Premature birth: Zoe’s story

I’m really grateful to Zoe for sharing the story of Micah’s premature arrival. He sounds like such a fun little boy and Zoe has a real way with words. Don’t forget that tomorrow is World Prematurity Day. You can help us raise awareness by sharing (m)any of the posts this week using the handy buttons below. 

28th July 2008 – the day our lives changed when our son Micah was born at 33 weeks gestation.

From 28 weeks of pregnancy I had been experiencing leaking waters, many a day was spent in hospital receiving IV antibiotics “just to be on the safe side” At 32 weeks I went along to the hospital to have my regular check up only to discover that my waters had now gone and I wasn’t going to be leaving hospital.

For five days I sat in a hospital bed receiving antibiotics and steroids, each day being told that today would be the day I would be induced – finally at 6am on a Monday morning the magic drugs were given and my labour started.

My labour was pretty straightforward and you wouldn’t have known it was a premmie delivery until it came for time to push – suddenly the room filled with people, I went from a single midwife to 3 midwives, 2 registrars, my consultant, nursery nurse and 2 paediatricians. We were told this was all a precaution, they were “being on the safe side”. At 16:50 on 28th July 2008 Micah was born, weighing 2.5kg and 44cms he was a good weight and size for only 33 weeks. He was placed on my chest for a matter of a few seconds and we looked at this small squishy newborn – he wasn’t crying, the sounds he was making was just like a lamb bleating and his chest was heaving up and down.

The paeds quickly took him away to the other side of the room and began giving him oxygen, within 2 minutes he was taken from the room and up to special care.

An hour passed by and the Paediatrician came back to see us, they explained that Micah was having a few problems with his breathing and needed some help, there was a concern that his lungs were damaged and he needed some specialist treatment, the decision was made to transfer him to the regional NICU.

At just after 8pm the transfer team arrived and took my tiny little boy away in a giant incubator, they brought him down to my room to say goodbye, I remember laughing at how big the incubator was and that it would only just fit through the door. He was transferred by ambulance just 15 miles away, accompanied by a Dr and his designated nurse.

We decided that my husband would follow the ambulance so that Micah was not on his own – to this day I do not know how he managed to make that drive, he was upset, disorientated and yet holding it all together for me. After they left and I had a major break down in tears I was then found a bed on the post natal ward at the new hospital, an ambulance was dispatched to transfer me and I calmly walked out of the hospital and towards my son.

The new hospital took us down to the NICU, we were shown to Micah’s bed  – he looked so tiny and helpless, full of tubes, with CPAP on to help his breathing. His nurse explained to us what everything was doing, what treatment they wanted to do and what they thought his next steps would be – this was invaluable, I was very thankful that they could tell me what they expected to happen.

Micah on CPAP

The next 3 days passed in a blur, I was left on the postnatal ward, sharing a room with another mother whose child was in NICU on the same treatment. I was given a machine to help me express milk and advised to try every three hours – the nursing staff would come and wake me in the night to make sure I kept going. I spent hours sat my Micah’s bed, watching him, unable to touch him, unable to hold him, just waiting.

On Wednesday night I was told that he needed to go onto a ventilator – that he was really struggling with his breathing and he needed some extra help – he was getting too tired with the effort and they wanted to give him a break. It took 90 minutes for him to be put on the ventilator, the wait was horrendous, pacing up and down outside NICU, everytime a nurse came out we were hoping for an update – finally we were allowed back in to see him. He looked so calm and peaceful and I commented on how he wasn’t crying – only to be told that he couldn’t cry – the tube in his throat stopped him from doing so.

Micah on a ventilator

Micah was in NICO for 7 days, after 3 more days he was allowed off the ventilator and back onto CPAP. It was at this point we were allowed to hold him J my first cuddles with my newborn baby boy when he was 6 days old.

We were told that he needed to have 48 hours clear of needing the CPAP before he was allowed to move down into the special care room and we were prepared that this would take some time – however our little boy clearly had other ideas. Just 24 hours after coming off the ventilator he was also off the CPAP and he stayed off it! The nursing staff encouraged him when he was tired and kept a close eye on his oxygen levels and each time we came into visit would update us on how he had been in the last few hours.

Whilst all of this was going on we were trying to maintain a semblance of regular homelife, my recovery from the birth had been ok. I had developed a nasty UTI that required some heavy duty antibiotics, but apart from that I was physically ok, I stayed in the hospital for 5 days – I was offered a room for longer, however we only lived 20 minutes away by car and there were many families who lived much further away so I felt it was only fair that they had the option of staying in the limited accommodation.

Each day I would drive to the hospital 4 times per day, carrying with me the small amounts of expressed milk to feed Micah with through his tube. Each day my small amount of milk was greeted with great enthusiasm by the nursing staff but it wasn’t enough for him, we soon needed to top him up with formula. It is a great shame that milk banks are not available where we live as I would have preferred him to have had donated breast milk but it just wasn’t possible.

After 7 days he was moved to special care where he only needed to learn how to feed! At this point he was fed via a tube and I was encouraged to breastfeed him – when I say encouraged, he was placed on me, the curtains drawn and I was left to get on it with – no help, no support, no guidance at all – this is my one huge regret over the whole neonatal experience – I should have pushed for help, I should have stood on the chair and shouted for someone to come and show me how to latch on, how to get a very sleepy newborn to feed. But I didn’t… instead I was so eager to have my little boy home that I still expressed but gave more and more formula – to this day I am filled with guilt over this choice.

It took another 14 days before Micah was allowed home, he got the hang of feeding from a bottle, was happy and content, already in an established routine of feeding every 4 hours (the hospital insisted on a routine and didn’t do feeding on demand). At 3 weeks of age Micah was bundled up into his car seat and we took him home :)

What happened afterwards?  Micah is now a very bouncy 4 year old, full of energy, cheeky smiles and huge for his age. The first 2 winters were difficult – he was very prone to chest infections and we would end up with 2 hospital stays per winter while his lungs struggled to fight off infection. After from that he has been a perfectly healthy little boy, he hit all his development milestone as he should do and from 3 weeks of age was treated the same as any newborn baby.

Gorgeous (and super speedy!) Micah now 

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15 million babies are born preterm around the world every year—that’s 1 in 10. More than 1 million babies die due to complications of preterm birth and many of those who survive face a lifetime of disability. Both Tommy’s and Bliss raise funds to help both babies and families who are born prematurely and require special care.    You can find more about what they do, or make a donation, by clicking the links provided. 

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