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Bush fires, COVID and a newborn at 34

I was 34 years old and fell pregnant for the first time, after being a mum to my stepson for 4 years (I met him at age 3), so I had no experience what to expect with a newborn.

Here is Ruth’s story:

I had a fairly normal early pregnancy with no morning sickness and had signs of an active baby at 20 weeks. My GP was late getting midwife support onboard, so I only started attending appointments from 24 weeks.

We had really bad days of smoke in Canberra in January, thanks to the fires in both NSW and VIC. Then soon came COVID restrictions that would affect the length of my face-to-face appointments. My first appointment was meant to be 30 mins. Thank goodness my midwife continued as normal to complete all my necessary pregnancy checks. I couldn’t attend any live antenatal classes either, so I participated in all the free Zoom and Facebook classes as possible. One of the videos explained what to expect with a C-section, which was invaluable, as little did I know that it was about to happen to me!

During my second visit at 30 weeks, my midwife became concerned about the size of my baby boy. I had started to experience reduced movements but had no idea that was not normal. I assumed that when the baby started to run out of space, their moments became reduced and also as my placenta was positioned at the front, movements were a little restricted than usual too. So, I was sent to get an extra ultrasound and it was confirmed that my boy was measuring 1.5 weeks smaller than normal and I was referred to the Fetal Medical Unit.

I was asked to complete another ultrasound at 31 weeks and was asked back for a 32 weeks ultrasound, but had not yet seen any of their doctors. I was totally in the dark. At the second ultrasound, they suggested to do the CGT to measure the movements over a period of time, and it took over an hour and a half for him to play the game. I then was told to present myself for regular checking every Tuesday and Friday just to keep an eye on him.

The following Friday, I came in during the morning, which is when I would normally feel movement but the machine took three hours for him to pass enough. The doctor finally saw me after this time and told me it was likely that they’d need to induce earlier and I consented to steroids to mature his lungs. I was also required to come back the next day, but they were going to decide on Tuesday when to get him out. I was still working up to this point and called my boss and said that mat leave would start the following Friday.

I presented myself to the birthing suite on Saturday for a second lot of steroids and to monitoring my boy. I was lucky to have a joint room all to myself. My urine presented with a positive protein result at this time. The staff were not happy with my observations or my son’s and they suggested staying overnight so they could check again in the morning.

Luckily, I had packed a hospital bag on Friday, as my husband had to bring it in on Saturday morning early, as they were preparing to get my boy out. I had developed preeclampsia and it was dangerous for me to keep him there. I had no symptoms myself, just high blood pressure and the protein result.

As they were trying to explain the risks, they are also trying to rush medicine into a closed vein that was very painful. I also was trying to advocate that I wanted to do labour as a preference as C-section was the last resort on my preferences. I wanted to be drug-free and do the golden hour, but that was denied. It also turned out my placenta was gritty, calcified and parts were already dying. The cord back to me was also not doing its job properly either.

Coen was delivered at 33 weeks en caul (in the sack) and was briefly shown to me before having his airways suctioned and the cord cut. He was then brought over all wrapped up for another brief moment before being whisked away to NICU.

I was surprised C-section was quick and easy. But disappointed I didn’t get the golden hour. He passed the APAR scores with a 9 after 10 mins but had to go on CPAP as he would desaturate after 3-4 mins on his own.

Luckily I was a patient at the hospital as the NICU rules at that time were only one parent allowed at a time unless the other was a patient, which meant my husband could visit anytime.

I ended up a little traumatised at day three as my blood pressure skyrocketed and I was placed back on the Mag Sol (nasty burning medicine to ward off seizures). I also had around the clock nursing which meant the lights needed to stay on, so I was also sleep deprived and on fluid restrictions.

Coen kicked CPAP off at day four with no other issues (luckily), apart from only weighing 1.45 kg and needing to gain more weight. I was still in the hospital until day six which gave me lots of time with him. I was also given a pump which made things easier.

Coen was moved from NICU to SCN on day nine du to him happily tolerating my volume of milk. Then, on Day ten, we transferred to another SCN at a different hospital and I was lucky to have access to Community Options which provided transport to and from the hospital during the day. On Day 12, Coen was moved into the big boy cot but was starting to posit a lot, so they had to space his feeds over an hour for a long time. Day 35 he was finally on the home stretch with no more tube feeds and came home after rooming-in on day 38.

It was tough the first couple of days as he would strain himself after feeds and end up with his food coming out of his nose as well as mouth. We still have some problems with small amounts of posits as his sphincter needs to close up properly so have to keep him upright for longer but he is enjoying all the cuddles he can get :).

Now nine weeks later, Coen finally weighs 3 kg and so far has no major issues from being Prem. We just need to make sure he stays on the right curve for weight and that he meets the appropriate milestones.

The Life’s Little Treasures Foundation has been wonderful support with the journal we were given at birth, the NICU/SCN facebook chats, the what to expect booklet and other packs that were available for free or to purchase on the website.

You can learn more about our products and services for new parents, here.

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Have you found comfort in reading other parents’ stories? We get lots of grateful feedback on how reading these personal stories help new parents to cope with their own experience. Every family has a unique and important story to share. Share your journey and celebrate your story below.

Rebecca Strahan


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