Ralph's Story, 31 Weeks

Miracle Mum, Alice felt unprepared for the traumatic experience of having to leave her tiny baby Ralph at the hospital each night. She shares her story.

"Our darling baby boy Ralph was born at 31+6 weeks. The early days of my pregnancy went smoothly. Then, at 26 weeks, I started feeling so thirsty overnight. I would get up ten times during the night to drink water. Even when I could feel it sloshing around in my stomach I still wanted to drink more. After commenting about it to my sister, she thankfully thought to check my blood glucose level. I ended up in hospital that night diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which I now have for life.

Upon discharge, my Obstetrician ordered an urgent scan and I ended up back in hospital straight away. I had steroids at 27 weeks because they thought the baby could arrive. I was put on strict bed rest and progesterone. I could only get up to have a short shower and go to the bathroom, but I still never thought I’d go into pre-term labour. My Obstetrician was so lovely and we spent the whole pregnancy thinking it’s all OK, despite things really not being OK.

When my waters broke almost five weeks later, I felt like a fish tank that was rapidly losing its water. We went to the hospital in a state of calm urgency. More steroids.  A midwife said, ‘whatever happens now is out of your control, what will be will be’. I wondered what she meant, and it made me nervous. Not long after, labour began. All the hospital staff were so kind. I was experiencing pain, excitement, and worry. The Paediatrician gave us a lot of information and we just put all our trust in the doctors. What else can you do? We were in good hands.

Ralph was born. I heard them say ‘here is your baby’ and they pulled down the sheet, but I couldn’t see him. Then they whisked him away. The paediatrician brought him in briefly for a kiss and then took him to the Special Care Nursery. It was surreal. I lay there being stitched up, shaking because of the medicine. I was thinking, ‘where is my husband? Why isn’t he here?’ Then I realised, he was with our baby. We now had a baby.

I didn’t see what Ralph went through in the first few hours of his life.  My husband did, and he was pretty shaken up by it. He said the next day, ‘if Ralph wants a pony, he can have a pony. Ice cream for breakfast. Anything - after going through that.’ So much for him being the disciplinarian. Ralph won us both over immediately. It didn’t occur to me early on that I’d be leaving him in hospital. When the paediatrician said to ‘practice’ leaving hospital I thought, ‘hmm, that makes it sound like it will be hard’. I arranged a coffee with my Mum and sister. I think I was crying before I left my hospital room. I thought I was being silly, Ralph was safe in hospital and didn’t even know I was gone. But now I think about it, of course it was hard to leave him in hospital without either of us with him, when he was tiny and struggling to cope in the world.

The first night going home without him was heart-breaking. Driving home I felt my heart being pulled in the other direction. I was thinking, ‘we are going the wrong way. We should be going the other way, towards Ralph’.  I got home and got into bed and cried, and cried, and cried. The next day, arriving at the doors to the nursery, it was such a relief. I had to stop myself from running through the corridor. Every day it would be the same. Relief to get back to Ralph. Leaving him in hospital was always awful, and if he was awake, I desperately wanted to stay. Leaving when he was looking at us; the thought of that brings tears to my eyes even now. I took one of his beanies home with me at night – it smelled like Ralph and I would go to sleep holding it. My husband thought I was weird!

Ralph was such a little trooper. The Paediatrician said he was ‘showing off’! He gained weight well and he was ready to come home much earlier than we expected. When we finally brought him home it felt like, ‘peace at last’. I was on Cloud 9. Weeks later, I still felt as though I was on Cloud 9. ‘Breastfeeding hormones’, my friend said.  But even a year later, I still feel on Cloud 9. Ralph is our miracle baby and I’m eternally grateful to have him."

Thank you, Alice for sharing your story.

Medical conditions: Type 1 Diabetes

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