Natalie Jones tells her story of becoming a first-time mummy to a premature baby at 27+6 weeks in 2017.
I want to let readers know what to expect as a mum with a premature baby and encourage them to stay positive. But above all, I want readers to understand that if they are going through a similar experience, the way that they are feeling IS normal.
In the back of my mind, I half expected I could have a prem baby as I had previously had two lots of loop diathermy treatment on my cervix for pre cancer cells. I was warned I would be monitored if I became pregnant in the future, so I did lots of research and found out that if I got to 24 weeks pregnant, my baby would be resuscitated if they were born and weren't breathing.
When I became pregnant, I prepared myself for a natural labour. Given my cervix, I presumed I wouldn’t be allowed to have a water birth and plus I wasn’t convinced I would get to full term. My main focus was to get to 24 weeks. Unfortunately the monitoring I was promised didn’t happen. Me and my midwife fought hard to get the monitoring for me but failed. I felt let down, worried, scared. But I knew I had to stay strong and positive, so I continued to focus on getting to 24 weeks.
I imagined pregnancy to be tiring and feeling sick a lot. I was sick for two weeks straight hating my pregnancy. Then after this, I felt much more like myself. A little tired here and there but otherwise fine.
At 27 weeks, I started to get stomach cramps. The stomach cramps became painful. I began timing these episodes just in case I needed to call the hospital. I thought it was just Braxton Hicks. They were happening every minute. I started to panic. I got out my pregnancy book to research Braxton Hicks. It stated that they can be uncomfortable but never painful. I then began to panic more. I suddenly had the urge to go to the toilet. And that’s when I saw blood.
So me and my partner got in the car and called the hospital on the way. The pain was incredible now. At the hospital, a midwife put a monitor on me and said ‘You’re definitely having contractions.’ I then found out I was eight centimetres. Baby was coming. The room was flooded with doctors, nurses and midwives. They gave me an injection to slow down my labour, but the pain kept coming. It was almost constant now. Gas and air did nothing for me. I begged for an epidural, which they did agree to as they hoped it would also slow down my labour.
The anaesthetist finally arrived. But to bend over to have this injection was distressing for me and my baby. So we agreed to laying on my side. This position is much more difficult for the anaesthetist to insert the needle and so he kept hitting the bone. We were having no luck with the epidural. The midwife sent for another anaesthetist but as she entered the room, I had the urge to push. They laid me back on my back, my waters broke and within five minutes, my baby boy was born!
They put him into a bag to keep him warm and checked him, making sure he was breathing. Once they were happy, they briefly showed us him before whisking him off for tests and oxygen.
The next part was the longest of my life.
Hours went by not knowing what was happening and if he was okay. Eventually, we got to go down to the Intensive Care Unit. My baby was in an incubator with wires everywhere linked up to a machine. He had oxygen pumping to him, an eye mask on and lights on him to help with jaundice, a cannula for medication and a tube for feeds. He was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. He could fit into the palm of my hand and only weighed 2lb 4oz.
Shortly after arriving in ICU, a doctor came to tell us that they were moving him to another hospital as they didn’t have enough nurses. My world fell apart.
How could they do this?
He was so small, needing so much help. They were taking my baby to a hospital almost 60 miles away as it was the nearest grade three hospital with an available bed.
The staff there were amazing. I found we had more one-on-one care and on the second day, I got to have skin on skin contact with my son for the first time. It felt amazing, this little human snuggling into me. We were only at that hospital for a week before we were sent back to our local hospital. I can’t thank the staff there enough for their help and care.
Our local hospital was such a busy hospital. After the journey, my baby took a few steps back, needing a bit more help and care. I found this time quite hard and challenging.
On the second week of him being born, I melted down. I had been strong for so long fighting for him, being there twenty-four seven, that I broke down crying for the first time since having him. I felt I couldn’t imagine bringing him home. Like it was never going to happen. All the negative feelings I was pushing away suddenly all came out. It’s okay to feel like this. I realised this IS normal. No-one can be strong and positive all the time.
We had days when all those steps we had taken forward were pulled from under us as the doctors thought he had life threatening diseases like NEC and Sepsis. His heart rate kept dropping and temperature fluctuated. My baby had three blood transfusions while being in hospital. They saved his life. When he had the first one, I was so scared. By the third, I realised what a simple life saving procedure this was. Nothing to be scared of. I now give blood to help others the way my son was.
After three long months of being in hospital, and being moved to three different hospitals, my son came home. It took until a week before coming home to come off oxygen and breathe for himself. But he did it. The whole time in hospital, I knew it was my duty to be with him twenty-four seven, be strong for him. The rest of the world didn’t matter. My business didn’t matter. It was all about him. But I never had that bond. I felt guilty for that.
Why couldn’t I feel that?
I knew I loved him and would do anything for him but the connection wasn’t there.
When you have an incubator and doctors and nurses between you, it never really feels like your baby. It wasn’t until he came home that I felt like a mum.
Natalie, 33, is a mother of two living with her partner and children in Leicestershire. She is a level 4 beauty therapist and in 2014 opened her very own beauty salon.
If she is not pampering her clients, Natalie enjoys health and fitness, catching up with friends, fine dining and travel.
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