Beatrice (Bea) was born on 10th October 2011, 9 weeks early and weighing 3lb 12oz. My pregnancy had gone smoothly up until about 5 months – I’d even go so far as to say that I felt healthier than I ever had before! But everything changed at 22 weeks. We were at a wedding in the Lake District when suddenly, without warning, I suffered premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM) and started to lose the precious amniotic fluid that was protecting Bea and, most importantly, helping her lungs to develop and grow. I was admitted to the maternity ward of the nearest hospital and stayed for a few days until the doctors felt comfortable that I wasn’t going to go into labour immediately. But with no neonatal unit or intensive care facilities, we were advised to head back home. I then stayed on Iffley Ward at the Royal Berks for a further 9 weeks where I was monitored and scanned regularly, took courses of antibiotics and steroids and tried to stay as calm as possible, knowing that my daughter might arrive at any moment.
An infection finally induced labour and Bea was delivered in the end by emergency c-section. As a result of losing the fluid so early in pregnancy, we knew that Bea would be born with a lung condition called Pulmanory Hypoplasia, which is a lack of lung tissue or underdeveloped lungs. Words cannot describe how anxious we were, waiting to see if she would make any promising sounds and trying to read the expressions on the doctors’ faces as they whipped her over to the examining area. They held her up for a few seconds and we touched her tiny face, then she was given surfactant and intubated and taken up to Buscot in the travel incubator.
Even though I’d had plenty of time to prepare for having a prem baby, it was still a shock when we went up to visit Bea in Buscot for the first time. I felt very distant from her and could only stare at the little bundle covered in wires that was apparently my baby.
Bea’s consultant was concerned at first that her tiny lungs were so underdeveloped that they would not be able to support her. This of course was devastating news, but I think Bea must have been listening and decided to show us the strength of character we now know and love so well! She turned a corner and started to go from strength to strength. We had a few set backs with infections needing courses of antibiotics, blood transfusions and an on-going problem with reflux. She needed more oxygen support that the average 31-weeker and was on a ventilator to begin with, then progressed to CPAP, followed a few weeks later by Hi-Flow and then eventually Low-Flow. Some days she seemed to be doing so well and then the next day she would take a step back and need more support. This was difficult to watch, but I remember the nurses and doctors telling me it was normal for babies to have good days and bad days – they are only human after all!
We stayed in the parents’ flats for two nights before we took Bea home and it was so comforting to know that the nurses were near by whilst we practiced being proper parents on our own for the first time! We took Bea home only 6 weeks after she was born which, considering all the problems she had, was amazing.
Bea is now a very entertaining 2 and a half year old with a larger than life personality. She is VERY loud, extremely active and loves singing at the top of her voice – you’d never know that she’d had any problems with her lungs, that is for sure!