Christmas Day 2013 was pretty momentous for us. Our son Samuel was born at 2pm, 12 weeks early, weighing 2lbs 3oz.
I was not expecting to be on an operating table delivering our son at the time most people are tucking into their Christmas dinner!
The week before Christmas, at 27 weeks pregnant, I ended up in hospital after feeling unwell in the night with a sharp pain in my ribs. I had a general feeling of something being wrong. The doctors conducted tests and concluded it was preeclampsia. They told me it was a serious condition elevating blood pressure, requiring bed rest, restricting the babys growth, and that the only way to cure it was to deliver our baby.
On Christmas Eve I was transferred to another hospital where they had more specialist care and more beds available in the neonatal intensive care unit.
And then on Christmas morning I was told that I was too sick to keep going. They had to perform an emergency c-section to save me and my baby.
The most unforgettable moment for me was when they sent a pediatrician to tell us all about the risks the baby would face being born so prematurely. It felt as though he stood there for an age, listing condition after condition that we had never heard of, that could potentially kill our child.
The operation went well and our Christmas miracle arrived. It was fitting that he was born to the Bon Jovi song ‘Livin’ on a Prayer!’
We had asked friends and family for prayers and believed that is what pulled us through! We briefly saw him being held up and making a little cry before he was rushed off to NNU. I didn’t even get to hold my baby.
Later on I was able to go and see my son. I feel sad to say I barely remember it. I was on a lot of medication and still recovering. I remember having to scrub my hands with hospital soap and lots of scary looking machines everywhere. It was overwhelming, and honestly, frightening. I looked at this tiny little thing in the incubator and thought ‘that’s my baby.’
We were congratulated by everyone on our arrival, but I felt that this was inappropriate when we didn’t even know if our son would survive.
Boxing day was the worst for me. The medication was wearing off and the reality was sinking in. A doctor came to take some bloods from him. It was the first time I heard my son cry properly. I couldn’t hold him and comfort him. I felt useless. I had a mental break that night after my family left. I was on the observation unit still, surrounded by new mums with their babies. There was one mother who refused to pick up and hold her crying baby. That broke me. I would have given anything to hold my baby, but he was fighting for his life, in another ward.
Samuel had a few more scares over the next few days. At one point they thought he had NEC because he didn’t produce a poo for a few days. I can honestly say I’ve never been more overjoyed to hear news of someone doing a poo! There was also talk of a blood transfusion, luckily he didn’t need that, and he was actually off his ventilator within 2 days, which was miraculous.
I got to hold Samuel on New Years Eve. It was the most magical thing I have ever experienced. There aren’t words that can accurately describe the range of emotions I felt at that moment.
Eventually Samuel stabilised enough so that on the 6th January he was able to be transferred by ambulance to our local hospital. He had a few more scares with infections and breathing issues, but eventually he was able to come home a week before his due date on March 10th.
Looking at my happy healthy (almost!) 3 year old now, I can hardly believe he came through all that. I am so proud of him and this experience has changed my life in many ways. I appreciate life so much more, I don’t take things for granted as much!
We celebrate every milestone, and achievement no matter how small. I don’t know if we will have any more children in future because of the risks, but for now, I can say I am blessed and happy with my Christmas miracle.
Christmas will never be the same for us again that’s for sure! For anyone going through Christmas in NNU, I just want to say celebrate the tiniest of achievements and never doubt how strong you and your baby are. Having a premamture baby has been the most miraculous experience of my life.