Alexis's Story, 33 Weeks

Miracle Mum, Nikki started to bleed heavily early on in her pregnancy. The ordeal ended up with her needing an emergency c-section and saw both her and her baby fighting for their life in hospital. She shares the story of her pregnancy and baby Alexis' arrival in the world.

"I’ve wanted to share our story for a while now, I just didn’t know how. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to relive everything my partner and I have been through, not to mention my daughter. It was by far the hardest thing we have ever been through, but it has made us stronger and defines who we are today. I wanted to share our story because I think it is important to raise awareness for prematurity, as it is the number one cause of deaths in infants under 5.

I can’t even begin to mention how lucky I am to have such an amazing Fiancé, life partner and best friend. I was lucky enough to have a beautiful group of friends, a supportive family and a great job at the time.
Josh and I had only been together for 10 months at the time when we first discussed having a baby together and going through the process of IVF, I don’t know what ran through his mind to accept to go through it with me after a short period of time but he did and we didn’t look back.

Within a few weeks of us beginning the IVF journey and not knowing the outcome with the odds being stacked against us, Joshua had proposed to me and asked me to be his fiancé I couldn’t have asked for a more supporting and loving partner. I remember I had just finished the cycle of transferring the embryo over to me and I was in the process of waiting on the results of whether or not we were pregnant. One morning I woke up and noticed I had started bleeding and I began to cry knowing that it wasn’t successful and I was definitely not pregnant and was obviously getting my periods, I called my sister and she calmed me down and told me to take a pregnancy test, I quickly placed the phone down and went to take a test and straight away it came up positive 1-2 weeks, we both were really excited.
Another week passed and I did another test and it came up positive 2-3 weeks.

We were extremely lucky, I fell pregnant straight away.

Less than four weeks later we were at the clinic for our 7 week scan where I got to see and hear my little baby for the very first time. I remember hearing the heartbeat for the first time and slowing shedding tears down my face as I was going to be given the chance to be a mum - my life long dream about being a mum. I know it sounds cliché, but it was all a dream come true. We couldn’t be happier.

At 10 weeks I decided to do a special blood test because I just couldn’t wait any longer I needed to know what I was having, it was all just too exciting for me, I remember getting the phone call a week later saying the results were in, I quickly called my partner and he said go and find out he didn’t want to wait either but couldn’t get off work. I quickly took my sister to the doctor with me and found out I was having a girl, it was a bit of a shock at first as we had thought this whole time we were having a boy due to genetics. My sister kept saying ‘You’re having a girl’ ‘You’re having a girl’ and when those words came out of the doctors mouth I thought to myself OMG I’m having a girl I’m going to have a little princess (My princess).

I had a really good pregnancy too. I was loving being pregnant and feeling our little princess kick inside me even if it was at night when mummy was trying to sleep, I loved watching my belly grow each week. Everything was perfect up until my 20-week scan. This scan was incredible, to see how much my baby girl had grown it was amazing. But after the doctor came in to have a look, he quickly got someone to come in for a second look, and they discovered I had a low-lying placenta. She said it wasn’t anything to worry about, if anything didn’t resolve at 35 weeks I would possibly need a C-section and to deliver between 35-37 weeks. I thought to myself, if that was the worst thing that could happen it wouldn’t bother me. As long as she is born happy and healthy I was ok with that.

My first major scare happened when I was only 27 weeks I remember waking up to a heavy amount of blood and quickly running to the bathroom and turning on the shower hoping it would stop, I then started screaming to my partner saying it won’t stop, I think I’m going to lose her. In that moment and time everything froze, I just stood so still and felt absolutely numb. We quickly rushed to hospital where I was monitored for a few hours, had my urine tested and my blood pressure come down. They then checked her heart rate and made sure everything was fine with her, but with the loss of blood, I wasn’t getting my hopes up until I heard her heart beating stronger than ever. The loss of blood didn’t seem to affect her, and she was happier than ever - she even started kicking as she didn’t like the monitor.
They then transferred me across to Westmead Hospital in case I needed to deliver her as my hospital doesn’t cater for below 32 weeks. This was when my doctors diagnosed the low-lying placenta as the problem.

I was sent home being told it was just the start and it would most likely continue until the placenta moved higher away from the uterus. A week later I was back at work and it happened at work, which was very scary as I drove myself to the hospital thinking not again will this ever stop, my fiancé met me at the hospital for support.

This continued to happen for weeks I would be in and out of the hospital and it was becoming really exhausting I would spend 3-4 days in and then 1-2 days out until one day I was visiting family with and I started to get extreme pain on my side and started crying as I couldn’t walk and needed to go to the hospital. We quickly ducked home to grab a bag of clothes and a few other things as I had a weird feeling I was going to be in there for a while and they wouldn’t release me this time. The doctors told me the next day I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital for a while and to cancel my baby shower.

The next day the doctors told me I had to do a few tests to try and figure out what was wrong with me, I did several tests including a few ultrasounds and a CT scan to figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t until the CT scan they had figured out my uterus had ruptured this time I had lost quite a significant amount of blood and they were prepping me for a transfusion.
They even gave me several steroid injections, giving me steroids before the birth can help my baby's lungs to develop more quickly so this is exactly what I did. This reduces the risk of serious complications or the newborn dying, so with no hesitation I had them even though they hurt so much and I cried and really didn’t want them.

I had 5 amazing doctors assigned to my case and I don’t know what I would have done without them. They gave us hope, they told us with each and every single day that passes, my baby girl would grow and her chances of survival would increase. They were going to let my baby girl grow for as long as possible until it was no longer safe for us, even though it was stressing me out and driving me like crazy. So, whether I liked it or not, I was staying in that hospital until my daughter was born and I was in the best place I could be even if I didn’t know it at the time.

There was nothing normal about our situation and it all felt so unfair. Being in hospital all day and all night for weeks gave me so much time to think. What was going to happen? Will she be ok? What will happen if she isn’t? The questions were endless and my doctors did the best job they could to answer them all and reassure me they were going to do everything they could to help me with a safe delivery of my little girl. I had so much support from friends and family. I had friends asking to come see me, which most of the time I replied with ‘I’m not feeling up for it today’. But my friends and family being the supportive people they are, would sometimes just show up knowing I really deep down needed them to be by my side and support me every step of the way. I may not have felt up to seeing people, but at the end of the day, when I did have people visit me, it made things feel normal again, and I would forget all my problems for a little while.
A week later I was lying in my bed and had just sent my partner home so we could both get some rest, just as I was about to go to sleep I started losing excessive amounts of blood, first 300ml, then 600ml. After the second loss they transferred me to the birthing unit and by this time my partner had already messaged his brother saying he thought I was going to have the baby tomorrow and he might only be in work for a little while. As they rushed me down to the birthing unit I started to lose excessive amounts of blood and started to feel really sick, I was losing clots the size of golf balls and it was in this moment I knew she was coming she didn’t want to be in there anymore and as much as I was scared for her I was also in relief that this would be over soon enough.

I quickly called my partner to come back to the hospital and as he got their they were using the clamp to see if my cervix was open it was very hard to see with all the clots, but she managed to see and started telling the other doctors she is going into active labour and at this point I was crying because I knew I wasn’t allowed to have a natural labour, and I would be all by myself. They then started prepping the theatre for me and called in the head doctor and my gynaecologist to assist with the emergency c-section. They called Westmead hospital and asked them to transfer an additional 2 litres of blood as the 4 units weren’t going to be enough. Whist they were prepping me I had my partner call my mum and she quickly rushed to the hospital.

I had been trying to prepare myself for this day since I walked into that hospital. I had to stay positive for the sake of our baby girl. And the rest of the night was a bit of a blur. Now the rest of the work was up to her, which wasn’t fair. What baby comes into the world already having to fight for their life. Well, mine did. At 4:55am on the 20th of September, Alexis entered the world. BREATHING.  At just 33+1 weeks gestation, she was a tiny 1880grams and 44cms long. The C-section was probably the easiest part of it all, as I was asleep but little did I know they had to perform 3 surgeries in that one procedure, they had to fix the burst uterus, perform the c-section and cut Alexis out as my endometriosis which had wrapped around the whole placenta and uterus. So off went my tiny baby girl to NICU with her father, where she would spend the next 32 days and nights.

Although I didn’t get my ‘fairy tale’ start to motherhood, I was incredibly thankful my baby girl came out breathing. It was almost a bit of relief for Joshua and I. I remember my partner and mum coming into recovery and letting me know she was ok and showing me photos of my little princess.
But it wasn’t over for me either. After my surgery I was placed into recovery for almost 9 hours before they moved me to the High Dependency Unit where I would spend the next 3-5 days recovering and learning to walk again at my own pace.
At this point I hadn’t even seen her yet - just a few photos. Even though I was fighting for my own life just the day before, all I wanted was to see my baby.

That night at about 8pm they finally wheeled me down on my bed after what was the longest 15 hours of my life. I finally got to see my little princess and hold her skin to skin for the very first time and I clearly remember not being able to breath and the tears rolling down my face as I held MY little girl I finally achieved everything I’ve always wanted.

What was meant to be the best time of my life giving birth to our daughter, was by far the worst night of my life. I remember the doctors coming in and telling me at one point that her survival rate was higher than mine, and I honestly felt so blessed for us to both be strong fighters and never giving up.

Holding my daughter was indescribable, and I never wanted to let her go. I knew the NICU journey was going to be hard and an emotional rollercoaster, but not as hard as it became.

Having a premature baby isn’t anything like having a normal baby. You don’t have friends and family flooding in with balloons and gifts coming to meet your new baby because they don’t know if they will make it and you were only allowed to have 1 visitor at a time in the NICU and most of the time they would only allow strictly family. I had to sign a consent form for my sister to be able to hold her. There was no fussing over who she looked like more, whose eyes she had or what colour hair. She was hardly even a baby when she was born.
About 9-10 days later, I finally got to go home which was bittersweet. I was finally free, able to sleep in my own bed, see my puppies and eat a beautiful home cooked meal. But I was going home in a lot of pain knowing this was just the start to a very hard journey. They say god only gives the hard journeys to the people who he thinks can handle it, well I’ll tell you this was by far the hardest, every single time I left that hospital without my daughter it got harder and harder.

There is nothing normal or easy about having a baby in the NICU. I know people may think or say things like ‘at least you get to go home and sleep” or “You have someone caring for your baby, you don’t need to do anything”, but you are up all hours of the night wondering if your baby is ok, or if your phone rings at any point, will it be the hospital calling to say something is wrong.
The endless amount of sleep I got just wondering what she was doing and if that phone was going to ring was indescribable. I hated being so on edge.

But I guess you could say I developed a routine. I got up every morning, got ready and went into the NICU to spend as much time as possible with her. At the start all I did was cry and get frustrated with myself because I couldn’t hold her for long periods of time. I was the physically and emotionally exhausted - it was all getting to me. I would get so upset and not want to stay long because I couldn’t hold her and I kept thinking to myself how can I not hold you when you are so very small and yet so fragile at the time, it did get better with time , I would then come home after lunch and rest and then when my partner got home from work I would go in again and stay till all hours of the night. I remember not being able to leave unless her eyes were closed and she was asleep. I remember nursing her every night to sleep and giving her a kiss on the forehead waiting for her to close her eyes assuming it would be easier on leaving if she was asleep. IT WASNT! There was nothing easy about it at this point but I would continue on and go home to bed ready to do it all again the next day.

Some days weren’t so bad but some days were really hard. There were so many ups and downs. One step forward, then two steps back. I remember one morning waking up crying harder than I had ever cried before in my life, hoping it was just a bad dream. I felt so lost. So conflicted. I wanted nothing more than to be by my daughter’s side 24/7 like any other normal mother.
Leaving her each and every day was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I remember many times sitting there next to her cradle, gaining up the courage to get up and say goodbye to my daughter for the millionth time, getting to the car and bursting into tears. But as she grew, getting older, heavier and healthier, it did get easier. I had more freedom. I was able to help change her nappies, she finally got to wear clothes and I was finally able to bath her for her very first time and giving her first bottle feeding was incredible. Unfortunately, due to my pregnancy I wasn’t able to breast feed, doctors said it was due to a very traumatic experience.

As our NICU journey progressed, a nurse one day mentioned the ‘h’ word- HOME! Our daughter was moved to the side where she needed to just come off her oxygen and successfully do suck feeds for 72 hours and keep down a certain amount of mls, and we were making plans to bring our baby girl home!
I remember this day so well because my Mum and I went back to the car after the home conversation with the nurse, and we both burst into tears we were both so happy and relieved at the same time even though mum was so scared to bring her home because she was so tiny and fragile and because she had been on the machines for so long she was scared what could happen. I quickly called my partner and for the first time in what felt like forever we were crying happy tears - after 32 days and nights.

The morning we were discharged I remember going in to the NICU with such a heavy but happy heart knowing she was coming home. So, home we went, settling into our new life as a family, leaving the NICU behind us. We will always remember the sounds and smells of the NICU, the endless handwashing, the endless beeping going off where she had stopped breathing for a split second. And even though we may be back there one day who knows, the memories, doctors, nurses, midwives, and staff will forever be a part of our lives. We owe our daughter’s life to these amazing heroes and we will be forever thankful for everything they have done for us. 

We are so incredibly lucky. Alexis is now two years old and is growing more and more each day."

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