Jack was an amazing little boy, I need to share that with you, so you can really understand. This is our story.
It all started with a test, such a simple thing. Sitting in a toilet cubicle at 8am, an hour before I was supposed to arrive at work and knowing that a little blue cross was going to appear. It didn’t prepare me for actually seeing it though. I felt shocked, amazed, excited and then scared to death.
It’s real, I’m going to be a mummy.
After trying for just 3 months to conceive, I was pregnant. This was happening. We are going to be parents. What followed next was doctors appointments, consultant meetings, meeting the midwife and a lot of….oh my god…we’re going to have a baby…moments.
A few weeks into my pregnancy, at around 4 weeks I started feeling more sick than what I expected. This quickly accelerated into being sick constantly and a hospital admission for fluids and anti sickness medication. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG for short) and was signed off work for 4 weeks and told to rest.
Due to my sickness I had an early scan at 8 weeks, which is when we got to see our beautiful little baby for the first time. Our tiny little peanut was there in black and white.
I love you already
It took 2 more admissions and 3 trials of various anti sickness medications until, with the help of Ondansetron tablets, the sickness improved. We reached our 12 week scan and as before our tiny peanut was doing perfectly.
Wow, it looks like a real baby
Being able to get back to work was a great for me. I love my job and work with some of my closest friends. It was much easier now everyone knew I was pregnant too. I loved to show off my scan pictures and my ever-expanding bump.
At our 16 week scan we found out the sex…it was a boy! We were both shocked as we were convinced that our little one was a girl. But it felt instantly perfect, Mark was beside himself with all the boy things they would do together.
Hello little man
At the scan we were told about a lady who would be able to do a 4D scan for us. Feeling very excited we booked one for Monday 11th December, which was only just under 5 weeks away. We couldn’t wait to have a sneak peek at our little one.
It was coming up to Christmas and life was hectic with parties, buying presents, more appointments and blood tests. I was having lots of back and hip pains which slowed me down a lot. Baby was kicking lots which was amazing, Mark and I would talk to our peanut all the time, everything felt perfect.
On Sunday 10th December our lives started changing in a way we couldn’t have known. I woke up as normal, with some back ache and feeling slightly nauseous but nothing out of the ordinary. As the day progressed my back pain got more and more like period pain. I also was going to the toilet a lot which was odd, as i has had bad constipation due to the anti-sickness medication. By 4pm I knew something wasn’t right, so we called Dorchester maternity ward and were advised to go in. I was a little worried but I still thought it was my back and nothing to be concerned about.
We arrived at the hospital and were taken into a ward and I was put into a bed, they did the usual blood pressure tests, blood test and temperature. My pains were getting more intense but nothing too bad at this point. None of the nurses or the consultant midwife were too concerned. I was given some codeine and paracetamol and told i would be kept in over night.
I didn’t sleep at all that night, the pain would come in waves. The intensity going through my lower back in a sharp sweep then it would ebb away. At one point I had a little bit of blood when i went to the toilet but it was old so again nothing to worry about.
I was getting very worried.
The pain got so intense that I burst into tears, I was sure I was losing my baby. I went out to the reception desk and said something wasn’t right and I was in too much pain. They gave me more codeine and I went back to bed. A little while later a nurse came over and saw that I was pretty distressed. She called the consultant midwife to come and see me. I had to wait a while as she was busy with another lady in labour.
When she arrived at 5am it was a different lady to last time. She saw me have the pains and very quickly realised that I was having contractions. She immediately gave me some red tablets that can help to stop labour, and arranged for me to have one of 2 steroid injections that I would need to have to protect the babies lungs should he arrive early. She also went to call Southampton Princess Anne Hospital as I was to be transferred there as soon as possible. Dorchester only can look after babies from 34 weeks, Poole from 29 weeks, Southampton from 21 weeks…i was only just 26 weeks.
Please stay in little man
At 10am I was blue lighted in an ambulance from Dorchester to Southampton. With me was a lovely midwife from Dorchester and 3 paramedics. All of them were fantastic at keeping me sane during the journey with the contractions slowly getting more intense. I refused gas and air as I knew the pain would get worse and I wanted to stay alert to everything that was going on, plus save the relief for when I really needed it.
We arrived at Southampton Princess Anne Hospital before 12pm. I was whisked into a delivery room and put on a bed, shortly after my mum and Mark arrived. I had more tests and was given more red tablets to stop the labour. At this point we were still being told that it was most likely that my labour would stop and I would go home.
As the day progressed it became clear that, that was not going to happen. My contractions were getting more regular and more intense. At 3pm one of the the NICU consultants called Mark came to speak to us. He went through the risks, including our babies chances of survival and what would happen once he was born. Our boy had a 80% chance of surviving the first 12 hours. Once born he would immediately be taken away to a table in the room and intubated. I wouldn’t be able to hold or see him. He likely wouldn’t cry. He would be placed into a small carrier bag, wrapped up and put in an incubator to keep him warm. They would cut the cord, not his dad. Then he would be taken away to NICU just around the corner so they could get him stable.
This wasn’t the amazing birth I imagined. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t had one antenatal class. I didn’t have a birth plan. I wouldn’t get to hold my baby. Will he cry? Would be be healthy? Would he even make it.
At 10pm I was given my second steroid injection and put on a magnesium drip to help protect our babies brain. The drip made me very sick and burnt as it went up my arm. Despite that I was so relieved to have both medications that would help my baby make it.
The lights were turned low in the delivery room….4cm dilated…the midwife says that I may only need to get to 7cm as our baby is so small. My contractions were so intense that each one took my breath away. I was by this point sucking on the gas and air like it was an anchor stopping me from getting swept out to sea. It kept me focused and sane. I closed my eyes and took myself somewhere else. Talking to myself as the contractions reached maddening intensity.
….this is the worst its going to get, you can do this….count the contractions like waves…….one, two, three….keep breathing….don’t lose it…..you can do this….breathe…
At one point for a brief moment I did lose it. Opening my eyes and bursting into tears at Mark and my mum. Both powerless to help me, but perfectly able to calm me, to help me regain my control. I shut my eyes again, going into myself to keep me sane. Mark rubbing my feet or just holding my hand the whole time.
I need to push
My eyes shot open. The midwife, who had been there throughout giving me guidance and some tough words when I protested that I couldn’t cope, shot into action. She checked….fully dilated. She buzzed NICU and after a few minutes the room was full of people and machines. “Push when you need to,” she said. I didn’t need to be told twice, by this point I wanted him out. I was petrified his heart would stop. I started to push and after 20 minutes his sac, waters still intact, was bulging. The midwife popped them and waters coated the room, shocking everyone. “You better catch him,” Mark said in a scared voice. I started pushing again and was told to stop and give small pushes instead. With one more push my little baby boy came flying into the room. He span out like a rugby ball, I saw one little arm fly up and the after second he let out a cry! The most amazing noise I have ever heard.
He’s alive, I did it
It was 3.56am and our little Jack was born weighing just 2lb 3oz. He was immediately scooped up and taken to an incubator table. 5 people surrounded him doing various things in such perfect coordination that it was dizzying.
Mark got a second to take the above picture before he was whisked out. This was all I saw….
We were all left in a suddenly quiet and empty room, now with just the midwife, I was shell-shocked. We had to deliver the placenta now, that scared me for some reason, but it was harmless and done in minutes. Like my baby that was scooped up and taken away, they needed to do tests on it to try and pinpoint why our baby came early.
After I was checked I wanted to get cleaned up. It had been a long haul and i needed to feel a little human. My mum took me to the small ensuite bathroom and helped me wash. I was a strange feeling. I felt like a child being cared for, which i was, but it was deeper. I had a strange shocked feeling that I couldn’t shake.
Whilst we were in there the midwife and nurse changed the bed and removed the machines and equipment that we no longer needed. What followed was more drips and blood tests and me wondering if i would stop feeling so numb.
I don’t feel anything, shouldn’t I feel something?
At roughly 11am a porter arrived to take me to NICU to see our baby. I felt so nervous. What if I don’t love him?…..what if i feel nothing?….how will he look?….is he OK?…..My heart was pounding as they wheeled me through the double doors of NICU and around the corner and to nursery 3. Our little boy was in the far right corner, his incubator covered in blankets. The red window screen was pulled down to protect him from light that he’s never experienced before. I was wheeled around and I lifted the blanket up.
It was like an explosion.
I felt a huge heart stopping tidal wave of love. It hit me with an intensity that floored me. Here was my baby, my little Jack, he’s perfect. I have never known love until that moment. Not like that. To love something so much and know you would do absolutely anything to keep your baby safe.
He was tiny and completely gorgeous. I was overwhelmed. He was perfect. The midwife told me that I could touch him if I wanted to. I just had to wash and sanitise my hands first – something we would get very used to doing – Mark and I quickly did both and rushed back to him. We carefully stood either side and I opened the hatch door and popped my hand in. Mark captured the moment that I got to touch my boy for the first time, Jacks little hand grasping mine.
I look as shell-shocked as i felt
After seeing him and spending time together in NICU my mum left. Mark and I were taken up to the 3rd floor where I would be kept in for a few days to rest and be monitored. It was so hard leaving Jack, but I was also exhausted. Mark couldn’t stay with me on the ward which was upsetting for me, i was so scared and full of emotions. I didn’t want Mark to be on his own or sleeping in the car. Luckily at Southampton there is a Ronald McDonald House. This is a free hotel for parents who live far away from the hospital whose children are staying there. It’s funded by McDonald’s and is an absolute blessing, we would not have managed without it. We are so very grateful to this place for providing us a huge stress relieve and a comfortable and welcoming enviroment. Next time you go to McDonald’s please put your change into the charity boxes there, its such an amazing cause.
The next few days saw me discharged and Mark and I settling into a routine of going back and forth to see Jack each day. We did normal parent things like reading to him, feeds, changing his nappy and loving him. We smiled and laughed when he was doing well and we cried and struggled when he had his down days. We made friends with the nurses and consultants and cracked jokes. They looked after us when we were struggling and told us to go home when we were falling asleep by his incubator. We met other parents, many of who have healthy babies now, and some of which are in the same position we are. We saw happy babies, sick babies, loss and hope. We experienced kindness and care that i will always be grateful for.
One of the senior midwives Carolyn was incredible, she was always on hand to explain things and to give us a stern talking to if we weren’t looking after ourselves. Lisa the family counselor there was a rock for us both the whole way through also. Both of these ladies were right by our sides when Jack passed. They held us both and cried with us for Jack. They guided us through the things we could do to feel close to him at the end. They are still looking after us and check in on us to make sure we are OK. We will always hold a special place for them in our hearts.
I have included our daily diary from when we were in NICU, this is what we wrote each day after seeing the consultants. It gives you an idea of what its really like being in NICU. It included all of Jacks ups and downs and also his death.
Thank you for reading this. I would be so grateful if you could Donate even a small amount to Jacks fund to raise money for Southampton NICU. As you can see from this, they did so much for us and him. They really cared for us all. We will be forever grateful to them.