How I coped when my baby boy arrived nine weeks early

On the 27th January this year, I was 31 weeks pregnant and beginning to get myself ready for the arrival of our first baby. All I had really done so far was buy a baby book and flick through a few pages.

The baby’s bedroom was still a storage room and I hadn’t bought any kit. But then I still had two months to get ready so I was pretty relaxed about everything.

I went to bed feeling great but woke up feeling fluey and became progressively more ill throughout the day. Almost exactly eight hours from the time I woke up I’d been diagnosed with pneumonia and my baby boy, Jacoby, was being delivered by emergency C-section, nine weeks early and weighing in at just 4lbs.

Jacoby had to be resuscitated when he was born and as soon as he was breathing he was rushed off to intensive care. I didn’t even get the chance to meet my boy.

In a matter of eight hours I’d been diagnosed with pneumonia and my baby boy, Jacoby, had to be delivered through an emergency C-section

The next three days I was in isolation so I couldn’t see Jacoby but my husband, Tommy, visited him lots and came back with photos and videos for me to look at and we had regular updates on his progress from all the nurses in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Pumped full of drugs, I felt so excited about having my baby boy arrive early, chatting all night long to the nurses about life and normal things. My poor husband thought I had gone mad!

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Jacoby needed breathing support but he could still do “skin to skin”

However, as the drugs wore off and the gravity of what had actually happened began to sink in, I felt pretty low. This had NOT been my plan (I know…..everyone always tells you not to have a plan!!). I’d been working towards a natural, easy and pain free birth!

This had NOT been my plan …  I’d been working towards a natural, easy and pain free birth!

The memories I have of the initial 24hrs still give me nightmares – the endless fear that Jacoby and I might not survive, needles, pain, drugs, hard cold beds, numbness, wounds, my heroic husband, worrying about my baby thinking I’d abandoned him ……I could go on. BUT knowing that I had my baby boy and he was alive (plus all those drugs) seemed to make everything ok!

The memories I have of the initial 24hrs still give me nightmares – the endless fear that Jacoby and I might not survive, needles, pain, drugs, hard cold beds

As soon as I was allowed out of isolation, Tommy wheeled me up to meet Jacoby for the first time. Seeing his tiny little body lying in the incubator was the best feeling in the world but it also shocked me so much.

It was a surreal feeling of being overwhelmed with happiness but also completely terrified for this tiny little creature who should still be in my tummy, close to his mum, but who was now all on his own, in a cold, bright room with horrible bleeping machines and heart monitors. It was heartbreaking. However, knowing he was in the best hands with amazing nurses helped me sleep at night.

The next six weeks are a blur of me recovering from the pneumonia (I lived in the hospital too in the post natal ward two floors away from Jacoby) but also sitting next to his cot all day long. We would have ‘skin to skin’ sessions (where you hold your baby to your bare chest), I’d try to teach him to feed (he had to be fed through a tube for the first four weeks) and I spent a lot of time talking to him and explaining to him what had happened and why he was where he was.

It was incredibly hard not to worry about him feeling alone and needing to be with his mum.

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It was incredibly hard not to worry about him feeling alone and needing to be with his mum. Luckily I had AMAZING support from my husband, family and friends who kept me sane throughout the whole experience and helped me to keep positive in my many times of feeling incredibly low and distressed.

After six long weeks in hospital, going home was the best. At last we could be the happy family that I had always dreamt of.

Although it was also pretty scary too knowing that this tiny bubba (he was still just 36 weeks) was our sole responsibility and after so many weeks in hospital, with nurses and doctors in control of everything, my husband and I both felt that we had NO idea what we were doing!

We managed to find a maternity nurse at short notice which was a godsend – I’d urge anyone with a prem baby should hire one if at all possible, even if it is only for a short time.

Day by day, week by week, we muddled though and eight months later Jacoby is growing so big, smiling all the time and divine in every way.

Day by day, week by week, we muddled though and eight months later Jacoby is growing so big, smiling all the time and divine in every way.

It has been a tough journey though, which has involved having to deal with severe reflux, milk intolerances and so many sleepless nights.

I know that sleep deprivation is normal when you have a baby but our nights never seemed to get better because Jacoby used to wake up screaming in pain from the reflux nearly every hour from 2am-6am.

Mumfidential
Jacoby prepares to leave the hospital, six weeks after his birth

As my immune system was so low after the pneumonia, the lack of sleep kept giving me illness after illness…. I was desperate!

In the end I got help from reflux and sleep specialist (and Mumfidential blogger!), Alison Scott-Wright, who told us to stop giving him the ‘dream feed’ as this was aggravating his reflux and making him wake all night.

The first night she came, Jacoby slept from 7pm-7am!! It was so great, not just for us getting sleep but also knowing that Jacoby wasn’t in pain all night.

One thing I’ve also found incredibly tough is not really knowing how old Jacoby really is. Do I go by his real age or his corrected age?

But as I said before, we muddled along, I tried to get through the difficult days as best I could, and love the good days so much. And I still keep reminding myself how incredibly lucky I am still to be here and to have my adorable baby. 

 

My hospital tips for mums of premature babies

• Make sure you have someone to bring you proper food and snacks as hospital food is AWFUL!
• make sure you have all your homely essentials – pajamas, toiletries, slippers, clean towels and clothes, bottled water, eye mask, books, magazines etc.
• get some good lavender drops to help you sleep at night and a good pillow
• have someone who you can call and have a good moan/cry – anytime!
• Make friends with other mums in similar situations – they can understand what you are going through
• Once you get home it might be a good idea to make an appointment with a private paediatrician – sadly premature babies are undeveloped so can lead to digestive problems.

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