In January of 2005 my wife Mel and I found that after five years of marriage, we were going to become parents. The baby was due at the very start of October, so we had plenty of time to get ready.
Mel woke me late one night in June, during week 24: she had “water” running down her leg, so blinking, yawning and scared we went to our local hospital. When we got there, a doctor told us that Mel’s waters had broken and she’d probably give birth within the next 48 hours. But, the doctor explained, 24 weeks is near the outer limits of survivability for a new baby, and even if ours did survive then ‘other problems’ were a very real possibility.
Our best hope was that the baby might not be born yet. Babies can survive in the womb without amniotic fluid, and every day inside increased the chances of survival by roughly one per cent per day. Hang on until 26 weeks and the survival rate hit 50 per cent - at 30 weeks the chances were over 90 per cent.
So Mel sat in a hospital bed like a ticking time bomb, hoping her labour wouldn’t begin. I had to go back to work – there was nothing else to be done. Every day I came to the hospital before and after work, trying to stay positive and support Mel as much as I could.
The first 48 hours passed without incident, then the next, then the next. When we reached the magic 26 weeks we began to hope – could we make it to 30 weeks?
Two and a half weeks later, exhausted, I overslept and hadn’t yet left for work when Mel called: the baby was in distress and the doctors were talking about emergency intervention. Reaching the hospital just seconds before she was rushed into emergency surgery I was sent to wait alone in her hospital room.
Millie, as we later called her, was tiny, just 1lb 7oz; her head and body could fit in my hand. But she was alive and she was fighting. Frightened of getting too attached, Mel was scared to see her before she was rushed to another hospital. When she got there she was put on a ward that seemed like something out of science fiction: all flashing lights and beeping machinery. After two days she was still fighting and I registered her birth, determined that she should officially exist, no matter what happened next.
Incredibly, Millie just got better and better, slowly putting on weight and becoming more and more independent of all the flashing lights and beeping machines. Hardly daring to believe it, we took each day as it came, enjoying each new experience: touching her, holding her, feeding her, changing her nappy and bathing her. Barely ten weeks later we took her home and had a little 0th birthday party on her due date, when she was actually three months old already!
Millie is ten years old now, getting ready for senior school and full of life – an ordinary little girl with an extraordinary story behind her!
Ten years ago my mantra was: “Everything’s going to be all right,” and sometimes you just need someone to offer understanding, support and a little hope, which is what we do on the Bliss helpline.
I didn’t volunteer with Bliss immediately, it took a couple of years before I felt ready, but I’m so glad I did. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but working on the helpline and helping people who are in a situation I understand all too well is a great feeling. If you can help other people I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to; it’s not always easy but it’s always worthwhile.
If you would like to volunteer on our helpline, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information click here.