Holly and Billy - 12th June
Updated: Aug 23
Today should have been baby Billy’s due date, but he arrived almost eight weeks early back in the middle of June. Holly shares her very emotional account of how Billy came to arrive so prematurely, and how she and her husband were limited to visiting him separately in the neonatal ward for only two hours a day, because of the Covid pandemic. It’s been quite a journey for this little family over the last couple of months, but her story shows what an incredible powerhouse of strength they all are.
Being pregnant during a pandemic was annoying. To be brutally honest, I didn't care when the government said pregnant women should be shielding. I have never been one to do something just because someone says to. I read all the research available regarding covid and pregnancy, and if there were any effects on the baby. Everything I read assured me that pregnant women were no more susceptible than anyone else, and that if they did catch it, there was never an effect on baby. I felt that the government had lumped pregnant women in the ‘vulnerable’ category as a precaution so it didn't really bother me, and I went on living my life as normally as I could prior to lockdown. I was planning on having a home birth this time, so only saw a midwife about 3 times during this pregnancy and no one said anything about taking any precautions. I had upmost faith in my body to grow and birth this baby without any problems. I had previously grown twins to full term, and birthed them naturally with just some gas and air. This was something I had done before and was very confident that I could do again.
Until I didn’t. I never realised that there was something wrong. All the signs were there but I didn't add two and two together. I was about 31 weeks pregnant when I noticed that my ankles were swelling a bit, however, we were in the middle of a heatwave and the temperatures were in the 30s; every pregnant lady was swelling. I had a midwife appointment and mentioned it, but she agreed with me that it was just the heat.
On the Tuesday, I had a growth scan which showed that everything was well and baby was healthy and the placenta was working perfectly. On Wednesday, I had a headache and on Thursday this turned into a migraine. Migraines are nothing new to me; I suffer with hormonal migraines all the time so I took some tablets and it went away for a bit. I knew something wasn't right but thought I would just sleep it off. That’s the last thing I really remember. Everything gets very hazy after that.
I can recall being walked out the front door and seeing two ambulances. I can remember signing a consent form and I can remember hearing my baby cry for the first time.
It turns out that at 4am, my husband Steve woke to find me having a fit next to him. He called 999 and I was rushed to A&E. I was having eclamptic fits. There was a chance that I could die from it and a pretty strong chance that we could lose the baby. The only way to stop them was to deliver the baby with an emergency section.
Little Billy was born at 11.19am on the 12th June at just 32+1 weeks gestation weighing 3lb 8oz. It was about as far away from my home waterbirth that I could get. Billy was taken down to neonatal straight away. No delayed cord clamping. No skin to skin. I was taken to a recovery room. Due to Covid, Steve wasn't allowed to go with me in the ambulance to A&E, but luckily I don’t remember any of it, because otherwise I think I would have been very scared on my own. Once the doctors had transferred me to the labour ward and knew they had to deliver the baby, Steve was allowed to come. Technically after the birth, Steve wasn't allowed to stay either, but I was in a private recovery room and still pretty out of it so I think the nurses took pity on me and let him stay the night.
I was kept in a separate room on the postnatal ward but still, everywhere I went, there were women with their newborn babies looking happy and in love in the newborn bubble. It was horrible for me as Billy was still down in neonatal. All I had were a couple of pictures of him in my room that Steve had quickly printed out.
I don't think that I can describe how traumatic it was just ‘going to sleep’, and then the next thing I am told is that my baby had just been delivered. My womb had been cut open so I was in a fair bit of pain and I had bruises all down my arms from when they had been trying to get cannulas in whilst I was fitting. To top it off, I couldn't even see my baby due to Covid; I had to wait for my scheduled appointment and stay only for a couple of hours.
Steve came to visit me once a day for a couple of hours after he had seen Billy. Again, I don’t think he was really allowed, but as I was in a separate room and miserable, the nurses took pity on me. I'm not a very good patient and hate hospitals, so was dying to get out as soon as possible. I stayed 4 nights in total, being monitored for my ridiculously high blood pressure, before they agreed to let me go on medication. Billy spent just under 4 weeks in hospital. The first week he was on the special care ward in an incubator. There was nothing seriously wrong with him; he had some help with his breathing but not much else. At first we had to book in to go and see him, and were only allowed a few hours a day depending on how many babies were on the ward due to social distancing. We generally had 4 hours a day split between Steve and I. We couldn't be there at the same time, so it was 2 hours each. As soon as you got to the neonatal department, you had to change your clothes into something clean and put your other bits in a locker and masks had to be worn at all times. Imagine not being able to kiss - or even smell - your newborn baby because you are wearing a mask. I think on my 2nd or 3rd visit, when no one was around, I did steal a sneaky kiss on his head.
After a week, Billy was moved from the ward into his own room which meant the rules were relaxed a bit. We were allowed to be there all day, but again only one parent at a time and once you had left the hospital building you were not allowed back in so you couldn't nip out to get some lunch or a coffee, you were basically confined to the room. As long as no one else was around, you were allowed to remove your mask though which was a blessing.
This was such a tough period of time for Steve and I. We had to try and juggle child care for the twins, I couldn't drive because of the section and we obviously wanted to spend as much time with Billy as we could. My family helped me out immensely. Mum took emergency leave from her work so she could look after the boys while I was in hospital, which meant Steve could visit me and Billy. My sister in law came round and made sure the house was lovely and clean while my brother played with the kids. They and my dad helped with lifts to and from the hospital, none of them worried about Covid or social distancing thank goodness, otherwise we would have been really stuck. Getting to see Billy would have been significantly harder. At the time of writing this, Billy has been home for 2 weeks. It’s so wonderful to have him here, but for the first few days it was very surreal. He was 4 weeks old and we had never spent a whole day with him before. Normally in neonatal when a baby is ready to be released, the parent stays in a little flat there so they can look after the baby for a full 24 hours whilst having the nurses as support to make sure feeding is established and there are no problems etc. However, due to Covid that wasn’t happening. He was discharged, and all of a sudden it felt like he was ours, whereas before we were just visitors into his life.
Corona has meant that we have had to push to get a health visitor to come visit us, as Billy needs weekly weigh-ins for a month, and all the weigh-in clinics are closed. We have had significantly fewer visitors this time around; it has only been our immediate family, which has actually been lovely as it has given us a chance to get used to being a family of five. I think that when the twins were born I was very keen to take them out and about and join clubs etc, but this time around I am much more comfortable staying at home and just going to the park or woods to play. We have gone so long without any baby clubs now that I'm not fussed about joining any once they restart.
I think the rest of this year will be spent just slowly meeting friends and family; lots of BBQs and picnics in the park I hope, while we try enjoy being a family of five.