As told by mum, Danielle
I was elated when I found out I was expecting. From very early on I had this feeling that I just had to have twins and wanted them so badly. When I looked at the twins I was teaching at school, I just thought ‘yep that’s for me’.
Ten weeks into the pregnancy I started bleeding. It started at night and thought it was due to implantation and that it would stop but it didn’t, by morning it was heavier. I stayed calm and took myself off for a long and horrible hour drive to hospital.
Once at the hospital, I was taken straight in at the emergency department which made me feel nervous. Was it that bad that I needed seeing immediately? A part of me hoped I was over reacting and I waited on blood tests to see if my HCG level was high enough for them to be able to see my baby on an ultrasound. It was a long, hour, wait and I felt incredibly alone.
I went for the first of what would be many ultrasounds. The scan revealed twins but I was told there was a bleed, likely because one of the twins was not viable. My heart sank. The doctors then informed me there was a strong possibility I would lose the other baby too but I would have to wait and see. I was scanned every two weeks until I was twelve weeks pregnant and as the weeks went by, I felt more and more secure that my remaining baby would make it. I looked forward to the scans and seeing my baby but each scan also reminded me of what we had lost.
At the 19week anatomy scan we found out our baby was a boy. My son. My survivor. How much of a survivor he would turn out to be, I didn’t know yet. The other sac still remained but I felt confident he had made it, safe and sound and I would see him in 21 weeks.
The midwife came to check the heart beat which was strong. My partner and I quickly packed our bags and headed to the hospital. We’d be warned as we were from Marlborough that we would be heading to Wellington. Our obstetrician also advised that 80% of those with a premature rupture of membranes go into labour within 48hours and that it would be a rough ride for our baby who would need to fight for survival.
I waited in Wellington hospital for 4 weeks in the lead up to Christmas for my baby to arrive. The care I received was outstanding and the support and information from The Neonatal Trust was incredibly helpful. Every day they would monitor baby’s heart rate and I loved hearing his heart beat.
On Christmas Day, my son, Finn arrived. I was so annoyed, not only was my baby born early but he had what I deemed at the time the worst birthday ever!
To some extent I enjoyed giving birth but it was also scary and I worried what would happen to my baby when it was outside of my body so early. I remember so vividly feeling sad when a crew of neonatal doctors and nurses came into the room. Sad that so many people were needed when he wasn’t ready to enter this world.
They placed him on me for a minute and then whisked him away and I was grateful for this moment because it would be a while before I got to see Finn again. My placenta had to be manually removed so when I got to finally see him again I had to be wheeled into NICU in a hospital bed. I’m so grateful to those who facilitated this, that first glimpse at him in an incubator flooded me with emotion. I was elated, scared, sad, guilt ridden and proud all at the same time. It was at this time I got to touch him, and I lay there with my hand on his tiny leg for half an hour.
Our time in NICU went quickly. The first week my partner did all of Finns cares. He changed his nappy, wiped him down and changed his sheets. That first week I got to experience skin to skin kangaroo cuddles which also helped my milk to come in. It was daunting to start with, all the machines and the cpap mask covering most of his face but everything was explained to us in detail and we learnt to read Finns emotions. We quickly settled into a routine and enjoyed the milestones of our journey.
Finn had continuous Bradycardic episodes which I accepted was ‘the norm’. Alarms would constantly go off but I always felt safe that the nurses were there to help and we were well supported.
Having Ronald McDonald house across the road was amazing. I felt truly at home there and being able to cook for myself again was lovely. I met so many mums in the same position and it was a wonderful support network. The Neonatal Trust offered support, guidance and breast pads. I also had an online group ‘due February’ which I’d joined earlier on in the pregnancy. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of these ladies.
We went back to our local regional hospital when Finn was 5 weeks old and I was finally able to stay in the same room as Finn, being his main carer, which was just wonderful. I loved listening to his little snores at night and being able to pick him up without asking. It was here that I finally felt like I was a mum.
The hardest part for me was breastfeeding. I absolutely loved being able to supply my son with milk and if we could just get the feeding sorted it would be all great. Pumping and caring for Finn was tough especially given he needed to be fed every 3 hours. I’d attempt a breastfeed, he’d such but not really swallow much then have a top up through his feeding tube. He’d then need support as he suffered from reflux and be in pain. I’d then try to fit in pumping and sterilising of the equipment before the next round of feeding. It was hard.
The paediatrician removed Finns feeding tube to try to get him to feed from the breast. I had Finn on the breast for 6 hours one day, I just knew he wasn’t getting enough, he was losing weight. I’d been pretty strong up until this point but I broke down and cried and cried and cried. I felt like a failure. After a week, the paediatrician agreed he should have a bottle with expressed breast milk to top him up after breastfeeding attempts.
We finally got to take Finn home one day after his due date, taking a bottle which was a huge relief. Being home with him, we had a few struggles. The breastfeeding/bottle feeding/pumping/cleaning routine with a reflux baby was time consuming and I was worried about leaving the house with his immunity not being as developed as other babies. I also didn’t have a support group because I’d missed my antenatal classes with him being born before classes had even started. There were many extra appointments to attend but things slowly got easier and easier.
Finn will be 5 this Christmas Day. Each stage had it’s own struggles but were equally met with huge rewards and I will forever be grateful to those who helped us on our neonatal journey.
*** Thanks for sharing your story Danielle and a very special Happy 5th Birthday to Finn this Christmas! ***
We get a lot of positive feedback from families in a neonatal unit who read these stories and feel strength, hope and positivity knowing that they are not alone going through these experiences and feeling certain emotions.
If you would like to discuss sharing the story of your neonatal journey, we’d love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in how The Neonatal Trust supports families going through the stress and anxiety of a neonatal journey?
Here’s a gallery of support examples.
In the story above, Danielle wrote about having Kangaroo Cuddles. This is one of the things parents can do to help bond with their baby whilst in the unit.
You can read more about Kangaroo Cuddles and how it helps on this page