“Some people never meet their heroes; I gave birth to mine” - Pia’s Story

Pia 1

Pia didn’t expect to give birth to her third child at 27 weeks – when Saoirse was born weighing just 780 grams, it marked the beginning of the scariest, emotional and physically draining period of her life. Thanks to the amazing medical staff, Saoirse came home after three and a half months, and is now a healthy and strong-willed 4-year-old.

Never in a million years did I think we would have a micro premmie. With my first two babies I suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum (constant nausea and vomiting), weight loss and aversion to so many smells and food. Yet there was respite after 18 weeks and I went on to term. In fact, with my second child, I had a homebirth, and she was a 9lb 8oz.

So, it never occurred to me that five years later when I got pregnant a third time that it wouldn't go the same way. Like with my previous pregnancies, I suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum but this time it was different, I was so weak and dehydrated. I had excess saliva, so much so that I had to carry a bucket around with me to get rid of the excess, or I would vomit.

When my 20-week scan came up they noticed Saoirse was measuring small and they noticed issues with the cord and placenta. My blood pressure was steadily rising, I was prescribed blood pressure medication and was told I would need to come in and have my BP checked regularly.

The next time my blood pressure was checked it was not good, so I was admitted to hospital at 26 weeks. Even with my blood pressure medication, it was climbing, and all signs were pointing to pre-eclampsia. Still, at this point I was still hopeful that my baby would be born at term.

Boy, was I wrong. After a week of monitoring, things were not going well. I was given steroids as a precaution just in case my baby had to come out early. 24 hours after receiving my second dose of steroids, I was told that they needed to get my baby out, so I was given magnesium to help protect her brain and to prepare for delivery.

So, on 25 July 2017, Saoirse entered our lives, in the most dramatic fashion (what a diva)! She was born by emergency c-section at 27 weeks and five days weighing a tiny 780 grams, no bigger than my hand.

As the doctors and nurses worked quickly to get Saoirse stabilised, I heard a little cry and saw Saoirse being placed into an incubator and slowly wheeled past me. I felt such a mixture of emotions - elated that she was here and alive, but devastated that I couldn't hold or be with her.

Pia 2

This marked the beginning of the scariest, heart wrenching, emotional and physically draining period of my life. I spent the first week recovering as my own health was not great (my blood pressure was not stabilising and had to recover from my c-section).

When I was finally able to see Saoirse, I was so shocked. She was tiny - there were so many wires, beeping and I will never forget the sound of the oscillating ventilator. Her hands were smaller than my little finger. She was here but it didn't feel real.

I had so many feelings of guilt and anger - angry at my body for not keeping Saoirse safe, and guilt for not being there enough for my two children at home. The never-ending pumping and worrying that there was not enough milk. The underlying fear of what the next hour or next day would bring. Mobile phone constantly glued to my hand just in case of the unthinkable.

Saoirse was on a ventilator for five weeks. She suffered from infections, a collapsed lung and underwent numerous procedures. The hardest was not being able to hold Saoirse in my arms - she was five weeks old before I held her for the first time.

Despite the lows, there were highs - Saoirse was a fighter, and for someone so tiny she had so much strength. Saoirse taught me resilience, patience and to have hope. She made me into an advocate for her and to pushback when needed. To celebrate the wins, no matter how big or how small, like breastfeeding for the first time, gaining a kilo, moving from NICU to SCBU, to wearing clothes and having her first bath.

One of the most positive memories I have from our NICU journey was six days after Saoirse was born. It was my birthday, and the nurses gave me a card and a cupcake. Inside the card was a set of Saoirse's footprints. The compassion, thoughtfulness and care from the nurses was amazing.

Pia 3

Being at the hospital everyday also meant getting to know the other parents really well. Their lows became our lows their triumphs became our triumphs. Friendships born out of a shared experience and understanding to becoming so much more. Watching each baby ‘graduate’ and go home was amazing - after three and half months it was finally our turn.

Saoirse, born 13 weeks early, had beaten the odds and came home on the 30 October 2017.

We are so thankful to the doctors who saved Saoirse's life. To the breast milk donors whose milk helped feed Saoirse whilst my milk came in (I was also thankful to be able to donate my own milk to other mothers too, via the breastmilk bank). To the nurses who looked after not just Saoirse but me as a parent; they offered words of encouragement and support and became like family. They shone a light when things seemed dark.

Bliss were so supportive – they empowered me to become an advocate for Saoirse and made me feel like I wasn't alone. Even now, Bliss is helping to support me with Saoirse's future.

Today, Saoirse is still a dot of a thing but is the cheekiest, strong-willed 4-year-old I have ever known! We don't know what the future will hold for Saoirse, but we are sure it will be bright, amazing and full of love – “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

My advice to parents is:

  • Reach out and speak to someone, don't do it alone
  • Take each day one at a time
  • Get involved with daily care
  • Kangaroo time was amazing
  • Don't compare your bubba to others
  • Celebrate the little wins
  • Be kind to yourself - you don't need to feel guilty

Finally, some people never meet their heroes - I gave birth to mine.

Pia 4