Chloe's Story, 32 Weeks

Miracle Mum, Emily shares her story of heart-break and hope.

"My journey to have a family has definitely been a rollercoaster. My story involves two stillbirths, a NICU journey and a lot of love, tears, frustration and hope.

In 2015, I fell pregnant with first baby. My husband and I were so incredibly excited. It was a relatively "normal" pregnancy until I reached 26 weeks gestation. I attended a routine midwife appointment however nothing could have prepared me for what was about to unfold. I heard the words no parent ever wants to hear, "I'm sorry, Emily, but we can't find a heartbeat".

I rang my husband James and he must have flown to the hospital because before I could process the news, he was by my side. I cried and cried, doing everything I could to stop myself my screaming as they spent 45 minutes trying to find a heartbeat. I was told to go home and come back the next day to start the induction of labour. That was the longest night of my life. I remember sitting up at 3am watching repeats of "Burke's Backyard" and praying I would wake up from the nightmare. I had only just finished setting up the cot that morning- what a cruel ironic moment.

The doctors began the induction process the next day but it was a slow and frustrating ordeal. It failed and I had to wait 24 hours to try again, the whole time James and our families never left my side. Eventually I was in active labour.

On the 18th April at 12:45pm I delivered our son. We named him Archie James. The silence in the room was deafening!
I remember laying back on the bed watching James hold our son and I just couldn't comprehend that our son was dead. Archie was passed around and held by his family, his grandparents, great grandparents and aunty. I was still too scared to see him. I don't remember people crying but every photo I look at my family is holding him with tears streaming down their faces. After the shock had started to wear off I was ready to meet my baby. Archie was handed to me and he was so tiny, so fragile but so beautiful! The most precious thing I have ever held.

Archie was only 385 grams and obviously severely growth restricted. His cause of death was placental insufficiency. Our families said goodbye and James and I had a sleep with my son next to us. I remember getting up and rocking Archie. I hummed to him and sang a few songs. I kissed him so much, just willing him to breathe. He obviously never did.

Leaving the hospital was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, forcing my legs to physically move towards the door but James was my pillar of strength and has been ever since.

I was heart broken but determined to try again. I desperately wanted a baby in my arms. I fell pregnant three months after losing Archie. The pregnancy was tough, both physically and emotionally. I was petrified of things going wrong. I was closely monitored but at the beginning of every ultrasound or doppler check I would hold my breath.

Towards the end of the pregnancy I was monitoring every kick and movement. If only James had a dollar for every time I said "I think something's wrong." We presented at the hospital every few days to ease my anxiety. I had high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, low iron and terrible anxiety. They decided to induce me at 37 weeks.

Walking into the hospital where I birthed Archie and had to say goodbye to my first baby was tough. After five hours of active labour, suddenly I had this beautiful baby put into my arms. My first words were "Is he breathing?" and then I heard the most beautiful cry in the world. It was honestly amazing. My baby was a healthy 3032gram baby. We named him Alfie Bruce and he helped to heal our aching hearts.

In 2019, we wanted to give Alfie a brother or sister. When I discovered I was pregnant my little family of three was so excited. For five months Alfie constantly lifted my shirt and kissed and rubbed my belly. He couldn't wait to be a big brother. James and I spent hours talking and making plans for our soon to be family of four.

Little did I know, we were to meet our baby far earlier than any of us could have expected under truly heartbreaking circumstances. At 25 weeks thing started to take a turn for the worse. My amniotic fluids were low, my baby was IUGR and a doppler ultrasound revealed reverse blood flow to the placenta. I was flown to RPA hospital and James and I were faced with impossible choices and the fear of making the wrong decision.

The chances of our little boy surviving birth were slim. As I lay in hospital I felt my baby give me a gentle kick. His movements had definitely become less frequent and I felt that was a sign. I silently told my unborn baby that it was okay for him to let go. That he didn't need to fight any longer and that his mummy and daddy understood. We loved our baby more than words but did not want him to suffer.

Hearing the midwife confirm “I'm sorry, your baby has no heartbeat" the next morning was shattering but we understood. Our baby took away the very difficult choices that faced us and died only knowing what it felt like to be loved and wanted.

I gave birth to Jack Anthony at 4pm, Friday the 1st of February. The room was silent except for the sounds of Jack's grandparents, aunty and daddy sobbing. It was clear that Jack was loved and was so desperately wanted, simply by the sheer number of tears that were shed.

Jack, was beautiful. So utterly perfect and tiny. He weighed 495grams. James and I were so thankful that we were able to spend the night with Jack as he slept next to us in his cuddle cot.

Leaving the hospital and facing Alfie's questions were heart breaking. I could not believe that tragedy had struck my family twice. However, I found a little comfort with the idea that perhaps my two baby boys were together. Maybe, Archie needed a little brother to play with in heaven.

James and I waited six months and decided to try for another baby one final time. I had to travel four hours for specialist advice at John Hunter Hospital Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit. At 24 weeks, my blood pressure was high and baby was severely growth restricted. As baby was sitting in the minus 5th percentile and my blood pressure couldn't be controlled I was admitted into hospital for monitoring. Being four hours away from home and my three year old being unable to visit because of COVID-19 was tough, but I was determined to do whatever was necessary to bring this baby home.

I reached 32+1 weeks when things took a turn for the worse. I developed severe preeclampsia and I was rushed for an emergency c-section. Baby Chloe was born on Monday 23rd March. She weighed a tiny 1160 grams. She let out a little cry, and was held next to my face for ten seconds before she was rushed to NICU. Seeing her taken away was difficult but l had been told this was likely for a premature baby.

What I was not prepared for was my own health issues. I was deemed as a 'high dependency' patient with a high risk of having a seizure. I was hooked up to a Magnesium Sulfate drip for 48 hours and hospital policy meant that I was not allowed to leave birth suite. That meant not being allowed to go to NICU! Not being able to see Chloe.

The afternoon of her birth was agonising. I was confined to my room, feeling millions of miles away from my newborn baby. James was obviously by Chloe's side and sending me loads of updates and photos.

I couldn't help but feel so envious! I felt like I was in The Handmaid's Tale. I was alone in my room for hours, crying on the phone to my mum. I was obviously unable to move so I couldn't even reach a tissue! My mum couldn't be there to support me because of the COVID crisis and I felt helpless, guilty and alone!

I ended up having a massive breakdown and I am so lucky that I had a brave and very empathetic midwife. She quickly and quietly, organised for my bed to be wheeled into NICU for ten minutes. After ten hours, I finally met her!!!!
Chloe opened her eyes and cried out when she heard me. It was difficult to see her hooked up to wires and machines. Chloe was on CPAP and had a cannula in her tiny arm. For ten whole ten minutes I stroked her hand and talked to her. She just lay there with her eyes trying to stay open and making a tiny little whimpering sound. Ten minutes felt like 30 seconds and saying goodbye was excruciating as I wheeled back to birth suite.

Our journey in the NICU lasted two weeks. Chloe was on CPAP for six days. It was especially difficult being so far from home and the strict rules. COVID-19 prevented James and I from being in the room with her together. The nurses were nothing short of spectacular and offered a shoulder to cry on many times.

On day 14, we were given the good news that Chloe was able to be transferred to our local hospital. Chloe was flown to Coffs Harbour and admitted into the special care nursery.

She amazed us all with her progress. After 66 days, Chloe was finally allowed to come home! She weighed 2060grams and looked so tiny in her big brother's arms for the first time.

Our journey has had plenty of ups and downs but I feel so blessed to have my two babies at home and my two babies watching over us from heaven."

Thank you Emily for sharing your story

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