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Esther - born at 29 weeks

Pregnancy and Birth

On Friday the 13th June 2003 at 4.00am I awoke to the familiar sensation of my waters breaking. Fear engulfed me, I was only 26 weeks pregnant. Our baby had already been struggling, being affected by growth restriction in the womb and based on previous ultrasound scans only of 25 weeks gestation. Our hopes of having a healthy baby were fading fast and I began to panic.

I was admitted to our local hospital for examination and it was confirmed that my membranes had ruptured and that the leak was quite extensive. As our local hospital didn't have the resources to cope with the safe delivery of a premature baby we were transferred to a larger hospital with a reputable neonatal facility in the event of a pre-term birth.

I was given injections of steroids and medication was administered to delay the possibility of impending labour. We needed 48hrs for both medications to work and to give our baby, if born, a better chance of survival. Two long days of waiting followed with constant monitoring of both our baby and myself and my living in fear of every unknown sensation being her impending birth.

We were given a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit where babies of similar gestation were shown to us to prepare us for our own babies early arrival.

At this stage reality hit - we were going to have a pre-term baby and the journey that we would be embarking on would be difficult - I was truly scared.

Seven days after my admission to hospital I was still carrying our baby and being thankful for every day that I still had my bump and our precious baby was still inside of me. Daily monitoring, blood tests every second day, weekly ultrasounds were all a part of my journey, I was already defeating the odds as the doctors had previously told me that 98% of woman with ruptured membranes deliver within one week.

Just when things were going a little more smoothly I suffered an ante partum haemorrhage and was rushed to the labour ward to be prepared for delivery. Things happened so fast and with my husband two hours drive away I was facing this journey alone - 26 weeks pregnant. Someone was watching over me that day as the bleeding slowed down and the decision was made to leave bub inside. I went to bed that night grateful that I had been given another chance to carry my baby inside of me and everyday since has been a bonus. Each day that I wake up with my bump still intact I'm truly grateful- every day inside means my baby has a greater chance of survival - a special little person who is trying awfully hard to get to me.

On the morning of Saturday July 5th I awoke with another ante partum haemorrhage, however unlike the other episodes that I had had the bleeding did not lessen as the day progressed. I was again prepared to deliver our little baby. I was monitored for the rest of the day and a decision was later made to keep bubby inside. We had again escaped an early delivery. I was relieved.

While lying in bed later that night I felt that something wasn't quite right and that I actually might be in labour. I had a really restless nights sleep.

The next day I still didn't feel quite right and I noticed that I was having regular tightenings across my back and tummy. At 11am I called the midwife and I was attached to the fetal heart monitor. It and the following persistent pains confirmed that I was in labour. From that moment on the contractions kept regularly occurring although for a period of time they appeared to be getting less severe and it was hoped, possibly going away. At around 1pm when the contractions started to pick up hubby was called and the theatre was booked for 4pm for a caesarean (previous scans had shown bubby was in the transverse position and due to the placenta also being low lying the caesar was the only choice for birth).

From this moment on the pains got considerably worse, even though I was managing to breathe through them I was also finding it hard to cope. It appeared that bubby wanted to arrive earlier than the scheduled 4pm. At 3pm I developed a high temperature, my pulse escalated and bubbys heart rate dipped on the monitor. It appeared that the infection that had threatened my three week stay in hospital had set in and an emergency caesarean was necessary. Due to the risk of the birth a general anaesthetic was required meaning that my husband could not be present. The midwives called him on the mobile to tell him; he had nearly made it to the hospital.

I was rushed to theatre and under the anaesthetic at 3.45pm on Sunday 6th July 2003. The doctor performing the procedure had told me that they had only eight minutes to get our baby out. At 3.53pm Esther Bella Barnes entered the world weighing a mere 1070 grams (2lb 5oz) and 36.5cms in length, 11 weeks earlier than we had expected.

In the NICU

I came out of the anaesthetic at 4.30pm to hear the doctor tell my husband that we had a little girl and that she weighed in at over the kilo a goal the paediatricians who had seen me on the ward had hoped we would get to. She was in the intensive care nursery and they had taken a photo of her for us to see how beautiful she was. To see that photo and my husband there in front of me was everything that I needed. I was in so much pain from the operation. After the pain relief was increased they took me back to my bed on the ward via the nursery and little Esther. I got to hold her hand and tell her that we loved her before she was placed in the humidicrib where we wouldn't be able to hold her again for some time. The neonatologist explained that Esther's lungs were having a struggle on their own and that it was necessary to intubate her, putting her on a respirator as she was unable to breathe on her own. We had all the faith in the world in their treatment of our little girl, she was under the best possible care.

Esther remained on the respirator for only 3 days. On the fourth day she pulled the respirator out. When the nurse put it back in she pulled it out again, she was trying to tell us she didn't need it. From here she went onto CPAP were she remained for a further 14 days and in oxygen up until one week before her eventual discharge some 10 weeks after her birth. All up we experienced many ups and downs with Esther experiencing a intraventricular haemorrhage (a brain bleed) shortly after birth which later rectified itself, a heart murmur which responded to treatment, numerous falls in her haemoglobin levels which meant follow up brain scans to rule out further brain bleeds. She was fortunate enough to not need a blood transfusion even though her haemoglobin levels fell to very low levels.

Some 68 days after her birth and 14 weeks since my admission to hospital little Esther was allowed home one week before her expected due date weighing 2110 grams. How far she had come and how perfect our little girl was, we were truly very lucky to have her and we all love her dearly. Our little journey was finally over.

Two weeks after our trip home Esther was readmitted to the childrens ward at our local hospital for treatment for bronchiolitis, she remained in a head box being treated with oxygen for four nights and now is better than ever. We have already advised friends and relatives that if they have to visit any hospital for any reason they might just have to be content with us sending them a card as we feel we have already done our time in hospitals this year!

©2003 Donna

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