Zara & Malia's Story, 34 Weeks

Miracle Mum, Samantha hoped that after having one preemie baby her next pregnancy would go full term, unfortunately that wasn't to be.

"With my first daughter Zara I had the perfect pregnancy, no morning sickness, a little back pain but I was being monitored as she had a hole in her heart (VSD) and I also had Placenta Previa which was all cleared at the 33 week scan with the Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit at GCUH.

At 34 weeks I woke up ‪at 11pm thinking I had to go to the toilet, instead I was actually bleeding but had no other pains. I phoned the hospital and was advised to come in for a check, but was advised because I had no other symptoms, I should likely be ok to come home afterwards. We left the house without my hospital bag and the minute we got on the M1 my contractions started. There was no gap between them - they were just constant.

By the time we got to the hospital I was already 2cm dilated and was rushed straight to the birthing suite. My birth plan was a water birth with gas, but unfortunately with a preemie birth those options were immediately taken out and I went with the option of an epidural.

‪At 1am I received the epidural and by 2am I was fully dilated with the plan for me to rest and allow our daughter to move naturally down. At 6am the call was made to start pushing the minute her head was out the room was immediately filled with 2 obstetricians, 3 midwives and a team of paediatricians. At 7:18am our beautiful Zara was born weighing 2750g. She was immediately checked by the paediatric team and I was able to hold her for 2 seconds before she was whisked away down to the Special Care Unit with my Partner.  

During the first 2 days of Zara being within Special Care I was still in the Maternity Ward and would have to syringe my colostrum and walk it down to SCN. We eventually moved onto pumping which was good as my supply came in fast and I was able to stock up whilst Zara was on an IV drip.

Once I was discharged I moved in with Zara and spent ‪24/7 with her. I would only leave to go to the Ronald McDonald House or down to get food. I thought by being there it would help her develop. As the days went on, we would do one step forward and two steps back. Over the following days Zara came off of the IV fluids and we had her feeding from the bottle but I soon learnt that preemie babies get heaps of energy and then get very tired quickly.

On the 3rd day, Zara ended up being tube fed. She also had jaundice and they decided whilst she was in the humidicrib and had the bili blanket we would purely have her tube fed to allow her body to rest and heal. It was very hard but it was the best for her, when she got better she was a different baby, Zara was more alert and wanted to feed.

Unfortunately we had no family on the Gold Coast so my experience in the Special Care nursery was very lonely because my partner returned to work after Zara was born. But thankfully on one of the hard days a beautiful Volunteer from Miracle Babies Foundation came into my room and sat with me and just had a chat. Something I really, really needed without realising. Something to just take my mind off of the chaos and to make me realise what I was feeling and going through was totally normal. Whilst she was there, she also gave me a bag of goodies and the one thing that helped me so much was the little empty journal. I documented every day, how Zara was going and how I was feeling.

By day 5 she was starting to take the bottle and it was agreed we would offer breast first and then top up with a bottle, and if she fell asleep they would then tube feed her. By day 6 the tube was removed, and we were told she has to do 24 hours of excellent feeding before they would consider letting us go home.

Home Time! Day 7 the day I will never forget, the nurse told me we were going home and that my partner and I would need to do the online CPR course. It was the best day of my life and the scariest as we would be on our own after all of this help with this tiny little baby.

When Zara was one we met with the Paediatric Cardiologist and was given the all clear for her VSD. She doesn’t have her dad’s heart condition, unfortunately we will never know what caused her to be born prematurely but since the birth of her sister we now think it was possibly Placenta Abruption.

Second baby:

After having one preemie baby I thought my next pregnancy would go full term. At 20 weeks I met with the Obstetrician at GCUH who gave me the all clear to continue on with shared care and there were no major concerns. I didn’t even have to attend Maternal Fetal Medicine like I did with Zara. From 20 weeks to 32 weeks my pregnancy was a breeze.

At 32 weeks I was at work and started having pre-term contractions, I contacted the hospital and was advised to come in as soon as possible because of my history. I was given a check over and placed on the monitors and kept in overnight. As the fibronectin swabs came back negative it was decided by the head of obstetrics, I could go home but would be given 2 shots of steroids to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It was suggested I finish up working immediately and to take it easy.

Over the following weeks I was closely monitored, and everything was going perfectly fine. I also had a student midwife following my pregnancy and was always there to answer questions and provide ongoing support.

On the ‪Saturday night at 34 weeks and 6 days I woke up to what I thought was bad Braxton Hicks. I had a shower and took a Panadol, got some good sleep and woke up feeling perfectly fine. At lunch time we went for a walk and during the walk the pain came back. We sat and had lunch put the pain was intensifying. I said to my partner we need to go to the hospital, something isn’t right. We phoned the hospital and told them we were coming in and I quickly got home, had a shower and grabbed my hospital bag.

When we arrived at the hospital my pain was at a 10. The contractions wouldn’t stop and would just continue getting worse. We were rushed straight in and all I remember was a team crowding around me and undressing me and putting a cannula in my wrist and watching my poor 2-year-old who had no choice but to come with us in utter shock of what was happening to her Mummy.

The obstetrician came in and told us that it was a suspected placenta abruption going by the pain and how my stomach was continually tight. They started to worry more because the monitor was showing distress every now and then.

We arranged for friends to come and pick up Zara and I contacted my student midwife and advised her of the situation. During this time, we were advised that I would be having a c-section. At the time I was mid-priority due to all of the other emergency c-sections being done, which meant my partner would be able to be there but it would still be happening within the next hour or two. However, I was warned if a buzzer went off it would mean that I would be placed under anaesthetic and rushed in for an emergency and he wouldn’t be able to be there. Every single time a beep or the obstetrician would come in my heart would sink.

At last it was my turn to go into theatre, I was prepped and had my student midwife and my partner there. Having a student midwife was the best decision I ever made, not only did she provide me support and reassured me, it was also provided to my partner who was in shock during the whole process.

By ‪22:30 I was in the theatre and scared out of my mind all I remember was holding my partner’s hand and feeling the fuzziness of touching in my stomach. At 22:52 our beautiful daughter Malia was born weighing 2590g. I got to quickly see Malia before she was given a check over and some air by the Paediatrics team who discovered she had a temperature and would need antibiotics. I was able to hold Malia on the journey to recovery with the Paediatric team closely monitoring her, because there was a time limit on how long she could be out before needing the antibiotics. They took her to the Special Care Nursery with my partner where Malia was placed on an IV and given a check over.

Whilst in recovery I was notified that it was a placenta abruption and we were very lucky as I had been bleeding internally for some time. It was also discovered that I had a low count in my blood and would need to be placed on blood infusions overnight. Rather than going to the Maternity Ward I was transferred back to the Birthing Ward and over the night I had 17 blood infusions.

The following day I was transferred to the Maternity Ward and I finally got to see Malia in the afternoon down in Special Care and our other daughter Zara got to meet her too.

Malia was on an IV drip for 24 hours and was tube fed for 12 days. Due to the trauma caused to Malia from the placenta abruption she would have good days and bad days and unfortunately the bad days ended up with me only being able to touch her for her caress which was every 6 hours. This was decided because she just wasn’t very alert, and the nurses were concerned she would go further downhill if we pushed her. This was the hardest time for me. I decided because there was nothing for me to do overnight, other than sit and wait, I decided to go home each night and spend time with my first daughter because she was also struggling with the changes. I would find myself balling my eyes out in the lift each morning on my return, not knowing what we were going into - whether Malia had improved or she had gone back a step.

On day 12 I received a phone call to say Malia screamed for her feeds which she had never done before and the nurses had to rush to feed her and she took the whole bottle. By day 13 her tube was removed and on day 14 Malia came home.

Both of my beautiful girls are now 27 months and 7 months old and are both thriving. We have since been given the all clear for both girls regarding their heart murmurs and their dad’s hereditary heart condition.

I will forever be grateful to Gold Coast University Hospital and to the Miracle Babies Foundation for providing support. A mum going through this truly needs to have someone else to tell you the feelings and emotions you are experiencing are totally normal.

The supportive resources from Miracle Babies are great too. I received both Miracle Babies Foundation bags; the NICU survival bag with my first daughter and the Grad Bag with my second daughter. Personally, both bags are amazing and the Nurture book is just what you need as a Mum going through the emotional roller-coaster. However, my favourite item of both bags was the blank notebook from the NICU survival bag I spent everyday writing down my feelings emotions and my daughter's journey something I will forever cherish and am so grateful to have been given."

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