23 weeks 3 days, 650 grams.

Charlotte was born at 23 weeks and 3 days and weighed 650 grams (a really good weight for her gestation). It had been a really normal pregnancy, but about two weeks before she was born I started to feel unwell. I had contracted an infection that no one had picked up, and eventually resulted in me going into premature labour.

I was terrified when I arrived at Delivery Suite early that morning, my partner and I had no idea that a baby born that early could survive. The doctors weren’t able to stop my labour, but they were able to slow the labour long enough to receive steroids to help her lungs. Charlotte arrived in the world after 14 hours in Delivery Suite, wriggling, squirming and trying to breathe on her own.

The first few weeks were very hard. On several occasions it looked like Charlotte wasn’t going to make it. Maintaining access to her veins for medications and nutrition was one of the biggest issues. She had six long (long term I.V.s), including one in her scalp, but they kept failing. At six weeks old she was given a surgical line (Hickman line) to provide her with reliable access to the nutrition she desperately needed to grow and heal.

I held her for the first time when she was two weeks old. She weighed less than 500 grams at that point and was in pretty bad shape. It was a scary experience, but very special. Once her condition became more stable her Dad and I would take turns giving her Kangaroo (skin to skin) cuddles each day.

Another problem Charlotte faced was the breakdown of skin around her neck, arms and wounds on her abdomen. But incredible, even with the limited nutrition she was receiving, these managed to heal.

Charlotte spent nearly four weeks on a ventilator helping her breathe and this damaged her lungs. Moving from the ventilator to bubble flow CPAP was another huge hurdle. She managed but it was hard watching her struggle with the effort of breathing on her own. Charlotte came home on a “whiff” of oxygen, but within three months only required it at night, and was free of it completely within six months.

It took Charlotte nearly two months to get to 1kg in weight and she was just over 3kg when she went home.

Charlotte spent 132 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She is now a happy, healthy little girl and her fantastic progress is testament to her strong spirit and the fantastic skills of the staff of the Wellington Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She still carries scars from her early arrival, but our family’s scars are all but healed and she brings us all joy every day.