawing blood, alarm bells ringing in my dreams, tiny babies clinging to life by a thread and the parallelworld of the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.
The initial days of Amelia’s life were fraught with uncertainty, fear, loss and a bizarre sense of jubilation. Despite the frail picture before us in the incubator, we opted to concentrate on the only positive fact we could draw from the grave situation we found ourselves in – the survival statistics for children born at her gestation-50% (with/without a certain degree of disability).
Amelia’s condition remained critical for seven weeks during which time she suffered from a Patent Ductus Arteriosis (heart defect) which was medicated and closed over, lung secretions which required removal several times a day, several resuscitations, many infections, anaemia and non-functioning bowels. Her fragile skin bled when touched, she was ventilated for four weeks and unable to tolerate expressed breastmilk for four weeks. She required eight blood transfusions, required phototherapy, suffered bradycardia and apnoeas, was administered caffeine to stimulate her brain and her prognosis was uncertain for quite some time.
As a first time mother all my expectations of motherhood had been shattered; I had lost over 14 weeks of my pregnancy and I was unable to perform the most basic task of motherhood – to hold my preciuos baby. The only care function that I could execute unaided from her in those early days was to express milk every three hours and that task had to be completed by the nursing staff who tube fed my daughter for 10 weeks. Being discharged home from hospital five days after her birth was the most unnatural feeling for us as a family as we were leaving our little teasure to arrive home to an empty house. My partner John and I spent every waking hour at the incubator and were rewarded by Mother Nature after two weeks, as we witnessed our daughters fused eyelids open and view the world that had been transmitting sounds to her tiny brain for the previous two weeks. One of my cherished memories from the NICU is that we were the first people that our daughter saw as she opened her eyes to the world.
After three weeks I was allowed to hold my daughter despite the alarms, machines and tubes, it was my first proper experience of motherhood. Amelia went on to contract MRSA and required isolation and barrier nursing which isolated us from the very important "family" that we had grown accustomed to in the unit. Little did we realise but the friendships formed with other parents whose children were in the NICU at the same time as Amelia would become an integral part of our lives in the years to come. For a further six weeks Amelia remained on CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) and finally after several steps backwards, many nights of watching her fragile life hover on the precipice of life and death, she progressed to breathing unaided – a goal that even amazed the medical team who had expected her to be discharged home on oxygen.
Seven weeks into Amelia’s hospital stay her consultant offered us the first glimmer of hope that our daughter was going to survive her early arrival. The immense relief at hearing the words, "we think its OK for you to start decorating your nursery", negated all those frantic nights of terror and heartache when we wondered if our duaghter would see the dawn.
This blog is part of a series on HNN marking World Prematurity Day, November 17, that discusses preterm birth and highlights the actions needed to prevent and reduce preterm birth, the leading cause of newborn deaths. Join us as we discover that everyone has a role to play. To get involved and learn more, please visit www.facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay.