Harriet shares the story of the birth of her daughter Alice, who was born exactly a year ago today. Her daughter arrived unexpectedly at 31 weeks and spent Christmas in neonatal care. Here, Harriet shares the experience of her pregnancy and her daughter’s first six weeks in hospital:
I discovered I was two weeks pregnant back in June 2015. After 10 months of trying, it was the best feeling in the world and my husband and our respective families were all over the moon.
I had a lovely pregnancy, I felt good, no sickness or aches and pains, and when measured at 28 weeks, was told everything was sizing up well.
My husband and I had started hypnobirthing classes and quickly became sold on the idea of a calm, drug free, home water birth. I felt confident and strangely empowered having been told that with everything ok with my health, it’s what we should aim for.
On Thursday 17 December, I came home from work (in central London) tired as always but feeling a bit off colour. I had some beans on toast, a lovely bath and went to bed early. I woke at 3am needing the loo and still feeling a bit out of sorts, I couldn’t put my finger on it, I felt icky with some diarrhoea.
Friday morning, I decided to text my work and say that I was going to the doctor to get checked over and then I’d head into the office around lunchtime. The doctor explained that the baby’s heartrate was a bit fast and that I should take myself off to Epsom hospital for further inspection.
I called my mum to drive me and off we went. I quickly knew that there was something wrong as we were hurried from one floor to another, drinking what felt like gallons of water to make the baby move. In my head, I was hoping that it was just a case of having to stay overnight to be monitored.
I will never forget when the midwife turned to my mum and said “best call Daddy and tell him to come in case baby needs to be delivered!” Delivered?! I’m only 31 weeks pregnant. The baby isn‘t ready to come yet. Will he/she even survive? Where’s my husband?
Within a flash, the surgeon and consultant entered the room and together panic set it and they said “this maybe needs to come out NOW!” I was stripped naked and the next thing I remember was shaking like a leaf whilst they tried to administer the epidural.
Alice Elizabeth was born at 1:40 on Friday 18 December weighing a tiny 2lbs 2oz. My husband arrived and cried, it made me cry, my mum, even one of the midwives I could see was so taken by all the sadness and worry in that small suite where I was staying.
The unknown, the fear of whether my tiny baby would actually start to breathe on her own…it was all a waiting game. She had a small bleed on her brain, apparently quite common with premature babies, but was just another thing for us to be concerned about.
Being separated that evening (Alice was ambulanced to a bigger hospital with a larger neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)) and I stayed at Epsom to recover from the surgery, was very hard. I pined for my baby and felt so confused, upset and guilty about what had happened.
I didn’t meet or hold my darling baby girl until Sunday afternoon but what an incredible, overwhelmingly special moment that was. She was small but perfect to us.
Weeks seemed like months; Christmas came and went, us visiting 3 - 4 times a day to see her, only being able to hold her for 30 mins a day, praying for her to gain weight so she could finally come home.
After six weeks in the neonatal unit, and weighing a mighty 3lbs 13oz, Alice came home on Friday 29 January, nearly 3 weeks before her due date. She is a ray of sunshine, such a happy soul and has stolen the hearts of all our family and friends.
We are forever grateful to all the staff at Epsom and St Helier, who helped us through one of the scariest, hardest and most worrying times of our lives. If it wasn’t for those amazing staff, our beautiful daughter just wouldn’t be here today.
We want to make sure that all families on a neonatal unit know they aren’t alone, especially over Christmas. Support our Christmas appeal.
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