I have six children with my partner, ranging from 16 down to three years old. My first two children were born at 36 and 35 weeks, the only complication I experienced was pre-eclampsia, and thankfully both children were born very well at 6lbs and 5lbs.
We then conceived twins – Blossom and Oakley - and they were born at 30 weeks weighing 3lbs 8oz, and 4lb. I suffered with pre-eclampsia again and was admitted instantly for an emergency c-section. This was where our special care baby unit (SCBU) journey started.
The twins were doing very well and were born a good weight which helped immensely. Blossom was the weakest, she was struggling and needed intubating, but Oakley was managing ok on his own. Our time on SCBU was extremely emotional and nothing like I expected. The staff were amazing and thankfully after the first 24 hours we were simply focused on establishing feeding. After two weeks we were home as a family.
We then fell pregnant with our fifth child, and I experienced difficulties right from the beginning. I knew this wasn’t going to be smooth pregnancy. There were plans in place from our amazing consultant Mr Cooper and thorough antenatal checks every two to three weeks. His constant care and decision making saved four of our children's lives as well as mine.
At 18 weeks I was admitted into hospital with pre-eclampsia symptoms. I was under close observation and after two weeks I was allowed home with strict rest. Unfortunately, at 23 weeks I was then admitted again with the view that we needed to stabilise my health and I wouldn’t be going home anytime soon.
The doctors wanted to keep my baby inside as long as possible, but also needed to make sure I was well enough. At 26 weeks, the decision was made to deliver our little girl. I was too poorly to continue the pregnancy and was deteriorating quickly.
Our little girl Bluebell-Renie was born weighing 2lbs. We didn’t know if our girl was going to be strong enough to fight for her life. She was so tiny and so frail. On the SCBU she was covered in so many wires attached to so many alarms. She was a little bundle that I desperately wanted to kiss and hold but I couldn’t. The one reassuring thing was the staff were amazing and I knew she was in the best possible care.
Our daughter was in SCBU for ten weeks. It was such an emotional journey - she managed to have good days yet so many bad ones. There were days we thought we were losing her but there was strength in our little girl and we just prayed to get through each day.
At one point, Bluebell went down to 1lb 6oz. Infections followed one after the other along with transfusions. She has long term complications with her heart and is still monitored closely.
It was following this delivery that I started to suffer with postnatal depression and mental health difficulties. I’d never experienced such sadness, loneliness, and a sense of not belonging. This was not what was supposed to happen. I wanted to feel as much love as I possibly could and be able to support my daughter but something in me was not allowing me to feel this way. I sought help and spoke to professionals about what I was experiencing. I just wanted to have the same bond with my daughter as I did with my other children.
Two years later, our sixth child – Petal Rainbow came along. She was born at 27 weeks weighing 2lb. I was more mentally and emotionally prepared this time and I was so sure I was going notice early warning signs about my mental health this time round. I had fantastic support and was able to take each day as it came and was monitored carefully. My little girl was doing very well and stayed in SCBU for eight weeks. This experience was more positive and her health was much more stable than Bluebell’s had been.
My partner and I can't thank Northampton SCBU unit enough for their continued support, each and every member of staff will hold a special place in our hearts. I’ve been involved in raising awareness and funding for them ever since.
It was then I wanted to develop an idea of bonding blankets, this is when PetalPatches - 'The patch that helps with bonding' were created. I wanted to be able to offer something that was going to help the bond and try to ease and emotional distress caused by having to be separated from your baby. I had previously used Muslins, to be able to share 'scents' with my little girl and carried pictures around or nearby when expressing for her. I wanted something to be more personal and that would make a difference.
I got together with Gemma, a close friend of mine, and we spent time developing our PetalPatch so it would work for all families. Gemma and I have researched natural fabrics making sure that PetalPatches are made in the best possible way. PetalPatches come as a pair so can always be exchanged and never be without the 'scent' of each other.
We now have secured funding for SCBU in Northampton for every admission to receive one of our PetalPatches which we launched earlier this year. The doctors and nurses are delighted with PetalPatches and the response from families - especially the mums - has been overwhelming. Recently we have had feedback from families using them for toddlers that have learning difficulties from attachments to autism.
We are currently selling PetalPatches and attending baby shows and events, as the interest has widened to not just premature babies but full gestation, to help with breastfeeding and expressing.
You can find out more about PetalPatches at https://facebook.com/petalpatchuk/
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
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