Wynter is Born

Guest blogger Lisa R shared her pregnancy story on her blog, Wynter Dayz, in 2011 and has kindly agreed for Tiny Sparks WA to share it. This is part one of three parts to her journey. Parts two and three will be released soon.

Greg and I will have been married for 5 years this coming March. We have been together for over 12 years and this has been about as long as I have wanted children. Being a stay-at-home-mum has been my career goal for as long as I can remember.

We have experienced a few problems in conceiving a baby so we filled our lives with work and amazing holidays to all corners of the globe. Both my sisters were pregnant and so I decided to get help and really become serious in trying for a baby. While I was at the doctors office in April the doctor told me I was ovulating and bang...5 weeks later we were pregnant. I took the pregnancy test as a kind of joke and cried when I saw those 2 magical lines. I didn't sleep a wink the whole night wondering if it was really finally happening! After confirmation from the doctor Greg and I celebrated and decided to wait to tell the family till my 30th birthday just so we could have everyone together at once to see their faces.

I had a near perfect pregnancy. Not one day of morning sickness. All I had was a little sciatic pain and carpel tunnel for a few weeks. All my tests and scans were great. At the 20 week scan everything looked good and all we were told was that the bubba was a little over the average weight.

I loved being pregnant, granted it was an easy pregnancy but it felt so right and I was excited to see how my belly was growing. Greg surprised me with a Baby moon to New Zealand and we had a fabulous time sightseeing and taking photos of me sticking out my belly.

So on September 10th 2011 I was at work. I felt some crampy pains and thought it must be a growing day. I sat for a second to recover from a pain surge and worked through the rest of the day. By the time Greg picked me up at 5:30pm I didn't feel 100% and went to bed as soon as we walked in the door. While lying there I started to concentrate on the pain and realised it was coming and going in intervals. Greg called the midwife at the Family Birth Centre where I was booked in to deliver the baby and she said to go to the emergency department at King Edward Memorial Hospital and pack a bag. I thought by then it was Braxton Hick's and I would be home that night so refused to pack a bag.

I was examined by a nurse and by then the pain was becoming worse and I started to bleed. After doing an internal examination the nurse whispered to the other nurse "she is 4-6 cms dilated".....Is this woman kidding!?!? I am 23 weeks pregnant, how can I be dilated? Soon the room was filled with doctors and medical students and an ultrasound machine. The ultrasound told us I was 2.5cms dilated and the amniotic sack had bulged through my cervix and I was having contractions.

I was in labour.

I was told that the birth was inevitable but whether or not we could drag it out was to be seen as some women have lasted another 2 weeks at most in this condition.
I just said do whatever you can to stop this as I cannot have my precious baby this early. I was given morphine for pain and to slow contractions. I took pills to slow labour and I was given a steroid injection to help speed up the development of the babies lungs. The doctor proceeded to tell us that at 23 weeks gestation our baby had a 25% survival rate and the decision had to be made whether we wanted to hold our baby after the birth (which would mean we would watch it die on my chest) or did we want the doctors to take the baby straight away and do everything they could. For me that was an easy decision. Although my dream of bonding with my baby after birth was shot out the window I could not face the thought of letting it die if there was a chance they could revive it. I had carried this baby for just over 5 months and my love for my unborn child had grown everyday and I did not want to give up. We were told if I needed a C-section it would be a "classic" which meant I could never have a natural birth and this scared the hell out of me as I am terrified of C-sections.

So I was in labour all Saturday night with Greg and my Mum and Dad by my bedside rubbing my back while I groaned though every contraction. By Sunday morning the contractions had slowed. I resisted any more drugs and a catheter. The contractions started up again that night and by Monday morning I was wheeled down a level to have an ultrasound. Our worst nightmare came true as they told us bubba had moved down in the birth canal.  This shot any chance of trying to postpone the labor any longer as the bacteria in the vagina could harm the baby as it was not protected by the uterus anymore.

After trying to slow the labour for 2 days I then needed to get it started again to push this baby out! The plus side of bubba moving down meant I could have a natural birth but I did not want to be induced with synthetic hormones my body could produce itself so I started dancing and walking in the birth suite and bouncing on a fit ball to the tunes Mayer Hawthorne and Alicia Keys. I didn't feel much but after going to the toilet I felt something a bit different and the midwife checked it out and it was the baby. It was all go then so at the smallest contraction I pushed with Greg holding one leg and my mum holding the other.  Bubba was breech so after the first push Greg and Mum were excited to see a tiny foot still in the amniotic sack. As I kept pushing my waters broke with a huge explosion. The baby's head was stuck and the doctor was about to cut me to get it out when I gave one mighty push and bubba was free and clear.

"It's a boy!"

He was rushed over to 4 waiting doctors who were ready to intubate him. This is a tube pushed through the mouth or nose down to the lungs and then attached to a ventilator machine to help with every breath. As I watched the doctors working on my little boy I pushed out the placenta.  Then they were about to wheel him out which is good news as this means they have got him breathing and ready to be hooked up to the machines in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

I saw him for a couple of seconds and he brought tears to my eyes looking like a skinned cat. Poor little muffin! I just wanted to make it all OK and I knew I couldn't at that time. I told Greg to follow the bubba back to the NICU.  Greg returned a bit later and we decided to announce he's name which we had discussed on the Baby moon.  A strong special name for a special boy.

Wynter Rock Rossiter.
Our baby is born!

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Izzy and Pea - The NICU journey revisited

Guest Blogger Allison F writes of her journey to have two gorgeous girls, both born at 28 weeks. You can follow her blog izzyandpea here.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a big family, I have always felt that it would be my greatest achievement in life.  Greg was at me for years to start a family, though I wanted to finish my degree before we started trying.  So when we got married we went through the whole ‘honeymoon stage’ and fell pregnant straight away.  I felt in my heart that this was going to be the year of our lives, getting married and starting a family straight away.  We had been together 7 years by now so we weren’t technically rushing into anything.

Isabelle's 1st birthday and pregnant

Isabelle's 1st birthday and pregnant

After my first miscarriage it didn’t take me long to want to try again, but after my second miscarriage it just wasn’t the same.  That feeling of being so happy to be pregnant had gone.  It almost felt like a chore, a chore of having to wait to see if my pregnancy was viable, we needed find that passion again for a family.  When we found out we were pregnant with Isabelle, I was so relieved that I call fall easily, though petrified at the same time.   I remember the day my Aunty phoned me to say my cousin had had her twins, I was 21 weeks pregnant at the time, and my cousin was only 25 weeks pregnant.  Something inside of me made me keep in contact to see how she was getting on.  When I lost my plug at 25 weeks, I knew, I knew I too was going to have a premmie and we did.  Isabelle was born at 28+4.  She is now 16months and perfectly healthy.

With having a big family we wanted our kids close together, which was one thing we had always agreed on. Even though Isabelle’s corrected age is only 3 months, we aren’t going to be using her corrected age forever.  So when Isabelle was 6 months actual we started trying.  I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could go through it again.  I was more worried about Isabelle and the thought of having to leave her if we went early again.  I was so torn when we found out, we were both so happy and I was also petrified, we had a scare at 7 weeks and I honestly didn’t think I could take it anymore.  My heart was breaking and the thought of losing a baby this early again was so overwhelming.  I want that big family though the heartache of it all was starting to take over.  At 20 weeks everything was perfect, by 24 weeks my cervix was still closed and perfect, by 26 weeks my cervix had halved.  My checkup at 28+4 I had no cervix and fully effaced, I was sent straight to hospital.  I was calm when I went into labour 30minutes later, I remember the nurses telling me that I can be upset if I want to be.  I was alone, my husband was at work and I was laying on the table in theater and all I could think about was Isabelle and how the hell am I going to do this again. 

Penelope at birth and due date 

Penelope at birth and due date 

Isabelle meeting Penelope outside of NICU/SCN2

On a visit to see Penelope I overheard the LC ask a mum, ‘how much do you think he has had?  Do you think he will need a top up?’  I broke down; it all came back, all the little things that I had blocked out of my head, all the little things that I had forgotten.  We were back, we were in NICU/SCN and we were going to be here for weeks.  I cried myself to sleep for the first 3 weeks, I felt like I had failed at being a mum and I couldn’t deal with the fact that I had to have a c-section.  It broke me, it truly did.  Then one day something just clicked and I turned a corner, I was on a mission to get Penelope out of there as soon as I could, and we did.  She was 8+4 when we brought her home.  That was 3 weeks ago.  I still want more children and I know in my heart I am not finished.    

© 2015 Allison Filinski | www.izzyandpea.com

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Stella and Sam

Guest blog by Theresa Miloseski, mum to Stella and Sam, as shared at the Tiny Sparks WA 2015 Gala Dinner

Good evening.  I am honored to share some of our journey with you.  Robert and I are no strangers to the awfulness of trying to conceive.  We were overjoyed when our final IVF attempt was successful in a pregnancy lasting beyond the first trimester.  Our 20 week scan was perfect so we were a little unsure as to the discomfort I experienced one night in March 2012 – back pain and a bit of a leaky bladder –but hey, that’s normal isn’t it??

 I went to work the next day and placed a call to my Obstetrician.  I was busy doing board papers for the Board meeting but he asked me to call through for a quick check up.  I never did get to finish those Board Papers.  I arrived at my Obstetricians and after a brief examination, he broke the news that my membranes had ruptured and I was about 4 cms dilated. I had never heard of the term P-PROM and so it was not on my radar at all.   He explained he was going to call an ambulance to take me to King Edwards. I was 22 weeks pregnant.  I asked the midwife, what her chances of surviving were, she shook her head and told me how sorry she was but she wouldn’t survive if born now.  We were expecting a baby girl you see, we had already named her Stella.  I called Robert and tried to tell him what was going on but I couldn’t speak through the tears so I handed my phone to the midwife who filled him in and asked him to make his way to King Edward Memorial Hospital immediately. 

Outside I could hear sirens, not surprising as we were opposite St John of God Hospital, I had no idea that the urgency of those sirens was for me.  My Obstetrican had rang ahead and spoken one of the Neonatal Doctors and advised him of my impending arrival.  I was taken into the Labour and Delivery Ward and assigned a small Observation Room.  Robert arrived and we waited.  I had no idea if Stella was alive or not. 

Two neonatal doctors arrived to talk to us about our options.  They spoke to us both at length about the mortality rate for premature babies beyond 23 weeks and what we can expect if we do give birth so very prematurely.  Our aim was to get me to 24 weeks…23 weeks if necessary.  Questions were asked, answers were given.  There was nothing rosy about giving birth this early.  I’m not sure if we were to make the decision there and then but we all agreed to aim for 24 weeks.  One of the Neonatal Doctors discussed loosely with us the possibility of intervening say if she was born at 22+5 weeks and looking viable. Our heads were spinning.  We had so much information to process and think through.  I think Stella was listening.   I let Robert deal with telling our families.  I couldn’t face it without breaking down.

The next morning my Obstetrician came to check me over and realised no scan had been done, so I was raced off for an Ultrasound.  My heart was in my mouth but the scan revealed that Stella was not only still alive but still surrounded by fluid, which meant that I had not lost all of my amniotic fluid.  Our happiness at this news was short lived when I was faced with the inevitable task of choosing an outfit for Stella should she be born in the next couple of days.  The outfit I was choosing was for photos of her and what she would be buried in should she pass away.  How do you choose an outfit that you will be burying your child in?  How?  I don’t know.  I finally chose one and it was allocated to a cupboard next to my bed.  Dolls clothes, we were going to be burying our daughter in Dolls clothes.

The days merged into one of bedrest.  I was very sick with an infection of my waters.   Four days after my admission, my waters broke fully and my Obstetrician was called. I remember saying to the nurse if she is born tonight to please, please tell them that we want her resuscitated.  I was given a steroid injection for Stella’s lungs and we got through a very sleepless night.  My Ob came to see me first thing in the morning.  Another scan was done and Stella was still alive although she now had no fluid surrounding her.  Another injection of steroids was given and my Ob disappeared for the morning and came back around lunchtime to induce me and in that time we were waiting to have her the Neonatal team arrived to set up the bed that Stella would be placed on immediately after her birth.  They disappeared for a while but came back closer to the time of delivery.   

Stella, just born

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. 

Stella 5 weeks old, our first cuddle

Three weeks of Dexamethazone and she was eventually weaned of the HFO and Nitric to CPAP.  38 days after she was born and weighing 530 grams we finally got to hold Stella for the first time.  Prior to that, she was simply not well enough.  I was so scared I was going to hold her too tight. I cannot describe the feeling of holding her, possibly one of the best days of my life.  I felt like a Mother, I hadn’t felt like a Mother up until that point, you see.  We weren’t allowed to hold her for a lengthy period of time because it was using up all her energy but that first cuddle was the start of many more to come.

Stellas stay in the NICU included Anaemia, Jaundice, Sepsis, eight blood transfusions, Golden Staph, Lumbar Punctures, multiple medications for all the infections she was fighting, Daily heel pricks, head scans, heart scans, eyetests for ROP of which she had Stage 1 and more.  Stella was in hospital for 153 days in total.  She left hospital oxygen free but with a condition called Chronic Lung Disease due to the long time she was ventilated.  This has seen her admitted to hospital for oxygen support many times over the past 3 years.  I cannot praise enough or thank enough the absolutely amazing team at King Edwards for quite simply saving Stella’s life.  I am eternally grateful.

During our time in the NICU, we were made aware of some support groups specifically for families of premature babies.  We were given details of websites to peruse in the hope that we could make sense of what was happening on our NICU journey.  I was very privileged to have met some of the Founding Members of Tiny Sparks through one of these support groups and their support and friendship was immediately welcomed by Robert and myself.  We are all blessed to have these wonderful families doing the good that they do.

The NICU journey is so very hard, it’s painful, it’s frightening, overwhelming, lonely and can quite honestly do your head in.  Tiny Sparks are the kind of support group you do want to have by your side on this journey.  I honestly wish they had been around when we were going through our NICU journey.  The packages that they provide to not only those currently journeying through the NICU but to those on bedrest are essential.  Their online support pages and quick response are reassuring to the many men and women who are facing their own journey.  Thank you Tiny Sparks.

These ladies were amongst the very same group of friends I called on when I found out I was spontaneously pregnant with my second child only a couple of short months after Stella came home from hospital.   Our joy at being pregnant was quickly filled with fear.  I would wish no-one to go through what we had gone through with Stella. We were one of the lucky ones because we got to bring Stella home with us, many don’t.  How could we survive going through this pregnancy given my history?  Age was a factor, I had Stella at 43 and I had a couple of months ago turned 44, so having another baby was not on our radar.  I sought an immediate appointment with my Obstetrician who was very shocked and cautious.  We decided that we would wait and see if I could sustain the first trimester.  He suggested progesterone pessaries if I do last the first trimester.  We survived the first trimester and so with daily progesterone and regular scans I made it to 17 weeks before I had surgery for the placement of a cervical suture. 

I was under house arrest with the instructions to not do too much, no lifting, straining, or anything that could jeopordise my pregnancy.  It was very hard to keep to the rules as I had a very active crawling Stella to entertain.  Regular support check ups by the Tiny Sparks ladies kept my spirits high.  Tiny Sparks was being formed during this time.  At the 20 week scan we found out we were expecting a boy.  The stitch was holding well and the progesterone was doing its job!  It was a hard pregnancy to get through.  I was filled with fear every single day that our beautiful boy would come early. 

Sam just born and cuddles straight away

I am very grateful for the support we received from the premmie community that surrounded us.  Samuel Robert was born on 19th June 2013 via caeserian section at 36 weeks 6 days gestation and weighing 2.8 kilos.   I can’t tell you what it was like to feel like a real Mum, in hospital with her baby by her side. It was just the best feeling.

Stella and Sam growing up together

I would never have made it to 36 weeks with Sam if I hadn’t had the daily progesterone or the cervical stitch.  We are so thankful that the incredible team at WIRF are leading the way with the initiative of preventing preterm birth in the Whole Nine Months.  I would never wish anyone to go through the NICU journey.  It was without a doubt the hardest experience that Robert and I have ever faced in our lives.  That said, if it wasn’t for our journey we would never have met so many incredible people, most of whom I happily call our good friends… eg. Jackson is a little ex 26 weeker who was next to Stella in the NICU from when he was born for a few months.  Side by side they used to cheer each other on.  Three years on and their bond is unbreakable, as is our bond with his parents. Our tiny sparks come in varying degrees of gestational age and sickness.  No one baby is more precious than the other. They are all special, they are all fighters. 

Robert and I 100% support the Tiny Sparks community and the prevention of preterm birth through WIRF and I hope that you all support them to. You never know when you or someone you love will need their support. Thank you for letting me share some of our story with you.

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Rebecca's High-Risk Pregnancy Story

Guest Blog by Rebecca F

Rebecca and Heath - Pregnant!

Rebecca and Heath - Pregnant!

My name is Rebecca and my little miracle is Amelia (or “Millie” as she is known by many!). She was born in 2014 at 28 weeks weighing just 795 grams. I hope by sharing my story I can help more families in our community dealing with a traumatic pregnancy or birth (or both), and I believe this will be very therapeutic for me to write also.  My husband and I had been married for 2 years before we decided the time was right to start trying for a family. I was 28 and my husband was 37 at the time. What I initially thought would be a beautiful and easy experience for us turned into a very difficult and emotional road when we were still trying to conceive 5 years later. Being a little bit of a control freak, this was very hard for me to deal with, and being an early childhood teacher made it all the more difficult as I was surrounded by darling little children day in day out. IVF became the only option, and we were so excited when the day finally came – we were pregnant!

Such wonderful joy unfortunately became overridden with a number of complications throughout my pregnancy. I had a sub-chronic hematoma haemorrhage at 12 weeks that was so large I thought I'd lost the baby. To make sure we would be able to get an ultrasound that night, we had to go to SJOG Murdoch where thankfully the sonographer was already there, having been called in by another middle of the night emergency. A trip to KEMH the next day confirmed the good news that the bleeding had resolved itself and she stayed put! I was also told I had a decent size fibroid, but that it should not cause concern. The next hurdle we came across was at our 12 week scan. The ultrasound showed that our little baby looked great (measuring a little small, but fine the sonographer said), but then we got a huge shock as the blood work for Downs Syndrome came back as High Risk -  1 in 100 for Downs Syndrome and another Trisomy “Patau’s Syndrome”, a condition not conducive to life.  I was so scared, but there was something in me that said “No, not my baby, I will not accept this”. I quizzed the clinic where the bloods were sent and found out it was a low “papp-a” result and my IVF status that put us into this level of a high risk category.  I became quite obsessed with researching low “papp-a” and found out on a KEMH medical document online that it can often indicate a compromised placenta, in uterine growth restriction,  and preterm birth. So I knew in my heart, something was going to happen, but not Downs, not Patau’s. No.

Amelia at 12 weeks gestation - this was video footage and she was really moving!  We called her our little tiny dancer :-)

Amelia at 12 weeks gestation - this was video footage and she was really moving!  We called her our little tiny dancer :-)

I was advised to do an amniocentesis, but I refused, not wanting to put my baby at risk, especially if there was no need to. I made the decision myself to do the 2nd trimester blood test at 15 weeks. That test came back clear of Downs, but shockingly it also came back as our baby having a 1 in 4 chance of Spina Bifida. Once again I refused to accept these results, and questioned the test . I found out it was another placenta related blood issue I had, so I spoke with the wonderful doctors at Western Ultrasound for Women and we booked me in for a 16 week scan with an amazing specialist there. I felt immense relief when he told me my baby was absolutely fine, that he doesn’t often get such clear images and he could see she was developing perfectly.... and it’s a girl! It was such a wonderful day that I won’t ever forget.

Life just wanted to keep testing us though, and at 23 weeks, I started having regular contractions. I was advised to go straight in to KEMH for monitoring. I had a test that came back negative that I would go into labour in the next week, and the next day went to Kaleeya Hospital where I was booked to give birth, to be assessed for a plan. My husband and I went through a traumatic experience that day when we were told if I go into labour nothing could be done for my baby. Needless to say, that was not good enough and I demanded a different doctor, in fact I demanded to see the senior doctor as I was a high risk patient. I would not accept such an attitude, especially when we had come this far. I was put on medroxyprogesterone acetate pills which I was not keen on at all as my pharmacist was very uncomfortable giving it to me knowing I was pregnant, and advised it was a high risk drug. But, after having a bit of a melt-down about it, I had to trust the head obstetrician at that point as my cervix was shortening and I was told that it was vital to keep taking the pills to hold off the contractions. My baby was still measuring small, but no one seemed concerned about it, so I wasn’t either. But I still had the low “papp-a” in the back of my mind.

Rebecca's Early Baby Shower

Rebecca's Early Baby Shower

 All seemed fine from that point, I even had an early baby shower that was so lovely. I was able to enjoy my pregnancy for really the first time since all of these complications arose. That was until I was thrown another curve ball, this time a huge one. I started having some what I thought of as general pregnancy woes. At my baby shower I had tightness in my chest that I thought was nervous excitement. Then I had it again in the middle of the night that was strange. The next day I saw spots and was dizzy, but I thought it was because I was hungry and had just done the gestational diabetes test.  But then I remembered I had been very itchy and my liver results came back elevated. The GP hadn't pushed for anything to be done at the time but when I put it all together I was worried. The final indicator something was not quite right was when my feet and ankles ballooned within a couple of hours, very unusual for me. So with the push from my mum, I called the midwives at Kaleeya and drove in by myself for a quick check that night before my antenatal class while my husband was at the gym.

I was instructed to do a urine sample and then lay on the bed while the very efficient midwife took my blood pressure. She had a funny look on her face and said she would just take it again. I knew something was wrong when she wanted to check one more time. My blood pressure was 190/120 and I had 4+ protein in my urine.  The midwife looked panicked and I started to feel really scared. I was told to stay on the bed as everyone starts rushing around me. I was given the steroid injection, a cannula was inserted, and meds after meds which didn't do anything to bring my BP down. My husband was called and he rushed in and I felt better knowing I had him there with me, we were in this together. I was then taken into a labour ward with a very caring nurse who did not leave my side and they called the head of obstetrics in. It was then that I was told I had severe pre-eclampsia and suspected HELLP syndrome. I went with that same lovely nurse in an ambulance and was rushed straight up to MFAU at King Eddies. I was there overnight with the thought I may need a C Section to deliver my baby at any time. Thankfully my BP came down a bit so I was brought down to a ward early the next morning and monitored.  I was 27 weeks and 1 day.

The next day I had an ultrasound and was told my baby was measuring 24 weeks and was only 700 grams. The specialists were very concerned for me and for my baby and said we are playing a dangerous balancing game to keep me from having seizures or a stroke, and to try to grow our baby to a size that was not so extreme and fragile. I was put under the Gold Team and on complete bed rest, with a myriad of medications and injections to stave off the inevitable. I felt a bit like a pin cushion, which I should have been used to from all the years of fertility treatment! My various work commitments were cancelled, including teaching roles within the University of Notre Dame, a part time role I had started that year at a lovely little local primary school, and my musical performance schedule was wiped. I didn’t know at the time, but I would not be leaving those hospital walls before my baby was delivered. I noticed the growing intensity in the tense look on my husband’s face and saw how stressed my family were. I kept thinking, no I have to be strong. Everything is going to be ok.

The paediatricians from the NICU and special care nurseries met with me a few times, but I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening. I missed my little dogs, I missed my home and husband. I kept asking the doctors when I would be able to go home. I thought that I would somehow be able to carry on as normal when they could get my BP down and I would get back to resuming my life. I know now I was in complete denial and was only focusing on what they were telling me about the baby, and disregarding what they were trying to stress to me about my condition. Each time they said “No Rebecca, you need to know you will not be leaving here don’t you? The goal is to get you as far along as we can, but it’s like a knife edge. We have to be very careful. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivering the baby”. It was then I was also diagnosed with cholestasis, explaining the extreme itching in my hands and feet. As well as the severe pre-eclampsia, cholestasis can be very dangerous for the baby and it was something my GP should have realised and acted upon from my earlier elevated liver tests.

I used the time I had on bed rest in Ward 3 to read everything and anything I could get my hands on to prepare me for a premature baby. I looked for information and stories about preterm birth and stories of survivors in Western Australia in particular, the locality made me somehow feel more reassured that if those babies can make it here in Perth, then my baby can make it too. I became obsessed with researching low birth weights and gestational ages, and that was when I remembered I had actually contacted Tiny Sparks WA back at 23 weeks when I first started having those contractions. Bronwyn Rose, chairperson, was so generous with her time, and answered all my questions as best she could, and provided me with a real sense of comfort. I am a big believer in a trouble shared is a trouble halved. I contacted Bronwyn again when I was admitted to KEMH with my pre-eclampsia and she was once again a wonderful support. Over the next week I would regularly look on the Tiny Sparks WA website and Facebook page. I am so glad there is now the Tiny Sparks WA High Risk Pregnancy Support Group as an amazing support to women going through very difficult pregnancies. If we can be there for each other in such times of need, we are in some small way also validating our inner strength and understanding. Sometimes we just need to be heard, sometimes we just need to share with those who “get it”…..

Ready for a caesarian section

Ready for a caesarian section

I got progressively sicker and sicker and ended up on oxygen, unable to breathe. On Day 6 I was rushed to Charlie Gardiners via ambulance for X-rays, lung scans and a heart echo and was found to have pulmonary oedema (fluid on my lungs). I was very swollen in the face and didn’t look like myself, I started to become scared about what was happening to my body, when before I was only worried about my baby. I had become completely “out of it” by that stage and slept through all the scans and the echo, I felt so helpless, and very vulnerable. My body was starting to show signs of severe distress and my BP was rising again, not able to be brought down. By the time I went back to King Eddies I was put into a bed in ASCU (the Adult Special Care Unit) and after realising a heart attack could be a real possibility, Dr Griffin and the Gold Team made the decision to do an emergency c section immediately. My baby girl Amelia was born at 11.30pm, weighing 795 grams. She was 28 weeks on the dot.

That concludes the story of my High Risk Pregnancy. The next instalment will continue with the emergency caesarean birth and NICU journey of my baby daughter. Thank you for reading.

If you are pregnant and experiencing symptoms of pre-eclampsia please don't wait, contact a health professional immediately.

Signs to watch out for are:

  • Swelling
  • Protein in the urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid weight gain caused by a significant increase in bodily fluid
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Change in reflexes
  • Reduced urine or no urine output
  • Dizziness
  • Vision changes

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"Code Blue" Olivia's Birth Story

On Boxing Day 2011, less than four months after our wedding, my husband and I discovered we were expecting our first child. We were very fortunate to have fallen pregnant during our first month of trying.

Michelle and Daniel excited to be expecting

The pregnancy was relatively smooth sailing; I had very little morning sickness, kept active, and aside from tailbone pain developing from approximately 21 weeks I had no other complaints and no complications.

In mid-May at 24+5 weeks, not long after arriving home from shopping for some final nursery items (organised well ahead of schedule), I started feeling some cramps and felt quite sore. Regardless of whether I was sitting down, lying down, using heat packs, or in a warm shower, the cramps kept coming with pain radiating down my legs and around to my back. I started to suspect these weren’t Braxton Hicks, but as a first time mum-to-be I wasn’t sure. I checked for my symptoms in one of my pregnancy books, which confirmed that I was right to worry.

I called SJOG Murdoch (where we were booked to have baby) and the midwife said it was probably nothing (she suggested ligament pain or Braxton Hicks), but to come in anyway for some reassurance, and so we went straight there.

Michelle 24 weeks pregnant

When we arrived at SJOG Murdoch a midwife took me to a delivery suite, because it was the easiest place to do a few checks. My obstetrician was on holidays at the time, but his practice partner had just arrived at the hospital to deliver a baby, and so popped in to see me after the midwife who examined me initially suspected I was having contractions. The obstetrician took only a couple of minutes before telling us that I was definitely having frequent contractions, that we needed to be transferred to KEMH right now, that there were going to give me a steroid to help my baby’s lungs should she arrive early, and administered some nifedipine to try and stop the contracting. We were told that even if everything calmed down we would most likely be at KEMH for 1-2 nights for observation and the second dose of the steroid, so we went home (which was only 5 minutes away) and picked up the hospital bag (yes, 3.5 months ahead of time I already had one packed) and headed to KEMH ourselves rather than waiting at the hospital for an ambulance. In retrospect, this was a sure sign that were completely oblivious to the potential seriousness of it all, and still in shock from what we had just been told.

It was a very surreal car trip and even more surreal when we arrived at KEMH. We initially went to their emergency department only to be told to head up to the labour and delivery ward; that was all a little bit too real! At the labour and delivery ward we filled out some paperwork and waited briefly, then they conducted a fetal fibronectin test (which can predict immanency of arrival in some cases). The test came back negative and the midwife suggested that this was a positive sign. I had some more nifedipine administered and some panadine forte; after some hours the contractions started easing and I was transferred to a ward late evening. My husband left to go home and sleep and I settled in for my first night in hospital.

The contractions stopped overnight, I called my husband the next morning to discuss what he was going to do for the day and when he was going to come in, but whilst on the phone to him I could feel some bleeding start and what felt like a clot passing. I told him that he had better get in ASAP and hung up to call the bell for the midwives’ attention.

I had elected to be a private patient the previous night when we were being admitted and we were offered a few different consultants (as my obstetrician was on holidays). I knew nothing about the system or that the specialists seeing the public patients were amazing, but after discussing it with the midwife we chose Dr Wu, a decision I will forever be grateful for!

Dr Wu came in as soon as the ward called him that next morning and he sent me for a detailed ultrasound. The scan showed I had a large clot (approximately 8cm) behind the placenta. They also took baby’s measurements and told us that she was about 690g +/- 70g, a little on the small side for her gestation. Dr Wu said I would need to stay in on bed rest, in hospital, for at least a week, and have another scan at the end of the week to check baby’s progress and to see if there was any change to the clot. It could grow, stay the same or hopefully, be reabsorbed. There is no explanation as to why the clot may have occurred.

The week of hospital bed rest was rather uneventful and aside from the slight twinge which most pregnant women get anyway, there was no more bleeding or contractions for the next few days. Baby and I were monitored frequently and there was nothing to suggest catastrophe at that stage.

During the week a neonatologist comes by my room and explains to my husband and I what would happen if baby arrived then (being 25+0 weeks at the time he saw us), or at 26 weeks etc. He explains that baby would have had only a 50% chance of survival if born at 24 weeks, and slightly higher if born at 25 weeks. He also confirms that baby’s estimated size is on the smaller end of the ‘normal’ scale for my gestation. We both think “well that was very informative, but that’s not going to happen to us”. We are both still clinging to hope that reabsorption of the clot will happen and that no further contractions during the week has been a good sign.

On the Friday evening nearing the end of my week of bed rest, my husband decided to pick up some pizzas after work, as I was quite tired of the hospital food. I shower, wash my hair and actually apply makeup for nearly the first time in the week and eagerly await his arrival! However by 5:30pm I start having some bad cramping and tightenings that are coming very quickly. I wait approximately ten minutes before deciding to press the call button as I was hoping they would pass, but they are not going away. It takes a few minutes for a midwife to get to the room, but as soon as she walked in I could feel myself starting to bleed heavily. She immediately called the obstetrician, Dr Wu. Over the phone Dr Wu instructed the midwives to hook me and baby up to monitoring, and says he will be in as soon as he can. Baby’s heart rate looks OK, but the bleeding and contracting is becoming worse.

A little after 6pm my husband arrived and I told him to eat his pizza, because there’s not much he can do!! We were extremely worried though as the pain was very intense. Dr Wu arrived at approximately 6:30pm; he quickly assessed the situation and said that I would need to go down to the labour and delivery ward for closer monitoring, but that he would put an IV in my hand in my room whilst the midwives sort out taking me down there. He popped in and out of the room over the next 5 minutes getting bits and pieces but finished inserting the IV relatively quickly. The pain is extremely intense and has progressed from being able to be distinguished in to separate contractions to one constant contraction. The bleeding was heavy but my ability to pay much attention to it was being impacted by the intense pain.

Dr Wu then went out to find a portable ultrasound machine to use as we were still waiting on the OK to proceed down to labour and delivery (although only about 15 minutes has elapsed, not a great length of time), whilst he was out of the room one of the midwives asked the other to help her with the monitor reading baby’s heart rate. They tried moving it a couple of times and then one of them went to find Dr. Wu after the younger of the two asked the other 'what do we do now?' No one tells us explicitly what is happening, but we knew it couldn’t be good. Dr Wu came back in and explained that baby’s heart rate had weakened, and then excused himself again to check on when we could be transferred to labour and delivery. He is gone only a minute, and while he is out the bleeding intensified very significantly, I could feel it, but I couldn’t see what was going on. The pain is still extremely intense and constant.  The midwives were becoming noticeably worried and press the emergency call button. Dr Wu and some more midwives come back in to the room; Dr Wu immediately asked a midwife to call a code blue. “Code blue medical and paediatric, caesarean, ward 5” was called over the PA system to the entire hospital. I would later find out I was having a complete placental abruption.

What seemed like the whole ward’s worth of staff rushed into the room. There was no time to get a trolley for theatre, they took the whole bed and we are out of the room within 60 seconds after disconnecting me from everything that I had been hooked up to. Someone ran ahead to the lifts to insert the key so that they could stop a lift and have it run express from ward 5 to the theatre floor. My husband runs beside the bed and he tells me he loves me, I tell him I love him too and I started crying. I could see the lights rushing by overhead and the terrified look on a man's face as he moved out of the way. I felt like I'd been transported in to some scene from a movie. The lift stopped at the theatre floor and we were met by more staff that ran me through a set of doors into a theatre, they do not pause to have us say goodbye or tell my husband he can’t go in. One midwife stays behind with him to explain it once I am in.

Olivia at birth

Once inside I was transferred to the operating table, they tilted it slightly and I could hear what could have only been blood falling to the floor. A midwife sat up near my head and started asking me my name, when I last ate, and if I was allergic to anything; they wrote all this on a whiteboard. I could see Dr Wu out of the corner of my eye getting gowned up. I had a sheet placed over me and some liquid rubbed over my stomach, a catheter inserted and it seemed it was all systems go. The only person who is not yet there is the anaesthetist, (although it has only been a minute or two) and the midwife sitting at my head turned to me and said ‘they won’t start until you are asleep’. The anaesthetist rushed in, checked the board, and then told me ‘this will hurt, and you will feel like you’re choking’. It hurts more than all the pain endured up to that point and the last thing I remember is feeling like I was choking. I was administered a ‘rapid sequence induction’ general anaesthetic through my IV line, used when there is insufficient time for other anaesthetics, and I was not awake to see Olivia’s birth.

At 7:04pm, Olivia is born weighing 635g and measuring 32cm long, with an APGAR score of 5 and requiring immediate intubation to stay alive.

Read Part II - Her Battle Begins - Olivia's Story (The first three weeks of NICU)

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