Every year, over 26,000 Australian babies are born preterm birth, which is any baby born between 20 weeks and 37 weeks. Jennifer from the Autumn 2023 Mum’s Grapevine Baby Group and her partner William never imagined they would become part of that statistic until they found themselves facing an unexpected journey with a premature baby.
Jennifer shared her rollercoaster story with Mum’s Grapevine.
Jennifer’s pregnancy had been uneventful, with the 20-week scan showing a perfect little girl growing inside her. However, on the night of December 21, 2022, Jennifer began experiencing pain which she assumed was Braxton Hicks or normal pregnancy discomfort.
“I took some Panadol and went to sleep. The next morning, the pain was still there. I even went to work and opened the store, but within half an hour, I knew something wasn’t right. So I closed up shop and asked my partner to take me to the hospital to make sure everything was okay. I didn’t think I was in labour because it was too early, and I still felt the baby kicking. I had experienced similar pain around 17 weeks and was told it was just growing pains, so I hesitated to go to the hospital again.”
The Surprising News
After waiting for four agonizing hours, Jennifer and William were finally escorted to the examination room.
“When they examined me, I was six centimetres dilated, and my membranes had ruptured and I was told that we would be meeting our baby that day. Suddenly, the room filled with people, and my bed was quickly moved to the birthing suite. Tears streamed down my face as my worst fears flooded my mind. Thankfully, my partner called my mum, and she was there for the birth, as we had planned.
“I had a steroid shot to try and help our little girl’s lungs to function, and I had a cannula in each hand, trying to pump more into me to pass on to her. There was always someone in the room talking to us about something, taking breaks for my contractions even though most of what I was told went in one ear and out the other.”
“The waiting was excruciating, but soon I felt the urge to push. It didn’t take long before she was born, coming into the world in the frank breech position. They placed her briefly on my lower tummy while they attended to the necessary procedures. Holding my breath, I anxiously waited for any sign of movement or sound from her. She was the tiniest baby I had ever seen.
“Those few seconds felt like an eternity. Then, with a huge gasp, she let out her first cry, flooding me with relief. They whisked her away to the warm room, and my partner went to be with her as they cleaned her up and transported her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“Baby Daphne Grace Marie weighed only 800 grams, measuring 34 centimetres in length, and had a head circumference of 23.5 centimetres. She had a full head of my dark hair. She was born on December 22, 2022, when her due date was April 4, 2023.”
Jennifer required assistance in delivering her placenta and was given an oxytocin shot.
“My placenta came out shaped like a love heart, and the midwife later confirmed that I had an infection in my uterus. It was unclear whether my waters broke and then got infected or if there was an infection that caused my waters to break.”
Jennifer left the hospital on Christmas morning, feeling emotional about having to leave her newborn daughter behind every day a heart-wrenching experience for any mother facing a NICU journey. Jennifer and William chose the name Daphne Grace Marie for their little girl.
“They told us to expect her to stay in the hospital until her due date, which was 103 days away. We spent 65 days in the NICU and an additional 18 days in the Special Care Nursery. A total of 83 days apart.
“It was a roller coaster ride with ups and downs. I pumped exclusively for 12 weeks until she could begin learning to feed. I drove to the hospital every day to visit her. We had to move houses a week after her birth, and my partner had to start a new job.”
A Different Journey
“I never made it to my third trimester or had the opportunity for a baby shower or maternity photos. There was no time for maternity leave to set up the nursery or gather the last few baby items. Waking up in the middle of the night to use a breast pump was particularly challenging.”
It was a chaotic time, but we were fortunate to have the support of our families and the amazing nurses and hospital staff. And, of course, I’m grateful for William, who has been our rock throughout.”
“Now that she’s finally home with us, we couldn’t be happier. Daphne is such a strong and mischievous little girl. She’s now 5 weeks corrected and graces us with her smiles and cuddles. Although she’s still under 4 kilograms, which is less than her cousins’ birth weight on both sides of the family”
We wish Jennifer and William all the happiness in the world as they start their journey as a family of three.
Got your own birth story you’re itching to tell? We’re always on the lookout for new stories to feature. Submit your birth story.
More birth stories from the Grapeviner community…
- Birth Story: “My sister-in-law was my surrogate”
- Birth Story: ‘I had an emotional home birth after two caesareans’
- Birth Story: Cara’s second pregnancy was nothing like her first
About to (or just had) a baby?
We know that the wait to meet your baby can be nerve-wracking, but we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone. Our private Pregnancy & Baby Groups are a great way to connect with other Aussie mums who are due or had their babies around the same time as you.