On 22 April 2016 my fiancé and I arrived at our local maternity unit bright and early to be induced.
I'd had numerous episodes of reduced foetal movement and the decision had been made for us to go ahead with an induction at 37 weeks.
I was given a Propess – which looks a little bit like a small tampon - as a way to induce labour. I had a few mild and irregular contractions for around 24 hours.
I never had a “birthing plan” as such and it's a pretty good job I didn’t, as not one thing went to plan. At 9.00pm we got transferred to the delivery suite. My waters were broken and everything after that is quite blurry. My contractions went from 0 to 100 within minutes of my waters being broken. The epidural worked for around 20 minutes, then only worked on one side of my body and then it stopped working completely. The anaesthetists or midwives couldn't work out why.
I continued to use gas and air, which was effective, but the pain was unbearable. Finally we heard the words “you're fully dilated” and it was like music to our ears. We were so excited and couldn't wait to meet our very much longed for baby boy.
After nearly two hours of pushing with no progression, our baby showed signs of stress and his heartbeat was dipping. By this point I'd been in full blown labour for 12 hours. The decision was made to take me for a Category 2 emergency c-section. Within half an hour I'd been catheterised, had spinal anaesthetic put in place and was led into theatre with my fiancé next to me. My midwife told me that there was a paediatric specialist present to take a look at our son when he was born.
I've never been so petrified about anything in my whole life. We'd previously had a miscarriage and all we wanted was for this baby to be healthy and here in our arms.
At 10.22am on 24 April, our beautiful son Connor was finally here. Hearing his little cry for the first time is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The doctor gave him the all clear and he was handed over to his mummy and daddy for an eagerly awaited cuddle.
A couple of hours later however, Connor started to make strange noises and was incredibly worked up. He would only be relatively settled if he was on my chest and he wouldn't feed or latch.
A wonderful student midwife noticed something was wrong and alerted her senior. Our midwife returned and said we have a “singing baby” meaning that he was struggling to breathe and his colour was starting to change.
A doctor came from the neonatal unit and took Connor away for a blood gas test. When he returned he said he would like to take our brand new baby away to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to be closely monitored. We were beyond heartbroken.
We'd all had a traumatic day and all I wanted was to cuddle and bond with my new born baby. Instead I was alone and bed bound on the maternity ward, surrounded by mums and their babies whilst mine was upstairs on the unit. The guilt was horrendous.
Overnight Connor needed oxygen therapy and was transferred into an incubator.
The next day I was determined to get up and get moving because I needed to be strong for my baby. The pain from my scar was the worst, I got dosed up on pain killers and slowly made my way to the bathroom for the first time with the help of a healthcare assistant.
My fiancé arrived on the ward every day at 8.00am and wouldn't leave until gone 9.00pm. We spent as much time as possible with Connor. It was emotionally and physically draining.
Connor required breathing support in the form of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). I'm a respiratory nurse, so I'd seen CPAP many times used on an adult but not a brand new baby. Not my baby. Nothing could prepare me for that. We felt so helpless.
We'd discovered that Connor developed a chest infection and had fluid on one of his lungs. In the meantime, my c-section scar turned septic and became quite poorly. All I wanted to do was to help look after my baby as much as possible. I got a telling off a couple of times from the midwives looking after me but I didn't care what was going on with me - I just wanted to be with my son.
After a couple of days, Connor no longer needed CPAP, so he got stepped down to another room in the NICU. He was still very jaundiced so he had a few sunbed sessions in a special cot.
After the end of his oxygen therapy, Connor was ready to begin to try to breastfeed. I'd been expressing since his birth so he could be fed via his NG feeding tube.
We tried and tried to establish breastfeeding but Connor struggled to latch and it was incredibly stressful for both of us. He was very hungry and I made the decision to continue to express for him instead.
After just over a week on the unit, Connor finally joined me on the maternity ward for our first night together. I was - and still am - totally and completely in love with my baby. We'd got through the worst and most challenging time and we did it together.
Connor Patrick Harry is now 13 months old and an absolute little hurricane. He's into everything - furniture surfing, crawling, food, talking and he's so affectionate. We had a very rough start to becoming a family but I'd do it all again tomorrow for my baby.
Bliss helped me realise that I was not alone and gave me better insight to the NICU. As a first time mum whose baby was born at term, I didn’t expect he would need NICU care.
The NICU nurses were incredible and we owe them everything.
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