After a normal start to my pregnancy, I was getting used to the feeling of being pregnant and my proud baby bump had started showing. We had a few moments 26 weeks in where we went to the hospital due to reduced foetal movements but were reassured each time.
On the 19th July 2017 the movements had reduced again, so we visited the hospital confident that we would be sent on our way feeling like we had wasted valuable hospital time. After observations things seemed different and the midwife confirmed my blood pressure was dangerously high and our baby was in distress. In only minutes for our safety it was decided our baby was to be delivered by emergency c-section.
At 4:57am on the 20th July our daughter Cedar Rose was born and immediately taken away to the neonatal intensive care unit.
No cry, cuddling or congratulations. No “she’s beautiful” and most importantly no sign of taking her home.
There’s no doubt I was in shock from not having the opportunity to adjust to Cedar arriving so quickly. My husband, whilst struggling with it all, took control of the situation and started to phone the family and work. Taking control was his way of dealing with it, but I could see how scared he really was for our new little family.
We kept her arrival a secret from anyone who didn’t need to know, just in case something bad happened. Throughout the day I slowly realised the seriousness of the situation and that my baby wasn’t very well.
I was completely naïve in thinking we were going to be able to hold our child any time soon and we waited a week until we were able to cuddle her.
Cedar spent 89 days in hospital and faced many complications such as brain bleeds, a heart murmur, transfusions, constant x-rays and chronic lung disease leading to oxygen support. Worst of all we experienced her having apnea and bradycardia where she would stop breathing, dropping her sats to dangerous levels and then having to prompt her to breathe again. There were days when she was fit and healthy and others when she seemed to be going backwards. It truly was a rollercoaster of emotions.
We spent as much time as we possibly could with her and learning how to care for her even whilst my husband had to go back to work. The week before discharge we were told that she would be needing oxygen support at home. I didn’t initially care about bringing her home on oxygen as I just wanted our new life together to start properly; to have the opportunity to be alone with her without being observed.
The first 6 months of her home life we needed the additional oxygen support, which meant constant home visits and check-ups, but mostly the restriction of going out and meeting people through fear of catching an infection and being back in the hospital. Even after the oxygen was no longer required I only had 3 months of my maternity left to enjoy my Cedar as a ‘normal’ wire-free baby would be.
Having to return to work and hand care of my little girl over to someone else earlier than should have been expected if things had gone to plan broke my heart.
I am so proud to be involved with helping future families in this situation to secure the extra time that they need, and even prouder of organisations and employers like mine who have have signed up to The Smallest Things ‘Employer with Heart’ charter, changing existing parental leave policies to extend paid leave for staff, like me, who have had a premature baby.
With huge thanks to Kayleigh for sharing her story and for championing change within her organisation so that mums and dads can take the extra time they need following premature birth and neonatal intensive care.
Find out how your employer can make this change here – Employer with Heart.