Wednesday 17th November marks World Prematurity Day. It is estimated that 1 in 13 babies born in the UK are affected by prematurity. In other words, yearly there are 60,000 children who are born before they hit the 37 weeks mark. Many premature babies are born between the 34th – 36th weeks of pregnancy, a period that is referred to as late preterm. However, for babies that are born under this threshold it is likely that they will need some form of neonatal care.
Last year we were fortunate enough to have Emma Barker as a guest on the Merci Maman: Studio Stories podcast to speak to us about her experience of having daughter Elsie at 28 weeks. Today we reflect on her message and think about how we can show support to those in our lives who have gone through a similar experience.
Who is Emma
Emma Barker is a mother of three who gave birth to her eldest child Felicity at 20. She then had her baby boy Joel when she was 23 and her youngest Elsie, who just turned 2 in the past few weeks, at 26.
Emma’s Prematurity Journey with Elsie
From the get go Emma’s pregnancy with Elsie was quite complicated. Up until the 12 weeks mark things were smooth sailing. However, this quickly changed, unfortunately during her 12th week of pregnancy Emma suffered from a haemorrhage that caused heavy bleeding that she instantly assumed to be a miscarriage. Thankfully at the hospital the baby’s heart was still beating – she was referred to a consultant straight away but Emma kept bleeding until she hit 19 weeks.
During her 19th week Emma’s water broke :
“We were told at the time to expect the worse. That feeling was crushing.”EMMA ON HER WATER BREAKING SO EARLY INTO THE PREGNANCY
At this point Emma was preparing to have her baby less than half way through the pregnancy term.
After a scan it was revealed that Emma had a condition where her waters had broken and there was none left for the baby. This meant it was more than likely that her unborn child would battle illness or potentially disability once being born.
At 19-weeks Emma had to decide whether she wanted to continue with her pregnancy or not – a heartbreaking choice for a woman who was so excited to experience her forthcoming pregnancy. To worsen the situation Emma’s partner was in Germany at the time of the decision making, adding additional stress to the situation.
However, she was able to find companionship through her sister and her partner’s sister during this difficult period, until he arrived.
After a gruelling 5 days she was sent home with doctors telling her to hope for the best. Emma had to return to hospital twice a week every week for blood work and checks to make sure she had not contracted any infections.
Going Into Labour
Having reached the 28 week point Emma recalls:
“On the Day Elsie was born, I felt different… something didn’t feel right”
Because her waters were gone Emma was continuously leaking fluid, on this particular day it was blood stained. She was due a check-up at 3pm anyways but due to her concerns she ended up going to the hospital at half 1.
Once she had gone through her symptoms at the hospital, Emma’s partner noticed that she had leaked through and that it looked like blood. The midwife checked and Emma was immediately rushed to a labour ward, and within minutes she was swarmed by doctors and nurses. At this point both Emma and her partner did not know how serious the situation was.
Due to the amount of blood that Emma was losing she began to haemorrhage. She had to be rigged up to a machine and her partner was rushed to theatre where Emma was operated on.
The entire situation moved so quickly that Emma did not comprehend that she was going into theatre. There she was administered a spinal block and her procedure was explained in great detail. 8 minutes later Elsie was born. She was lifted above the net for a couple of seconds and then taken away as she was so poorly.
Emma didn’t get to hold Elsie until she was 6 days old. At one point Emma and Elsie were in different hospitals as Elsie needed to be stabilised in an incubator and the hospital she was at didn’t accept babies under 32 weeks. Once Emma regained feeling in her legs she was transferred to be in the same hospital as Elsie.
Due to how prematurely she was born Elsie suffered from: a hole in her heart, bone disease, chronic lung disease, a collapsed lung, sepsis, hypoglycaemia, hypotension and hypertension. She had to be intubated and placed on an oscillator to help her breathing. Due to the trauma experienced during her birth alongside having no water in the womb, Elsie has had to have extensive physiotherapy. So early into life Elsie, has showcased enormous strength and perseverance.
Emma states that support from both her family and the hospital is what helped her all the way throughout her pregnancy and birth experience
“Family members would come and` watch the older two so we could visit Elsie. The hospital were amazing as well, they have all these charities that help out with thing like parking, tokens for meals and financial support for travel. They were just incredible, and we were really lucky to have the system that we did.”
Emma’s advice to other families who are experiencing complications related to premature children is to take everything one day at a time as it will seem like time is moving at a rapid rate. Alongside this she also recommends celebrating every little milestone that your child achieves.
Inspired by Emma’s words, here at Merci Maman we decided to educate ourselves on prematurity further. Below we have attached some useful resources that may aid mothers who are currently in a similar predicament to Emma.