“Not only did they look after our boy, but they also looked after us” - Roshni’s #MyNeonatalStory

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Roshni gave birth to her son Ivan at 31 weeks, at the height of Covid restrictions. Both Roshni and Ivan faced many health complications during and after the birth which was very traumatic, but now Ivan is approaching his first birthday, and Roshni reflects on her neonatal experience as an incredible journey.

On 17 November 2021 it is World Prematurity Day - a day that now means something to me. A day where many parents will reflect on the neonatal care their baby or babies received. For most, there will be some amazing memories but also some upsetting ones.

This time last year, I was expecting my first child, Ivan. I thought I still had plenty of time: he wasn’t due until 4 February 2020. As you can imagine, it was very worrying for myself and my husband Krupesh when I gave birth at only 31 weeks pregnant.

My waters broke at 28 weeks. Krupesh had caught Covid-19, so I consequently spent a week in hospital segregated from everyone and had to complete fourteen days in isolation. Luckily, he was okay. It was a very stressful time, and although it was horrible being in a room alone, I knew I was in the best place possible as I was carefully monitored by the midwives and doctors.

A week later I was discharged and told to monitor my waters and wellbeing. Then three weeks after my waters broke, I felt an unusual pain on the side of my bump. Although I didn’t really know what contractions felt like, I convinced myself that I was in labour as this pain was coming and going every couple of minutes. The hospital asked me to go in as soon as possible - I remember putting my shoes on and saying to my husband, ‘this baby is coming out today – I know it’.

After an hour or so of being monitored, mine and Ivan’s heart rate was incredibly high, and I was in agonising pain. I was feeling very low as I was all alone - due to Covid restrictions, Krupesh wasn’t allowed to come with me. He was patiently waiting in the car park, constantly texting me and encouraging me to stay calm and positive.

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Soon after, a consultant told me that they suspected some sort of infection which meant that my baby had to be delivered as soon as possible, by an emergency c-section. I was in so much pain that I just wanted it to be over with. Unfortunately, due to them not knowing whether the infection was Covid related, they wouldn’t let Krupesh come into theatre.

Ivan was born on 2 December 2020 at 3.31pm. The surgeon held him up so I could catch a glimpse of him before they took him away. The first thing I noticed was his full, pouty lips, and I instantly fell in love. After the successful c-section I was greeted by Krupesh and some lovely midwives who looked after me so well. I felt reasonably well considering what I had just been through, and I kept being told by the staff that I looked really well - but the stats on the machine showed otherwise.

My temperature and heart rate were soaring, whereas my oxygen levels were low. I had a suspected case of sepsis, and because of this I couldn’t go down to NICU to see Ivan. However, they had an iPad there for me and I was able to see him via live video streaming.

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Three days later, I had recovered and was finally able to go to see Ivan. He was in an incubator - seeing him with all the tubes connected to him and the CPAP covering most of his little face was heart-breaking. They had also put him on anti-biotics just in case the infection had spread to him.

The staff were amazing. They got Krupesh and I involved in Ivan’s daily care with changing his nappies and feeding him via NG tubes. I was extremely nervous, but thankfully he was only on a ventilator for a day.

I finally got to hold him and have my first skin-to-skin experience when he was five days old. It was an amazing feeling, but I was also very nervous about holding him because he was so small and fragile. The nurses were very reassuring that I wouldn’t be causing him any discomfort or pain.

This was also the day that I was discharged from hospital, and the drive home was very emotional. I was sad that we weren’t taking our baby home, but also relieved that I was able to go home with my husband after a very traumatic experience.

Later, we received a phone call from the hospital to inform us that Ivan needed to be transferred to another neonatal unit elsewhere. We felt very anxious, but the nurse reassured us that it was a positive move, as he no longer needed the high level of care in the NICU. We were also lucky that the new unit wasn’t too far away, and he was only there for one night before being moved to another neonatal unit back in Leicester, where he stayed for the next four weeks.

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In hindsight, although it was a very difficult time for Krupesh and I, it was such an incredible journey. We are so thankful for the care and expertise of all the healthcare staff that were involved in looking after Ivan. Not only did they look after our boy, but they also looked after us. They taught us and encouraged us to be brave and do things that we were afraid to do like taking him out of the incubator and feeding him via the NG tube.

I will forever be grateful to them all - they became like family. I would like to acknowledge the staff at the neonatal unit at the Leicester General Hospital, University Hospital Coventry and Leicester Royal Infirmary. And of course, Bliss for all that they do for babies born prematurely or sick. Every single staff member involved in mine and Ivan’s care are all superheroes!

Ivan is now approaching his first birthday and is thriving. He is a happy little chappy and we are just so thankful that he is healthy and strong, despite his bumpy start.