"I never dreamt that having a family would be so tough." - Suzanne's story

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Suzanne describes the support she received from healthcare professionals during an emotional and isolating time.

I never dreamt that having a family would be so tough.

We were told that Richard and I could not conceive naturally, so we were referred for IVF. On our very first attempt, we were blessed with our son, Finley. Two years later, after another trip to the fertility clinic, we were blessed with another little miracle.

I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum the whole way through this pregnancy. I was thoroughly fed up and convinced myself that I didn't want my baby. At our 20-week scan, we found out we were having another baby boy. Everything was perfect apart from a complication I had with Finley – placenta previa. I cried when I was told that I had this again as I didn’t want to go through another caesarean.

Three weeks later, I had a massive bleed and was rushed from my local hospital to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. I convinced myself that I had brought it all on myself. I was in a panic; terrified of what might happen to my baby and being transferred to a hospital two hours away from home.

I was told that being under 24 weeks pregnant, there was a chance that he would not make it if he was delivered. No one could tell me where the bleeding was coming from or if I would be able to carry on with my pregnancy. The next morning, I had an ultrasound - his estimated weight was just over 600 grams. If we could keep baby where he was until 26/27 weeks then every day after would be a blessing.

My mental health declined rapidly, I already had a diagnosis of recurrent depressive disorder. I couldn’t stop crying and felt completely at fault. I also had tremendous guilt for not being at home for my three year old son.

The midwives were amazing and referred me to their mental health team. A lovely nurse came to speak with me and my husband. She took the time to listen to me and within a few days, I was referred to the newly set up perinatal team.

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I had been offered tours of all the NICU’s at other hospitals, but I declined. I didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility of my baby coming so early. Then my waters went at 30 weeks. I felt so much love for my baby and now all I wanted to do was protect him as best I could.

It was tough being away from my other son, I really wanted to see him but I didn’t want him to be so distraught. My poor husband had to juggle our son, going to work and visiting me.

I was referred to the Psychiatric Liaison Service (PLS). They visited me frequently and were very supportive, just having someone to chat with for a few minutes really helped and for the first time in a long while, I didn’t feel so alone.

At 33 weeks, I lost a lot of blood and was told that I had placental abruption. I was rushed into theatre. Everything was different to the caesarean I had three years previous. There was no music playing and an eerie quietness.

When Ryan was born, he cried – I can’t describe the relief of hearing him.

While I was in recovery, I was told that Ryan was unable to be cared for at Bedford hospital and would have to be transferred to intensive care at a specialist hospital. Due to my surgery, I was not able to go with him. I felt like I was being punished.

I was placed in a maternity ward with other new mothers, but unlike me – they had their babies with them. I felt a dislike for the other mothers, listening to them coo over their babies and their excited relatives coming in to visit. All I wanted was to hold my baby and the time away from him felt like torture.

Ryan was transferred back to Bedford Hospital on the Sunday. Finally, my family together! When I arrived on the Neonatal unit, the team were amazing, they answered all of my questions and made me feel included in his care.

A few days later, I was discharged from the maternity ward and asked: “when can your husband come and pick you up?”

I was in shock at the idea of leaving my baby. I burst into tears and was given the biggest hug by a wonderful neonatal nurse called Tracey. She assured me that she would do her best to make sure that I wouldn’t be separated from my baby again. She took me to one of the parents’ rooms on the ward – I was able to stay with Ryan.

Once he became well enough, I could wheel him into my room at night and look after him.

For the first time, I felt like a mother again.

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The PLS team were still visiting me. We discussed how I was feeling and they encouraged me to go for walks to have some time for myself. I felt as though I was moving forward and we were closer to being home as a family.

I will always be so incredibly grateful to all the healthcare professionals who visited me at this time, as I found the neonatal experience incredibly lonely.

Apart from having lots of messages of support, we didn’t have many visitors.

I met June, a Bliss volunteer, on the Friday before we were discharged. She came over to Ryan’s cot space and introduced herself. She had a very calm and peaceful demeanour, I found it very easy to talk to her.

To be able to talk to someone so understanding was like a breath of fresh air. I was able to talk to June about how I was feeling and what I had been through without judgement. I had so many worries for the future. Will Ryan be like other children? Will Ryan develop slower than babies that were born when they were supposed to have been? After our conversation, I felt so positive.

I don’t know what the future holds for Ryan, but I am so incredibly proud of my strong little fighter.

Thank you to all of the healthcare professionals that took such great care of Ryan and myself, mentally and physically.

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Photo credit: Georgie B Photography