As told by mum Jadey,
Thursday 28th January 2016 started like every other day, staring at a slice of toast determined to eat it before I spewed, and I had to redo my make up before work.
I was 28 weeks pregnant and I had lost 14kgs in weight, something which would normally be an achievement but subconsciously my brain and body knew something wasn’t quite right. I was a first-time mum and I just accepted I was one of the unlucky ones that got the extreme sickness. I was a strong woman who worked to plan and I still had three months of the pregnancy left to get through. I had a full-time job with lots of responsibility and I needed to wrap that up before I could nest and prepare to be a mum.
As 9.30am rolled around, I popped out of the office to attend my monthly routine midwife appointment. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for what was about to happen. When I sat down in my midwifes office she took my blood pressure, looked at me and said that can’t be right we will check it again soon after we have had a chat.
We continued with the appointment and I expressed how sick I was still each day and that nothing had settled. We spoke about some of the pressure my job was having on my mental health, she then checked Frankie’s heart rate which was good and then continued to do my blood pressure again. By that point I had figured out something wasn’t quite right. I looked at her and said please give it to me straight no pretty pictures, what is wrong?
I think looking back now, I subconsciously knew that day was literally going to change my life forever. She went on to tell me there was a chance I had preeclampsia. Even now it blows my mind that I was 28 weeks pregnant and I didn’t know what that was. My blood pressure was very high, and she told me we need to head to the Hospital straight away.
Upon arrival at the Hospital, we were greeted with a room full of specialists. At this point I was still very oblivious as to how serious the situation was, but I think my brain had already switched me into survival mode. My blood pressure was still rising but Frankie’s heart rate was still in a good place, so two magnesium sulphate IV’s were started in hope that would regulate my blood pressure.
After 30mins it was still rising so they made the call to start another two IVs. Unbeknownst to us at this point, Whanganui Hospital had rung ahead for Life Flight to get a team from Wellington over to us. The reality was Whanganui was not equipped for a baby of this gestation, especially one that was measuring small and there was no way I was going to make the trip to Wellington.
Another 30 minutes went by and I was in two minds as to whether we would a) be taking a baby home tomorrow or b) if they would retest my BP and it would have returned to normal so that we could go home. Of course both were so far from reality. I often flash back to this point and think how glad I am that I didn’t quite know how serious it was, because this wasn’t the plan and I’m not sure I would have been able to process it then.
Shortly after the fourth IV was put in, a specialist came to see me, he took my hand and he said, “young lady in all of my years in this profession I have never been able to communicate with someone who’s BP is this high”. I think at that exact point my brain allowed my body to understand how serious this was and it was like an instant release of adrenaline, needing to be tough suddenly disappeared. I began to feel nauseous and within seconds could barely hold my head up and was weak.
Things then became an emergency and Frankie was at risk. We were taken straight down to theatre where an extraordinary paediatrician met us, he came so close to me, held my cheeks and told me to stop worrying about the chaos around me and to listen to him. He had my full attention and nothing else was even on my radar. He said he was here to look after our baby and he was going to make sure everything was ok, we just needed to trust him.
I now know what he said to me was a big call and hypothetically if Frankie didn’t make it he could have gotten into some serious trouble. But he saw a mum on that bed whose life was falling apart right in front of her eyes with no warning and I will never forget how he made me feel. In fact, I think if he had not said that to me I would have just passed out and not been able to stay awake for Frankie’s birth.
This was the first time I had been in a operating theatre and it was a huge shock. The stark whiteness and the bright lights instantly scared me and I just broke down while they were trying to do my spinal block. My anaesthetist was actually a client of the place I worked and when I saw her, she was the calmest person, nothing fazed her. I’m sure she had seen this situation so many times before but she made me feel like we were the only people in the world that mattered.
Within a few minutes Frankie was pulled out of me, I want to say I gave birth but none of Frankie’s birth felt like I had control over it and unfortunately it did just feel like he was pulled straight out of me. I heard someone ask if there was a chance the dates would be wrong. This still haunts me now, he was so small for his gestation that they had to ask if he was even 24 weeks.
Frankie wasn’t breathing and was immediately taken to the resus table. He wasn’t shown to me, there was no congratulations, he’s here or even it’s a BOY. The room was silent, there was no crying baby, just the noise of them manually keeping Frankie alive because they didn’t have a ventilator small enough for him.
At that moment I desperately wanted to know if Frankie was a boy or girl, Shane was trying his best to find out but there were so many people working on him he just couldn’t see. Shane took a photo over their heads, so he could show me our baby and the rest was a blur as he was then taken away to SCBU while I was being stitched up.
Frankie was in SCBU and was taken to ICU. Everyone was very overwhelmed, we must remember Whanganui hospital doesn’t generally deal with situations like this, but they dealt with it like pros. An hour passed while the Wellington team worked on him and get him stable enough for the helicopter.
We were taken down to SCBU to see our baby for the first time before he was taken to Wellington NICU. I was in bed and still not stable but there was no way I couldn’t see him before he left. There was nothing that could prepare me for seeing our tiny 835g baby lying there on a ventilator with wires and monitors everywhere. There simply are no words to describe it. I struggled to process that he had to be taken and I couldn’t go with him. I also didn’t really understand what the love and bond was for a baby because I hadn’t even touched him.
Over the next few days I think I rang Wellington NICU every hour to be updated on Frankie and we will always be eternally grateful for their constant updates and photos. The only thing keeping me going through this time was expressing milk every two hours which I knew would help him through this situation.
Frankie got through the first 48hrs which can often be the biggest test and was doing well, they had done every test and scan imaginable and they would update us on everything as soon as we arrived. I remained critical as unfortunately, delivering the placenta did not resolve my preeclampsia and my blood pressure was extremely unpredictable. This meant no doctor would give me the OK to fly to Wellington, not even with a medical team.
This killed me, and it will forever haunt me that not only had we not felt each other’s touch, we were also hours away from each other, he needed me, and I needed him.
Sunday rolled around, and I just couldn’t wait any longer, I knew I was still very unstable but I needed to be with him. Shane said he would drive me there but that was a serious no go. Later that day, somehow, they managed to get Wellington Hospital to collect me by plane and admit me to their maternity unit. There was so much fuss, but I remember being on the tarmac at the airport and just standing up off the bed and walking onto the plane. There was nothing stopping me that day getting to Frankie, not even the logistics of the narrowest plane imaginable.
Upon arriving in Wellington I was taken straight to NICU. It was so unbelievably overwhelming, like a world I never knew existed. It was a world I never want to join but one that had chosen us and we had a long road ahead. The room had four other babies and there were so many sounds and alarms I just couldn’t focus. Here I was meeting my Son properly, it was supposed to be amazing, but I just felt nothing. He was helpless and I blamed myself.
I was taken to the delivery suite to get checked in and to sort out all my medications. If I missed one of the 11 blood pressure tablets I was taking it would rise within minutes. Being in the delivery suite when you don’t have a baby is hard and I had already started to struggle to hold myself together when I saw a mum and her new born. We were in the craziest situation; our son was fighting for his life and I was fighting for mine. To this day I am not sure how we did it.
Shane and my Mum stayed over in Ronald McDonald House, they were incredible and this meant they were close enough to support us both any time of day. I was moved to maternity the following day but each night my blood pressure would spike and I was rushed back down to delivery. Frankie was cruising along at this point, all tests and scans were positive, he just had a lot of growing to do. He was around four weeks behind on his physical growth, which suggested I may have had preeclampsia for four weeks prior to discovering it. This would have explained a lot.
Eight days had gone by and we sat at Frankie’s incubator all day every day, reading to him, taking endless photos of him, desperately hoping he wasn’t feeling any of the pain he was surrounded by. His nurse could see how much I needed to just feel like his mum and she said she needed to change his bedding, she then said I could hold him up while she did it if I wanted to. Honestly, I was terrified, he had lost weight at this point and he was around 750 grams. As she passed him to me all the alarms started going off and I could feel my body physically shaking, she looked at me and said he’s okay, he’s with his mum. That’s right I was his mum and for the first time I was holding our beautiful baby boy. I held him for maybe a minute at the most, but it was so special, and when you are in NICU its all the small things that are big.
A few days later I couldn’t bear to be in the maternity unit any longer, surrounded by new mums and crying babies was affecting my mental health so I was discharged on the understanding I would be living at Ronald McDonald House across the road and I would have my blood pressure checked every morning in the unit. My BP was still extremely unstable and if I was late with any meds I could feel it rising instantly. Frankie continued to get stronger each day and that’s all that mattered.
We had our fair share of speed bumps which is normal for any NICU journey. Shane had to return to work and I was alone Monday – Friday. Frankie’s strength, the amazing nurses and two incredible ladies (Tasia and Raewyn) from the Little Miracles Trust got us though every single day in NICU.
On day 76 we flew back to Whanganui where we spent a week preparing to get home. The Dr who had saved Frankie’s life was now his paediatrician and things were looking good. That week was a huge shock to the system for me. I had lived somewhere new for three months, I had created friends who were going through the same as us, I had built relationships with the nurses and I struggled to be back where we wanted to be but without our new village.
On Friday Frankie came off his oxygen and feeding tube and his Dr joked we would take him home on the Monday. Well, Monday morning rolled around and he said, ‘I hope you are ready because its home time.’ It’s funny because anyone who has had a baby in hospital will know how much you pine each day to take your baby home, you pass families in the lift with their babies in their car seats and it hurts but you tell yourself it will be you soon. Then it happens and you’re so happy you can’t wipe the smile off your face but deep down you are so incredibly scared and nervous. That feeling is the exact same feeling that every new parent has and it’s exactly that point that you can experience some of those normal new parent feelings.
This Journey changed me as a person, in some ways absolutely for the better. I had a long road ahead of dealing with all of the trauma we had experienced. It took years for me to acknowledge all my feelings and realise they were valid and it was ok to feel the way I felt regardless of having a healthy baby. Over the years, I found talking about our journey helped my healing process and still helps even today.
I chose to write a story from my perspective and then a detailed story of Frankie’s journey separate because often as parents we feel like we must always be ok, but we are often better parents when we acknowledge its ok to not be ok and with the right help we can feel ok again. Its an important lesson I learnt the hard way. Pretending I was ok when really, I was still dealing with health implications from my preeclampsia and blaming myself and my body for everything Frankie went through which was so unhealthy.
After processing our journey mentally over the years, I realised how passionate I had become, to not only help other families on their neonatal journeys, but to also raise awareness on preeclampsia and becoming involved in the community to help parents deal with their own trauma.
I am now lucky enough to work for The Little Miracles Trust and to have two beautiful healthy children who I am grateful for every single day.
Frankie is a healthy seven-year-old who will forever be our hero.
Jadey is our Service Delivery Manager based in the Waikato, providing onsite support to whānau of Aotearoa’s premature and unwell babies.
***** Thanks so much for sharing Jadey *****
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