My name is Leanne, I'm 30 and a high school Science Teacher. Flora is my first baby and was due on the 2nd June.
Flora started to make and attempt to enter the world as I was about to turn 32 weeks pregnant. I woke up on the 7th April with some light bleeding and after googling I thought I'd begun to lose my mucus plug. I rang my local maternity ward who advised me to keep an eye on it, lunch time came and I was still losing (what I thought was) my mucus plug and again I was advised to keep an eye on things. By tea time I was also suffering lower back ache and nothing had changed since the morning so I rang again and they asked me to come into triage to be seen.
With it being the height of the pandemic my partner had to wait in the car. I was put on the tracing machine and everything looked fine, no contractions were being picked up but before I left the Doctor wanted to do a quick internal examination. It was at that point the Doctor informed me I was 1cm dilated. I burst into tears, I think it was the shock that caused me to burst into tears as that was the last thing I was expecting to hear. The doctor then spoke to my partner on the phone who had to go home and pack me some clothes (at this point I'd only just started thinking about packing my hospital bag so I had nothing ready!).
That night I was given steroid injections in order to strengthen her lungs. The next few days I spent on the maternity ward where I dilated more every day. Once I got to 4cm my partner was allowed to stay with me and I was moved into the delivery suite. I was given 2x 10 hour doses of a magnesium sulphate drip to help Flora's brain development. At this point we had met with the doctor's on neonatal who informed us of what would happen when she was born.
On the 12th April my waters went at 20:00. Flora's heart rate was incredibly high and my temperature was through the roof, she was too low for a c-section so she was delivered 58 minutes later after an episiotomy and forceps. She weighed 4lbs 1oz which is a good weight for a 32 weeker. We were also very lucky in that she came out screaming her little lungs out so I was able to quickly see her before she was whisked off to NICU
Due to covid restrictions only one parent was allowed in the NICU at a time. So my partner went to see her first whilst I got seen to by the Doctors and midwives. Once my partner was back I got to see her. She was in the high dependency unit to start with. Walking into there without my partner was tough, there were so many machines bleeping away, lots of wires hooked up to her, I just felt lost. I was allowed a short bit of skin to skin with her which was incredible but she seemed so small I thought I was going to break her. Once I had seen her it was time to say goodbye to my partner as he wasn't allowed to stay and I was taken to the maternity ward. I wasn't in a ward with other mums and babies but they were only next door so I could hear the crying and I longed for my baby. I didn't sleep at all that night and at about 2am I was sat crying when I buzzed my midwife who took me up to NICU to see Flora.
She was a fighter and it didn't take long for her to progress up the wards to the very last room which was the nursery. She spent most of her time in this room. She was discharged 3 weeks later, I know we are very lucky that it was only 3 weeks but that 3 weeks felt like a lifetime.
The hardest part of our NICU journey was coming home without her. I felt like a failure to her, I hated knowing that it wasn't me seeing to her needs 24/7. I also struggled with the covid restrictions. As only one of us could see her at a time I felt like my time with her was halved. We also missed out on important milestones together like her first bath, her first bottle feed, first try of milk.
From my experience I've learnt that these little babies are stronger than we think, they are just incredible! Flora just did everything in her own time and nothing seemed to phase her. I also learnt that I'm stronger than I thought I could be. I had my bad days where the poor nurses would be my shoulder to cry on but I never once let myself think negatively about the situation. Every day I focused on small positives which helped me get through it.
What would I tell a person that has not been through a NICU stay? I would tell them to never take any part of having a baby for granted. Embrace the newborn stage, the night feeds, being able to hold your baby whenever you want. I longed for those moments so so much and I feel like normally we just take that as a given but when you stay in NICU those moments are taken away.
Flora is now nearly 5 months old and is the light of my life. She's a very happy baby who just loves to smile. To quote one of her doctor's when she was born "she is one feisty little baby".