Trigger Warning: The following story may be distressing for some people.
This is Natasha’s story:
On Saturday the 27th of June, Aaron Jack was born at the Mercy Hospital for Women. Aaron, or Twin 2 of Natasha as he would be known as for the next 117 days, weighed a tiny 748g and was born at exactly 25 weeks gestation.
There was very little left to surprise us by this stage but somehow seeing this tiny little baby bundled up in blankets wearing the teeniest beanie on his sweet little head and still breathing was the only surprise I would ever need.
Thomas and Aaron’s battle started just over 5 weeks earlier in our home town in country Victoria. On the 21st of May, it was discovered that I was 3cm dilated and Thomas, our Twin 1’s, membranes were bulging. I was rushed from my obstetrician’s office to the hospital where it was expected Matt and I would lose our precious babies before the weekend was through.
Thankfully we were able to have our 20 week scan a few days early. We had decided to go back on the decision we had committed to early in the pregnancy, which was not finding out the gender of our babies until they were born. We wanted to have names for them, so if anything did go wrong we would be able to call them by their names. That day we found out that we were expecting two boys to join our family.
Once we all made it through the weekend I was booked in to attempt a cervical stitch. Unfortunately, the moment my legs were placed into the stirrups Thomas’ waters broke and my cervix snapped shut. At this point, a stitch was deemed an infection risk and the decision was made not to place a stitch.
We returned to the ward where we had no idea what the following days would bring. My life became a series of daily blood tests, ultrasounds and anti-clotting injections and the new experience of self-catheterisation to urinate as Thomas was now sitting so low inside me. Combined with the bed rest the days were long but the nights were even longer and full of tears.
At 22 weeks and 3 days I was transported 2 hours to the Mercy Hospital where, if the boys were born at this early gestation, they would stand a small chance of survival. Twice during our stay, they thought Thomas was going to be born and we were rushed to the birthing suites that were already prepared with two resusitaires ready for each son.
During one of our daily, bedside scans the doctor struggled to locate Thomas, which had become increasingly difficult without his waters present. Another doctor was called in and it was decided we should go to the radiology department to use the better scanner. It was there that our lives changed forever. We had lost our sweet little Angel in the gentle and quiet way he had lived his life inside me. Thomas was born the next day quickly and quietly delivered into his loving parent’s arms.
We were given 8 days to grieve the loss of our first born baby boy before his brother decided it was his turn to meet us. At around 3am on the 27th of June I awoke with some cramping pain. I went to the toilet where I discovered I was bleeding heavily. I pressed the emergency button and the room lit up with voices and lights as I was ushered back into bed and Matt was woken by a nurse telling him it was time to wake up.
I was quickly rushed back down to the birthing suite where it was discovered I was 5cm dilated. I was given a few options for pain relief but the only question I wanted answered was would the drugs make Aaron drowsy because the last thing I wanted to do was make it any harder than it was already going to be. I opted for the gas while I was hooked up to a magnesium drip to help with protecting Aaron’s brain and given a rescue dose of steroids to help with his lung development. After about 7 hours of labour my waters were broken and Aaron was born wiggling and crying.
While they worked on keeping my baby warm and breathing I was being prepared for surgery to remove any remaining placenta from Thomas. I got to see my tiny little bear before I was whisked away and Matt went with Aaron to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Once my procedure was over and I was cleared to leave recovery, I was wheeled back to my ward on my bed, via the NICU where I finally allowed myself to believe he was really alive. I held his tiny little fist in my hand and told him I loved him through the isolette that would be his home for the next 6 weeks.
Given Aaron’s birth was a “normal vaginal delivery” I was discharged 2 days later and with the help of Olivia from Social Work connecting us to a Victorian Government grant to help with accommodation for those living over 100km away we moved into an apartment in the next suburb over. We opted for an apartment rather than the charity accommodation because we were so worried about the ever increasing risk of Covid-19 and the idea of bringing any germs into the NICU caused us so much worry.
We were blessed with a somewhat smooth journey through NICU for Aaron. There were infection fears that were stamped out before they even existed and blood transfusions to help boost his strength while a valve in his heart still remained open due to his prematurity and his oxygen and feeding requirements fluctuated through his stay but he managed to escape without any bleeding on the brain and that was a huge win.
Living away from home and not being able to see any of our family due to the Melbourne lockdown made our lives very difficult. The normal ring of support that one would have when losing a child and coping with a baby in NICU was not there.
Thankfully some of the financial strain of living away from home was eased through the very generous support that Life’s Little Treasures provided us. We received a $200 voucher that helped us with petrol and food, some beautiful little blankets, beanies and booties that had been hand made, a soft newborn insert for our car seat and a book for Aaron among other things. The most touching and personal gift was a small gift wrapped package for Thomas. It included a beautiful little Angel outfit for him, a blanket, a teddy bear and a journal where we could record the special moments we shared together.
After almost 100 days in the NICU at The Mercy Aaron was transferred back to our home town Special Care Nursery aboard a PIPER (Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval). He celebrated his 100th day of life by coming off his oxygen support. Not long after his transfer his eyes were also given the all clear for a disease called ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity).
Aaron was discharged from hospital at 117 days old. He is now 8 months actual and almost 5 months corrected. He now weighs almost 7kg and is the happiest baby you will ever meet.
Throughout our stay at both hospitals, Life’s Little Treasures Facebook page and website helped us know there were others who had made it through this journey and taken their babies home at the end of it. If there could be one thing we would wish for those experiencing the NICU path it is that you are not alone in this journey. I know it feels like a lonely and scary way to start out but there are people who will help support you when it feels like you can’t go on. Accept their help and lean on them.
Natasha, Matt and baby Aaron are the faces of our Tax Appeal 2021. LLTF’s financial support helped make a positive difference to them as they were able to afford petrol and food whilst they travel back and forth to the hospital to spend time with Aaron. Through this appeal, we are hoping to raise $30,000 to provide emergency financial assistance to families in hospital. A $50 donation can make all the difference to help mums and dads who are struggling financially. Can you help us support a family so that they can focus solely on their precious treasure in hospital?
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