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Meeting Lacey

Meeting Lacey

"A normal pregnancy" was what I had been told the whole way through. Despite it being my second pregnancy and continually raising to the midwives how uncomfortable and big I was compared to my first pregnancy. At 32 weeks, I was the same size when I had my boy at 38 weeks. On Monday, 16/3/2020, I went to my midwife appointment, where I raised my concerns about the regular pains and discomforts I was feeling. I was told this was all normal and just Braxton hicks. My mum instinct knew it was different, so I pushed the subject yet was still met with the same answers. I went home and monitored the continuing pains. By 2am the pains were regular and continuous, and despite being told I was all good, I decided to call the hospital and go in to get checked. "I will be back before you start work," I told my partner as I left, with no bags or anything, to get checked, thinking I would be back home shortly.

"A normal pregnancy" was what I had been told the whole way through. Despite it being my second pregnancy and continually raising to the midwives how uncomfortable and big I was compared to my first pregnancy. At 32 weeks, I was the same size when I had my boy at 38 weeks. On Monday, 16/3/2020, I went to my midwife appointment, where I raised my concerns about the regular pains and discomforts I was feeling. I was told this was all normal and just Braxton hicks. My mum instinct knew it was different, so I pushed the subject yet was still met with the same answers. I went home and monitored the continuing pains. By 2am the pains were regular and continuous, and despite being told I was all good, I decided to call the hospital and go in to get checked. "I will be back before you start work," I told my partner as I left, with no bags or anything, to get checked, thinking I would be back home shortly.

When I arrived, they checked babies heart rate and everything else before finally deciding to check I wasn't dilated. There was instant shock on the nurse's face when she told me my water membrane was bulging. I was told I would have this baby before I went home, and they needed to start meds and steroids to hold off labour as long as possible; every hour she stayed in was important. I was monitored and given steroids and meds for the next two days. Going in and out of contractions. The doctors did an ultrasound and told me, "she is swimming around in there with lots of fluid," but still no concern or investigation as to why. Finally, at 2am on 19/3/2020, I was dilated too far that they decided to burst my waters. So much water came out. Multiple pads were changed, and finally, little miss Lacey Roma decided to enter the world. Paediatrics teams who were on stand-by checked her over and took her to the special care nursery, with everything looking good. 

After her being earthside for about 12 hours, I decided to finally go home to see my boy and have a quick shower. As soon as I got out of the shower, the phone rang, and they told me an ambulance was on the way to take Lacey to the Royal Children's Hospital as there was something not right with her stomach. I rushed back and made it just in time to go in the ambulance with her. No one was really telling me much except, "we think there's an obstruction in her stomach." Once we arrived in NICU, we were met by the surgeons who explained she had a congenital disorder called Duodenal Atresia, which is where her duodenal was never properly attached to her stomach, essentially meaning she wouldn't eat at all as she had a complete blockage. Duodenal atresia is pretty rare and certainly something I had never heard of. 1 in 3 babies born with this have Down's syndrome. So on top of all the confusion, there was also the question if she also had Down syndrome. They told us they would do surgery on her tiny 1.8kg body the next day. 

The next day arrived, and after the doctors all met, they decided they would grow her to about 3kgs to make sure she had the best chance possible. To top all of this news off, this was the week covid changed the world and that week, the whole world shut down. So that meant no support services, no counselling, no accommodation open for parents, no family meeting her or being able to help support us in the hospital. It was just us and the amazing nurses, day in and out for however many weeks it took until she met her 3kg weight goal. My partner and I weren't even allowed in the room together at the same time. Thankfully Lacey kicked goals the whole way through, a perfect premmie. 

I drove the 45-minute drive to and from every single day for the next eight weeks and sat by her bedside for 8-10 hrs giving skin on skin cuddles, expressing to keep my milk supply up for when she could eat and trying to bond as much as possible. On the 20th of April, she hit her 3kg goal. Then came the cat-and-mouse game of chasing down doctors to ask them to please come to do our baby's surgery. All surgeries were stopped at that time because of Covid, and they deemed hers non-urgent as she wouldn't die instantly without it. Just insane! She couldn't eat and the risk increased to her short-term and long-term recovery the longer they left it. Most babies have this surgery within days of being born. The nurses pushed us to continue to hound the doctors as they knew her surgery was most definitely urgent. Finally, on the 24th of April, the day of her surgery arrived. The hardest part of it all was watching her get wheeled off to have surgery on her tiny little body. After 5 long hours, we were given the news our little trooper smashed it like we knew she would. We were told recovery could take a long time as she had to learn how to feed for the first time. But in true Lacey style, she smashed that too. On 8th May, 2 days before Mother's Day and her due date, our baby girl came home to meet her big brother for the first time after 8 long weeks. I was complete and could breathe again. The biggest lesson to come out of my birth story was always to trust my instincts. I was disappointed I didn't push the subject further on how I was feeling, and I should have asked for further investigations. This condition is something that would generally be picked up while I was pregnant due to the amount of fluid I had. I also know it wouldn't have changed her care pathway, so I don't know what would have been harder—the known or unknown. 

Lacey is now 2 and a half, and only a few months ago, I realized and processed the mental toll it took on me. With no mental health support or guidance throughout the whole process due to covid lockdowns, it was bound to happen. The mental health issues from having a sick baby in NICU is definitely something that surfaces still. I have recently just had another beautiful baby boy, and that pregnancy was riddled with anxiety and stress. It took me a couple of weeks after he was born to let my mind relax and realize he was ok; everything was ok. Despite what we went through, we are so incredibly lucky to have a healthy, beautiful little girl and for the medical professionals and facilities, we have in this country. She has taught me so much in such a short time ❤️

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