My birth and NICU story, as told by mum Erin

My story started out as any normal pregnancy journey. I had morning sickness, fatigue and the usual pregnancy first trimester battles. I didn’t really think much of any symptoms my entire pregnancy as it was my first and I didn’t know what was normal or not.

We were living in South Africa and decided to move to NZ as my husband had studied here and was a permanent resident. At 28 weeks pregnant we made the long and emotional journey to NZ.

I had found a lovely midwife prior to moving over and kept in contact with her sharing all my scans and Drs visits in SA so she was well acquainted with my journey.

We never had any complications that were noticed on scans etc. I felt really awful my whole pregnancy but as I said I related it to normal pregnancy symptoms. My midwife sent me for a gestational diabetes test and that came back positive for gestational diabetes and I was devastated and thought I had somehow caused it.

I hadn’t been sleeping for days due to severe back pain and restless legs, the type of exhaustion where you feel like you’re beginning to lose your mind. One morning I decided enough was enough because my mental health was just deteriorating from the pain and lack of sleep, my husband didn’t believe me until the pain caused me to vomit everywhere. I went to the hospital ED as it was 6am and my GP wasn’t open until 8am. 

I simply went in to hopefully get some pain relief for my back or maybe get referred to a physio, I had no worries about my baby or pregnancy. However, They immediately sent me to the maternity ward to monitor the baby and make sure I wasn’t in labour.

Thankfully everything looked good. The doctor came in and felt my tummy and sent me for a scan. While we were taking the scan I was so excited to see my baby again as here in NZ they don’t do as many scans as I was used to in SA. We had a lovely lady scanning me and thankfully she was very understanding as I was in so much pain I couldn’t lie on my back and simply lying on my back made me vomit while doing the scan. She was quiet for a while and I began to grow suspicious. She mentioned there was fluid around the babies skull and within her chest cavity but wasn’t able to say much more. My heart immediately sunk and I started having a panic attack. I knew then and there that this wasn’t good at all.

I finally saw the doctors who confirmed my baby had something called hydrops and it could be caused by multiple things. They ran blood tests and gave me steroids for the babies lungs, as if they knew she’d be prem without telling me. I was in utter shock. What even is this thing called hydrops which I have never heard of.

I made the decision to not google anything as I didn’t want to stress myself or the baby. I was told that we were flying to Wellington to be with the MFM doctors who know how to handle these special cases.

In the interim I didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation, I felt like I was in a bad dream but that I’d soon wake up and everything will be alright.

When we got to Wellington I had further tests and scans and then had a meeting with multiple doctors, nurses, social workers, dietitians etc etc I was told my baby was gravely sick “she has Hydrops Chylothorax, could be from cancer, Down syndrome or an infection” my husband and I were devastated, being told to prepare yourself to not have a baby who you’ve been carrying for months is heartbreaking.

After multiple scary procedures and meetings they finally decided after two weeks of me being in hospital that it would be better for babies health if she were to be delivered.

On November the 17th and 1:54 pm our beautiful Charlotte was born. 

Unfortunately she had to be put on a ventilator and have some procedures done so I only met her 8 hours after she was born.

My husband and I sat by her side for hours on end wanting to absorb every moment with her. I held my daughter for the first time two weeks after she was born.

Charlotte made a remarkable recovery and we truly felt as though the NICU staff were like family. Charlotte is our miracle baby.

After 2 months in both NICU and SCBU we got to have our baby home, that was by far the happiest day. We were told we would probably be in hospital for many months, thank goodness Charlotte made such a speedy recovery.

Charlotte is now a completely normal and healthy 1 year old. You’d never say she had the start she did. We will forever be grateful to the Little Miracles Trust, Doctors, Nurses, Social workers, therapists and health care assistants for all their care, help and being such a good support system to us. We are so grateful for everything and so privileged to have a beautiful and happy girl.

Thanks so much for sharing your personal story Erin.

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

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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