World Prematurity Day 2019
World Prematurity Day
"I am 1 in 10"
One in ten babies are born too soon and premature birth remains the leading cause of death in children under five – it is more common than you think and it is on the rise. It can happen to anyone...it happened to me.
"I have come to learn that premature families are among the strongest families I know. Premature babies may be the littlest but they are also the toughest newborns, they never give up and they are resilient – they beat the odds – just like their parents.” - Amy Purling (an excerpt from the Sunday Mail)
My sons James and Jack were both born prematurely at 30 and 34 weeks gestation, respectively. James arrived quick and unexpectedly when my waters broke and I went into spontaneous premature labour, despite the doctors best attempts to delay it. With each contraction, our little boys heart rate was dropping and he was in distress, an eventually a ‘Code Zero’ was called on the
overheard speakers at the hospital. Within seconds I had about 10 people surrounding me asking me a million questions. My husband Scott was thrown a pair of scrubs and I was being pushed out the door to theatre. I will never forget this feeling. It was like I was in a movie. I had the anaesthetist running beside me telling me I needed to have a general anaesthetic. I kept saying ‘no, I’m having a
spinal block, I need to be awake’ and his stern face saying ‘Amy, there’s no time’. I was shivering and crying so hard I couldn’t control it, and as I was transferred onto the theatre bed, I was having a contraction so strong I actually felt like my little man was on his way out and they were too late. I had arms in each direction and one nurse said ‘I’m here purely to hold your hand’. Scott was nowhere to be seen – he wasn’t allowed in the room due to the urgency and general anaesthetic. I was still awake when they were splashing betadine onto my tummy. The anaesthetist was telling me to keep my eyes open as long as I could, and I knew if I closed them one second too early I would feel them making the incision. When I eventually closed my eyes, I honestly didn’t know whether my baby boy would survive. James was born weighing just 1.5kg and was taken straight through to NICU for treatment. I didn’t get to hold him until about 20 hours later but in that moment nothing else mattered but fighting for my little boy. My birth with James was extremely traumatic, and I still feel a lot of shock, guilt and heartache surrounding those events. James was born black and blue, and was quickly diagnosed with a rare platelet disorder. He required life-saving platelet transfusions in his first 48 hours of life from a tiny pool of matched donors. James spent 5 weeks in hospital growing and learning to feed. We watched him fight for his life inside a plastic box, buried underneath cords and drips and attached to a number of scary machines. We held him for just 1 to 2 hours a day, and only when he was strong enough. We watched him have multiple blood tests, receive transfusions, oxygen, medications and be fed through a tube which went down his nose and into his stomach. The days were long, unpredictable and utterly draining. It felt unnatural and went against every motherly instinct in my body. Nothing could have prepared us. In just the first 48 hours of his life, James had
already endured and overcome more hardship than I had in my lifetime. He is now 3 years old and has caught up to his peers, and thankfully doesn’t have any long-lasting complications from being born prematurely.
Jack was a little different. My pregnancy was high risk from the start – due to the rare platelet disorder we found with James, I was admitted to hospital each week for blood transfusions and ultrasounds at WCH under the maternal fetal medicine team. At 18 weeks pregnant I was found to have an incompetent cervix - I had surgery to have a cervical suture placed, was told to stop work and was placed on home bed rest. At 34 weeks I was admitted with pre-eclampsia and found to be in
pre-term labour. Jack was delivered via c-section (I couldn’t deliver naturally due to the blood disorder) but it was much more controlled and I was able to be awake this time – I feel as though his birth, although again not ‘typical’, helped to heal me in a way. He required a platelet transfusion at birth but otherwise did really well and was home after just one week in the nursery! Our complications have unfortunately been ongoing since then with Jack. He has a floppy airway and
unsafe swallow causing him to aspirate milk into his lungs when he feeds. He has had 7 hospital admissions for respiratory infections (one quite severe bout of pneumonia as well as emergency surgery for bilateral hernia repairs) in his short 6 months of life and is currently fed via a feeding tube. He has ongoing medical appointments and follow ups and is being seen by a number of specialists.
Being a Mum to a premature baby is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. Initially, it is overwhelming shock and grief…countless hours spent beside a humidicrib watching your baby fight to survive and leaving the hospital each day with empty arms and an empty heart. It is being faced with the painful possibility that you could lose your baby at any second - something no Mum should
ever have to experience. But with each passing minute, you slowly come to realise the undeniable strength and determination of a baby born too soon. You start to believe in miracles, and your baby is proof that they exist. You grow a support network of nurses, doctors and other premmie families inside those hospital walls who become your real-life superheroes. Although you are afraid and vulnerable every single day, you are part of something truly special. And as time moves forward, you gain perspective. Every single time you look at your happy and healthy baby who defied all the odds, you are reminded to be thankful. You are reminded to be brave. And you are reminded of how much you have overcome. Being a Mum to a premature baby is not something you ever get over, but with the help of the premmie community, it is something you get through.
I want other parents to know that they are not alone. Having a premature baby is extremely isolating but there’s a huge community of others who have been there before and who understand – and it’s a community unlike any I’ve ever seen. Premmie parents are true warriors and there’s a whole army
of people standing beside them inside those hospital walls each day. Reach out and get support. It’s not something you have to experience alone and it’s ok to ask for help.
We will never be able to express our gratitude to the incredible team of doctors, nurses and midwives at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. They are angels on earth and they saved our boys lives.
View more articles below which feature our story: