Mummy's first cuddle

But would it be my last?

Published by: Jessica Gibb
Published on: 20 October 2011

The baby boy nestled into my arms and sucked contently on his bottle, while the mother looked on. ‘Hello, gorgeous,' I cooed.
‘You'll be doing that with your own soon,' my best friend Katie, 24, nudged me.
‘I know,' I smiled dreamily.
I was pregnant with my first child, and couldn't wait for my own little one to arrive.
I'd certainly had enough practise with other people's kids - Katie and me were maternity healthcare assistants, and taught new mums how to feed and bathe their babies.
So now I carefully handed the baby back to his mum, and headed off for the 20-week scan on my own little one. As she was on her shift, Katie came with me.
‘Would you like to know the sex?' the sonographer smiled.
‘Yes!' I begged greedily.
‘It's a boy,' she revealed.
‘That's brilliant,' I laughed. ‘Mum will be thrilled.'
I still lived with my mum Adrienne, 55, and she was as excited as me about my baby. I'd split with the dad.
As I did up my trousers, Katie read my medical chart. Nosey so and so! ‘He's smaller than normal. They think he'll be about 6lb when he's born.'
‘Well, that's still okay,' I smiled. ‘I can't imagine giving birth to a 10lb baby!'
‘Ouch!' Katie grimaced. I winced too, but because my little man had just kicked me. Felt like he was going to be a footballer when he grew up.
Weeks passed, and his kicks stayed as strong as ever.
But one afternoon at work, I was doing my rounds when I realised... I hadn't felt my baby move!
I booked myself in for a check-up, and a nurse measured me. ‘You're 26 weeks pregnant, but your bump's only the size of an 18-week pregnancy,' she said.
Terrified, I watched as a doctor gave me a scan. ‘There's a heartbeat. But there's no fluid around your baby. We'll have to do a more detailed scan tomorrow.'"rightimg" src="images/stories/Woodland43_1.jpg" alt="" />
That night, I didn't sleep a wink. Was my baby okay? Would my little footballer make it?
When morning dawned, I discovered why he was so small. ‘The blood flow's going from him into you,' the sonographer said. ‘He's not getting the nutrients he needs. I'm sorry but... in 24 hours he might be dead.'
‘No!' I howled, my hands instinctively cradling my belly to protect him.
‘We need to get you to Southmead Hospital in Bristol for a caesarean,' she added. ‘They have a specialist unit for premature babies.'
‘I want Katie,' I wept. They found her, and she clambered in the ambulance after me. ‘My baby's dying,' I sobbed.
Her eyes glistened with tears as a nurse gave me a steroid injection to strengthen my baby's lungs. ‘He's a fighter, like his mum,' Katie said.
As the ambulance drove the 40 miles on blue lights, suddenly I felt something. My son! He was moving! That had to be a good sign.
When I arrived, doctors weren't convinced, though. ‘We'll leave him in for another 24 hours, so we can give you another steroid injection. But I can't give you false hope. He's a lot smaller than a baby should be at 26 weeks. Even if he survives, there's a high chance he could have severe disabilities.'
‘I don't care,' I croaked.
Later that night, he stopped moving again. ‘Do everything you can to save my boy,' I begged.
Katie trotted by my side as I was wheeled to theatre.
‘Everything's going to be fine,' she said, as we reached the doors. Then everything went black as the anaesthetic stole me away... An hour later, I blinked my eyes open.
Katie smiled at me gently. ‘You're little boy's alive!' she smiled. ‘He's doing fine.'
Phew! But hearing that wasn't enough, I needed to see him. As I pulled the bedsheets back, I winced in agony. ‘Nothing's keeping me from my baby,' I vowed.
Katie helped me into a wheelchair and took me to the intensive care baby unit.
There, looking tiny inside an incubator, was my son. My eyes blurred with tears as I took in his skin, so thin it was almost transparent. His head was the same size as an orange, and he was the length of my hand. ‘How much does he weigh?' I asked.
‘Just 1lb 4oz,' Katie replied. The same as half a bag of sugar!
‘Take as many photos as you can,' the doctor said. ‘You've got to take it hour by hour.'
I knew what he meant - my boy was probably dying. But I refused to think that way. So I whipped out my mobile and started taking photos. ‘What are you going to call him?' Katie asked.
‘Louie,' I smiled.
In his first 12 hours, he was given a blood transfusion and put on a ventilator.
Then Mum arrived for a first glimpse of her grandson. ‘I bet you're desperate for a cuddle,' she smiled, as we stared at Louie's chest rising and falling to the sound of the ventilator.
My heart tightened. ‘More than anything,' I whispered. But he was way too frail. So, instead, I talked to him for 16 hours a day.
‘We'll go for walks in the park. I'll even play football if you like - I'll stay in goal though, don't reckon I'm much of a striker. You will be though, judging from the kicks you were giving me!'
When Louie was nine days old, a nurse touched my shoulder.
‘How does Mum feel about having a hold?' she asked.
I burst into tears. ‘Yes!' I cried. Gently, she placed him in my arms. ‘He's the perfect fit,' I whispered.
From then on, I was allowed to change his nappy and wash his face. ‘You're finally putting your good skills to use!' Mum smiled.
Louie continued to put on weight, and doctors gradually took the drips out of his arm. He was doing so well, and there was something important I needed to know. ‘When can I dress him in something? All he's worn so far is nappies!' I said one day.
The doctor chuckled. ‘He's eight weeks now, I think he's ready.'
Yes! I rushed out and bought a blue romper suit with an elephant on, for babies up to 3lb. He looked gorgeous!
At four months old, I brought him home - a week before I'd been due to give birth.
This week, it's Louie's first birthday. He still only weighs 15lb, and wears clothes for six month olds. But he'll catch up in time.
Despite being small, when he watches his favourite programme Raa Raa The Noisy Lion, he laughs so l oudly! When I see him giggling, munching on his favourite packet of Wotsits, it's hard to believe he's a year old. Not bad for a little boy doctors thought wouldn't even make it to one day.
Charlotte Woodland, 24, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire