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Louise, Matt and Jaime’s story

06 January 2017

My daughter was born at only 28 + 1 weeks.

I’d noticed slight, period-like pains. They continued overnight – I was tossing and turning. They got heavier but at 28 weeks, I thought I might be experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions.

But they got more frequent and painful, and the hospital advised I come in. Nevertheless, I remember Matt and I discussing what to have for dinner, completely unaware of what was about to happen. I could see and feel my baby moving. In fact, she’d never moved so much. It was comforting, thinking she must be OK.

But then the nurse wanted a doctor to double-check my cervix. While we waited I felt myself lose some very warm liquid. It was bright red blood.

Matt rushed to call a nurse. I was put straight into a gown and wheeled into delivery. I could still feel my baby moving and see her on the monitor. I was convinced they’d stop the bleeding. A doctor checked my cervix and informed me that my placenta had ruptured – I was 3cm dilated. My baby was also breech.

I had no idea why this had happened. All I kept thinking about was how small my bump was, and how she wasn’t going to be developed properly.

I was given a steroid injection. Then the contractions started. The gas and air didn't do much – I was shaking so much I don't think I used it properly. They asked Matt to change into scrubs in case I needed a c-section. By now I was 5cm dilated, with very frequent contractions. The surgeon explained that everything was happening too quickly and she needed to get our baby out. She didn't sugar coat it, I knew my baby could die. But she was so early – I thought this was turning into a miscarriage. Matt sat next to me, holding my hand. I could see he was upset, but he stayed strong.

We heard a tiny cry. They told us straight away she was breathing and, exactly as they'd expect for a 28 weeker, weighed 2lb 5 oz. We had a girl and they asked if we had a name? I’d always loved Jaime, and her middle name is Joanne, after my sister.

In recovery, a nurse showed me pictures. Jaime looked much bigger than I’d expected, and she didn't seem to need oxygen, which was great news.

Eventually I was wheeled to see her. She was in an incubator, full of wires and tubes, doctors working on her, monitors constantly going off. I held her hand but was in shock. She’d been born under 30 weeks, so she’d have to be transferred to a different hospital.

The next morning, before she went, they wheeled her to me. I broke down. I was in too much pain to go with her and that killed me.

When I was discharged, leaving hospital was awful. I’d gone in pregnant but was leaving without my baby. I sobbed the whole journey home, in physical and mental pain.

When I travelled to see Jaime, I came over all dizzy. She was much smaller then I remembered. One of her legs was about the same width as my finger. She looked so fragile.

Matt and I were able to stay in one of the family rooms and be with her 24/7. It took a long time to get used to the machines. Seeing your baby's heart rate drop fast is so frightening and it happened all the time. She kept forgetting to breathe and had to be stimulated. But the hospital encouraged skin to skin, and the first time I held her was amazing. She was so content against my chest.

I wanted to give Jaime the best possible start so I expressed every three hours. We even started tube feeding her my milk ourselves. It felt good to be involved, but I remember not wanting to get attached to her, because anything could happen. I worried she could be brain damaged. That she’d pick up an infection. That she’d stop breathing for good.

I also felt so much guilt. She should still be inside me, safe and pain free. Instead, she was in an incubator, overwhelmed by new senses she shouldn't be experiencing yet. I’d had one job, to carry her until she was ready to come out, and I’d failed.

Every time I looked in the mirror, my stomach got flatter and I would cry. I should be getting bigger not smaller. I felt I'd let Matt down. This was also his first baby and he’d missed out.

Thankfully, however, we kept getting good news. After only a few days, she no longer needed CPAP and was on high flow. Her brain scans were coming back fine, and her blood spot tests. After seven nights, she was transferred back to West Suffolk Hospital where she stayed for 11 weeks. 

There were a few setbacks. She kept coming off high flow and going back on. We had problems getting her to bottle feed. She’d forget to breathe during feeds and would turn blue. That was terrifying at first, but Matt and I learnt so much -- how to handle her, what to look out for. We stopped panicking when her monitors went off.

Jaime had lots of important milestones in hospital. The day she came off high flow; moved into a cot. When her feeding tube was removed; when her monitors were turned off. Each milestone felt amazing. She finally came home on her due date, 11 June, the happiest day of our lives.

She's now thriving. She's feeding well, and has begun sleeping through the night. She's doing everything she should be doing and is putting on weight fast.

We wouldn’t have coped without the amazing staff at Kings Lynn and West Suffolk Hospitals. They do an amazing job and we can never thank them enough. Jaime is the baby she is today because of them.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can call our helpline on 0808 801 0322 or view our online support pages. If you would like to share your story with Bliss, please email media@bliss.org.uk

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