Our son Arvir was unexpectedly born at 23 weeks and four days, weighing 1lb 5oz (580g). He was extremely premature, and we were told he had less than a 20% chance of surviving longer than two weeks. As the upper limit for an abortion is still legally 24 weeks, we were shocked to see our tiny but perfectly formed son enter the world.
Being our first child, my husband and I struggled to believe what had happened to our pregnancy. I was so excited at learning I was pregnant and read plenty of books. I knew the possible risks and problems that could occur in any pregnancy, but there was nothing in any of them that had told me or prepared us for the four-month journey ahead.
I had no warning that I would go into premature labour. I was not in any high risk groups and, although I had bled continually, every scan I had showed no problems. When I was told the bleeding may be the result of a UTI, further investigation showed I had a dilated cervix with bulging membranes and could go into labour at any point.
I was admitted to the UHCW (University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire) where we managed to keep Arvir in for five whole days! I was given surfectant steroids to strengthen his lungs and give him the best chance of survival should he arrive early and put up a fight!
I had a normal delivery and he was born in his amniotic sac. The neonatal staff were on standby and took him away to stabilise him after he was born. As he was on the cusp of the 24-week limit, we were told that he may show very little response to intervention. However, he showed very positive vital signs, and so began our journey…
Initially, every hour felt like a lifetime of waiting. Waiting hours to see him, days before touching him and weeks before holding him. Simple things that were not possible when you'd had a premature baby.
We were welcomed onto the neonatal unit by everyone and soon felt like part of the furniture. Our days, weeks and months were spent by Arvir's side as much as possible. Initially, we were so confused with all the different leads, wires and probes coming in or out of him, and any time the alarms would ring off, our hearts would sink.
We faced the common problems all parents in similar situations were going through. Just looking around the room at all the other incubators, proved that we were not alone. But what really made a difference was how supported we felt by everyone on the unit. We were kept in the loop about everything and every medical term or procedure was explained to us every step of the way.
Our rollercoaster journey showed us extreme highs as well as the inevitable extreme lows. I lost count how many times we thought we may lose our little one, and yet he kept fighting and pursuing his battle day after day.
It's a time in our life that we never thought we would get through but now, as I sit here over three years on, we can't believe where the time has gone! The experience of being on the neonatal ward was not only humbling, but eye opening and educational. We are indebted for all the emotional help and medical care that Arvir received, and are beyond grateful for our beautiful, brave (although a little cheeky) boy!
Your time on the unit will hopefully be a long one, seeing your baby get stronger and stronger and every day one day closer to bringing them home.