My husband and I were expecting our first baby, due November 2009, with all the excitement and nervousness which surrounded a first pregnancy. I remember reading about various pregnancy related conditions thinking that I could never be affected by a high blood pressure illness, as I usually had chronically low blood pressure.
By my sixth month of pregnancy I suddenly began feeling extremely ill and was referred to a specialist doctor by my OB. I remember sitting in the specialist's room at the hospital thinking she could just prescribe me some medication and that I would be able to continue the remaining 12 weeks of my pregnancy as expected.
It was in this appointment that she put her hand on my shoulder and said "Melanie I am sorry but you have to deliver this baby today, you have a serious pregnancy related condition known as pre eclampsia". I broke down in complete shock.
She explained that if the pregnancy continued, that the baby would die and that I could too. My liver had stopped functioning, I was having pain in my chest and I was already experiencing eclamptic shakes all symptoms of extremely high blood pressure. I was wheeled away into intensive care where I spent the evening listening to the cries of newborn babies in the post natal wards and sobbed myself to sleep.
My obstetrician who would be performing the surgery came in a short time later with the specialist doctor to explain to my husband and I the statistics of a micro prem. IF she survived, then statistically she would have high chances of long term physical or mental disabilities. To this day I hate statistics - statistically I wasn't meant to get prececlampsia.
Before my c-section, my husband and I were shown around the Royal Hospital for Women's NCC to see where our baby would be taken post birth. Premature babies and seriously ill full term babies were fighting their fight. It wasn't fair. We saw a tiny little baby covered in cables and were told "yours will be even smaller".
At the time we didn't realise that those beeps and alarm sounding monitors would surround us, and haunt us, for the next 112 days. As I was being wheeled into theatre for the c-section I cried. I cried for the guilt of having to deliver my baby months before she was due, I cried at the fear of a sudden and unexpected surgery and all of the unknown.
Would she even survive the delivery?
I had a team of about 11 doctors and nurses in the theatre and my husband and I felt so relieved when we heard a strong cry coming from our daughter's 610g body. A red tiny body perfectly formed only 30cm long. She was born a 28 weeker but was the size of a 24 weeker due to the growth restriction in utero. We naively thought "she's alive, she's breathing, now all she needs is an incubator and she'll be fine". My husband and I didn't realise that our roller-coaster cart had only just paused at the peak of the hill and that the next 4 months would change our lives forever.
Nothing can prepare you mentally for the newborn care centre's level 3 intensive care area. Canulas and wires had been inserted into her. She was unable to breathe without a ventilator and had a condition known as pulmonary hypertension. This required another machine which had only been developed in the last 7 years. There was only one of these which she shared with another premature baby.
We watched her head be scanned weekly for brain haemorrhages, we watched as we were told a duct near her heart needed surgery to close, we watched her eyes get checked for retinopathy, as well as many more conditions which we had no idea were associated with being born too early.
We watched as babies around us lost their battle and the guttural sounds their parents made when they were told the devastating news. Parents whom we had come to know, ones who were on that same roller-coaster and who suddenly would no longer be there. There were days which were better than others and it was those days which made it all more bearable.
Chloe came home on the 14th December 2009 weighing 2.2kg one month after her due date and 112 days after she was born. At home she was on 24/7 low flow oxygen prongs for a further 4 months. The day the respiratory specialist told us she had graduated off this oxygen supplement was a momentous one.
Seeing our little girl finally tube free 7 months after first meeting her was amazing and we were able to hold her without her being attached to something! There were endless appointments over the next two years but she was home and she was healthy.
Today she is a healthy, bright, athletic and creative daredevil. She dodged all those statistics which had painted a grim picture. She hopes to be an author when she grows up and last year had her short story chosen to be published in a book!
The humidicrib, the ventilator and other machines which kept our daughter alive were donated with funds raised from Running for Premature Babies. Everyday we look at her and think how 'tiny but mighty' she really is, and how grateful we are to the Royal Hospital for Women, the Newborn Care Centre and Running for Premature Babies.