113 days in neonatal care - Zoe's story

Zoe's Story Hero

Zoe gave birth to her baby boy after 28 weeks. Her son spend 113 days in neonatal care before coming home.

At my 20 week scan I was asked if I had been losing fluid, and as it was my first pregnancy I had no idea that was even possible. I was told I would have to see a consultant and that he would explain all I needed to know. After having two scans with him, he told me I would more than likely have to terminate because my baby boy wouldn't be able to grow and develop without fluid - which wasn't increasing as hoped.

My partner and I decided that if something was going to happen to him, then we would let it happen naturally. We sat down and discussed what would happen over the next few weeks. I was told that after 24 weeks, although there wouldn't be a great chance for my baby, the special care team would do all they could.

At 22 weeks that was all I wanted to hear. I just had to make it two more weeks – but I hoped and prayed I could last until 30 weeks to give him a better chance. I was going for weekly scans following my 20 week scan to keep measuring the fluid levels and his growth. Sadly they just seemed to be getting lower and lower. At 27 weeks the consultant told me he was going on holiday and I would see him in two weeks. Unfortunately for me, at 28 weeks my waters had completely gone.

I was transferred to a different hospital because my local one didn’t deliver under 32 weeks. I sent my partner home to get my things, and it was only then that it suddenly hit me, waiting on my own, what was happening. All sorts of things were running through my head, "Will he be okay?", "Will he survive?" and "What would I do without the tiny little boy that’s been growing inside me for the last 28 weeks?"

After spending two weeks at the hospital for constant monitoring and numerous scans, they were happy to send me home to rest. Everything seemed to be fine and my fluids were finally increasing. Little did I know, I’d been having contractions for a while, and it was only by chance the night before I was ready to go home that the monitors caught it. I was told I was fully dilated and needed to go down to theatre as soon as possible due to him being breech.

My little boy was born at 7.21pm but I never heard him cry. After endless worrying for hours, not knowing what was happening, we were finally told that he was breathing ok and he was in the high dependency unit in special care. He needed help with breathing and had been put on Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and antibiotics. We weren’t allowed to go down and see him but we were given a photo instead. He was a tiny 2lbs 13oz. I had never seen anyone so small and fragile.

At two in the morning I asked a nurse to see if she could phone down to see how he was and she replied, “The doctor will be up to see you now.” My whole world came crashing down at my feet. The doctor finally came up and said, “Your son has taken a turn for the worse, if you’d like to come down and see him now you can.”

I’ve never felt the way I did then in my life. Words still can’t describe how I felt. I was put in a wheelchair and my partner wheeled me down into a room with seven incubators all full of tiny babies. One of the nurses explained how we needed to wash our hands when we enter and take our outer clothing off, before showing us our beautiful baby boy. There were tubes and wires all over him and a mask that was nearly bigger than his face, but thankfully she explained what everything was and how they would help him.

A few days passed and he was getting bigger and stronger – the smallest of weight gain and I was over the moon. The CPAP had been turned off and he no longer needed any assistance breathing. I was told he could start having some milk as well. It started off just rubbing little bits around his lips, then up to 0.1ml. It was the tiniest amount, but it was such an achievement to see that he was having food and that every other day it would increase.

After four days I was finally able to hold him. It was the most amazing and terrifying moment of my life. I can still remember how nervous I was, worrying if I was going to pull a wire or if I was holding him too tightly.

We spent a total 113 days in special care on a very bumpy rollercoaster ride. After breathing on his own for so long he was put back on oxygen. He had blood transfusions, jaundice, numerous chest infections, sepsis and then we found out he had chronic lung disease. I was heart-broken when I found out. It was only when the nurse told us his lungs hadn’t expanded enough I truly understood. We were told he may need to come home on oxygen but the likelihood was very low.

We spent so much time in special care it became our new home. I struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel, until one morning I phoned to see how he was and I was told the doctors were happy he was well enough to come home. I had never been so happy, it seemed so unreal that he was finally coming home.

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