I was 20 weeks pregnant when my husband commented on what an easy time I was having. By 22 weeks, I was dilated to 3cm and the membranes were coming out. We thought we were going to lose our baby.
I was rushed to emergency surgery where the membranes were pushed back in and my cervix was stitched up. Our baby was not expected to survive the operation. He did, but we were now concerned about a possible infection and so as a precaution, I was hospitalized for the remainder of the pregnancy with complete bed rest, only getting up for the shower and toilet. I was to stay at Cabrini Hospital until I was 24 weeks pregnant and then be transferred to Monash Hospital.
I had only spent one week at Monash when, at 25 weeks I developed an infection. With no NICU beds available, I was immediately transferred to the Royal Women’s Hospital where the stitch was removed and our baby was born several hours later. Nothing can prepare you for the rollercoaster ride that is the NICU. Our tiny, fragile son, William was born at 25 weeks weighing 885 grams – a decent weight considering his gestation, as luckily I’d been given steroids to help him grow and his lungs to develop. He breathed on his own for the first 20 minutes of his life and was then intubated for 9 hours before going onto CPAP. He developed a bleed at the base of his brain which fortunately dispersed after 2 weeks. Those weeks seemed to last a lifetime. Fortunately, again he proved to be a fighter.
During his time in hospital, I would spend all day every day with him willing him on. I expressed breast milk 6-8 times a day for 3 months and the only thing keeping me going was the thought that this was one of the best things I could do for William as a feeling of helplessness swept over me. This milk was liquid gold – full of all the good stuff I knew he needed. I was very vigilant at home with hygiene making sure that William was not going to get any infections. People often told me how strong I was and what a great thing I was doing – but to me this was one of the only things I could do for our son, apart from being by his bed every day and cuddling him when I could. I would do anything for our son. My husband said to me in the early days when I broke down one night – Despair is not an option!!
Our days in the NICU were a roller coaster ride of blood tests, high temperatures, moving rooms, new nurses daily, new obstacles and daily battles for our little boy but he fought on. William stayed on CPAP for 5 weeks, then went on to oxygen prongs for another 8 weeks. I knew we were the lucky ones. William was doing incredibly well we were told and I had to keep focused on helping him all I could to bring him home. As William reached each milestone and got his 1kg badge, then his 2kg badge, or when he tolerated each new amount of breast milk he was given, I would text all the family and update our blog for our family overseas. Every milestone was a miracle.
Finally, after 75 days in the NICU, William was transferred from the Royal Women’s to Cabrini and a new journey started. Learning to breastfeed took 2 months and lots of frustrating and joyous moments, but again I was determined to do as much as I could to give William the best chance. I would attempt to feed, then express and then give him a bottle and he finally learnt to breast feed. Before being discharged William needed to have a hernia in his groin repaired, a small and relatively simple operation, we were told, but the angst whilst waiting for him to come out of surgery was horrendous, but he was fine. After 95 days in hospital William was discharged one week before his due date.
William is now 21 months old. He is a happy, healthy little boy who is teething, saying Daddy and Mummy and running around full of adventure. He has a great zest for life and a cheeky little smile (usually when he is about to do something naughty!). He has already travelled to London, had 6 plane rides and been driven half way across Australia. He brings us so much happiness and joy every day that I often stop and thank god how lucky we have been and for the gift we have been given.
Kerri King (Mum to William)