Our beautiful daughter Stella Arielle was born at 6.13pm on Monday 19th March 2012 at 22 weeks, 5 days gestation, weighing 440 grams which is about the weight of a can of baked beans and was 27cms in length, with a head circumference of 19cms. She was handed to the Neonatal Doctor and he worked his magic on her by hooking her up to the much needed life support equipment. I asked Robert to take photos, lots of them as we had no idea what was going to happen with Stella. He ended up handing the camera to one of the nurses so she could take those first precious photos after she was born. She was like a little tiny doll, transluscent with her eyes still fused shut. The Neonatal Dr stopped very briefly and allowed me to see her before they took her to the NICU with Robert following.
Robert made his way back to me eventually and with the help of a nurse, cleaned me up. I was able to have my first shower in 5 days. We both tried to process what had happened. We had no crystal ball, so we had no idea of what to expect, but we didn’t expect what was about to happen next.
Just a few short hours later the same Dr who was at her delivery and another of his colleagues came into our room and basically said I’m so sorry, we have done everything we can but it’s not looking good, we don’t think she is going to make it. Do you want to get her Baptized because if you do, we can organise our Chaplain to come now. I couldn’t stop crying. I managed to indicate to Robert to call our Parish Priest Fr Joe who was not far away at St Josephs in Subiaco. Rob placed a couple of calls to my family and his family to update them and the prayer circle for Stella began there and then.
I was put in a wheelchair and made my first trip down to the NICU to see our baby girl and to spend what we thought would be our last time with her. She was covered in plastic. I didn’t like the plastic. How can she breathe in plastic? I was panicking and was insistent to the nurse that she couldn’t breathe and she needs to take the plastic of. The nurse was trying to reassure me that the plastic was keeping her warm and she was breathing because she was ventilated through the mouth.
Fr Joe arrived and I calmed down. We baptized Stella there and then. We must have looked a slightly odd sight all crowded around her isolette as he gently baptized her with a cotton bud dipped in Holy Water. We were told to take it hour by hour. We eventually made our way back to our room and spent a sleepless night waiting for the bad news to come. But it didn’t…and morning came around and we went to see our very sick little baby girl still fighting, minute by minute, hour by hour. We were told that she was writing the book, this was a first for them and so she was dictating the story.
We kept on putting one foot in front of the other and spending as much time as we could with her. Our life became routine. There was no improvement, there was weight loss, blood transfusions – 2 in the first week she was born and regularly thereonin, there was a nasty open sepsis wound on her back which will be one of many scars on her body in the time to come. Her foot was squeezed daily for drops of blood from the heel pricks that they do to test her levels. She was in a critical condition.
A couple of weeks after she was born we were ushered into a windowless room outside the glass doors of the NICU where we were told once again that they couldn’t do much more for her. She was on maximum ventilation and her lungs were just not coping. Did we want to leave her to slip away peacefully as she was or did we want to try her with Dexamethazone to try wean her off the ventilation she was on. The steroids had no guarantees of working and would more than likely come with horrible side effects which would affect her later on in life, if she did indeed live. We chose the steroids.
That night I spoke to her for hours. I told her that if it was too much for her and she was too tired to fight, that we loved her and it was ok to go. She would be the brightest star in the sky and our heavenly angel. I told her that the Baby Jesus was with her and I gave her permission to stop fighting. Every time I mentioned this, her oxygen saturation level on he monitor would rise. The nurse told me to keep talking to her about whatever it was that I was talking to her about as it was working. She survived the night. Hour by hour, day by day.