Self-isolated without my baby for a fortnight – Kayleigh’s story

Nothing about becoming parents has been as Kayleigh and her husband Darren had expected as their baby was born 11 weeks early in the middle of a pandemic.

It took me a while to get my head around the fact that I’d had my baby girl, Eva, at 29+4 weeks. I didn’t go into hospital because of anything wrong with the pregnancy, but because I needed to have my asthma checked. I was seen by the pregnancy triage and while I was there, they put a heartbeat monitor on my bump, just by chance, to check how she was doing.

That was when they discovered her heart rate was dropping. After a couple of hours of monitoring her, it was decided that if she didn’t come out, we were going to lose her. So, within 15 minutes of that decision, I was in theatre having a c-section and she was out.

I was in shock for a couple of days. I just assumed I would have a term baby, bring her home and that everything would be fine. But not only did we have Eva nearly 11 weeks early, but because of COVID-19, nothing about becoming parents has been as we expected.

To minimise the spread of the virus, neonatal units have had to change their visiting policies, and at ours, it is one parent per day. So me, and my husband Darren now alternate seeing her with him going one day and me going the next. I find it hard, when it is his turn, not seeing her and not being able to do things for her.

Not being able to have friends and family on the unit has also been really hard because they all want to meet Eva. She’s my parents’ first grandchild and originally, our plan was for my mum to stay for a couple of weeks after I had her so I knew what I was doing. But even when she comes home, they won’t be able to see her straightaway because of the lockdown, and not having that back-up is even scarier now because of Eva being premature.

I feel really sorry for them as well because by the time they can meet her, she’ll be a lot bigger and they’ll have missed out on so much.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Darren starting showing symptoms of COVID-19. We don’t think he’s had it because he’s been absolutely fine, but it meant he had to self-isolate for seven days and I had to for fourteen. To cope, I kept myself busy getting the house ready for Eva and decorating her nursery, because if I was doing things for her, then I didn’t feel so bad. I also called the hospital a lot to check up on her, and they were really understanding. Then when my husband was able to go back onto the unit, I could see and talk to her through video-calls.

When I went back, I got teary just seeing her. She looked massive to me and in that time, she’d started taking bottles and had moved from the High Dependency Unit and into the growing room. It was really lovely to see how much she’d developed and how well she is doing, but I also felt like I’d left her on her own for two weeks and missed seeing her progress.

My husband has been put on furlough so he’s on 80% of his pay at the moment. We’re lucky that I’m still on the full pay part of my maternity leave, so we can get by. But we’re hoping that everything is back to normal and he’s on his full salary by the time my maternity pay halves in three months’ time.

Neonatal Leave and Pay would definitely be beneficial because I’ve had to spend a month of my maternity leave going back and forth between home and the hospital and for two weeks of that, I wasn’t even able to see Eva. However long she’s in there for, I will still have to go back to work after ten months and miss out on that time with her on home.

I feel like Eva is safe from COVID-19 because she’s in an incubator so she’s essentially in a plastic bubble and everyone on the ward is really good at keeping everything clean and practising social distancing. We have to wear masks the whole time we’re on the ward, we wash our hands constantly, and the cleaner is constantly wiping everything down. The nurses and doctors stand two metres apart from each other, even when they’re wearing masks, and in Eva’s room, all the cots and chairs have been moved around so you can sit by your baby without being too close to another parent or baby.

But I get really nervous going out, even if I’m just going to the hospital and coming back. It got to the point that for a couple of days I wouldn’t touch her or open up the incubator because I was so scared of breathing on her and making her poorly. I got really, really anxious about it. The nurses reassured me that it was fine to touch her, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I was just so scared of passing on germs.

Since being back on the unit, after I was in quarantine, I’ve been able to have skin-to-skin with her, which was the most amazing feeling after a fortnight apart.

If you're having a similar experience to Kayleigh and would like one-to-one support from a Bliss Champion, you can access that here.

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