This was our first pregnancy, but I knew it wasn’t a “normal” journey meeting our baby girl.
I found out I was pregnant on the 26th of July 2019, one week before we left on our adventure holiday to New Zealand and Fiji. The problems first started on our second day in New Zealand. I had painful abdominal cramping and bleeding, I called my OB back in Australia, and they advised me to book in with a doctor and get a scan in New Zealand.
There were not many options for doctors in Queenstown, and all of them were booked out for weeks. We decided to present to emergency so I could be seen promptly. They ran blood tests and booked me into a scan. Walking into the scan, I was nervous, thinking they weren’t going to see anything. But there it was, a little 5-week baby blob.
In review with the emergency doctor, he advised us that the baby had no heartbeat, which they had expected to see one at this age. He diagnosed me with threatened miscarriage, sent me on my way and said there is nothing you can do. For the best of the holiday, I was cramping and passing blood clots. Knowing there was nothing that could be done, we just had to continue our holiday and wait until we were back in Australia to learn of the outcome.
Three weeks later, we met with my OB and had a scan- a notable 8-week baby, with a beating heartbeat. The relief was something I could never explain. Everything seemed great. The 12-week scan came and NIPT test, again everything looked great, low risks of genetic abnormalities and a beautiful baby girl. By 15 weeks, I again had more cramping and bleeding. I was sent for another scan, and again everything seemed normal. I was put on bed rest for one week.
I had another scan two weeks later, and that’s when they noticed that baby didn’t grow in the past two weeks. For my 20-week scan, I was sent to Melbourne (I’m from regional Victoria) for a more detailed scan. The baby was measuring four weeks behind than what she should be but seemed fine. I had continued bleeding and pain with an unknown cause.
I was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). I had scans done every week to monitor the baby. By week 25, my scan showed, along with continued small growth, that blood supply had dropped in the umbilical cord and in the baby’s’ brain. My OB sat my partner and myself down and the words that followed, I will never forget.
He told us worst-case scenario baby is not going to make it and will pass before birth, or baby will be born with some sort of brain damage. The best-case scenario was that the baby would be born prematurely with disabilities. My heart sunk.
We were offered to do an amniocentesis test but declined to get it done as it wouldn’t change the outcome for us. One night in my 28th week of pregnancy, I had realised that I had not felt the baby move for the full day, the next day, I called my OB and went in for a check-up. He did a scan, set up fetal monitoring and asked me if I could get to Melbourne the next day.
Luckily baby started moving again, but my OB had noted again that blood supply in umbilical cord and brain had decreased. My OB decided that it was best for my own health (as I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm earlier that year) and for the rest of the pregnancy to be taken over by a specialist in Melbourne, as he had predicted that we would not make it past 30 weeks.
The next day my partner and I travelled to Melbourne to meet with my new OB. For the next four weeks, I travelled down to Melbourne twice a week for scans and review with the OB. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, excitement and exhaustion as the baby would show growth spurts and good blood supply, and then a few days later she showed bad results again.
Before we knew it, we had made it to 32 weeks, a definite achievement from the predicted 30 weeks. In my 32nd week of pregnancy, I went down for my usual scan. This scan took a lot longer than usual. The baby had not been moving the whole morning and did not move the whole scan. They also noted that baby was not completing her practice breathing. This resulted in an admission to hospital with fetal monitoring and more reviews.
While in the hospital, baby’s movements picked up, as well as her breathing and her blood supply also looked good. My OB decided it was best if I continued to travel down to Melbourne three times a week for scans, monitoring and review, as little miss was obviously very unpredictable.
A further week past. Scans showed that baby had only grown 100 grams in two weeks where she should’ve grown roughly 500 grams. My OB decided to call it and booked me in 5 days later for a planned caesarean to accommodate for my brain aneurysm and for it to be less stressful on our small baby.
Two days and one day before her birth, I had to get steroid shots (ouch!) to assist with her lung development before her birth. After 32 scans, countless check-ups, financial and emotional stress, at 8:52 am on the 4th of March 2020; Miss Cleo Marie Giri was born, a small 2.1 kg of love.
Cleo didn’t even take one minute to make her first scream into the world, the most precious reassuring squeal I have ever heard. Cleo was swiftly taken away for checks and was taken to special care with her dad. Miraculously, and to everyone’s surprise, Cleo was born with no side effects, no brain damage and no disabilities. She required special care for her small birth weight and hypothermia. I missed the opportunity of the golden hour and didn’t get to hold Cleo properly until 12 hours later, something that has still frustrated me to this day and affected our initial bonding.
Cleo stayed in special care for tube feeding to assist with her growth. My OB had said that I must have had a small placenta abruption earlier in the pregnancy which caused issues and my placenta presented as if it was an overdue 40 weeks plus placenta, making it the right call to birth Cleo early.
At last, our baby girl in our arms safe and sound. We took Cleo home ten days post-birth, at 1.9 kgs, feeling very rushed and very unprepared. Cleo screamed day and night for six months straight. She had a hospital admission at six weeks old, the doctors told me it was just colic, and it will pass.
It turns out she had a UTI that they didn’t even bother treating. Months past and three more paediatricians, again putting it down to colic and that I was a first-time mum and didn’t realise how hard babies are. At 5 months we had another hospital admission where we went to a parent mental health unit as what they had diagnosed as “acute stress”, even though Cleo was still screaming day and night, was passing blood and mucus in her poo, covered head to toe in a rash, struggling with poor weight gain and still doctors were putting it down to colic.
At six months old and onto our 6th paediatrician, we demanded more be done. Again, we were brushed aside, and he put it down to Cleo’s personality and a serve sleep disorder. We demanded tests to be down and that she was put onto a prescription formula. A couple of weeks past, and then the real Cleo appeared, happy with so much personality and able to sleep. It turns out Cleo had a cow’s milk protein allergy, and she was in pain for six months straight.
Cleo is now a very happy, cheeky and healthy 7-month-old. Cleo definitely wanted to be here, and I have been fighting for her since the day I found out I was pregnant. Always trust your mothers gut instincts through pregnancy, birth and beyond.