'You never know how strong you are, until strong is all you can be' – Kim’s story

When Kim's baby was born with HIE, she not only faced a scary 14 days in neonatal care, but she had to keep it a secret from her older son who still thought she was pregnant.

My journey to becoming a mum wasn't straightforward. I tried for five years for my first child before being put forward for IVF as I had been told I was infertile. Then suddenly, one month after being put on the waiting list, I discovered I was pregnant! When Charlie turned three, we decided to try for a second child and within a month I was expecting again!

I was induced on my due date and, naively, I thought that it would be a quick process and we might even be able to go home the same day. How wrong was I…

After around 30 minutes of pushing, our baby, Bobby, arrived into the world. But it was a million miles away from how I had imagined our first meeting to be. I opened my eyes after hearing my partner make a noise like I have never heard before and which will stay with me forever. The only way I can describe that moment was that it was like an out-of-body experience. It was as if I was stood in the corner of the room, watching everyone around me as doctors and nurses surrounded my baby and performed CPR on him. Then he was taken away.

I was in a lot of pain as I hadn't delivered my placenta and I was bleeding out so I needed to go into theatre. My partner says he thought he had lost both of us. When I came out, I was told that Bobby had been taken into intensive care. I didn't want to look anyone in the eye; I didn't want to see their sadness or the worry.

My mum stayed with me while my partner went home to be with Charlie who, at that point, thought we were both at work. As the ward started to fill with women and their newborns, my heart felt so heavy. When their babies cried, I curled into a ball and hummed tunes to try to drown out the noise.

Bobby had been born without a heartbeat, the doctors didn't know how long he had been without oxygen and they were unhappy with his level of brain activity at first so he was put on a cooling mat for 72 hours. That brought his body temperature down in order to prevent any further brain damage.

I finally got to meet Bobby for the first time seven hours after he was born. I was wheeled down to the NICU with my mum holding my hand and when I saw him in an incubator surrounded by wires and on a ventilator, my heart broke. I'm ashamed to say it, but all I wanted to do was run away and pretend it wasn't happening. All I could think was that I had failed him and it was all my fault (I know now that isn't true but mum guilt is real!).

As the nurse explained Bobby's treatment, I kept telling myself to breathe. But as soon as I looked at my mum, I broke down and started to have what felt like a panic attack. The nurse hugged me and told me she'd take good care of my baby. She gave me a muslin cloth and put another in Bobby's incubator which we would then swap every other day so Bobby always had something of me and vice versa. I stroked his little hand for a couple of minutes and whispered 'I love you, please fight for us, little man'.

That night I cried myself to sleep, while my mum sat with me, holding my hand the whole time.

Charlie still thought I was in work so my partner went back and forth between the hospital and home, trying to keep everything as normal as possible for him, while I sat by Bobby's incubator. The nurses helped me to do as much as I could for Bobby, changing his nappy and giving him a little wash; they answered all my questions and they never made me feel like I was a nuisance. I liked that the same two nurses looked after Bobby as I didn't have to get used to lots of different faces and it felt like we became friends. I remember watching them stroke Bobby's face when they had to reach inside the incubator for something – that made me smile because it made me see that it wasn't just a job to them: they really cared.

I was discharged while Bobby was still on the cooling mat. I was excited as it meant I could go home to see Charlie, who I hadn't seen or spoken to for five days. But I hadn't prepared for pulling up outside our house without our new baby. I felt guilty for having left Bobby in the hospital and I broke down again. Charlie still thought there was a baby in his mummy's tummy so I hid in my bedroom to cry. My heart hurt so much that it felt like I would never stop. I called my mum and she was able to calm me down again, so that I could put on a brave face for Charlie.

72 hours after Bobby had gone into the NICU, it was time for him to come off the cooling mat. We had been warned that he might suffer seizures as he was warmed back up. We couldn't bear the thought of him being on his own, so we snuck out the house after Charlie had gone to sleep, leaving him with my parents.

All night, we sat with Bobby. He didn't have any seizures and we managed to be home before Charlie woke up so he didn't know anything was wrong. Over the next couple of days, Bobby went from strength to strength. When we were finally able to hold him for the first time, my heart could not have been any more full of love.

After 14 days of being in neonatal care, it was time to come home! The results from Bobby's MRI scan so far look positive (unfortunately COVID-19 has meant that all our appointments have been cancelled so we haven't seen a full breakdown or discussed the future with his consultant). We hope that as Bobby grows up, he will develop normally. But if he doesn’t, then we will take it in our stride. Because the most important thing is that he is here with us and, together with Charlie, our little family is complete.

I hope our story gives comfort to any families in a similar situation and helps them to trust that there is light at the end of the tunnel. When your world feels like it's falling apart, hang on in there: you never know how strong you are, until strong is all you can be.