"I felt guilty that I couldn’t keep her safe inside me, where she belonged" - Amy's story

Betsie overcame so much during her first few months. She was an IVF baby, as her father had radiotherapy and chemotherapy for an incurable brain tumour and she was born during COVID-19 restrictions on NICU wards. Her mother, Amy, shares the story of her birth.

Our little ray of light arrived during a very strange and scary time.

Rewind back to June: unfortunately I suffered with preeclampsia from an early gestation and was hospitalised just after 23 weeks.

After spending just over two weeks in my local hospital, my blood pressure was uncontrollable, so I was transferred to a different hospital, which was a level three neonatal unit. I spent a further week in hospital under very close observation with daily blood tests and scans.

I knew deep down that I wasn’t leaving hospital without our baby.

COVID-19 meant I wasn’t allowed any visitors during my stay in the first hospital, however, I was allowed a four hour window once I was transferred to the second.

This made the process a lot more difficult to deal with; just having someone there for a shoulder of support or listening to the doctor’s ward rounds when you can’t take everything in is invaluable.

Both me and my husband were on edge with what was going to happen. Fortunately, the NICU and neonatal staff became my family when I couldn’t see my own.

I really appreciate the amount of time they spent with me prior to our baby’s birth. They reassured me what procedures would happen to my baby and what to expect at this gestation. They made the thought of entering a neonatal unit less scary.

I also spent time reading the amazing stories on Bliss’ website, telling my baby bump that she too could do it. It gave me a sanctuary of hope and faith that it was going to be ok.

Betsie, our IVF miracle, was born on the 17th July at 26+5 weeks.

On the day of Betsie’s birth, I had a scan which showed reverse blood flow to my placenta, meaning Betsie’s chances of survival were now better out than in.

I remember seeing the ultrasound and just knowing it wasn't good. A nurse walked me back to the ward so I could call my husband and get him to come up the hospital quickly.

The feelings and emotions at that time were very surreal. I remember feeling excited that we were about to meet our baby that we so longed for, but so scared as to how she can survive. She isn’t and can’t be ready yet!

Betsie was delivered by C-section weighing 1lb 7oz. She was still in her sac and was placed in a bag to keep her warm and was ventilated straight away. We were warned not to expect to hear her cries as she would be too small, but she gave out a big cry!

It made us cry as well. She was so feisty and strong. Once she was ventilated, I was allowed a short cuddle with her before she was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.

That evening, my husband wheeled me to see Betsie. Seeing her for the first time, I still couldn’t believe she was ours. I felt guilty that I couldn’t keep her safe inside me, where she belonged. It’s true that you give birth to guilt.

Everyone warned us of the NICU rollercoaster journey that we were about to embark, and if I’m honest, I couldn’t see the end. The sounds, beeps, nurses eyes movements at the drop of a sound constantly reminded you where you were. A place you didn’t want to be, but hated leaving.

The nurses were walking angels and did so much to keep us updated and still made us feel like we were the parents! COVID-19 meant we were only allowed a three hour time slot with Betsie and no other family members were allowed to meet or see her.

You always have an imagination of when you would have your baby how it would turn out: family gatherings, lots of cuddles and memories shared. I was so scared she wouldn’t make it and no one would be able to meet her.

During Betsie’s hospital stay, she required a variety of ventilation: from full ventilation, oscillator ventilation, c-pap, bipap and vapotherm. She still suffers with chronic lung disease, and during her journey battled against a PDA, sepsis, various infections and required a few blood transfusions.

One particular day we were advised to take her hour by hour. Her oxygen requirement had reached 90-95% and nobody knew how this was going to pan out. We were warned not to go too far incase we needed to get to the unit quickly.

My husband and I truly thought this was the end. How does someone so small get over this hurdle? I remember looking at her little body covered in wires and tubes. It just didn’t seem real.

One step forward normally followed with three steps back. The long nights, days of tears where no one knows what was going to happen. The thought of making it home didn’t seem real or possible to us.

Betsie spent a total of 94 days in hospital and was discharged home the day after her due date (aged 3 months and 2 days old). She now weighs over 8lb and still requires home oxygen 24/7, but she made it home. We still have a lot of hurdles to jump, getting Betsie to breath on her own is the next achievement.

Betsie was an IVF baby as unfortunately her daddy had radiotherapy and chemotherapy for an incurable brain tumour.

I still can’t quite believe the journey we have been on to have our baby and get her home. We feel the luckiest people in the world to have something so precious.

If I have any words of advice, it would be to remember to stay strong, stay kind to yourself and remember you are doing the best you can. Some things are unfortunately out of your control, but you are amazing.