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Natasha's and George's story

23 December 2016

My first son Frankie’s birth had been traumatic, so I opted for a planned c-section with my second son George. The pregnancy ran smoothly and on 19 June 2014 we went into hospital.

My fiancé Jay held my hand as the operation began. Within minutes George had been delivered and I felt huge relief, hearing his loud cries echoing around the room. George, weighing 8lb 7oz, was healthy… or so it seemed.

We went to recovery with our new bundle of joy. I fed him and we were taken back to the ward. We messaged family and friends to let them know they could visit.

George and I were moved to a four-bed ward with other women who’d just had their babies. All the babies were fast asleep, including George, but his breathing was extremely loud, like a really loud gargle. I mentioned it to the midwife, who said the sound was quite common on babies born via a quick c-section and that it would soon go. Hours passed, however, and he was still breathing really loudly.

The doctor listened to his chest with a stethoscope. Then she took him for a chest x-ray. Immediately.

I wondered what was happening to my baby. I couldn’t move as my epidural hadn’t worn off yet. Then the doctor returned -- they’d taken George to the intensive care baby unit to be monitored. I still didn’t know what was wrong with him.

My family began turning up to meet George. I had to explain he wasn’t with me, but in intensive care…I’d only texted them a couple of hours before, to say we had a healthy baby!

The doctor then told me George had a pneumothorax. One of his lungs had collapsed. My whole world came crashing down. After a planned c-section at 39 weeks, this wasn’t what I’d expected. How? Why? My first thought was “my baby boy is going to die”. I wanted to see him and be near him. I wanted to hold him. Yet I was stuck in this room unable to move. All the other babies had woken up and I could hear their parents cooing over them, changing them, soothing them. My baby wasn’t here.

Jay was reassuring me everything was fine, but inside he was crumbling too. He put on a brave face to support me, getting me into a wheelchair and pushing me two floors up to the special care baby unit. When we got there, George was in an incubator, wired up to lots of machines. We passed other babies in incubators and they were so tiny compared to George – he didn’t look like he belonged here. He looked healthy. The midwives were absolutely lovely – I broke down into tears and one of them just gave me the biggest hug.

The doctor came to explain what was happening. George’s lung had collapsed because he’d been born so quickly that when he took his very first breath, it had been so big that it had burst holes in his lung. Then fluid had entered through the holes. The doctor explained they now had to allow the lung to heal naturally, draining the fluid out with a chest drain. Everything was going in the right direction, however, and George would be monitored.

I asked to move onto the same floor as him. I was given my own room to recover in from my c-section, and I would sit with George all day every day. He had to be fed via a drip whilst he had the chest drain in.

One night, a nurse quietly crept into my room to wake me up. “You need to come to the neonatal ward, and I think you should ring your fiancé” she said. My stomach dropped and I started to tremble. What had happened to my baby now? I walked quietly walked to the ward whilst texting Jay urgently.

Three doctors were stood around George’s incubator. His other lung had collapsed. He now had bilateral pneumothorax. I will always remember hearing the crowd of medics say “prepare for the worst”. My heart shattered. Again, all I kept thinking is “my baby is going to die”. Machines were beeping, lights glaring and he now had two chest drains on either side of his body. Just as things had looked stable everything now looked so bleak. I sat by his little incubator all night. I have never prayed before, but that night I did. That night I prayed.

The next morning, my c-section had healed so I had to go home. They needed my bed. Frankie, my three year old, was wondering where his mummy was. I had to be there for him too. That day was the worst. Never had I thought I’d have to leave George behind in hospital. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I broke down. I’ll never forget leaving the hospital with an empty car seat.

Days passed. We would sit next to George’s incubator every day. I would ring in the middle of the night to check he was OK. The nurses were so lovely, caring and patient.

Eventually George’s lungs began to repair themselves, the chest drain worked and the fluid drained away, allowing the lungs to inflate again. It really is amazing what the human body can do. George was taken out of the incubator and moved into a normal new-born cot. I could now feed him myself.

He was eight days old when he was discharged. But I lived on edge for months, constantly checking his breathing, although I had a huge sense of relief that we were home and all together. George had regular check-ups but after six months we were discharged.

George is now two years old and a fit, healthy, very lively boy. All that remains of his traumatic entry into the world is two little scars where the chest drains entered his lungs. I feel very lucky and I count my blessings every day.

• 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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