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Lucy's Birth Story

Hi!! My name is Lucy. I’ve been a midwife for 10 years and I’m a mum to two beautiful boys! My oldest boy Albert is 4 and will be heading off to school in September and my youngest is just 11 weeks old! I hope that in sharing my experiences with the boys I can help other families out there who are perhaps going through, or about to go through, something similar! I got pregnant with Albert in 2016 and he was very much planned and my husband and I were thrilled! My pregnancy from an obstetric point of view was straightforward until at around 31 weeks I was admitted to our local hospital in threatened preterm labour. After a night in hospital, some rest and painkillers everything settled down and I was allowed home and finished work ahead of schedule. From then I felt anxious that perhaps things might not go according to plan. As a midwife I knew that with prematurity comes some complications but I had no idea of the reality! At 35 weeks Albert was born, I had a gorgeous labour, it was quick and straightforward and I was looked after by a colleague who was just incredible. She is now talked about almost daily in our house and will always be very special to us! After Albert was born, I don’t remember time frames but quite quickly (I think!) he began to struggle with his breathing and needed some support with oxygen. Whilst he wasn’t very far off being a term baby and was a good weight at 5lb 10oz it’s really quite common for babies born at this gestation to require a little bit of respiratory support. So after a prompt review from the neonatal team he was taken round to the neonatal unit.

I remember thinking ‘oh no this isn’t how it’s supposed to be!’

My sister in law was with us while I was in labour and both her and my midwife knew I’d want to go with him so they helped me into a wheelchair threw a bottle of lucozade at me and off we went. Leaving the dark delivery room for bright corridors and the noise of the neonatal unit I felt that funny cold sweaty feeling you get when you’re really scared or extra nervous. I’m a control freak.. it’s a bit of a running joke in our family that all the McKenzies need a plan. So like all mums naturally I had a plan for labour and birth and beyond., I wanted to breastfeed him, I wanted to cuddle him and I wanted to lay in bed with a cup of tea and call our family to tell them our brilliant news. Instead I was worried, I felt sick and it all just felt really wrong. Albert was set up with some antibiotics and oxygen and I headed back round to delivery suite to get washed and call our families. Going back into that delivery room just James and I was horrible. It was deathly quiet.

My midwife was just incredible. Of course we were friends first but that day on the 24th September she wasn’t just my friend: she was my midwife, my protector and my care provider, she knew what I needed before I did!

She sat next to me while I was in the bath and just loved me, she never once pretended everything was ok, she was realistic and totally acknowledged that this was really rubbish. This is something I’ll never forget. It meant so so much and made all the difference. As we’d been up all night I sent James home to sleep and I went to the ward, without our baby. As the day went on Albert continued to struggle and the neonatal consultant decided that he was working too hard and becoming tired. So in order to rest him and let his lungs adapt to being born they decided to ventilate him. From the medical knowledge I had I knew this wasn’t great but as Albert’s mum I was so relieved. I had sat all day and watched him struggle with every breath and waited patiently for him to improve. At that time the team encouraged parents to leave whilst any significant intervention was done as it was seen as too distressing for the parents. So we did just that and I waited for what seemed like hours. This is something that is slowly beginning to change, parents are now encouraged to be present for anything they feel comfortable with. Extensive research has proven that relatives involved in resuscitation and intervention suffer less post-traumatic stress when they are present at intervention. Whilst we were asked to leave at this point we always felt very involved in decision making. This is something I think is so important, ask all the questions even if they feel irrelevant or silly. There were times I didn’t ask things because I thought I was expected to know and I’d worry for hours trying to guess or google the answer! When I returned for the first time since he was born he was relaxed, he was breathing at a normal rate and I could look at him properly. Albert then spent a rocky week on the neonatal unit and continued to require lots of help with his breathing. I became obsessed with expressing and did it religiously every two hours. The rollercoaster of emotions is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words. As a parent the moment you see those two pink lines you love your baby harder than you’ve loved anything and you feel an overwhelming need to protect. I felt like I was unable to do that, something had gone wrong somewhere and no one could really tell us why. I felt like I’d failed at being his mum and that I couldn’t give him what he needed. Every time I went back to my room I’d shut the door and feel relief… there was no noise, no one I needed to talk to and I’d just cry. Albert was here, and there wasn’t anything physically wrong with him, this was a normal physiological thing and he was going to be fine. I just couldn’t and wouldn’t believe it and looking back I was grieving, grieving for the lovely postnatal time I should have had. At the time I didn’t acknowledge it at all and just carried on doing what I was doing. When Albert was reunited with me I was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. We went to the postnatal ward and I remember looking at him in his cot with no oxygen feeling like it was too good to be true, and maybe too soon? I watched him all night for the next two nights until we came home. Safe to say I was exhausted, because I’d felt redundant in that first week I felt like now we were back together I had to do it all. The first 12 weeks of Alberts life are a blur and a haze of horrible memories. Albert had a couple of prolonged hospital admissions with a chest infection and we were adjusting to life with a newborn. What I didn’t realise then was that we were just adjusting to life with a normal newborn but one who’d been poorly. One who for the first week of his life we’d washed our hands 3-4 times before we touched him, asked permission if it was ok to touch him and left him with strangers whilst we ate and showered. To then treat him like a normal baby was crazy to me, I made everyone wash their hands, I had a meltdown if people came over with a runny nose or a cold. It was really difficult to acknowledge that this wasn’t ok but something that given our experience was to be expected. Fast forward to now, April 2021 Albert is 4 and thriving!

Alberts first three years of life were tricky I say the least! As he’d struggled with his chest when he was born, he became susceptible to coughs and colds and just didn’t cope quite as well as other children of his age. I used to dread the winter months coming and avoided anyone I knew who had a cold. Often when Albert did have a cough or cold he’d require admission to hospital as he just didn’t cope. I was obviously anxious during my pregnancy with Rupert that history might repeat itself but I had wonderful support from friends, family and my work family! Rupert was born at 37+4 and he’s been a dream! This time being a new mumy without the anxieties of having a premature baby has been gorgeous. I’ve soaked up every second of the tiredness and the love between Albert and Rupert! Having a premature baby is hard work at whatever gestation they are born at, but things do get better. We are so lucky to have such an incredible service in Leeds both within the obstetric and neonatal units and with the children’s hospital.

Listen to your body and your baby, you know them both best!!!
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