It was the 20th October 2020 and we were 29+4. We had been for a growth scan as we knew Umi was measuring small from our 20 week scan. The results showed Umi’s tummy and head had stopped growing. While Mr Hopkins, my obstetrician, was looking over the measurements we had a midwife appointment upstairs. It’s there they found the pre-eclampsia and we were taken around to Loveridge ward. The team were great, they took blood tests, I had a steroid injection to help the baby’s lungs mature, they put some cannulas in and called Southampton for an immediate transfer. Within the next 2 hours I was at the airport for a MediVac and we were on our way. The support I had on the plane from Victoria will always mean so much to me as I really didn’t know how poorly I actually was. She kept me calm and ensured I understood everything that was happening. Luke followed on later and we were reunited in Labour ward at Princess Anne Hospital. At this moment I think we were running on adrenaline, it all happened so quickly.
Once in Southampton they assessed me and were happy for me to go to the ward, have my second steroid injection and be scanned the next day...
I went for the scan and there was no movement of Umi on the screen, I was sent straight to labour ward to be prepped for delivery. I sat in the side room while I waited for them to take me round. I had to tell myself; ‘you’re going to be a mum in the next few hours’, it was one of the most scary moments of our journey. How could this be happening, we were not even 30 weeks and our baby was on the way, so far from our 1st January due date.
I was given a magnesium sulphate drip to help with possible cerebral palsy, every hour extra we got after the loading dose was a bonus. We met the NICU consultant, who ran through what would happen when the baby was delivered and what possible complications we might expect, the anaesthetist and the consultant who would perform the c section. Luckily, we managed a full dose of magnesium sulphate and Umi’s movements improved so they decided to hold on before delivering her.
We lasted another week and at 30+5 Umi’s movements were decreasing, we were sent down to labour ward for one-on-one care. After a number of large decelerations on the Dawes-Redman the decision was made to deliver within 30 mins under a local anaesthetic so Luke could be at the birth with us. Just after midnight 29th October 00:13 and at 30+6 Umi was delivered. We were waiting for a surprise on the gender and Luke was able to announce we had a little girl. Umi weighed 780g, 1lb 11, very small for our gestation. She had been born with severe IUGR.
Umi cried when she was delivered and we were able to see her for a few seconds before she was whisked away to NICU, where she needed some additional support for breathing and was intubated. The next 5 hours seemed the longest 5 hours we had ever felt. The midwife kept calling NICU from the recovery room, but each time the answer was ‘we’re not quite ready for you yet’. Luke went through to see Umi first and then I was wheeled round to see her. It was so overwhelming. We were warned she would not look like you would expect a baby to look but seeing her was something you could not be prepared for, our tiny baby covered in wires and breathing tubes.
I was kept in hospital for another 6 days due to my pre-eclampsia worsening after delivery. We were so lucky that Luke was only steps away from us in Isaac’s Pad. He could see the door to Princess Anne Hospital from the living room window. Something which gave him great comfort, knowing if he was needed due to an emergency, he would be with us within minutes.
When I arrived at Isaac’s Pad, I broke down in tears with all the pictures of Guernsey. The Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation flat felt like there was a ‘big Guernsey hug’ holding and supporting us through the most difficult moment in our lives. The flat became a sanctuary; somewhere where we were able to cook, do our washing and a space I could express milk in private.
We finally were able to hold Umi when she was a week old. A moment, which should have been a natural experience, filled me with fear. My tiny baby was out of the safety of the incubator, if something happened when I was holding her would the nurses be able to get to her quick enough? …all these thoughts swallowed me up every time we had kangaroo care. We learnt how to change tiny nappies, feed her through an NG tube all through incubator doors. We were on a strict 3 hour expressing schedule and Luke loved taking her the expressed milk, her ‘Dom Perignon’ first thing every morning. This became our new normal. Umi’s NICU journey was filled with highs and lows, just like the rollercoaster we were warned it would be.
We were lucky enough to call Isaac’s Pad our home for 2 months before we were transferred back to the PEH just before christmas. We received the most beautiful box filled with beautiful things from the PPBF, which included a pink octopus which is one of Umi’s favourite toys. We were finally discharged 17th January 2021 to start our journey at home.
Whilst in Southampton I wrote a note for the tree in the family room – 'have hope, always believe and enjoy every milestone'. We try to live by this every day. I hope that these simple words can help other families when they’re at their lowest.
We will forever be grateful to PPBF and Isaac’s Pad. It’s now a year on and our beautiful daughter is celebrating her first birthday. It’s been hard to reflect on our first year but when we look at how strong and brave Umi has been we are filled with complete pride about our incredible preemie and how far she has come. We feel we are part of a special journey; a journey for families with premature babies, we know that journey won’t always be easy but will always be driven by the most inspirational children. PPBF provides a space for us all to feel connected and supported. Thank you for everything you have done for us and our family, you will always hold a special place in our hearts.