Today, we wanted to share Antonia’s story – she reached out to us to tell us her story of birthing at home at 32 weeks and everything that followed as her daughter Freya worked hard to come home. If you’d like to share your family’s prematurity story along with a photo, please email [email protected].
I ended up giving birth at home, pretty much alone (my husband was downstairs) at 32 weeks (in England). This was not how we had planned it. But so it was that Freya arrived at about 10:30am on Saturday 11th June, 2011. We called an ambulance and were transported to hospital. And so began Freya’s stay in the Special Care Baby Unit.
A midwife and a consultant met the ambulance and took Freya from me. I remember they were reassuring but I felt awful as they took her off me. I guess that motherly instinct had kicked in! The whole ambulance ride I was asking why Freya wasn’t sucking when I put her to my breast. It turns out that at 32 weeks a baby can’t suck – not something you take note of when pregnant!
So I was kept in until the Monday and told to visit Freya whenever I wanted. On the Sunday or it may even have been Saturday afternoon I was asked if I intended to express or breast feed and given a hospital grade pump to express with. I was advised to go and see Freya whenever I wanted as it would help my milk. I hadn’t decided either way prior to giving birth so I felt a bit shocked I recall and thinking ‘wow I’ve only just given birth early and I have to make these decisions!?’
When I was pregnant I felt very low, I would say almost depressed and was worried how I’d bond. So I went through so many thoughts when Freya was in the SCBU. It must be my fault for not feeling happy. Had I done something wrong? I’d been told to relax. I even knew at the time these feelings were normal but it didn’t make me feel any better.
So Freya started off I would say poorly. Not as poorly as some. And the thing that scared me the most was that I know of 2 babies born at 30 weeks, one was very ill and the other died. So I didn’t appreciate that 2 weeks can make a difference & those babies had issues already. I was just panicking massively. Freya started off having a CPAP mask. She also had jaundice. And then I think in the first week they called us to say they needed to put a line in. It turned out she had ‘gloopy blood’ and needed ‘Total Parental Nutrition’ or ‘TPN’. She also had caffeine.
During this time my parents had also returned home, several hours drive away and were worrying if they didn’t hear anything. So my husband took on the role of ‘Communications Director’ for our household. He emailed family daily with what was going on and pictures. And when Freya was weighed weekly he included those. Another thing I wasn’t aware of is that it’s normal for babies to drop in weight initially.
After her initial assistance she started to improve and I think on the second week was taken off the cpap mask. She was actually pulling it off herself so when the nurses removed it, a doctor questioned it and accepted the nurse’s response that it was doing her more harm in frustration than good.
About a week later she moved to the next room off most of the monitors and just having a heated cot. She must have been in there for a few weeks as she came home at 23 days.
One of the most difficult decisions for me came at day 7 when I was discharged from the midwife and she advised me to stop expressing milk as I was finding it hard. That ran out at about 10 days. I sat and spoke to the consultant looking after Freya and just cried. The following week Freya started sucking and had her first bottle.
After 3 weeks, on the Sunday night we were driving home and my husband sighed. He said ‘Freya please be a good girl and come home soon for Daddy, I don’t want to go to work tomorrow’. I rang the SCBU as I did every morning, the next day for an update. They said ‘she’s pulled her feeding tube out again’. I apologised and asked when it was going back in. They had previously said when she took all her bottles over 24 hours they’d discharge her and it hadn’t been 24 hours. They said ‘the consultant is looking at her now and is probably going to discharge her, as she obviously doesn’t need the feeding tube’. I rang my husband and said ‘I have some good news. Freya’s answered her Daddy’s prayers.’ I did include an in jest bad news but I can’t even remember what it was!
Between us we hurriedly packed separately and went into hospital and then had to get 1 car home. We spent a night in the parent flat as it was called, so if we had any questions or the staff needed to do anything we/they could. The next day we said an excited goodbye as we left the place that had been our home for 23 days and took Freya to her new home.
Freya is now a happy and healthy 20 month old. I took her to say goodbye to the staff 6 months ago as we moved to Luxembourg. I can never thank them enough for looking after our little girl. However, you can probably pick up from my writing, I was massively unprepared for our journey. One of the parents mentioned was a massive support and help to me but I think I would have really struggled had I not had her. There were times when I needed to talk to someone other than my husband but who just knew. And she was that person.
Who did you find yourself leaning on in or out of the NICU?