"I wasn't looking forward to Christmas Day if my boy wasn't coming home" - Lizzie's story

Having a premature baby seven weeks early leading up to Christmas was never a possibility I had considered. The fact that things didn't go to plan is something that has taken me some time to make peace with and I'm sharing my story in the hope that another parent in a similar scenario will read this and realise what they feel is completely normal.

I felt rubbish throughout my pregnancy and the 'glow' never arrived, so when I started to fall ill at 33 weeks, I didn’t really notice a change. It wasn’t until one day that I felt so incredibly rubbish that I called for some help and was told it was probably just the general misery of the final trimester, but we did tests to confirm. The results shocked all of us and I was told to go to hospital straight away. I had severe pre-eclampsia and my kidneys had stopped working.

Luckily the nursery was decorated, but my hospital bag wasn't packed and I had no pram. Deep down part of me still thought this was an overreaction and I would be home that night. I didn't even take my bag to hospital with me because I was so sure this would all be fine.

Whilst in hospital, there were many tests and my condition worsened very quickly. I had a headache so bad that I couldn't speak, I had started on an anti-stroke medication and steroids to help the baby grow. My liver had also stopped working and there was no other option than to deliver the baby.

If I'm completely honest, the rest is a blur. I was very poorly but I do remember somehow thinking that once my baby arrived, we could all go home. I hadn't prepared myself for the fact that we would both be in hospital for some time.

Jackson was born on 4th December and weighed 4lb 2 – a good size, I am told, for 33 weeks. I had a C-section and I don’t remember much else, other than being terrified and completely panicked, but the staff who cared for me were amazing.

I saw Jackson quickly before he was taken to special care. He didn’t look like what I expected, and he didn’t have the hat on I chose (he was too small). This was very far from what I had expected.

I was too ill to see Jack that day, but his dad spent time with him. Michael (his dad) took pictures for me and we also had bonding squares between me and Jack, so he recognised my smell.

During his first few days, Jack needed help breathing initially and was fed fluids on IV for the first day or so, and then moved to tube feeds. Babies born this early don’t know how to suckle so are fed with a tube until they learn how.

Jackson was three days old when I finally got to see him. I was taken to special care and sat in front of his incubator. The nurses were great, talking me through everything, every machine, how Jack was doing, what they were doing for him etc, but I didn’t hear a word.

I was devastated and completely guilt ridden that I had failed my son by not being well enough to keep him to nine months. I didn't hold him because I was too poorly, but after some time I felt comfortable enough to put my hand in the incubator to touch him. One thing I remember is that premature babies are very ticklish so you should not stroke them, as you would expect.

When Jack was four days old, I got to hold him for the first time. It was terrifying – so many machines making noises and beeping. Lots of wires that I was terrified of pulling or doing the wrong thing. He felt so small and delicate. It just wasn't at all the beautiful moment I had pictured in my head.

After ten days in hospital, I was ready to be discharged home, but I was heartbroken to be going home without my son. I can only liken it to grief and despite being as ill as I was, I would sit every day in SCBU by his bedside.

I was desperate to breast feed, so would spend hours trying to establish milk supply, pumping every few hours and through the night. My plan didn't work out and the trauma of what had happened combined with my ill health meant I would never produce enough milk for Jack. I was gutted.

But every day Jack made improvements. He would take more milk each day through the tube and would put on weight. Weigh day was such a big moment for us because we knew the milestones he would need to meet to be able to come home. Then we started to bottle feed – training him to suckle with a dummy really helped.

The backdrop to all of this was Christmas time, and I wasn't looking forward to Christmas Day if my boy wasn’t coming home. We hadn't even got him a gift because his arrival was so unexpected.

The nurses in SCBU decorated and tried to make things special but I was completely numb. It felt like Jack would never be home, we would have setbacks, weight loss or pulling out the dreaded feed tube! SCBU try to make Christmas special - carol singers came and Jack was given a Christmas book for us to read to him.

Then we got the news we had so desperately hoped for - Jack was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve and I couldn’t believe it. Having him home that night was so surreal. Jack was so small that we couldn't have lots of visitors in the beginning, so Christmas Day was quiet, but just what we had wanted.

Fast forward 12 months and Jack has just had his first birthday and is doing extremely well. Preemies don’t stay small forever!