Saturday 23rd January 2010. A normal day. I was 31+1 into my pregnancy with our second little boy. Everything was going brilliantly. We were about to spend the day with Wriggler our 3yr old son and his friends and their mummy’s for a play-date. Little did we know that it was going to turn out being the worst weekend of our entire lives.
It was 6pm in the evening and I was starting to become very worried about my baby not moving. We had spent all afternoon out and I hadn’t felt him move even once. I knew his movement pattern to heart and I just knew something wasn’t right. I called the maternity unit at our hospital and they told me to come in. Hubby stayed home with Wriggler as it was getting towards his bedtime. I shakily drove to the hospital in tears hoping and praying everything would be okay but, deep down something was telling me it was really serious.
When I arrived, a midwife took all the details, checked my notes and got me hooked up to the monitors and left me for ten minutes. She came back to check on me and I immediately saw the concern etched across her face when she looked at my baby’s heart monitor trace. She double checked the monitors were positioned correctly on my bump and pressed the buzzer for assistance. Another midwife arrived and again the concern was immediately apparent in her face when she saw the monitor trace. One of them then explained that my baby’s heart beat trace wasn’t normal and showed signs of being in great distress. She showed me what she would expect to see in a normal heart beat trace against what she was seeing from my baby’s trace. She said that she was going to call for the consultant to come and check me and my baby out and advised that she would be admitting me from this moment on. Hubby was then called and I was given a steroid injection which the midwife explained was to mature my baby’s lungs should they need to deliver him. When the consultant arrived she immediately agreed that my baby needed delivering as soon as possible.
My world was now beginning to fall apart and there was nothing I could do.
In the next few hours, it quickly became apparent that our hospital and all the maternity units in our local area did not have a Neonatal Intensive Care bed for my baby when he was born. Eventually though an ambulance arrived and I was very, very quickly taken to the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, an hours drive away.
On arrival I was again hooked up to monitors to check my baby and admitted. Within 30 minutes the room was filled with consultants, midwives and a neonatal paediatrician who advised that the monitors were picking up a very weak distressed heart beat from our baby which suggested to them that he was very very poorly. They further explained that it was also showing (although I couldn’t feel them) contractions from me which said that my body was preparing for a miscarriage. They said a normal delivery wasn’t an option as our baby’s heat beat was dropping to below 50 beats whenever a contraction was happening and as such, he wouldn’t survive a normal delivery. They were going to deliver our baby by emergency c-section immediately. Ten minutes later, we were both dressed in scrubs and i was being given a spinal block.
At 03.59 on Sunday 24th January, 9weeks early, Bruiser was born weighing 4lb 3oz.
He was immediately taken away to the other side of the room where the neonatal team took over. They didn’t show him to us, not a glimpse. All we could do was watch from afar as they all got to work on him. He didn’t cry, moan or whimper. There was no movement from him, he did nothing. The midwife assigned to me kept reassuring us that everything was normal and that they would try to stabilise him and get him breathing. Eventually after what seemed like forever, above all the talking and commotion I heard the smallest faintest whimper when they got him breathing but that was it, he was immediately ventilated. The midwife attempted to take Hubby over to see him but they refused to let him. Hubby saw though that he looked very poorly, ‘he looked dead’ were his words. He was the purest white transparent colour, something that Hubby wishes he hadn’t seen and an imagine that still haunts him today. Bruiser was very quickly taken away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I got a very very brief glimpse through my tear filled eyes as they rushed him past me and out of the theatre.
The next 5 hours went by in a blur. They did loads of tests on me to help them establish what had happened. We didn’t know what was happening. We couldn’t go and see him. We just waited and waited for news. I was absolutely devastated but I couldn’t even cry, I just felt numb. It was a nightmare that I just couldn’t wake up from.
Eventually we got a message that we could go to see him. I was only just regaining feeling back in my lower body, and so Hubby went alone. It was a very brief visit as he came back with the news that Bruiser’s Doctor wanted to speak with us both and was coming to see us. He told us that Bruiser was fighting for his life. They were struggling to stabilise him. He told us that Bruiser had suffered a massive feto-maternal haemorrhage. He was born with a blood count of 2.2 (the lowest on record we later found out). They had given him several blood transfusions. He was ventilated and sedated. He said that ‘IF’ he survived (which he put at less than 10%) there was every possibility that he would; worst case scenario; be mentally retarded and best case; have cerebral palsy. He had already suffered a significant brain injury due to lack of oxygen while he was still my womb and a bleed on the brain after birth. Acidity was building up in his blood stream (acidemia), as his internal organs primarily his liver and Kidneys were in failure. They had done everything that could possibly be done. It was put to us that we should seriously consider withdrawing his life support and prepare for the worst.
In that moment my world stopped. I hadn’t even seen my baby boy and they wanted me, us, to decide if we wanted to keep him alive.
But of course we did. We couldn’t give up on him so soon. He hadn’t been in the world more than 6 hours. It was a decision that we didn’t even need to discuss. We both knew in that instant what the other wanted to do. We chose to keep Bruiser alive.
I demanded to see Bruiser at this point and my wish was immediately granted. I was still laid flat in bed, but we were taken through to the NICU.
I’ll never forget the moment I laid eyes on him. He was so very very small. But, he had 10 fingers 10 toes, 2 eyes and a nose. I didn’t see all the machines and wires and tubes keeping him alive. I didn’t hear all the different beeps they were making, I didn’t even see the incubator. I just saw Bruiser, our baby, our little boy… and he was Perfect.
We barely had a moment with him before reality hit us like a ton of bricks… loud beeping kicked in, nurses and Dr’s came running in, someone began to take me and Hubby away from his bedside and that was when I noticed that they were pressing on his little chest again and again, attempting to bring him back to life… again.
Back in our room, we prayed. Never in our lives had we prayed but we prayed, we hoped and we cried like our lives depended on it. Good news eventually came that their attempts to restart his heart had been successful. It was at this moment I said that I would like Bruiser to be Christened.
The rest of that day went by so very slowly. Bruiser was alive and taking it one minute at a time. On a visit to see Bruiser later on that day, we received the great news that he had a last stabilised for now, although he remained very very poorly. We were advised not to get our hopes up as despite his progress so far, he could so quickly deteriorate and if he did, they wouldn’t be able to bring him back again, they had done everything they could do for him now. The fight was all his.
For the next few days we lived on tenter-hooks waiting and hoping that his internal organs would ‘come to life’ or show us signs that they were working. Bruiser spent the best part of two days having phototherapy too and the wait was also on for his 1st wee.
On our first visit onto the NICU on the morning of the 27th, we were absolutely overjoyed to see Bruiser off the ventilator. Over night not only had Bruiser been taken off the ventilator in the early hours of that morning and was now breathing with cpap, he had also done his first wee 🙂 This was monumental. He was three and a half days old.
From this moment on Bruiser continued to grow stronger and stronger. He opened his eyes and looked at us when we talked to him for the first time. We heard him properly cry for the first time.
and the best bit…. at 5 days old, we got our first cuddle, the impossible hug.
It was on this day that Bruiser was given his first milk from me through a tube into his tummy. It obviously agreed with him because this prompted his first poo and subsequently an opportunity to change his nappy for the first time 🙂
All these things might seem so insignificant to any parent of a normal full term baby but for any parent with a baby in the NICU or SCBU, these are pinnacle moments in their recovery and also a chance for some precious bonding time with our baby. These were the moments I would set my alarm for and get up in the middle of the night to do (the 3-hourly breast pumping aside).
On the morning of the 4th February, Bruiser was 12 days old, he had gone his first 24hrs off the cpap. This meant he was now able to be transferred closer to our home town to continue the rest of his recovery.
Part 2 ~ Almost Home – Our story continues when we arrive at our local NICU.
Thank you to everyone involved in Bruiser’s care.
The Neonatal team at the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, you saved his life. We are forever in your debt.
The Neonatal team at Barnsley Hospital who provided Bruiser’s continued care after he was transferred.
Thank you also to…
Our families for all your love and support through what was the worst time of our lives.
My Mum and Dad for coming to us on the day Bruiser was born and being our pillars of support.
Hubby’s Brother and Sister-in-law, for looking after Wriggler in the very early days when we both needed to be at the hospital. It meant to world to us knowing that he was safe and happy, while we concentrated our efforts with Bruiser.
My Brother and sister-in-law for looking after Wriggler and helping him maintain his normal nursery routine before Me and Bruiser came back to Barnsley.
To all our friends for your messages of love and support.
Everyone that contacted me via social networking and texts to talk to me. This kept me sane during the those first 12 days when I was with Bruiser in Halifax and Hubby had gone back home for the night.
Thank you also to Bliss for all that you do to support the families and the babies in the NICU and SCBU. Without everything that you do, so many babies wouldn’t survive and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this post today