I was on a high after my 20 week scan, when we found out we were having a girl. I have two stepsons so a little girl was the
best news.

The next day however, I had a call from the midwife saying we would be referred to the Maternal Fetal Medical team at Wellington Hospital for follow up scans, as the baby was measuring small for her gestational age. We found out at the scan that she was only the size of an 18-week old baby and there were some problems with the blood flowing to her. We would have to be monitored and have continued growth scans for the next few weeks.

Charlotte was born at 27+6wks weighing 614gms

She measured just over 300 grams at the first scan. We were told she needed to reach at least 500 grams and 23 weeks gestation to be ‘viable’. For the next almost 8 weeks I managed to keep her inside and growing before the blood flow started to not work as it should. It was pretty nerve-wracking each week. She was still moving and kicking, so we had hope that all would be ok.

During our second to last scan my husband and I could see that the blood flow had changed on the picture, so we pretty much knew she would be coming soon. She measured just over 600 grams that day. We were asked to come back on Monday for another scan and bring a hospital bag just in case. I was admitted on Monday after our final scan. I was supposed to have 48 hours of Magnesium and Steroids to help her brain and lungs form a little better, before delivering her via C-Section. After a few hours of monitoring, 1 steroid injection and a little bit of magnesium her heart rate started dropping every few minutes. The decision was made to deliver her before she became too distressed.

Charlotte arrived via semi-planned emergency C-Section just after midnight on the 25th of May 2021, at 27+6 weeks and weighing a tiny 614 grams. It was a bit of a complicated delivery, firstly I reacted to the epidural medication and then she was wedged in my pelvis, which resulted in her not being delivered as gently as the surgeon had hoped for. We were told at that gestation she may not breathe on her own straight away or open her eyes when born. She did both! She took a breath and looked at her daddy before they whisked her off to NICU. Greig followed them to find out where our girl would be living for the next little while.

At 4am that morning I got to meet our baby girl. She was tiny. She had lines in both arms, sunglasses on because of Jaundice, a CPAP mask on her face and tubes in her mouth. I could really only see her feet! It was not how I expected meeting my daughter would be. I was shocked and overwhelmed, but also so happy that she was here and was ok.

The next few days were a bit of a blur. Figuring out what to do and how to look after her and myself while recovering from a major surgery was very overwhelming in the first few days. Greig spent the next week getting the boys sorted and off to school each day before making his way to the hospital to be with us. It was an adjustment for everyone in our family.

Kangaroo cuddles at 10 days old

On day 3 I was able to hold her for the first time. That was the best feeling. She felt so real to me then. It wasn’t as scary after that first time. I mean she was the smallest baby I had ever seen, but she was my daughter and she needed me to be strong for her. Being my first baby I didn’t really have anything else to compare it to, which I think did make it easier to cope with. Leaving her in the hospital after I was discharged was the most unnatural thing to do as a mother. To trust the Doctors and Nurses with your baby just 5 days after giving birth is very hard. But they are all so wonderful and caring and over the next 10 days or so it became a lot easier for me to handle. This was my new normal for the next few months.

I looked at the hospital journey as my third trimester. Instead of growing my girl inside, I grew her on the outside in a hospital incubator. I fed her my expressed breast milk through a tube. I spoke, sang and read to her as much as I could. I grew her with love and cuddles. We created a bond which I think is stronger than if I had carried her full term. This was my way of staying positive and to try and enjoy the journey that I was living but that I definitely did not expect when I found out I was pregnant.

We had our share of ups and downs throughout our 3 month stay in Wellington NICU and then Lower Hutt SCBU. Complications like chest infections, Blood transfusions, failed eye exams, brain scans, umbilical hernia, thyroid issues and chronic lung disease.

Charlotte tried hi-flow oxygen 3 times before she finally managed to breathe on her own just 2 weeks before we came home. Our breastfeeding journey was not easy and never really worked. She came home with a feeding tube still. Once I let go of my dream to breastfeed Charlotte did a lot better and began to thrive on the bottle. But this wasn’t until a few weeks
after we got home.

One of the hardest things about the journey was feeling alone with our baby. We were in hospital throughout COVID and RSV which meant visiting restrictions were tough. Since we have two other children and our own business my husband wasn’t able to visit as much as he would have liked. It was tough on the whole family. We always knew though it wouldn’t be
forever and we always stayed positive that she would be coming home soon. Now that she is home she has the whole family looking after her. She especially adores her big brothers!

A few of the most special moments were the firsts.

“the first time I had looked into her eyes”

At 10 days old we changed her CPAP mask over and was able to take it off for a few moments. As soon as it came off she opened her eyes and looked up at me. She was following my voice. It was the first time I had looked into her eyes and the first time she had really seen her mum. It was so special!

At 3 weeks old she was trialed on hi-flow oxygen instead of CPAP. I was able to kiss my daughter’s head for the first time. It was times like these that were so amazing. They were moments that I didn’t know I was missing until they happened.

At 1 month old, Charlotte was just over 1kg and I gave her a bath. I had never bathed a baby before, let alone bathing a tiny baby in a bowl inside an incubator! It was quite a challenge. The reward at the end was wrapping her in a towel and holding her standing up for the first time. I could’ve been in my own bathroom for those few minutes. It was magical and so emotional. This was one of the times my Mum was able to come and be my support person and was a special day for both of us.

At 6 weeks old Charlotte was transferred to Lower Hutt SCBU. This was the biggest transition for me. Moving from NICU which had become my 2nd home took a lot of getting used to. I felt safe there as I had got to know the processes, the doctors and nurses and the lovely staff at The Little Miracles Trust! This was a good thing though. Charlotte was well enough to be moved there and it meant we were one step closer to home.

Charlotte in SCBU Lower Hutt

I soon got to know the nurses in SCBU and they were so amazing. They looked after Charlotte so well. For the next 8 weeks I sat by her side, now that she was in an open cot I was able to do a lot more of her care myself and also give her cuddles as much I wanted too. I continued to watch her grow and change. It was hard at times to watch the slow process, but I just took each day as it came. It wasn’t long before the doctors started talking about going home soon. Even that was a process in itself. Like waiting for Christmas but you don’t know what day it will be. I still didn’t believe it until I walked through our front door with her though!

After 94 days in hospital, on the 26th of August (8 days after her actual due date) we finally were able to come home. Charlotte
was still pretty small at just 2.7kg but she was so much stronger. That was the best day. She was finally able to meet her
big brothers properly and our dogs and see her bedroom that had been waiting for her.

She has amazed our friends and family with her progress and how well she has done over the last year given her uncertain start in life. She continues to grow and develop as she should. She is a super happy and feisty little girl. She always has a smile on her face and she completes our family perfectly.

Having a premature baby will be something that is woven into my life story. It’s an experience I will never forget. I am so proud of our family and how we have handled the journey we have been on together. I am so thankful to my family and my friends for their support and love throughout the last year.

I would love to thank all the Nurses and Doctors that looked after Charlotte (and me at times!) We will be forever grateful for the care you gave our little girl. We would not be here today without you.

***** Thanks so much for sharing *****

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 info@littlemiraclestrust.org.nz 

If you want to help our support of families going through the stress and anxiety of a neonatal journey, you can donate here.

  • The Little Miracles Trust provides support to families of premature or sick full-term babies as they make their journey through Neonatal Intensive Care, the transition home, and onwards. We do not receive any Government funding and are entirely reliant on the generosity of individuals, companies and organisations in the form of donations, value-in-kind donations, grants, sponsorship and fundraising events to supplement operating costs and fund our services and initiatives.
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