My husband Mark and I found out we were having a baby in June 2015, we then found out we were having a girl in October. As the sonographer said "you're having a baby girl" the look on both of our faces must have been a polaroid moment - we already had a son (Lucas) and now we would have our dream family.
Things wouldn't be straightforward though, as we found out we were going down a similar path to our first pregnancy with Lucas in 2012, who was delivered at 32 weeks weighing 1lb 14oz. Now three, Lucas was excited to become a big brother and we were full of confidence that Ashleigh would be as strong as him. I was able to see Ashleigh nearly daily due to regular scans while being an inpatient. I had been admitted in late November for closer observation, leaving my husband and Lucas a good hour’s drive away.
The support from Bliss was invaluable, refreshing what I already knew from having a premature baby. The day came when my consultant decided it was time for Ashleigh to come into the world due to the risks to my health and hers from pre-eclampsia.
We first met Ashleigh at 5:44pm on 7 December 2015. The most amazing medical team brought our baby girl into the world, weighing a tiny 1lbs 4oz born at 28 weeks gestation. She was rushed to NICU to get her attached to all the monitors to make sure her vitals were okay. Ashleigh went from the ventilator to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) in a couple of days, she had a strong grip on our fingers and the medical team were happy with how she was progressing.
I held her for the first time a couple of days later, but my husband was too afraid to hold her due to her size and the monitors she was attached too. It was a joyous moment and we looked forward to holding her more and videoing those precious moments when we weren't so exhausted. We never thought for a second that the following day we would be hearing the words we feared the most.
Ashleigh Frianeza Cotton lost her battle on the morning of Friday 11 December 2015 due to her prematurity and very low birthweight. We were able to spend three incredible days with her, creating positive memories in her short life, she was so strong right until the end.
We cannot thank the foetal medicine team enough, as well as the two fantastic midwives at Lucas’ and Ashleigh’s birth, the neonatal team who kept her going for those few days of her life and the Sands and Bliss charities who have provided brilliant postnatal and bereavement care to us all as a family.
The same staff were able to bring my son Lucas into the world in 2012, weighing 1bs 14oz at 32 weeks gestation. He is now a very happy and healthy three year old. Bliss supported us then and yet again they have been there for us in a totally different situation.
We are now channelling our grief into fundraising for Bliss and Queens Medical Centre neonatal unit as they both do a brilliant job in such difficult times for parents, families and friends.
As part of her fundraising, Kat and Mark are running the Lincoln 10km run, and are holding aBake for Bliss sale. If you would like to sponsor them, please visit their online fundraising page here: justgiving.com/katherine-cotton.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post, please call the Bliss helpline for support and advice. You can also visit our coping with loss pages.