I will never forget the day I found out I was pregnant.
I was happy, excited and scared all at the same time. Then, when I went to the doctor’s at six weeks, they rushed me to the hospital for a scan because of an infection they’d discovered in my urine test. I'll never forget seeing that tiny little person on the screen with a really strong heartbeat. From that moment on I knew I would do everything in my power to protect my precious baby.
The next five months were a breeze. I had no sickness or fatigue, I felt great. I was just willing my bump to grow. It did and at 28 weeks, I finally started to look pregnant. Then, a week later, I woke in the night to what I thought was Braxton hicks, so I lay on the sofa with a hot water bottle for a few hours. It didn’t go away so I phoned the labour ward, who told me to come and get checked out.
That's when the fear really hit me. I was in labour and I had been for hours. I was nearly 6cm dilated. I almost didn’t believe it - I couldn't be in labour, I still had ten weeks to go, my boy wasn't ready to come out yet. There were so many people coming in and out of the room, giving me books and leaflets and talking about special care. They injected me with steroids to help his tiny little lungs.
Our local hospital was just a training hospital and didn't look after babies born before 32 weeks, but it was too late. He was on his way and nothing could stop him. They explained how he would be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital that had room for us. They also said I had to prepare myself for the reality that he may not be able to breathe and that I probably wouldn’t be able to hold him.
I wasn't listening. I was still in disbelief, my baby wasn't coming and I was going to keep him warm and safe for another ten weeks. I was wrong. A few hours later Archie Michael Smith was born.
He looked so small, but so perfect. The next six weeks were of the hardest time of our lives. I'll never forget the nights sitting by his cot, seeing him attached to all those wires and hearing those awful beeping noises. I can still hear them now. Alarms would constantly go off and we were surrounded by very poorly babies.
We were so far away from home. The nurses would tell me to rest, but I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was how I had failed my beautiful baby. I was the one who should have kept him safe and warm until he was ready for the world. Instead he was lying there in special care, so tiny and helpless. I felt like I had failed as a mother already.
I struggled to express milk and the nurses asked if I would consider a milk donor. Yet again, I felt like a failure. I couldn't provide milk for my own baby and someone else could! I didn't talk to anyone about how I felt, as I needed to be strong for Archie and that I didn't matter. I look back now and realise that this wasn't my fault, it couldn’t have been prevented.
Being in contact with Bliss and reading all the other stories has really helped me understand and see how lucky we are. Archie is now a healthy 18 month old without a care in the world. In fact, he is often mistaken for being older than he is so he's definitely not behind, even though I was told he would be.
I want to say thank you to Bliss for helping me through such a hard time and I hope our story may help others.
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this post, please call the Bliss helpline. If you would like to share your story, please firstname.lastname@example.org.