The morning of New Year’s Day 2004, I woke to find a lot of blood surrounding me. My husband Brendon and I rushed to Palmerston North Hospital and were soon told that our baby was on the way! What? I was only at 23weeks and 5 days; the only chance he had to survive was to be admitted to the Wellington Neonatal unit. The nurse said to me “they don’t take under 24 weekers”, which left me confused and scared.
I insisted they take me to Wellington Hospital since I wanted to give my first born a chance of survival. I told the nurse that my last scan a few days ago said, “I was 24weeks and two days gestation”. As soon as she heard this information, they made the decision to air lift me to Wellington Hospital. In my head I thought, “Thank God my son is going to be ok”. I was given drugs to stop my contractions as well as steroids to help develop my baby’s lungs. Once I arrived in Wellington I was told that I would need to have a c-section. On New Years Day at 7.28pm, I had my son! I was only able to see him for less than 5 seconds as he was rushed away. I was left alone in the dark recovery room whilst my husband went with our son to the Neonatal Unit (NICU). It was both a hard and scary time just waiting, not knowing what was going on.
After what felt like forever, they wheeled me down to visit my son. Wow! It was love at first sight! He was so perfect, so tiny, and so beautiful. My husband named him Luke. He had lots of strange machines with cords wrapped around him; we were not able hold Luke, only softly touch his tiny hand through the warm incubator. In the next 5 days we were the proudest parents to Luke, I was able to feed him 1 ml of milk through a tube and we even got to change his nappy and clean his face. We really loved being parents. He received incredible care from the doctors and nurses at the Wellington NICU.
Tragically on his sixth day in the unit, Luke became extremely ill. Every time we went down to see him, we couldn’t since he was constantly surrounded with doctors and nurses working on him. This day was definately the longest day of my life; Later that night we got told that Luke would not make it. I had so many layers of hurt. Luke was unable to overcome his prematurity and on day 6 I was able to hold my son for the first time as he took his last breath. We watched a kind nurse wash Luke and dress him, and then they put him in a little carry basket.
We then left the hospital to drive all the way back to Palmerston North. Luke’s basket sat on my lap the entire trip. Once we arrived home, I placed him in his new basinet that was under his new Pooh Bear mobile. I can’t put into words my emotions from that day. It was unbearable pain and hurt. All I did was scream and cry. At his funeral I read out a letter that I wrote to Luke. I thanked him for each day he held on, he taught me to cherish every minute of every day. Luke was truly a miracle and although I can’t see him, I know he is always with me. I love him so much.
I found out from Lukes doctor that I may have a weak cervix and next time I was pregnant I would need a cervical stitch. When you lose your first baby you never expect that it could happen again. I went through a private gynaecologist and told her at every appointment how important it was for me to have a cervical stitch put in. She wanted to wait and see what would happen but it was too late.
My baby girl Brielle was born on 20 November 2004, at 26 weeks and 1 day gestation. Not only did Brielle decide to arrive early, she tried to make an entrance at 20 weeks, which was when my scan showed my cervix was only ½ cm long. I then had to have an emergency cervical stitch put in. I remember thinking “this should have been done 3 weeks ago when my cervix was long”.
At 25 weeks gestation I was taken straight to Wellington hospital by air ambulance. They gave me steroids for Brielle’s lungs and pills to stop my contractions. It was scary as well as confronting since I was going back to Wellington again with another premature baby, all in the same year! The helicopter crew helped to calm me but my contractions were getting stronger. When I finally got to Wellington they were ready to deliver my baby. Luke’s doctor walked in and within ten minutes I had calmed down and my contractions started going away. I got moved into a ward and started counting down the days of getting to my goal of 30 weeks. That goal didn’t happen as I started going into labour at 26 weeks and 1 day gestation.
I had a natural birth and met my baby girl. She was like an angel had dropped from heaven, so beautiful! She had one eye open that was looking at me as she went past in her incubator. When I was able to see her in the Neonatal Unit, I was so scared the memories that I had here with Luke would come back. My heart was beating fast as I approached the room where she was covered in wires, fighting to survive. I believe it was my cervical stitch that enabled her to fight for a longer period of time.
On day two the Doctor told me she was having breathing difficulties so they inserted a special breathing tube into her airway to help her. She also need special lines into her belly button so they could give her fluids. She managed to get a pneumothorax (sort of like a hole) in both of her lungs. This resulted in the staff inserting special drains in her lungs to get rid of the holes. She had morphine to help her sleep since chest drains are so painful. She was also given special medicine to help keep her blood pressure up and antibiotics in case she has got any infections. On this day I also learnt how to change her nappy from the lovely nurse, Melissa. We learnt how to wipe her eyes and mouth too.
On day five I was finally able to feed her 1 ml of my milk through a tube. I held her for the first time with both my hands as Melissa changed her bedding. This day was particularly special since I had my first kangaroo cuddle.
It was a scary time. I had to walk through the halls often seeing other mothers with their healthy babies while at night I would hear other babies cry. I would turn on my light and look at a photo of Brielle that the Neonatal nurse had given me. We held onto hope that she would make it through. Each time she took a turn for the worse, the next few days she over came it. She made lots of tiny steps forward and every little step gave us another once of hope.
The best day was New Years Eve in 2004. We were finally able to bath Brielle and were told she could fly back home to Palmerston North NICU that day. Leaving the hospital twice in one year with two very different outcomes was extremely emotional.
On New Years Day in 2005 we visted Luke’s head stone. We let go of a blue balloon to mark his first birthday then returned to Palmerston North NICU. It was a great feeling knowing that we were able take our daughter, Brielle home on her due date of 11th Febuary 2005. She was 3 months and 7lb 9 ounces!
Despite the terrible odds 50 percent survival rate, Brielle could go home to Palmerston North NNU on the 31 December 2004 the day before Luke was born exactly 1 year ago. Upon leaving, I hung a photo of Luke in the NICU, as it would have been his 1st birthday the following day. Brielle fought to grow and simply survive, she had so many hurdles that life as an extremely early baby threw her way like hole in her lungs and a brain bleed it felt like being on a tall cliff not knowing if you will fall off but you don’t as you know your babys in their fighting to overcome it all so you be brave and fight with her and pray everyday that she will be ok it was a time of one step forward two steps back but as the weeks went by she took lots of small steps forward and every once she gained gave us an once of hope. Brielle was 10 on 20th November 2014 and is a living miracle. She is beautiful, kind, caring and smart with a strong will that we know helped her survival.
Six years later we had our third child Molly Hope, she was born at 39 weeks “full term”. She weighed 8lb, thanks to my cervical stitch that was put in at 16 weeks gestation. I also had 4 months bed rest, with my feet elevated up. I was able to take her home the day after giving birth too! She is now a happy nearly 3 year old now and Brielle loves having a little sister to play with. Our angel Luke though will always be in our hearts.
We had the most amazing support from the staff at Wellington NICU. They were my rock, they cared for our daughter as well as myself. Ronald McDonald house was my safe house that I called “home” for 2 months. I will be forever grateful for the services they provided me; the staff will never understand how much I appreciated the support. I was all alone most days in Wellington as my husband had to go back to work in Palmerston north so I felt really scared, I just couldn’t cope of losing another baby. I just wanted her to be ok. I was so lucky that I could stay at Ronald Mcdonald house it was opposite the hospital I could phone my husband when ever I needed to talk as there some really hard days. I could never repay them for what they did for our family in 2004. They gave us our son for 6 days which we will always treasure as well as our daughter.