Christmas on the neonatal unit - Ashleigh's Story

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When Freddie was born eleven weeks early, Ashleigh and her husband Alex thought that they’d make it home in time for Christmas. However Freddie wasn’t ready to be discharged, so Ashleigh and Alex made the best of the situation and spent their wonderful first Christmas with Freddie in the NICU.

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Our son Freddie was born on 13 October 2020, weighing 2lbs 2oz – he was eleven weeks premature.

Freddie battled lots of issues during his first couple of months, including Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) and Sepsis, but at the beginning of December, he made drastic improvements. We started to get hopeful that he would be home by or on his due date, Christmas Eve.

Freddie's additional breathing requirements became less and less needed as days went on, and he was eventually weaned off of oxygen by around 8 December. We were then allowed to ‘room in’ at the hospital and were thrilled to know that within a day or so, that we would be more than likely be ready to take Freddie home.

Sadly, over a matter of days Freddie started to show very clear signs that he was no longer tolerating feeds and had developed quite a severe bottle aversion. After being off of the NG tube for one week, Freddie started refusing feeds and his weight gain also slowed right down. This meant that we did not get to bring him home for Christmas.

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As heartbroken as we were, my husband Alex, and I were determined that this wasn’t going to spoil our Christmas as a family. We also celebrated Freddie’s due date as joyfully as we would’ve done had we been at home. Of course, COVID restrictions meant that only my husband and I were allowed to be in the NICU with him, but honestly - that’s all we needed!

On Christmas Eve we looked out the window for Santa together with our lovely NICU nurse, Hollie. We were allowed to bring his presents to the hospital and opened his gifts and cards at his bedside. Alex and I ordered an Indian Takeaway to the parents’ room (I never did like dry Turkey anyway!) and we made the best of the situation.

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Then on 27 December, Freddie came home - feeding tube and all. Within two weeks he had his tube removed and we joke that he just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to NICU for Christmas, and just wanted to spend it with his nurses!

This year, though he is still small for his age - he is like a wrecking ball and is taking great joy in taking all of the decorations off of the tree every day, crawling and hiding underneath it and is mesmerised by all of the lights. Though we will be at home for Christmas this year, last years will take some beating!

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