This is our family story of tragedy and triumph.
My husband Mike and I had been married for 4 years and were trying quite unsuccessfully to have a baby. Out of sheer good luck (good management had nothing to do with itJ) we finally fell pregnant into our 5th year of marriage. Amusingly enough I fell pregnant after my husband and I decided that we needed to plan a life without children in it but as heart breaking as the decision was we knew it to be right for us….so I promptly gave up every thought of having a baby of our own…go figure 6 weeks later and 6 pregnancy tests (5 chemist brought tests all said I was not pregnant, 1 blood test proved I was)I was pregnant. I considered myself to be very lucky as other than being exceptionally tired I had no morning sickness of any kind and I was bouncing off the walls like a child in a candy store. I had harboured a very secret dream for the better part of 18 years that I wanted to be a mum and have lots of children and finally ‘I’ was going to be a mother…me the girl who gave up, who cried every month when her period arrived, who would cry every time a friend or loved one gave birth, who would even cry when she went to the supermarket and would see new born babies or pregnant women…everywhere I looked there was pregnant women as though someone was saying ha ha look at what you an not have.
I read every pregnancy book known to man. I sat on the internet for 5 hours a night reading up on pregnancy and birth and read stories of how babies changed their parents’ lives. I ate carefully I exercised I was basically very careful so much so to the point of being anally retentive about what I did. I hit 25 weeks feeling fabulous, getting excited, shopping uncontrollably and being so in love with my baby bump you would have thought I was on some illegal drug. My girlfriend decided one day that she wanted to surprise me so we went to a restaurant for lunch. This was a reputable restaurant, highly thought of, immaculately clean, warm, fabulous food and atmosphere. Mandy and I both ordered Fillet Mignon with Mushroom sauce and garlic bread. Mandy drank Coke and I drank Milk (never again am I going to ask for milk at a restaurant they think you are insane hehe). After 3 hours of lovely food, fabulous conversation, and the love of my best friend I went home really satisfied. To cut a long story short at 3am the next morning I had my head buried in the great white phone hugging the bowl sadly as I vomited until the sun came up. I crawled back to bed feeling like death to only get up 12 minutes later and start all over again. At 9am I called Mandy who told me she had been ill all night also with exactly the same symptoms. A most upset call to the restaurant a few hours later revealed that they did not give a continental that they had poisoned us. On speaking to the manager who was advised that I was pregnant the reply came….”it didn’t come from us you ate something else”. Off to the doctor, numerous tests later Karen and Mandy both had Salmonella Poisoning. Health department was called they investigated and the CREAM was off in the mushroom sauce. And then it really hit the fan.
So lets recap 25 weeks pregnant, ate bad food on Friday, sick as a dog all day Saturday.
On Sunday I took Mandy out to Woodend to have her car fixed. My husband works nearly 80 hours a week and he had been at work on Saturday night. When I left the house I turned off all phones including his cell phone so that he could sleep in. Got to Woodend sat down with my two friends and a chat over a cup of Tea or two. All of a sudden as I was sitting there laughing at my friends I got this lovely wet feeling as it ran down the inside of my leg. Bear in mind this was the first time for me so I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I politely excused myself and fled to the bathroom. After 25 minutes both girls came to see what was wrong. On explaining my wee problem (pardon the pun) Sharon told me to ring my midwife urgently. After talking to my midwife she told me I had to go straight to the hospital. Mandy drove me like a bat out of hell trying to make me feel better by joking how she would like to be pulled up by the police at this time. I felt like I could not breathe. I could literally feel the colour draining from my face as I was panicking on the inside but trying to stay relatively calm on the outside…but I was failing miserably. Now Woodend is 12 minutes outside of Christchurch then it takes another 15 minutes to get through town. Mandy pulled up at the hospital 16 minutes later and managed to beat our midwife there…quite a feat really.
The tests began. My waters had broken and I was only 25 weeks and 2 days pregnant. A neo-natal pediatrician came down from the unit to tell me if our baby was born then he/she would have a slim chance of surviving and that I needed to prepare myself. Meanwhile on the other side of town our friends were trying to get in touch with Mike. Finally Sharon’s mum went to our home and kept knocking until Mike woke up. He joined me at the hospital for what seemed like an eternity later. He was ashen grey and when I saw him I just couldn’t stop crying. I was admitted to Ch-Ch Women’s and taken on a tour of the neo-natal unit. Its funny how at times of unimaginable stress everything you do appears to be in slow motion and completely unreal like you are living it through a third person…I guess it was quite surreal. I was given steroid injections immediately to try and mature our baby’s lungs. The specialist told us that if the baby stayed put until Tuesday we had a 60% chance the baby would survive and if the baby could make it to Thursday it had an 80% chance of surviving.
Every day for 4 days I told our baby that if he/she came out of there before Thursday I was going to ground them for the rest of their lives….my small way of dealing was in humour, even if most did not get it. Tuesday came and went as did Wednesday and then Thursday arrived. I felt really quite off not the best description I know but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt the way I did. I had an incredibly sore back the night before but after falling down 14 stairs a few years before my back had always been painful so did not associate it with the baby. The nurse came and checked me and hooked me up to monitors. The baby’s heartbeat was regular and right on target and there was no sign of labour anywhere so I relaxed…oh bad move. At 12 the surgeon came to see me. She is such a lovely lady. She asked me how I was doing I said I felt a bit off. She checked all the test results and was happy but decided to do an internal. You know there is something seriously wrong when the surgeons face turns numerous shades of white and they look panicked. Me being the twit I am jokingly said “what’s up doc”? She said “we need to go and we need to go now”. I said “go where”? She said your baby’s legs are through your cervix up to his knees”! All I can say is thank god my husband was there. I was whisked down stairs into Theatre where at 3.16pm our baby was born at 25 weeks and 6 days gestation. The surgeon said mum dad it’s a girl! I went no way its supposed to be a boy lol. We had no girls names oh god now what? After 10 seconds we came up with Maddison Hope Rose, and our midwife christened her immediately. Some may not understand why but basically she was christened in case she passed away. Maddison was taken straight from us and whisked away and as much as I hate to admit it that is where my memory ends for the rest of that day.
Maddison weighed exactly 760gms and from here on in this is where it became so incredibly hard as parents. We watched every day as Maddison was resuscitated over and over. She was hooked up to life support machines and had so many wires coming from her she looked half human half robot. It took me over a year to admit this but our daughter looked like a skinned rat. She had no body fat at all and was the size of a coke can. She was perfectly developed externally had all 10 fingers and toes and the most beautiful strawberry blonde fluff on top of her head. Her body was covered in millions of tiny white hairs. In fact she looked like a new born duckling covered in down. She struggled to breath for months. Maddison was tested for Salmonella poisoning and her tests came back positive. The same food poisoning I had was what caused her to arrive so early. Even today I am so damned angry that a restaurant nearly took our babies life and to make it worse they do not care. Maddison spent exactly 116 days in the Neo-natal Unit struggling over and over. To say that 116 days is long would be an understatement. We could not hold her, we could not touch her other than to put a finger on her (but you are not allowed to move that finger as premature babies do not like to be stroked) and when I did finally get to hold her I was so scared hat I would hurt her and so humbled by her will to live that I cried non stop through the whole thing. When it came to me bathing her for the first time you would have thought Maddison was in a spa pool. I was shaking so much that the water was literally sloshing back and forth.
Mothers Day in the unit was very bitter sweet. You are a mother but you can not help your child for the most part. You live on this roller coaster ride that just never stops and no matter how hard you want it you can not get off but more than that you want it to stop for your baby. You become very aware of how precious life really is and your child becomes the centre of every single thing that you do…but isn’t that how it is for all parents? Nearly 20 months later every day is a struggle. We have had 7 surgeries including heart surgery at Starship and in the last year since Maddison was discharged she has been back to the hospital 20 times and we are not at the end of the year yet. Maddison has an oral aversion so she is fed via an electronic pump and the tubing is inserted directly into her stomach. She finally is eating tiny amounts but it is 1 step forward 2 steps back. She has had chronic gastric reflux…any parent that lives with a reflux child would probably tell you it is like living with a child out of the exorcist movies….only difference is that Maddison’s head does not spin around…well at least not yet anyway hehe. We have no idea how long the road is that we are still yet to travel, but everyday for us is an absolute god send. Maddison is now able to stand on her own and has just taken her first steps and brother were we proud! My daughter has woken every morning with a smile on her face since we brought her home and she laughs and smiles her way through her days. We are truly blessed to have our girl in our lives and not one morning has gone by where we have not woken up thanking god that she is still with us. How she manages to smile is beyond us as she has suffered some incredibly painful procedures and has had many obstacles to overcome but she does it with grace. My husband and I have learnt a lesson each actually we have learnt numerous lessons. Mike has learnt tolerance and I have learnt patience and between the two of us we have learnt to trust our instincts, to trust each other implicitly, and to cherish life for the gifts that we have been given. If I could say one thing about our daughters struggles it would be that even as adults we can learn so much from our children if we are only willing to open our ears and listen. All we can hope for now is that Maddison lives a long healthy happy life and that we guide her in the right directions when she needs it. Will there ever be a brother or sister for Maddison? Only time will tell but for now it looks as if that will not be happening…but you see its ok because we have one miracle and one miracle in a lifetime is a gift. I could talk for hours about the hospital system and the things that went so incredibly wrong….but….that’s another story. God bless to everyone at OhBaby.