My miracle in the midst of COVID-19 – Emily’s story

Emily’s journey as a parent on a neonatal unit has been lonelier than most because of social distancing, but she thinks it is her baby Ayko who is the truly strong one.

I was having really bad sickness throughout my pregnancy to the point that I couldn’t stand up and was bed-bound.

When I was 9 weeks pregnant, I was rushed into hospital because I couldn’t even keep a tiny sip of water down. So they gave me a scan and I found out I was having twins. I was really excited because from 19 years old, I’d been told that I couldn’t have children and when I was 25, I found out I had a tumour which meant I would definitely need IVF. So, to conceive twins naturally was amazing.

But shortly afterwards, I lost one of the twins, which left Ayko, my miracle baby.

At the beginning of week 26, I’d just started to take baby bump pictures because my bump had just started to show. Then two days later, he was here.

I had spent Friday night with my friends, chatting about what it would be like when the baby arrived and the next morning, I felt a rush of blood as I stood up to get out of bad. I ran to my mum and dad’s room screaming ‘I’m bleeding’, my mum rang 999 straightaway and they sent an ambulance to take me to the hospital.

That evening, I was watching the Whitney Story on my phone, and I realised that the monitor on my belly for his heartbeat had gone really quiet. As I turned to look at it, I felt another rush of blood.

I pressed the buzzer for the nurse and as soon as I told the nurse that something wasn’t right, medical staff started rushing in around me. It was decided that I should have a classic c-section straightaway, so Ayko was born on 9 February, at 26 + 2 weeks, weighing 540g.

We’ve been on the unit now for 8 weeks. It has been hard as it is, but now, because of COVID-19 it is even harder. The rules around visiting changed so now no one can see Ayko besides me and my mum.

I’ve been living in the hospital, which has been the best thing that could have happened as it’s meant I’m just a couple minutes away from Ayko, but it means I can’t have friends, my dad or my brother come to visit me. I was lucky that the unit let me put down my mum as Ayko’s second care-giver so she can still visit the hospital. Otherwise, it would have just been me, and I don’t think I could have managed the stress of everything that Ayko has been through by myself.

Because of the social distancing measures on the unit, it’s harder to talk to other parents. Normally, mums chat to each other in the expressing room but now you have to wait for anyone in there to come out because you can’t be too close to them.

There used to be a coffee morning on Thursdays, run by one of the nurses who is also a social worker, which was really nice because I got to hear other parents’ stories and how they were coping. But now that has had to stop, and it’s really hard.

We definitely need more psychological support, because it’s a big thing to go through, no matter how early your baby was or whatever a baby is in here for. It’s definitely a life-changing experience not only because you’ve just brought a baby into the world but you haven’t been able to take them home or even hold them the way you want to for weeks or months.

People keep saying that I’m doing so well and that I’m so strong, but I’m not doing anything in all this – it’s my son, he’s the one that’s fighting away.

At first, he was doing quite well, and he came off his vent after just a couple of weeks. But then he got an infection, and it emerged that he had a heart murmur and a hole in his heart. He was supposed to have surgery but it kept being cancelled because of COVID-19. It was getting really scary for us, and it was killing me not to see him progress. We had a priest come and give him a blessing and then Ayko surprised us all.

I came in the day after Ayko had meant to have his operation and the nurse ran up to me. I thought she was going to give me bad news, but she said ‘surprise!’ and told me Ayko had come off his ventilator, and he’d done it all himself! Everyone on the unit keeps saying it is a miracle. It’ll be amazing if he doesn’t even need to have the operation any more. But either way, I couldn’t be prouder of him.

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