“Together you’ll get through this” – Kim’s story #ByYourSide

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Kim shares her story of giving birth to a premature baby at 25 weeks whilst on holiday in Spain. Ava was born in Lanzarote, before receiving treatment in Gran Canaria, St. James’ Hospital in Leeds and then Harrogate District Hospital before she could go home just before Christmas.

Our story began when Connor and I met just before lockdown 2021, so it was a very big surprise to find myself pregnant only months later. We were both thrilled and ready for the new challenge ahead.

With so many postponed holidays moved due to Covid-19, we decided to go on a short trip to Lanzarote when I’d just turned 25 weeks.

I had an appointment with the midwife before the holiday and everything was okay. We did discuss the excess discharge my body was producing and some pelvic pain I was experiencing, but I felt good and it was seen as a normal thing in pregnancy.

Looking back now this could have been the first sign my cervix was starting to open, which then led to an infection in the placenta.

On my last night of our holiday I started experiencing mild back pain which by morning had turned into blood loss. Once at the hospital, they confirmed to me that I was 4cm dilated and my baby would be born at 26 weeks and two days.

I don’t quite remember my feelings at that point - you morph into some kind of superwoman. I don’t remember feeling scared but I will have been. I was given steroid injections for my baby’s lungs and we were well cared for.

My daughter Ava was born weighing one pound and 15oz. She was perfectly formed, crying and raring to go.

Giving birth was the easy part for me, and then our NICU journey started. Ava was airlifted to Gran Canaria as they had a better equipped NICU there, so I had to catch a flight to her – it was madness!

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Spain is very different to the UK, so my experience was that I was kept away from her which was so hard. I had to wait three weeks to be able to have skin-to-skin time, as they like the babies to be a certain weight first.

Seeing a nurse tube feed and change my baby’s nappies was hard, I felt like a visitor to my baby’s incubator, not her Mummy. I also struggled a lot with my milk supply and the language barrier was okay but did add to the stress.

The hardest thing was being alone - my partner had to fly home to the UK after ten days of holiday because he had to work and support our family.

However I had no choice but to make a new life for myself in those six weeks while Ava was in the NICU. I had rented an apartment not far from the hospital, as I was there all day, every day. My partner also flew back to Spain so he could spend time with us in November before Ava and I returned home via air ambulance.

We continued our journey in St James Hospital in Leeds, before joining SCBU in Harrogate - our home town. It was so wonderful and overwhelming being home - the nurses looked after us both and I’ll never forget any of them. They involved me in her care and taught me how to tube feed her, it felt amazing to finally be looking after my little girl.

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We brought our tiny warrior home just before Christmas when she was 36 weeks. Although you’re scared and worried, their strength and determination makes you stronger.

We read so many stories like ours whilst in hospital and got so much comfort from them. I look back on the past year and at times I feel angry that this happened to us, and our ‘normal’ start to parenthood was snatched from us.

But mostly I’m thankful - it’s our story and thankfully we had a very smooth one.

We were so lucky that all Ava needed was two blood transfusions and a little help from CPAP and low flow.

We now have 3/4 monthly check-ups and she always meets her milestones.

For parents going through a NICU experience - you are now not the same person. You will know all the medical terminology you never knew you’d need to learn.

The rollercoaster of emotions is hard, but know you and your babies are amazingly strong. Together you’ll get through this and be home before you know it.

Sending you all our love and support,

From Kim, Connor and Ava x

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