I knew there were premature babies, but I never thought it would happen to me. I actually thought the opposite would happen – he’d stay in there for 42 weeks and need to be evicted!
So when I reached 29 weeks and got “a show”, then started getting tummy ache that felt like period pain, I didn’t think much of it. But then I didn’t feel well and the tightenings came and went every 5-10 mins, it was then I started to worry. I contacted my midwife, it was her weekend off so I got her back up. She said it’s probably nothing but arranged for us to meet her at the hospital to get checked just in case.
So we set off, didn’t take anything with us, as we didn’t think we would be there long. The doctor did an internal check, looked up at me with a worried look and said “I think your cervix is open”. They took a swab to test for threatened pre-term labour. It came back positive. I was in shock. I was at high risk of having the baby in the next 2 weeks and had to stay in hospital under observation. Although high risk it was still only a low chance – just 3 in 10, I was told it was probably just an incompetent cervix.
Simon went back home to get me an overnight bag. Meanwhile a team of nurses came in, they gave me the first of two steroid injections in the bum to help Felix’s lungs mature, inserted a cannula into my wrist and started a magnesium drip to help Felix’s brain develop. Then they dropped the bombshell – if Felix did come early they didn’t have space in Christchurch NICU so they were transferring me to Wellington. An ambulance would be picking me up in 45 mins, strapped to a stretcher and rigged up to machines, to take me to the airport – lights and sirens – so I could be air lifted. I completely freaked out. I wasn’t ready to have a baby yet, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to go to Wellington. This wasn’t how I’d imagined it at all. Simon just made it back to the hospital in time so we could say goodbye. There wasn’t room for him in the plane, I had to go alone. I landed around midnight. I went to the toilet in the aircraft hanger, I was bleeding, and scared.
Most of that night was a blur. I was monitored constantly and had hourly obs taken, Felix’s heartbeat remained strong throughout. I had a specialist explain to me all the risks of a preterm baby but reassured me that babies born after 28 weeks do really well. I was given tablets orally and vaginally to try to stop the labour. They were able to delay my labour for 48 hours which was the magic number for all the drugs Felix needed to give him the best chance on the outside. The contractions even stopped for about 6hrs.
After that they just let things happen naturally. And that they did. Thankfully Simon had joined me in Wellington by this time. The contractions got quite intense quite fast, I was still in denial until another internal examination confirmed I was 6cm dilated which is beyond the point of no return. All of a sudden the room filled up with people.
After about 1.5hrs of labour I had to start pushing. 10 mins in there was an explosion of water.
“What the hell was that?”
“That was your waters breaking. One more push.”
“You’ve given birth”.
WTF? I couldn’t hear him. I didn’t get to see him or touch him.
“They’re just working on him now.”
He was born flat. I felt empty.
I later found out I’d delivered the placenta at the same time as Felix. So that’s why they stitched me up straight away.
As they were wheeling Felix away in his incubator to NICU they stopped briefly at the side of my bed so I got a quick glance. He looked much better than I expected. They said he was doing well, he was a good weight for his gestation, he just needed some help breathing. The room emptied and it was just Simon and I again. Simon helped me shower, there was a surprising amount of blood – I had to check it was normal. Then I ate a packed lunch out of a brown paper bag whilst we waited to be invited to NICU to meet our son properly. It was very surreal.
NICU was singlehandedly the hardest thing I have ever been through. Watching this baby I had grown in my tummy for 6 months fight for his life, having to leave him every night, wondering if he would make it through the night, petrified every time the phone rang. It’s something no parent should have to go through. After 75 days in NICU, 22 days in Wellington and 53 days in Christchurch, 1 day after Felix’s due date, we finally got to take him home.
Fast forward 17 months and Felix is thriving. He’s meeting all his development milestones and doesn’t appear to have any long term effects of being premature. We put this down to all the angels that are the NICU nurses who cared for Felix along the way. Felix means happy and lucky. He’s certainly happy, but we’re the lucky ones.