'There's no greater gift than a baby' - Emma's story

Emma, Mark And Stanley's Story Hero

Emma and Mark's baby son Stanley was born at 32 weeks. Emma tells their story, and pays tribute to the excellent neonatal care they received.

My pregnancy was very uneventful up until 27 weeks, when I had a large bleed due to a low lying placenta. At this point I was warned I was likely to have an early baby, and would have to have a c-section if the placenta did not move. I was also given steroids to mature Stanley’s lungs at 27+4 weeks gestation, ready for his arrival.

The neonatal paediatrician came to talk me and my boyfriend Mark through exactly what would happen at the birth. She explained that Stanley would go straight into a bag to keep him warm, and that it was unlikely we would be able to hold him. We also had a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) – we live on Guernsey in the Channel Islands and the unit has a capacity of just three!

At this point I could’ve felt scared but I didn’t. I felt completely informed and in the safe and capable hands of the midwives and obstetricians. Stanley moved around in my belly constantly, and every time I was hooked up to the monitoring machine the results were fine. He was safe where he was, in my tummy, for the time being.

We had time to prepare. I ordered all we needed for him online from my hospital bed, and when I got home from hospital I prepared my hospital bag and his. I was fully aware he would not being coming home with us straight away, but I had time to accept this.

After that, I was in and out of hospital with seven more, smaller bleeds, until Stanley decided to arrive in the world, seven weeks early, on 20 May 2016. One positive thing was that I didn’t need a c-section after all – I’d had a scan a few days before to confirm I was already dilating and that Stanley’s head had already gone past the placenta. He weighed four pounds and four ounces.

Giving birth to my baby was the best day of my life, despite the circumstances. When he was born I did get to hold him for a brief moment, and it was amazing.

Stanley then spent 25 days in the NICU. He was anaemic when he was born and received a blood transfusion, and he then had to be fed through a tube in his belly button as he would not tolerate my milk. He was also very jaundiced, and spent a lot of time under the light. But we were allowed to change his nappy and hold him every six hours, and I lived for those moments with him.

I expressed milk for him every three hours from the day he was born until the day he arrived home – I focused on what I could do for him rather than what I couldn’t. The day he was moved out of the incubator to a hot cot was an amazing day – I got to dress him and touch him any time I wanted!

We then got to bath him shortly afterwards, and I was given milestone cards as a gift, which I made sure I took into the unit to take photos with Stanley. I would sort out his vitamins for the day, and his milk, which I fed him through his tube. I insisted on bringing in his own nappies and dummies, and I took his clothes and blankets home to wash and brought in fresh ones. I was a mum and I savoured every moment. Mark also went to see him every day, and took on the same nappy changing and feed duties as me.

The nurses in the unit were amazing and gave us all the help and guidance we needed. Nevertheless, there were days when my patience ran out and I could see no change in Stanley. Those low days are tough, and that is when it helped me to focus on what I could do for my baby, not what he was not doing. It is also on those days that I needed a gentle reminder that Stanley shouldn’t even be here yet - sometimes we can expect a lot from premature babies!

Finally, Stanley came home at the equivalent of 36 weeks 4 days gestation, and that’s pretty amazing if you ask me.

What I hope people will take away from my story is that however or whenever your baby is born, you are a parent and there is no greater gift. We were very lucky to be pre-warned of Stanley’s arrival, to have such great care and for him to be so healthy, but my message to parents everywhere of premature babies would be that no matter what the circumstances, stay positive and know that these babies are resilient, strong little creatures.

Stanley is now nearly six months old and thriving. I could not be more proud of the life I created.

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