When I was pregnant with my first, it was seen as a normal pregnancy. I had no warning signs until my waters broke in the middle of a spa. I was at just 32 weeks and 6 days.
My son was born weighing 4lbs 13oz, requiring intubation and in an incubator. I never heard him cry when he was born and I got to see him for all of 20 seconds before they had to take him away. It was 2 hours later that I saw him, hooked up to the machines.
I was given my own room so I didn't have to sleep in a room full of mums who had their newborn with them. That first night I barely slept, mostly from worry and upset, but also I was expressing my milk and taking it down to the Special Care Baby Unit every few hours. He was too weak to attempt breastfeeding at this point, so his milk was fed in a syringe through a tube down his nose. We were taught to do it ourselves so we were responsible for his feeds.
The next day I went home whilst my son was still in the hospital. Coming home after giving birth to a child without the child is a trauma that no one should have to bear, be it a loss or SCBU baby. Each day I would visit twice to change and feed him then have to go home again. I was exhausted. Our baby was in the unit for 21 days until he could come home.
He was still so small and vulnerable. I didn't go anywhere for quite sometime. My mental health really struggled during this time too, because even though he was home, care for a prem is different to care for a full term baby. You worry about everything and even though he was 3 weeks old it was like starting at day one.
To this day no matter what people say I always question if there was something I could have done to prevent it from happening. Mental health is a minefield when going through a premature birth. I went through a period of mourning I was told. Not the loss of the child but of the pregnancy itself. I felt robbed of the experience I assumed most women have.
In July 2020, my husband and I decided to try for another child. We had no luck for 6 months. Then I had what I thought was a very delayed period. It wasn't, I was miscarrying. I didn't even know I was pregnant but the lines were there clear as day. I was asked to bring in the tissue for testing and had to have blood tests taken over numerous days to confirm a drop in HCG.
I sat there with other women clearly going through the same. My heart was breaking for me and them. I was angry and upset as I felt like my body was letting me down again.
In April 2021 It was confirmed I was pregnant. I had numerous bleeds before my 12 week scan so I was terrified it was going to happen again. I had so many scans to monitor the bleeds. After my 12 week scan I was invited to a clinic for those with previous preterm labours in addition to my midwife appointments.
Every two weeks I would have an internal scan to measure cervix length, external scan of baby and a fibronectin test (similar to a smear test). This data would be put into an app and then a percentage would be given as to the chance of premature labour at different stages.
Whilst the scans were reassuring it would never be enough to stop the worry. Every odd feeling, everything I'd never before experienced, brought immediate worry.
I ended up in hospital at 30 weeks with a pain that they monitored for preterm labour but luckily I went home the next day. I was lucky to have an amazing support network in my husband, family, friends and workplace to reassure me and make sure I wasn't overdoing anything.
In December 2021, at 38 weeks and 2 days, I gave birth to our second baby boy. He cried and I got to hold him. There was no incubator or SCBU. He came home with us. I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced a full term pregnancy after all we had been through.
Charities like Tommy’s provide an essential support mechanism for parents going through one of the most traumatic times in their life. No one can understand the mixture of thoughts and emotions someone goes through, but Tommy's is trying everyday to prevent this from happening in the first place.
It's such a worthy cause, which is why I am raising money during the Baby Sensory Sensathon.