Postnatal depression after the birth of my daughter - Sophie’s story

In February 2019, Sophie's daughter Erin was born at 26 weeks and 6 days, weighing only 620g. She describes Erin's experience with necrotising enterocolitis and her own mental health.

I had postnatal depression after Erin was born and one of the things that helped was when a nurse said: "you’ve been put through the impossible, there’s no guide that tells you how to cope with the stress, the fear, the hormones and the grief you feel of missing out on a normal birth. Postnatal depression doesn’t make you weak."

Erin had one bad episode of sepsis and a couple of the usual issues that babies born premature can develop, along with mild bowel and reflux problems.

We went home when Erin reached 38 weeks' gestation. It was an amazing time and we spent two lovely weeks with her. Then, everything started to go wrong.

Erin’s reflux got worse, so she was given milk thickener. This seemed to help at first. On two occasions we went to hospital when she had breathing problems, but we were sent home after 24 hours and told it was due to mild bronchiolitis.

The third time we went into hospital because she was sick, we were very concerned. Although her vital signs were good, her temperature was unreadable as she was so cold, and she wasn’t feeding.

The next morning, the doctor told us Erin had a tummy bug and should be able to go home later. Even though I felt concerned and anxious, I still thought in my gut I had to trust this decision. However, before we even left, she stared vomiting again.

When we took her down to have an urgent X-ray, she was lifeless and waxy. It was terrifying and thinking back I’m not sure I really understood what was going on.

The X-ray came back, and the doctors said Erin had what looked like loads of air in her tummy. At this point Erin was rushed to the resuscitation room on the ward.

The doctors confirmed that she had NEC. I didn’t know what to think or what to do, especially as we had previously been told she was too old now to have NEC. NEC is necrotising enterocolitis, a serious condition that can affect newborn babies, where tissue in the bowel (small and large intestines) becomes inflamed.

Erin was ventilated at great risk, and had a nasogastric tube inserted by a team of experienced surgeons, neonatal doctors, and advanced nurse practitioners. She was sent over to Leeds General Infirmary with her medical team.

When we arrived, we were met by a surgeon and nurse on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) who explained Erin needed surgery. She then had two operations on her bowel and stomach.

Erin improved so much she was moved from PICU to the surgical newborn ward as she was too small to go to the children’s surgery ward. The hope was that she would restart feeds and get to go home, but sadly she needed more surgery.

Although the operation was a success, the surgeons had to insert a feeding tube to make sure Erin had the nutrients that she needed.

Feeds were slowly restarted, and we were sent back to Bradford Hospital.

Although I was happy to be closer to home, I was exhausted. My mental health had taken a dive, and I felt powerless and like it would never end. I hadn’t met any other parents who had been in my position, but luckily the staff in Bradford neonatal really supported me with my mental health and my concerns, they always listened to me and even gave me a hug if I felt like it was too much. They really did become like a family to me.

In September 2019, after another long four months, we were sent up to the paediatric ward and then finally got to go home, with her feeding tube removed as a day patient a couple of weeks later.

Time and time again Erin has proved what a warrior she is and she has the battle scars to prove it. She is slightly behind developmentally, but after what she’s been through she’s allowed to be. Erin defied all odds and is such a little character now, with a bright future ahead of her. It’s all thanks to the staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary Neonatal Unit and the Leeds PICU and Neonatal Unit.