"You feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel" - Danielle's story

After giving birth at 31 weeks, COVID-19 restrictions sadly meant Danielle and her baby were separated for almost two weeks. Here, Danielle discusses how difficult the experience was for herself and her family.

On the Sunday evening I arrived at hospital for a check up. With it being my third pregnancy, I was concerned about some changes happening to my body which had never occurred before.

I had been signed off work three days prior due to extreme swelling in my hands, feet and face. The pain in my ankles was unbearable. One day later, I was walking my children to school and I couldn’t see anything but a bright light out of my left eye. Still, I ignored this.

I suddenly felt extremely dizzy, which is why I decided to go to hospital. My blood pressure was extremely high and I was told I had a condition called pre-eclampsia (a condition that can affect pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy or soon after their baby is delivered).

My baby’s heartbeat was monitored, but his heart rate kept dropping.

Within 10 minutes of being in hospital, the room was swarming with doctors and midwives. Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, I was alone.

The doctor said that the baby must be delivered straight away by emergency C-section. I was 31 weeks pregnant and terrified that my baby would not survive.

It was the scariest day of my life, but little did I know the worst was yet to come.

My baby was taken to the neonatal unit and my husband followed whilst I recovered. Once again, I was alone.

The next day, as soon as I was able to get up, I was taken to see my baby and could not believe how small he was. He was covered in tubes and my hand was almost the size of his entire body.

They said I could touch him, but I was so worried that I would hurt his fragile body. I was still grateful that he was there and that he was ok.

The worst part was walking away from him to go back to the ward. The next day, I was visited by the head nurse of the neonatal unit. She told me that my son was being transferred to another hospital, as they needed the bed for another baby.

At that moment, my world froze. I was going to be stuck in one hospital, as I was still admitted, and my son would be in another hospital.

I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest and my whole world had collapsed.

For days I begged for discharge so I could see my little boy, and once discharged, I raced to see him. I spent almost two long lonely weeks there, just hoping for a glimmer of improvement and asking everyday for a transfer back to my home town.

Eventually he was transferred back and I spent all day every day at the side of my son's cot. It’s strange how the slightest things can pick you up or bring you down when you’re a neonatal parent.

You feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But then one day, you walk in and you see your baby for the first time with no tubes in their face. You finally see their little face.

If I have one piece of advice for any neonatal parent it would be to form friendships with other neonatal parents. Having people to talk to about every change, someone who understands why your emotions are the way they are, really helps you get through it.