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Meeting Leo

It was a very normal pregnancy with a lot of morning sickness for the first four months.


It all started on Thursday night six days before the due date, and I couldn't sleep due to all the Braxton Hicks. By 6 am I get out of bed because I was so uncomfortable and then start to realise this is it, I was in labour. A quick call to the hospital suggesting to come in a few hours and try to relax, so I had a shower, and by 9:30 am I was in a lot of pain. It was time to go.

In the hospital we go straight to the birthing suite - my obstetrician examines me, I'm four cms dilated and breaks my waters "see you in a few hours once things progress" he says. Every 30 minutes, I feel the contractions getting stronger and stronger. I try gas it doesn't work. Try getting in the bath no way, not for me couldn't get comfortable. So back to the bed we go.


By 12 pm I'm struggling with the pain and suck on the gas so hard I nearly pass out. By 1 pm I'm fully dilated so time to start pushing. The pain is unbearable after an hour of pushing I need an epidural I beg, but no they said it was too late I had to do it like this. After 2.5 hours of trying to push out my baby boy, I was exhausted I just couldn't. On the bed, on all fours position, I just couldn't get him out. I got to the point where I started to say I can't do it; I can't I need help. I've never begged so hard in my life for drugs for anything. I even remember saying just cut me and get him out, please. My OB said, "no, you can do this".


Finally, at 4.08 pm I push him out. He was born on Friday, 15th July 2016. With great relief of the contractions stopping and him finally out. As I get turned around to lay down, they have taken him to the examination bed. All of a sudden "code blue" announcement and ten nurses come flying into the room. People everywhere as I lay there in a trance I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open, it was like watching a movie I remember everything but as if I was watching from the outside. Bubs had come out not breathing, so they began pumping him with oxygen with one of those hand pumps with a mask on.

Thirty minutes pass and they are still trying to wake him up and continue to pump oxygen in him, nurses running around trying to help and four of them looking after me. I still had to push really hard to get the placenta out then my OB says "you need a few stitches, but I'm trying to keep your baby alive, so I'll get back to you later." Forty-five minutes later, a paediatrician arrives to help. He quickly gets into action and places a breathing tube in bubs to put him on life support.


All this is happening in front of me, my husband, my sister-in-law and mum. My mum then runs out, crying from the room. And a nurse goes after her. The birth suite is jam-packed full of nurses and doctors running around and then the chat.


A chat I remember, but at the same time, I was so exhausted I had a very slow reaction and blinked during it. My OB comes over to me to explain that they don't know what's wrong with him. He won't breathe on his own, he also won't respond to anything they have injected him with, and he was given multiple things, for, at this point, they are treating for a stroke. He then explains that there is a chance we won't be taking a baby home with us EVER, as they don't think he will survive especially because he's unable to breathe on his own.


Again I remember this conversation, but it was like I wasn't in my body I just lay there, I didn't cry, I didn't verbally respond, I just nodded in confusion. Then an ambulance arrives they wheel bubs away to hook him up to a portable bed to transport to NICU.

Before they leave, they introduce themselves, three of them will take care to get him safely to Royal Woman's in the city. They ask my husband if he wants to go with them and he decided to stay with me, they wheel him close next to me because they find out that I have yet to see what he looks like. He was chubby with a lot of dark hair; he was just as I imagined he would look like. He was still, and they let me hold his hand and name him. I knew he was always going to be named Leo, especially then because I needed him to be strong like a lion and fight to be here.

Leo leaves around 6 pm, and it was time to get stitched up which was horrendous, all the adrenaline had left my body, so the local anesthetic on my vagina killed and two nurses had to hold me down. It was only three stitches, so it didn't take long. By then many people came into the suite: my dad, mother-in-law, brother, aunty. Many tears especially once he was taken away and I was stitched up, that's when I start to realise what was happening. Most nurses had cleared out.


My OB apologises for not understanding what's happened and feeling terrible, hopeful that they can look after him in NICU. I remember clearly a nurse come in to offer me a drink and some pain killers and she starts crying, it was only then I realise the few nurses in my room all had tears too. I guess they knew something I didn't, or they understand better how unwell he is. I then ask for a shower to clean up a little, and after my shower, I get taken by wheelchair to our room. Because of the stitches and things they think it's best to stay there for the night seeing as by then it was 8:30 pm. That was a hard night, emotionally, as me and my husband lay down we hold each other and cry, we didn't know what was wrong, where did it go all wrong and if he would be ok. It's the only time in the nine years I've been with my partner that I've seen him cry. We didn't sleep much that night even though I was exhausted; it was so hard because the baby next door cried a lot and it was a sad reminder that I lay there without mine, not knowing that when morning comes will he still be here.


Finally, morning comes, I shower and eat and await my OB to come to check my stitches, and he then wished us luck going to see our son. We take my bags, and we do the hour drive to the hospital with carloads of family members following us: my parents, my in-laws, my brother. I arrive at the NICU, and as a nice nurse takes my husband and me to see Leo, we have to walk past many rooms of sick babies. In all this having a baby and pregnancy joy, I forgot that there was a place like that full of sick babies being looked after.

Leo was in the last room; there were four little beds in total. And there lay our little lifeless baby. He was in just a nappy and with ice packs around him. The nurse explained that if he had a stroke cooling his body and brain down will help reduce any swelling in the brain; this was something they had to do for 72 hours. He also looks very big, especially compared to the tiny 23-week old babies he was sharing a room with. The breathing tube was doing the majority of the work then a screen showed us when he would breathe and when the machine had to help him, and at that point, the machine was doing most of it for him.

I get transferred to stay at the hospital, which was great. I was allowed to go downstairs to visit Leo at any time I liked. On Sunday morning, I go downstairs to see him and realise his breathing tube was gone. The nurse explains he started to wake up, and he pulled it out himself. He was breathing on his own; I was so happy to hear.


He wasn't entirely awake because of all the drugs he was given at birth he was very sleepy, but then I put my finger in his hand, and he grabbed it tight, he knew I was there, and I didn't move I just let him hold me.

Sunday was a whirlwind. All of my family came to visit him, and I had to start hand expressing. He had a feeding tube in him, and he needed to be fed, so pumping begins.


Monday a head doctor and a team of junior doctors come to check all the babies progress every morning and afternoon. I get the great news that maybe that afternoon I'll be allowed to hold him. That arvo comes and very carefully with many cords and on a pillow I get to hold Leo for the first time for a few minutes. He also finally gets weighed, and he is 4.46 kilos which is 9.8 pounds, and they imagine he was 10 pounds at birth due to the small amounts we were feeding him.

Tuesday comes, and by then I'm in a great routine of pumping and eating in my room and then sitting by Leo every 4 hours. I also get to do skin to skin and hold him properly, it was the most amazing thing, to feel him on me all snuggled up for my first real cuddle and I got lots of photos. I also get the great news that day from the doctors that his improving and that I will get to take my baby home one day, although they still don't really know what happened - so I get a list of things that could possibly be wrong with him.


First, he may be disabled due to no oxygen when he first was born, or he may have learning difficulties, it was all unknown, and it wouldn't be until a few months that we would know what we are dealing with. I also get to go home because my time in the hospital is up. That was very strange to go home without him and not be able to see him whenever I wanted.

Wednesday Leo has been improving so well that most tubes and cords are taken off him and he gets moves to the special care nursery room, the only thing he has on him is his feeding tube. He's still very sleepy they don't want to try to feed him without it because he's asleep most of the time. I spend all day with him and go home at night to sleep and then back in the morning. That was the routine for the next few days. I knew he was in the best place in the hospital and the staff there were amazing, great at making you feel important and included in everything that was happening, I couldn't thank them enough.


On Saturday, he gets transferred to our local hospital in the special care nursery, which is amazing because no driving for over an hour to see him. There we start breastfeeding him, and it starts to feel normal with regular cuddles, feeding and nappy changing. He gets stronger and more alert every day. He gets the all-clear to come home by Tuesday.

Leo is now nearly four years old, and I'm pleased to say he is healthy and is a normal little boy. He's strong and has no learning difficulties; he's actually really intelligent for his age. With all the uncertainty I was given at his birth, he is our little fighter. I'm still extremely traumatised by his birth that I still cry when I tell his story or even think about it. When I kiss him goodnight I hug him tight, I sing him 'you are my sunshine' which is the song I sang to him in hospital as a nurse suggested do, so he knew I was there because I wasn't able to hold him and I still get teary when I sing to him because at one point I didn't know if he would still be here.


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