Guest Blog: Born Too Soon

Guest blog by Orla (@preemiebabystore)

Nobody can prepare you for the shock of having a premature birth and it comes with no warning.

For me, I had just gotten over the shock of being told I was expecting twins on my first pregnancy and here I was, trying to adjust to another shock as I realised at 29 weeks pregnant my babies were on their way.

That day started off like any other day in my pregnancy, there were no signs that anything was wrong. Myself and my husband Liam had decided to go to Galway for a few days, so we packed the car and headed for West Connemara. We arrived at 8pm that night to my parent’s holiday home, which is about 15 minutes past Clifden. I headed to bed just after midnight, and that was the last full day of my pregnancy, little did I know. I woke up just after 2am in the pitch black, and noticed the bed was wet. Liam turned on the light as I was frozen in terror as to what was happening. Reality hit me like a tonne of bricks, I turned to Liam and managed to blurt out the words, my waters are gone. Panic and fear overwhelmed me as the reality of the situation began to set in. I was exactly 29 weeks pregnant, with twins, in Galway in the middle of nowhere, miles from Dublin.

Immediately we rang the Rotunda, I spoke to the lady who answered and explained my water had broken and I was 29 weeks pregnant, she told me not to panic and to safely make my way in. Then I had to explain that I was actually in west Connemara, the phone went silent, and another voice came on the line. I was asked did I have any pain, and I explained I was feeling some mild contractions. I was advised to not head for Dublin, but to head directly to Galway University Hospital, which was 1hr and 30 minutes away. By this stage half the house was awake, my brother appeared at my bedroom door to see what all the fuss was about, when I told him, he said two words ‘I’ll drive’.

The drive to the hospital was never-ending and the pains were starting to move around my back. For a split second, I thought, if they’re born in the car, on the side of the road, they won’t stand a chance at 29 weeks, but I quickly shook that thought from my head and concentrated on getting to the hospital, and trying to keep my brother from hitting any sheep that were on the sides of the road.

We arrived at Galway University around 4am, and thankfully they knew I was on the way. The Rotunda had contacted them and faxed my hospital recorders over. I was taken straight into a room and examined, the rest of my waters gave way and they did a scan to see what exactly was happening. We were told that twin 1’s water had broken but twin 2’s was still intact.

I asked the doctor would I make it to Dublin, I wanted nothing more than to get back home, I was simply told no, it was too risky if I delivered enroute. Stupidly I asked could a helicopter transfer me quicker, a memory I laugh often about now, I was so unrealistic but was just desperate to get home.

The doctor was so lovely and explained if nothing progressed over the next 48 hrs then he would look into transferring me to Dublin. I asked what my chances of that happening were, he said slim. We were unsure of the twin’s weights but the doctor estimated by their lengths, both were around two and a half pounds. I was brought to a ward for observations, my contractions were from 2 minutes apart to 13 minutes apart so I had a little hope things might stop. Unfortunately, after an hour in the ward I was breathing through contractions, a doctor came to check on me, he took one look at me and I was told ‘you’re going to delivery’. It was a bit of a whirlwind from there. At about 10am they thought I was ready to push, but after an examination, I was only 3cm dilated. The decision was made that my contractions were very intense, and it was going to take too long to deliver from this point, so an emergency c-section was organised. Firstly they had to give me a magnesium sulphate drip for 4 hours to protect the twin’s brains from injury. At 1.45pm I was told that was close enough and it was time to go to theatre and get an epidural for surgery. Liam waited outside and came in just as they were about to start. Twin 1 was born first at 2.22pm, barely 12 hrs since my water broke. I was convinced I was having two boys, so when they said twin one was a girl I just couldn’t believe my luck. I got to see her for a split second and she was gone, surrounded by a team working on her. Two minutes later twin’s 2’s water was broken and he was taken out, something I felt so guilty about for so long. He was happy in my tummy but had to be taken out, even though he wasn’t ready. I remember giving out to myself in my head saying you had let him down, by not keeping him safe, but he was here a beautiful baby boy, and I needed to be positive. I didn’t get to see him at all, he was born and gone. They called Liam over to take a quick photo of them for me and that was it, they were gone. All I had was a photo on Liam’s phone of them wrapped in plastic and towels. I asked the nurse were they ok, she assured me they looked good, just small which was a huge relief. After theatre I was taken to the ward which was unbearably hard, everyone had their babies except me. All I wanted was to see them but I wasn’t allowed leave my bed for 24 hrs.. 

The next day I was determined to get upstairs to see my babies. They pleaded with me to stay in bed but I told them I was ok. I got into the shower and then a lovely nurse brought me a wheelchair and finally took me to the NICU, which would be their home for the next seven weeks. I remember being wheeled over to the first incubator which held my little girl, we called her Grace. I’ll never forget the fright I got when I saw how tiny she was, she weighed 2lb 6 oz. Then I was wheeled to the incubator beside her, it held my little boy, we named him Kaden, he weighed 2lb 7oz. They were absolutely tiny, but the doctors and nurses were unbelievable and told me how well they were doing and they just needed time to grow. That was really reassuring, two days later my milk came in and I started pumping like a madwoman and soon had an entire shelf in the freezer full, it felt so great to do something to help. Next on the list was getting them back to Dublin. After a week in the NICU I was told they were strong enough that I could hold them, a full week I had waited for this moment, and it was the best feeling in the world. The next day they were scheduled to be transferred to Dublin but there was a slight delay, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Grace took a bad turn and stopped breathing 3 times, the nurse looking after her acted immediately and got her going again. She had contracted a blood infection. Her little hands, arms and legs were black from all the needles. She had gone from a lovely pink to a yellow wax colour so quickly. My heart sank and I thought we might lose her, I cried myself to sleep that night and checked on her constantly. The next morning we were told she was doing well and just needed rest. Her incubator was covered in a blanket to keep her in the dark and she was back on oxygen. Three days later she was doing well and starting to put a bit of weight back on, she had dropped under 1 kilo by this point but luckily Kaden was thriving. The transfer went ahead when the twins were 2 weeks old and we finally made it home to Dublin, one step closer to getting them home.

The Rotunda were unbelievable and the nurses so kind. After about a week in the Rotunda, it was Kaden’s turn to become unwell. They knew he had an infection but didn’t know what, so he was treated for meningitis as a precaution, thankfully it wasn’t, he had contracted ecoli. He looked like he had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, his eyes were swollen, he was black and blue, he wouldn’t open his eyes and he was fighting to breathe on his own. The stuffing had absolutely been knocked out of him. Thankfully after a few days, he very slowly started to come around and with the help of the blood transfusions, he started to become more alert and breathe unassisted. It took a week but he was back on track and I could hold him again. Their progress from this stage became quicker and with only a few minor hiccups here and there, they were heading towards the doors. The kangaroo care was longer and they even had a little breastfeed every now and then. The nurses had some little hats they gave me for them and I bought them a blanket each, I couldn’t find clothes for them anywhere, which was very upsetting. I just wanted to dress them and make them look like real babies, even if it just hid some of the wires.

The day I arrived into the NICU and they were in open cots, I just couldn’t believe it, the wires and tubes were slowly disappearing. One morning I was told Kaden had had his first bottle feed over night. I remember my stomach just flipping, that I had missed this amazing milestone, from the tiny little dot in the incubator, to a baby having a bottle, I just couldn’t believe how far he had come, all the while sick that I missed it. Grace did the same the following night and I missed that too. But that’s the way it goes in the NICU, it’s not the normal amazing delivery you dream about. I struggled for awhile about that, we only wanted two children and we had two in the one go. So not only would I never do the whole pregnancy thing again, I only got to do half of one. I couldn’t focus on that though, my babies were getting bigger and stronger everyday and all I wanted to do was get them home, dress them and cuddle them. Luckily Liam’s friend was in America and bought the twins two premature babygrows, I’ve never been so happy to see a dressed baby, it was so comforting.

After seven weeks the twins were getting ready to come home, Grace first. It was bittersweet knowing that I’d be bringing Grace home while leaving Kaden behind. We put one car seat into the car that morning and I can still remember the pain in my chest knowing I couldn’t take Kaden home. We put Grace in her car seat and I cuddled and cuddled Kaden, and told him I was sorry, my tears absolutely poured as I placed him back in his cot and turned to walk out the door with Grace. Two days later it was finally Kaden’s turn, he had made it through all the ups and downs and was finally coming home. The rollercoaster of the NIC Unit is something I’ll never forget, the endless days of looking through the incubator glass, wishing I could hold them without having to ask, the hundreds of needles, examinations and tests. The nights when I would come home and look at the two empty cots, while I was hooked up to the breast pumps, and pray that I didn’t get a phone call from the nurse on duty that night. But against the odds they did it, we made it through the NICU, and I was at home with 2 happy and healthy babies, weighing 4lb 13oc and 4lb 16oz, they had doubled their weight, and I couldn’t be more proud of my two little miracles, our prayers had been answered. Now they are 4 years of age, Grace is our little girly princess who is so funny and Kaden is the most handsome and caring little boy. Now when I look back, yes I remember how hard it was but mostly what I remember is being so proud of their grit and determination, a trait I hope they will carry with them throughout their lives together, they are the most amazing friends and I’m truly blessed to be called their Mammy. I can’t wait for all our future adventures together and to see where life takes them, because one thing’s for sure, when they put their mind to something, they’ll do it………..

One of my happiest moments in NICU, was when I received the gift of the two premature baby grows from America. Four years later there was still nothing available for premature babies in Ireland. We decided to set up a company specialising in premature baby clothes and accessories, to help future preemie parents, with that was born. Our preemie baby clothes range from 1.5lb to 8lb. Our incubator collection includes NICU Wraps, Gowns, T-shirts Dresses and Hats, all specially designed for life in the NICU and babies delicate skin. For babies in their second part of their NICU journey, we have a wide variety of tiny vests and babygrows. For when that special day finally arrives, we have our beautiful Take Me Home Layette and Blankets.

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