Rosie Wenn spoke to us about her experience of giving birth to her son Ezra at 27 weeks after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
Hi Rosie, thank you for taking the time to speak to us about your gorgeous little Ezra! How had your pregnancy been up until the point you were diagnosed with pre-eclampsia?
I had a textbook pregnancy up until around 23 weeks. I had just found out I was having a little boy and he was growing perfectly for his gestational age. I had a few problems with persistent UTI’s and at one point a sample displayed extra protein in my urine, which is an early sign of pre-eclampsia.
Mild pre-eclampsia can affect up to 6% of pregnancies and severe cases can develop in 1-2% of pregnancies. Can you share your experience of pre-eclampsia with us?
I was told I had suspected pre-eclampsia at 26 weeks. One morning I woke up and out of the blue my nose was completely blocked, my ankles and feet so sore that I couldn’t stand, and I had a little swelling in my hands and fingers. I stayed in bed and I couldn’t eat. The most important thing to point out is that I also thought I had reduced movements. Although I began to feel better, I was urged to go to the hospital.
There I was told Ezra had not grown for 2 weeks, my blood pressure was crazy and I had loads of protein in my urine. The doctors were unable to control my blood pressure, even with copious amounts of medication. I was therefore admitted onto the prenatal ward for overnight observations and as my body was not reacting at all to any treatment I was soon diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia. At this point, I knew I wasn’t going home.
After four days of being in the hospital, numerous scans, beginning to feel better but then quickly going downhill again, the decision was made to take me to the delivery suite. I was absolutely petrified. Ezra was born by emergency c-section at 27 weeks. He was a tiny 1lb 12oz but he could breathe on his own, he took his first breath 1 minute and 13 seconds after birth but couldn’t keep his oxygen level steady so was put on a ventilator. He was taken off it for 45 seconds so I could see him and touch him. After he was stabilised, he was taken straight to the neonatal unit.
Can you talk us through your thoughts when you realised your baby would be born prematurely?
I was so scared, but I trusted that the professionals knew what they were doing. I had a meeting with paediatricians, neonatal nurses and anaesthetists whilst in the prenatal ward and was fundamentally told the survival rate of Ezra was very slim because he was measuring so small and did not appear to be growing. I remember feeling very numb, thinking I may not be able to watch the baby I’d grown for nearly 6 months grow-up. A big part of me knew that they had to prepare me for the absolute worst though, which gave me hope that it may not be so bad.
Ezra was born in his foetal sac, that’s pretty rare, isn’t it?
Yes it is! It only occurs in approximately 1 in 80,000 births. The surgeons in the theatre during my c-section all stopped operating on me to get a look at it, as it is a rare phenomenon apparently! I wish I could have seen.
Ezra was in the hospital for just under three months. What was life like as a new mum to a very premature baby in neonatal care? How did you cope? What was the hardest part?
I really struggled after I’d given birth to Ezra. I stayed in hospital on my own for 5 days recovering from my c-section and I was still suffering from complications from pre-eclampsia (my blood pressure was still not under control enough to discharge me). I felt a lot of irrepressible guilt for the time I didn’t spend in the neonatal unit with my baby, despite still being so poorly myself. The first time I saw him after giving birth, was 30 hours post-op and it was incredible. It was also very scary, he was so small and red.
The hardest part was leaving him behind in the hospital when I was discharged; the hospital was 25 miles away from my home and I couldn’t drive. I must have got the train to see him about 60 times! Every time I left after visiting the hospital for the first week I cried. I then decided to change my mindset. I told myself that there is no way he could survive outside intensive care and that he is in the best place.
How did you feel when you could finally bring him home?
Ezra came home a week before Christmas 2017, two days before his due date. Bringing him home was amazing, yet very overwhelming. I remember bringing him into the house and just looking at him in his car seat thinking “Right, what do I do now?!” All the waiting had come down to that one moment and it was like I was living a totally different life! When your baby is in hospital for such a long time, you kind of feel that you’re sharing them with the neonatal nurses, but at that moment he fully became mine.
Ezra is now a happy and healthy 17-month-old, hitting all milestones on time for his actual age, not just his corrected age. He is walking, starting to say words and absolutely loves his food.
Looking back at your experience Rosie, would advice would you give to someone in your position now?
My advice for anyone else who finds themselves having to have a baby prematurely is to just trust all the health care professionals and relax as much as possible. I sometimes think that the extra anxiety caused by being in the hospital may have made my condition worse. The worst thing you can probably do with heightened blood pressure is to get yourself worked up! ALWAYS get your symptoms checked by a midwife or doctor, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time. I didn’t exactly have the conventional symptoms of preeclampsia and at one point I did start to feel better and nearly didn’t get checked out. That could have cost me my son’s life.
Finally, how can friends and family offer support in these circumstances?
Doing simple things like giving a lift to the hospital, and offering distractions when things are tough, can mean the world. Remember to ask about how the mother or father are feeling, not just about the new baby; it really is the little things that are most appreciated in difficult times.
You can find out more about pre-eclampsia on the NHS Website. If you are in any doubt about your symptoms, please contact NHS 111 or call your local GP surgery.
Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team