“I felt complete again” - Kerry’s story

Kerry 1

Kerry had ICSI as a solo mother with donor sperm to conceive her daughter Kaiah, who is her absolute dream come true. Kaiah was due in March 2023 but arrived prematurely on 23 November 2022.

Due to having a frozen embryo transfer, I was on progesterone pessaries until 12 weeks’ gestation to help keep the pregnancy going.

When I stopped these as planned, I quickly experienced intense pressure and bleeding, so I asked if I could have them again. As soon as I did, I felt better.

Everything was going fine until at 23 weeks and three days, when inserting my pessary I felt my waters bulging through my cervix. Quickly I called the maternity triage unit and they told me to come in straight away.

On the way there I could feel I was contracting and when the doctor examined me, she found that my cervix was open 1cm and my waters were bulging when I contracted. She said straight away that she was sorry and that my baby didn't really stand a chance at this gestation.

I was rushed to labour ward where I was handed nifedipine tablets to try and stop my contractions - I had to have them very frequently at first and then every few hours. They did help and my contractions slowed to a stop. I was also given a course of steroids to help the baby's lungs and magnesium to help slow labour down and protect baby's brain.

The entire time I was in labour, my hospital (a level two unit) were in contact with the local level three unit begging them to take me because I was so early. They had space for my baby but not for me on the labour ward, so she would need to be stabilised and transferred once she arrived if she was still with us.

On my third day of labour, the consultant called the level three once more. They told them something different this time - they had space!

It was very high risk putting me in an ambulance as my baby was already half way through my cervix. If the waters broke in the ambulance she would come out very quickly and they would be less able to help her.

I told them I wanted to go, and they made it happen. I was blue lighted from Croydon University Hospital to St George’s in 11 minutes.

Once I arrived at the level three it was all systems go - they were doing examinations and ultrasounds to estimate her weight to best prepare for her. I spoke to a neonatal doctor who asked whether I'd like my baby to be allowed to pass peacefully or if I'd like them to intervene if she was alive.

I asked them to please do everything that they could. He let me know that at her gestation about four in ten babies survive at this hospital, with one in four having a severe disability. It was very difficult to take all of the information in, I felt like I was in a movie.

The same day I arrived at the level three, my contractions started back up and after about eight hours, my waters broke and she was born seven minutes later.

My baby was alive, though floppy and with a very slow heartbeat. The doctor managed to intubate her on the second attempt and I asked my mum to take a video of her for me.

They quickly let me peek at her as she was rushed out of the door and told me to come and see her in two hours when they'd stabilised her.

I decided to name her Kaiah - it means little, but wise. I think it suits her perfectly.

Kerry 3

When I was finally allowed back, I broke down to the family support worker because I just didn't want to leave her ever again. By the next day she had found me a room at the Ronald McDonald accommodation on site, where I could stay until my baby was discharged. It was a godsend.

There were many nights where I sat up just staring at her, mesmerised by what I was seeing.

She was intubated for five weeks and was diagnosed with chronic lung disease at 28 days old.

I didn't get to hold Kaiah for 47 days. When I did it was the most peaceful and calm feeling I had ever felt. I felt complete again.

The days dragged by and there was issue after issue, Kaiah had a large PDA, a bilateral grade 2 IVH, stage 2 ROP, a hernia, reflux, sepsis and more.

I met wonderful friends who actually understood what I was going through. I scoured websites like Bliss for glimmers of hope and to help me understand these words that were being thrown at me in what felt like a foreign language.

My mum and my brother and sister-in-law came and spent Christmas by Kaiah’s bedside as she had an infection and we were worried about her. We were spoiled rotten with gifts from St George's charity, First Touch and Ronald McDonald House Charities, but it didn't feel like Christmas at all. I was just glad she was here.

We were moved back to our local hospital when Kaiah was 34 weeks gestation and on CPAP. I was incredibly anxious about this, but it turned out to be a real turning point. She quickly came off CPAP and onto Vapotherm, and in what felt like no time at all she was drinking from a bottle and on nasal cannula oxygen!

I had been expressing nonstop and still never got more than 20ml per time even on Domperidone which was so disheartening.

I still did it for four months to give her what I could, and as she grew she needed bank milk to top her up, which I was incredibly grateful for. As she got closer to term she was started on special premature baby milk and gained weight very quickly.

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A week before Kaiah’s due date they told me she was finally almost ready for home.

My dad came up from Dover to help decorate her room and make it perfect, and I made sure I had everything she needed as I hadn't had a chance to buy anything with her being so early and then being in hospital with her all the time.

The next week I roomed in with her for the first night and it was amazing, I never wanted to give her back. I was nervous and didn't sleep much but felt so happy that she was with me.

Kaiah’s oxygen was delivered to our home and we made sure we had all the supplies she needed for it.

And then the day came – I brought Kaiah home four days past her due date. It was the best feeling I have ever felt. She was on 0.07 of oxygen, and learning everything that comes with that was overwhelming, but it becomes second nature very quickly.

I am so tired but so happy and in love with my little warrior.