Guest Post By Annabel Beales
This is my first time doing a guest blog, so I did some research for what has been asked of me, my intense research was to think back (in my brain of cotton wool) to September 2016 when I first realised that William (now 54 months) was going to be arriving twelve weeks earlier than planned as an emergency caesarean.
I didn’t have much knowledge of premature babies and at the time I hadn’t known anyone who works in nursing let along a maternity unit where babies arrive earlier than expected. I did have a friend who had her baby boy early, but it was so long ago (eleven years ago) and we didn’t visit him in hospital when he was first born. Also discovered a work colleague had her son 12 weeks early, but I hadn’t known her when it happened.
I had 4 miscarriages before falling pregnant and was constantly worried at every pregnancy understandably, this one was different though because we were doing it with the help of ICSI.
William’s Birth Story – Preemie ICSI Baby
They discovered that due to my lack of ‘quality’ eggs I was unable to keep up, but with ICSI and the help of an anonymous egg donor I was pregnant and got up to 12 weeks and then relaxed and realised that this time, we were having a baby.
Week 27 was no different to any other week in my pregnancy, apart from my weight and the amount of food I was consuming! I had literally just handed in my maternity paperwork into my boss, requesting to start my maternity leave from 25th November 2016 and looking forward to a birthday weekend with my family and friends.
It was 21st September, and my birthday was the next day, so on the way home, I’d stopped in the Supermarket to get cakes for all my work colleagues for the following day. Then when I got home, they were put on the kitchen table ready for the next day.
Just past midnight, I got up for a visit to the loo because I thought my bladder was going to explode, then as I stood, I wet myself. I ran to the bathroom and leaked all the way there, then I realised that actually, I wasn’t having a wee, my waters had broken so I shouted for my husband.
Then after a discussion of what we should do and that yes it was a bit earlier than expected we decided to go straight to the hospital. So, I sat on a pile of towels in the car while my husband tried to navigate around potholes and speed bumps because it seemed that every single movement I made, I lost a bit more water.
It was fine, they said at the hospital, the amniotic sac had burst due to the activity of the baby and he had possibly kicked it. But they reassured me that babies can still survive and can be kept in the womb without it, but kept me in for observations.
So that day my 41st birthday I spent the day in the hospital, rather than taking cakes into the office I worked in. Another two days in the hospital with a bag that had been packed by my husband, because I had not yet actually packed my hospital bag.
The Big Day
They had been recording the heartbeat all this time but Saturday morning they explained that the heartbeat was inconsistent and that I would need to wear a transducer which was an ultrasound probe, it was quite uncomfortable not just to wear that but having to stay in the same position because I had it on in the end for ten hours.
By this point I was very tearful and scarred for the safety of the baby, I was so worried they were going to come back and say that there was no heartbeat and there was nothing they could do.
That evening they came to me and said that they were going to take it off! The consultant and delivery staff had met and decided that the best thing to do would be to perform an emergency caesarean. It was a lot to take in for both of us and I had no idea what to expect.
This bit I had not researched, but they explained the procedure and why it needed to be done. Before I had the procedure they gave us both a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit a few floors below, to prepare us for our new journey as preemie parents.
He was born just after midnight on the Sunday morning, which made it the 25th September, three days after my birthday and three days before my husband’s birthday. Because he was born twelve weeks earlier than planned (his due date was 12th December) his weight was an inny winny two and a half pound (1134grams).
My husband was there all the way throughout the birth, he watched it all and memorised it so that he could tell me all about it because where my body was full of drugs I couldn’t remember much about it. I didn’t see my baby until tea time on that Sunday because I was feeling so rough, I remember my parents, my in-laws and my brother and his (now) wife coming to visit me and then going to see the baby.
The first time I saw him in his incubator I couldn’t actually see him properly because I was crying so much, I couldn’t hold him because he was so fragile but the way he moved and kicked around made me realise straight away how he’d managed to break the amniotic sac. It was hard, seeing my baby but not being able to cradle him. He was in a room with other babies that had arrived early.
In the ward, there were five rooms where the babies were looked after, each of them were numbered. The lower the number the closer it was to their discharge date, William went straight into four which was promising because most others went into room five.
I would spend as much time as I possibly could in sat beside him, hours went by and sometimes I would fall asleep in the chair. Nurses would come over and tell me to go to bed, that they would call for me if there was any change.
I had three places I spent most of my time; beside him, in bed or in the mum’s room. The mum’s room was where we pumped for milk to be fed to our babies, we all had each other to support in there but it didn’t make it any easier.
I couldn’t get any milk and setting alarms in the middle of the night hadn’t made any difference, we would have to ‘book’ the breast pumps too. I had brought one in one night to use and went to the toilet first but then when I got back the pump was gone, and it was hard to find another one.
I was in tears most nights because of that and the fact that I didn’t have much there to get. Others were getting loads of bottles, but I was lucky if I got 3 in a 24-hour slot.
Holding My Baby
Holding him for the first time I never thought would come, he looked so small and I was so scared of all the tubes and wires that he was attached to. There was another baby who was opposite me and the mum was coming in every day getting her out herself and placing her on her chest, I watched in awe how confidently she did it.
Then one afternoon one of the nurses said she would help me, so that was when for the first time he laid on my bare chest. They called it kangaroo cuddles, and as soon as I felt the skin to skin my body instantly relaxed and I didn’t want to move.
Discharge From The Hospital
When I got discharged that made it harder, I was further away from him which they think affected my milk. Breastfeeding wasn’t working either, he had a tongue tie and even after the tongue-tie division was done it still didn’t happen. I was in tears trying to breastfeed my baby all the time hearing the phrase ‘breast is best’.
He was in the hospital for a further eight weeks before he was discharged, it felt like a really long time. This I found more stressful because I couldn’t just go there whenever I wanted, I couldn’t drive and because my husband was at work I was reliant on others to taxi me there.
My gay best friend came to my rescue and was taking me down thereafter his night shift at work, so I was getting there earlier than planned but they had a guest room with sofas in it so if I couldn’t get in the ward or if I wanted to go and have something to eat (we weren’t allowed to eat in the ward understandably) I would go in there.
I found the day he was discharged extremely emotional, more emotional than what I had expected. They had given me a room to stay in for the Monday night, I was booked in; to sleep in there with William in his cot alongside me. My husband was quite upset that he couldn’t come in with me, but it was a room only for one parent. The next morning I wheeled him back into the ward saying I was going to have a shower, and they asked how I got on.
‘Fine.’ I had said, although in my head I was tired because he’d been waking almost every half an hour all through the night.
“Great, you can take him home today then!” I was shocked, completely shocked.
I remember standing in the shower crying and it was like my whole body was releasing emotions and hormones. It was hard to take it all in, but it looked like we were taking him home. That was a long day and because of discharge papers and things that need doing before we took him home, we didn’t actually leave till later in the evening.
I found the sleeping pattern very erratic and I was convinced we had a baby that only slept in the day, we were both convinced it was because of the lights in the hospital and that was what he was used to.
I struggled to sleep when he slept because I was so worried that something would go wrong, I would just lie there alongside him sometimes just to watch his chest go up and down through the bars of his crib and I was so overwhelmed with it all.
To Sum It All ….
Overall the experience has been an eye-opener for me, just not becoming a mum but becoming a mum to a premature baby. Premature babies are extremely fragile and they say some can take up to three years to catch up with their age-appropriate abilities. We have, however, been ever so lucky because William has thrived in everything he’s done and we do have our moments but on the whole, he has exceeded expectations and we’ve had professionals telling us so.
We don’t have any plans to have any more children, it was a hard few years going through all of that and we both want to spend all our efforts into making sure we’re all grounded, he may be a premature and IVF baby but he’s still a growing boy, our growing boy.
About Annabel Beales
I’m a mature mum with a warped sense of humour and live with my four-year-old preemie prince and husband. My day job is working with Research Librarians. I enjoy country walks, sewing, drawing and listening to music, and most of all I love to write.
Visit and follow my blog for more stories on my experience as a mature mum honest parenting with a sense of humour at www.annabelwrites.com