"He was the biggest baby they had seen in NICU for a while" - Harriet's story

Harriet's baby was born full term at 42 weeks. Her son, Jensen, suffered from severe meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), which caused respiratory problems. Here, Harriet tells the story of the difficult birth journey, as well as how the hospital staff helped her both physically and emotionally.

My son, Jensen, was born at 42 weeks, weighing just under nine pounds. He is our third baby. Our first two births went perfectly well, so I never expected anything to go wrong.

Unfortunately, Jensen developed fetal distress, that made him pass meconium (stool from a newborn) in the womb. The doctor said that he needed to be born immediately as it was too late for a C-section.

Jensen was born not breathing but thanks to the midwife’s quick thinking, he was resuscitated very quickly. Jensen had severe meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), which meant his lungs had become filled with meconium, resulting in respiratory distress. A team of nurses and doctors took Jensen away to NICU whilst they were resuscitating him. I had no idea what was happening, and I had never heard of MAS before.

After birth I was in extreme pain. I was told my placenta was stuck and that I needed surgery and a spinal block. In the operating theatre I had no idea what was happening and if Jensen was alive or not.

Once I was out of theatre, my partner arrived back from NICU. He told me Jensen was doing fine but was having help with his breathing. I started feeling unwell very quickly, I had some blood tests for sepsis and started treatment. Jensen was also treated for sepsis.

My partner was able to visit Jensen when he wanted and provided me with updates. He told me he was on a breathing machine. I asked him not to take any photos as I wanted to see Jensen in person first.

Eventually, about eight hours later, my partner was able to wheel me down to see Jensen. By this point Jensen was breathing on his own, but he had lots of wires and things which made beeping sounds around him. The nurses told me I could touch him, but not hold him yet. I put my hand on his chest through the incubator. What seemed like minutes, was half an hour, but then I had to leave and return back to my ward.

The hospital staff moved me a few hours later to another ward whilst Jensen was still in NICU. They told me they'd put me in a separate room away from mums with the babies, but unfortunately when I arrived there were no available rooms.

My partner had to go home to our two children, I struggled hearing other people's babies' cry. The midwifes were fantastic and caring for what felt like one of the most vulnerable times in my life. They continued to give me updates about Jensen. My mum arrived later, and they told us we could visit Jensen, but I had to go in the wheelchair and it would be a quick visit. This time I was able to hold Jensen, it was the best feeling in the world.

The midwifes gave me the NICU phone number and told me I could call anytime to check on him throughout the night, as many times as I wanted. The next day I was allowed slowly to walk without the wheelchair around my bed, then I was able to go visit Jensen anytime on my own. At this visit he was out of the incubator and a nurse told me he was the biggest baby they had seen in NICU for a while.

A doctor explained he was doing well and had been very lucky. They had never seen a baby recover so quickly from such a severe case of MAS before, but to be on the safe side they needed to keep him for a bit longer.

I went back to the ward and later that evening they brought Jensen down to me. I remember them wheeling him in and I burst out crying with happiness. Jensen was still on antibiotics and a feeding tube, but he was stable enough to be with me.

We had another stay in hospital to help him transition from tube feeding to bottle feeding and finish our antibiotics. Then we were allowed to go home. The doctors explained they'd run lots of tests and Jensen had got off lucky by not having any damage to his lungs.

A midwife visited every week for a few months, and it took me weeks to realise that she had delivered Jensen! My mind had blurred out so much. The care she gave me was above and beyond. She even gave me a birth debriefing, and this really helped me piece together the blurry bits.

We are so grateful to all the amazing staff at the hospital. Because of them, Jensen is now a healthy two-year-old with no lasting effects. Since then, I have read about MAS and how common it is especially in post-term babies, and how serious it can be too. I think there should be more awareness of MAS, which is why I am sharing our story.