In 2013 I was pregnant with my second child and I was delighted to find out that it was a girl, after having a beautiful boy three years earlier I was getting my pigeon pair. I’d had some minor problems with my first pregnancy with my son being born via caesarean at 38 weeks and being small for gestational age at 2.485kg due to placenta growth restriction. After some blood tests after his birth, there was no medical reason as to why I’d had this problem and therefore I went into my second pregnancy with no major concerns except for the fact that my second baby may have to be delivered a little early as my son was.
My Premmie journey began on a Thursday I had just completed my last Uni exam for the semester and I was looking forward to taking some time off. I was also glad to have a couple of months before my baby’s arrival as I was scheduled to take my Dad to hospital for cancer surgery the following day. The plan was after his hospital stay he would recuperate at my house until he was back on his feet then I could do my last preparations for my little one’s arrival.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan as I received a phone call from my obstetrician’s secretary asking me to come in which I knew wasn’t good news. In fact, this phone call just broke me to think that something was wrong with my baby and not being able to be there for my Dad when he was going through so much himself.
My visit confirmed some bad news my baby’s growth was decreasing and she was sitting below the 3rd percentile. There was no doubt I’d be having a premature baby the question was just when. I had my first steroid injection that day and came back in for a scan and second steroid injection the next day. The parting words of one of the midwives that worked with my obstetrician were if I experienced reduced movements go straight to the Women’s Hospital. Low and behold that’s exactly what happened that night so off to the Women’s Hospital I went where I was admitted and would spend the next four days in the antenatal ward where my baby was closely monitored. There was definitely some roller coaster moments I was told there wasn’t a bed available for my baby in the NICU so I would have to go to Westmead and my obstetrician wouldn’t be able to deliver. My husband and I had just come to terms with this news when we were told that there wasn’t a bed at Westmead and I would have to go to Newcastle.
We were shell shocked how were we supposed to live in Newcastle for months as well as trying to look after our son? Just after we were told this news the doctor got pulled out of the room he came back in and said “forget everything I just told you some twins have just been moved out of the NICU so you can stay” I remember looking at him and saying “I’m going to cry now” and I began sobbing tears of relief. The relief was fairly short-lived though as the next day after some scan results I was told I was going in for an emergency caesarean ASAP due to reduced foetal movements. My poor husband had just arrived to visit me and there was a mad flurry of nurses prepping me, my obstetrician being called in and me getting pumped full of Magnesium as I had agreed to partake in a research study. The Magnesium was very painful but it may have benefited my unborn baby so I was willing to do anything.
Chloe Jade Arndt was born at 7.44 pm at 30 weeks gestation via classical caesarean weighing a tiny 930grams. She was taken to the waiting NICU team in the adjacent room. While I was being stitched back together I couldn’t see my little girl I could only see my husband I kept looking at him waiting for him to tell me everything was ok. What seemed like a lifetime he finally gave me the thumbs-up it wasn’t until days later that he told me he couldn’t look at me because they were resuscitating her as her little heart had stopped beating. The team wheeled her in for a minute and I got a little glimpse of her then she was taken away to the NICU with my husband following. Very groggy I was stretchered into NICU after recovery and I saw my girl with what seemed like a million wires coming out of her tiny body and hooked up to C-PAP.
The next few days were very tough I was in a lot of pain after the classical Caesar, my Dad was in the next-door hospital recovering from his operation and I couldn’t even hold Chloe due to her having jaundice and being incubated. The nights in Postnatal were the worst hearing babies crying in the halls only reminded me that my little girl wasn’t by my side instead I was waking up to a breast pump. The day that I was discharged from hospital was very bittersweet as I had to leave Chloe behind but it was the first day that I got to hold her.
We were lucky in a way as Chloe was only in Level 3 (intensive care) for three weeks coming off C-PAP and Highflow quickly. Our stay in Level 2 was long and trying though Chloe’s breathing was great her weight gain was slow and she needed to be incubated for a very long time as well as having to receive two blood transfusions. I longed for her to be in an open cot where I could hold her more than at Kangaroo Care and not have to do her cares through portholes. Our last stint was done in the Private Hospital where we were originally booked when Chloe was well enough.
Our total hospital stay was a long and hard 68 days. I can say without a doubt the only way my husband and I got through this time was by getting to know the other parents around us. Through this traumatic experience, we bonded and became a NICU family which has continued after our Premmie babies have come home and will continue long into the future. So my advice to any parent who may be reading this and going through the NICU experience is to get to know the people around you as they are the only ones who can truly understand your situation and who may also become your lifelong friends.
Chloe is now at home and is a beautiful, healthy baby who is constantly smiling and loved very much, also asking about baby products to prepare for Chloe. I have marvelled at her strength and will be forever grateful to have her in my life.
Ingrid and Chloe xo