At 18 I’d been told my chances of conceiving naturally were very slim. So seven years later, my partner and I hardly dared hope as we waited for a pregnancy test result.
But it was positive! I started to feel our baby move inside me, the most precious and amazing feeling, and then we learned we were expecting a girl. 2015 was starting brilliantly.
There were worrying times, like when we were told my placenta was low lying and I had unexplained fluid pockets in my cervix, but at 24 weeks our baby was developing perfectly.
Then, at work, I developed back pains and a pelvic sensation. It reduced me to tears. Rushing to the toilet, I mistakenly assumed the discharge I saw was something all pregnant women have, and went home to rest.
My pains returned. When they were coming every three minutes I phoned the midwives but, worried I was over-reacting, I didn’t mention the pushing feeling in my pelvic area, nor that my very active bundle had moved far less. The midwife explained back pain was normal and our phone call quickly ended.
Later that evening, however, I was bleeding heavily. Crying hysterically I rushed to hospital with my parents. My partner met us there from work. Investigations revealed nothing, but due to the bleeding I was admitted. They’d explained about early births but nothing had sunk in, even after I’d been given a steroid injection for the baby’s lungs, just in case.
12 February – 5.30am. A midwife did routine checks. Within 15 minutes an obstetrician came. Her face said it all. "She’s 5cm dilated!" Confused and shocked I asked: "Am I in labour?"
I was rushed to the delivery ward. Doctors came back and forth in a blur. The only words I remember hearing clearly were that when our baby was born she’d be placed in a food bag, which a midwife held up. I broke down! I felt I was in a nightmare and was desperately trying to wake up.
13 February – the pains were getting stronger. At 10pm my waters broke. Doctors came rushing and at 10.15pm I gave birth to our beautiful daughter Alice Jessie Rae Heather weighing 1lb 14.5oz.
They took her straight away. I didn’t get to see her. Thankfully my partner and mother did, so they could describe her to me.
14 February - 4:30am. After a lifetime of waiting a midwife took us to Alice. She was tinier than I could ever imagine! One nurse called her Thumbelina. Soon she was transferred to another hospital where they had equipment to care for her long term.
For the next few weeks we faced being told when we could and couldn’t have cuddles. At first it was for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, depending on how well Alice was handling it. We treasured each one.
Being able to tube feed, bathe and change her were the highlights of my day. Seeing how low I had become my partner allowed me to do the majority. I felt bonding with Alice was impossible through two little portholes! Often tears streamed down my face.
Watching her moving around in the incubator was heart-breaking. I missed feeling those tiny feet and arms thrashing around inside me. I was searching desperately for answers as to why my body had 'given up'.
Then she fell desperately ill with sepsis. Depending heavily on a ventilator and rarely attempting to breathe herself, at times we couldn’t even touch her. A consultant explained the worst case scenario and how we should try and prepare ourselves. I couldn’t breathe for crying uncontrollably as my partner held me, breaking down too.
Then she developed another case of sepsis called Pseudomonas and a lung infection. We couldn’t hold her at all. She was only fed through IV lines. I was so jealous as doctors and nurses picked her up, changed her nappy, changed fluid lines and washed her. But I tried to stay positive and thankful for their amazing work.
Keeping Alice alive was difficult. She had many blood transfusions and antibiotics. This was the darkest and loneliest place I’d ever been. Despite family and friends’ support I was completely isolated and felt no one could possibly understand. I just wanted to get up, leave the hospital, pretend I’d never been pregnant and banish all talk of what was going on. Running away and forgetting felt the best option! Then guilt would tear me up for these thoughts. I felt it was my fault for wanting and trying to have a baby, or that I’d done something wrong during my pregnancy.
I felt the doctors and nurses were all Alice needed and I was just an inconvenience. But, sitting by her bedside, I started to read Bliss publications.
I realised that other parents might feel like me. This allowed me to open up to other mums. Quickly we felt relieved to tell each other we wanted to run away, or had episodes of jealousy when nurses cared for our babies when we couldn’t touch them. Without Bliss I would not have made the brave move to discuss my feelings, as I’d felt highly ashamed.
9 May – FINALLY after three months our baby girl, still weighing a tiny 4lb 9oz, was strong enough to take home. Our family surprised us by filling our home with banners, balloons and cards. We were complete.
Alice is now 14 months old and weighs 18lb 10oz. She strives day by day. Just after her first birthday she had a developmental test. I was amazed that she was mostly 12 months developed but in some areas was 15 months, meaning she was way above her corrected age. All our concerns have slowly been lifted. To say we are proud parents is an understatement!
I now have a great circle of friends and for that I’m forever thankful. We all have our different stories and paths but we’re able to give each other emotional support. Bliss allowed us to feel normal.
That’s why I recently organised a Bliss little heroes fundraising walk and buggy push where I live. Despite the rain it was amazing and I was thrilled that we raised over £1,600.
- To organise a Bliss little heroes walk for little superheroes like Alice, please visit bliss.org.uk/littleheroes
- 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 email@example.com