Blog post by Charlotte O’nions and Christopher Ellis
On 31st October 2012 our daughter was born by emergency C-section, nine weeks early and weighing 3lbs. This was due to me having severe pre-eclampsia, which developed into HELLP syndrome. I was kept on maternity assessment ward at Leeds General Infirmary for five days but after a scan showed my baby was in distress, she had adverse flow from the cord and the placenta was shutting down the decision was made that she needed to be quickly born. My liver and kidneys were failing and as I got rushed to theatre I suffered a seizure.
It all happened so quickly and I kept drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the caesarean so I don’t remember it much. I was in intensive care for three days, very poorly, but then finally got to see my baby when she was four days old; we named her Poppy.
Poppy needed to be ventilated at first, then on CPAP for half a day. She was having a brain scan the first time I saw her. It was very scary and I felt a mix of emotions; she should still have been in me, I was supposed to be protecting her, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen or how I’d dreamed having my first baby would be like.
I was discharged from hospital after ten days and Poppy was transferred from LGI to St James Hospital. I was expressing so she could be tube fed as she was too young to breastfeed. She needed a small operation to put a “line” in her foot as she couldn’t keep milk down or gain weight. This helped and she slowly started gaining weight and then moved from an incubator to a cot. I then began expressing and using a bottle to feed her. I learnt how to do her cares but it became hard when Christopher had to go back to work once I was discharged. I felt detached from her once I came home, and I kept a photo of her by my bed and kept her blanket with me as I was struggling to express when I wasn’t near her and her smell helped this at home.
I’d stay all day on my own at hospital with her. I even took a book for when I wasn’t doing her cares or expressing, as it got lonely. Christopher would come straight from work to the hospital. Poppy was in neonatal nearly five weeks and it was the longest and hardest five weeks of my life. I admit I struggled and cried a lot.
I loved bringing her home and finally being able to show her off, but everything was still different as I had to be extra careful with germs and everyone had to sanitise their hands. I didn’t want anyone holding her but me at first. Poppy developed Retinopathy of Prematurity stage three in her eyes and needed weekly check-ups and eye tests for eight weeks, but they then corrected after she hit her due date.
The time has flown by when I look back on how far we have come. Poppy was discharged from neonatal development at 11 months old and is now an amazing one year old. She has done so well, she is hitting most of her milestones and is such a chatterbox. She’s growing into a very happy healthy little girl and after a few issues with blood pressure and migraines I’m now off medication and doing well too. We celebrated her first birthday by going on a family day out, and she had a party where she dressed up as a pumpkin for Halloween.
Since having Poppy I’ve done fundraising for Bliss and Leeds Children’s Hospital neonatal unit. I’ve also become a Bliss family support volunteer and set up a support group in Swarcliffe Leeds, West Yorkshire. I also run a forum on Facebook where parents of premature babies can share experiences and achievements, and get advice, help and support from other parents. I’ve met a lot of new friends by doing this. Having a premature baby is a rollercoaster journey, but we are proof miracles do happen. I’m so proud of Poppy, we both nearly died and wouldn’t have been here today to tell this story. She’s completely changed my life and she makes me grateful for everything everyday.