I carried him for six months and two weeks, I longed for my tiny bump to grow bigger. I rejoiced with every kick and celebrated each time I made it another week, 6, 12, 20, 26, 28 and 30, determined to reach 32 weeks.
I longed and hoped I would make my baby shower, surrounded by friends and family, celebrating the beautiful little boy inside me. I carefully chose each and every item that went into my hospital bag, making sure I had everything I needed, coming to peace with the fact that I knew I would be having a C-Section, all that mattered was doing what was best for our baby. I attended each scan appointment in both fear and hope.
It all came crashing down at my 20 weeks scan, our baby wasn’t growing properly, I had utero-placental insufficiency, the failure of the placenta to deliver sufficient nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy, and is often a result of insufficient blood flow to the placenta. Mine was particularly bad and would require two scans a week and a check up on the baby every other day. It was now a battle to keep the baby in long enough to have the best possible chance of survival but not so long that the baby suffered.
In that moment my heart broke, my body had failed me! I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke and I had done everything possible to ensure that both myself and the baby were healthy and happy. I cried for the normal pregnancy I had lost, I cried knowing that my baby would start his life fighting and I cried wondering if he would even survive.
Each scan brought more fear and apprehension but with each week that passed a little bit more hope crept in, 24 weeks came, my baby would qbe viable, a milestone I had been so desperate to achieve. I was told at my 24 week scan that if things carried on the way there were, we wouldn’t make it past 26 weeks. I googled survival rates, I rested and I cried some more for the tiny baby growing inside me, each kick reminding me we were in this together. Each kick brought comfort that he was okay.
I made it to 25 weeks before being hospitalised, my baby shower was cancelled and I finished work, not with a cheery goodbye as I swaned off on maternity leave, but with a phone call explaining that due to complications with the baby I wouldn’t be coming back to work. We visited the Neonatal unit, to prepare ourselves for the journey ahead (if truth be told, nothing can truly prepare you for this) but it did help. I remember the look of fear on the parents faces, it scared me how small the babies were and how vulnerable they looked but, what will stay with me always, is how much love and care each and every nurse gave to those babies (for a fleeting moment I did wonder if it would bother me to see a ‘stranger’ doing the things for my baby that I should have been doing.) It never did, it actually brought me immense comfort.
At 26 weeks, I was given steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs mature, these were more painful than the C-Section! I also credit this to making it further along in my pregnancy. In the two weeks after the steroid shots, my little man put on more weight than he ever had before (something that was vital to his survival.)
I celebrated weeks 26-29 is disbelief, I was on constant bed rest, I was having 3 ECG’s a day to monitor the baby, my blood pressure was on close watch as it had been creeping up but he was still safe inside and growing stronger each week. I was booked in for a C-Section at 32 weeks.
Week 30 came, I was overjoyed, then everything changed. My blood pressure suddenly went through the roof, I was diagnosed with sever preaclampsia (pregnancy condition characterised by high blood pressure and swelling. Again my body had failed me! I was monitored closely as the only cure for preaclampsia, is to deliver the baby. The next day things took a turn for the worse, I became extremely ill and was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome is a rare but serious condition, it stands for the things you can have with the condition.
My liver had began to fail and my platelet levels were dangerously low, due to the severity of my condition they decided there was no choice but to bring our little boy out.
At 7:06pm on Thursday the 26th of April 2018, Spencer Andrew Chilcott was delivered by emergency C-section, 10 weeks early weighing 2lb 140z. He was very small and born in poor condition, he had to be resuscitated. I sobbed silently that night on the labour ward, next to an empty cot, wondering if my tiny miracle would live.
We watched Spencer suffer procedure after procedure, looking so small and helpless. we suffocated under words like ‘sepsis’, ‘lung bleeds’, ‘lumbar puncture’, ‘long lines’ , ‘ventilation’, ‘chronic lung disease’ and ‘PDA’ and wondered how he could ever survive all that. I hated my body and myself for letting this little boy who I loved so much suffer.
We changed the tiniest nappies through holes in the incubator, amidst a obstacale course of wires that were hooked into machines keeping our baby alive. With each passing day we found more hope that our little miracle would survive.
Each day was more exhausting than the last, yet each morning at the crack of dawn, we walked, we hoped and we sat by our boys incubator, overwhelmed by the noise of the machines, willing him to fight, to thrive and to remind him how proud of him we were.
We walked out of hospital for 56 nights, our arms empty, our hearts shattered. Expressing was my salvation as I was lost in a sea of fear. Each drop gave me comfort, my body hadn’t completely failed me, I was feeding my baby.
Congratulations cards and gifts poured in, yet they remained unopened, they only served as a painful reminder of how things should have been.
Spencer was in NICU for 8 weeks, he fought so hard, was so determined and is without a doubt the bravest person I know. I am eternally grateful that he never gave up and that we were one of the lucky ones, we got to take our miracle home but I do still grieve for the way it should have been. No one that little should have to fight that hard.
This wasn’t the way it was meant to be, but it is what happened. This experience has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have such an amazing husband, I am constant awe of his strength. I am blown away by the love he has for our little boy and I know I would not be as strong as I am today without him. I love both my boys more deeply and more profoundly because of everything they we been through. Spencer still amazes me daily with every breath he takes because he conquered so much to be here and I refuse to waste a single day.
Spencer’s journey is in no way over, he came home on oxygen and will need further appointments, there will be numerous neonatal nurse visits, hospital readmissions, weening and winters will be tough. But with each days that goes by our boy is growing stronger, is putting on weight and is experiencing life outside of a hospital. I am trying to make peace and accept that this wasn’t my fault. I am soaking up each and every moment with my boys, because I have witnessed what a miracle really is, Spencer is the boy who lived!