After losing a baby at 24 weeks ten years previously, I had prepared myself not to have children. So to find out we were unexpectedly pregnant came as quite a shock.
I also knew that the likelihood of a smooth pregnancy was rather low. Being diagnosed with an incompetent cervix at around 14 weeks and put on restricted movement meant that my days between the weekly scans were generally just spent hoping nothing worsened.
At 19 weeks our consultant decided that she would try emergency stitches, and at 22 weeks she brought us into hospital for full tilted bed rest, in the hope of keeping Amelia inside until at least 24 weeks, when steroid injections could be given. I spent nine weeks on full tilted bed rest in hospital in Coventry, away from my partner. He had to continue to work, and then spent nearly every evening coming to keep me company, as I had exhausted daytime TV and read over 20 books … not one of which was about babies!
Christmas and New Year were spent on high alert after a final internal scan showed more shortening of the cervix.
Despite the odds increasing for the better every week, when you have experienced a loss previously it is so hard to see a positive outcome. From 28 weeks people would ask what I had brought for her or what the nursery looked like, and I had to say "Nothing" and "I don’t know yet". I just couldn’t face the idea that I would have to return things if something happened – it was like I was tempting fate.
But somehow, despite everything, Amelia stayed put until February and was born at 31 weeks, five days after my waters broke.
Once I went into labour her heart rate was constantly monitored. Trying not to let the fact that her heart rate was increasing cause us both more stress was near impossible. When she finally arrived, there were so many people and so much fuss!
Despite hearing her cry, all I wanted was for her to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to be checked. So I declined even seeing her properly so that she could go straight there – it was almost as if I was still convinced something would go wrong.
When we did get to see her, around an hour later, she was perfect – just very small. I remember that, while we were there, one of the nurses saw her name on her cot and said they’d all been waiting for her to come for nearly six weeks! It was strange, thinking that they had been discussing her at team meetings for that long.
For a tiny, 3lb 3oz baby she did amazingly: no c-pap, no resuscitation, no transfusions and only a few minor dips over the first week.
Nevertheless, the feeling something would go wrong stayed with me every single minute that she was in NICU – which was only one night – and also throughout her time in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) and the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU). It didn’t matter how many times everyone else said she was strong and doing really well, I just couldn’t be convinced.
Being sent home by my consultant when Amelia was two days old was so strange. I had spent ten weeks in hospital trying to keep her there, and now she was here, I was being sent home. I was driven home, I got changed and then we literally drove back to the hospital to be with her.
I remember so well the day that I went in to be with her, and she had been moved up to SCBU from HDU. After only a week I couldn’t help thinking it was too soon, because she had only just come off her vitamin feed. But she continued to increase her tube feeding and I remember a nurse saying she was now just a 'feeder and grower', and that as soon as she had sussed bottle feeding and had a steady weight gain, she would go home.
Amelia came home after only four and a half weeks in hospital. In that time we had had no setbacks and everyone else now seemed to treat her like a normal baby. Yet I still couldn’t stop worrying that she would be taken away from me. Those first few weeks were brilliant, funny but also terrifying – part of us just kept wondering how they had trusted us to take such a tiny thing home. Yet the only real issues we had were when she had problems due to reflux. I was convinced that this would be the huge setback that I’d been fearing, but she responded really well to medication and continued doing well.
Today, Amelia is a very lively, inquisitive ten month old. She is small for her age and I have virtually given up trying to explain 'adjusted age' to people – she crawls, is weaning well and chatters away at her baby ballet and swimming classes.
I still worry that it has all been too easy and that something will go wrong, and for a long time I felt guilty for saying that she was premature but had no problems, when talking to other mums of premature babies. To see her you would never know she’d been born eight weeks early and I have no horror stories from NICU. I do try to remember that we had our own stresses – they were just different.
It is unlikely we will be able to have any other children as the same issues will arise but we feel very, very lucky to have Amelia and we hope she will continue to grow up happy and healthy.
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