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Preterm birth
My Journey May 5, 2020
12 Minutes

My Journey: Rosie Fawehimi on preterm birth

Our philosophy is that when it comes to fertility, conception, pregnancy and early years every person goes on their own unique journey. We are simply here to support that. Raising awareness and providing tools and the latest science/experts for you to pick and choose from. Particularly crucial when it comes to navigating our modern world and challenges. We love hearing about inspiring people’s journeys. There is usually a lot to learn and relate to. Globally preterm birth is on the rise. With 1 in 8 babies now being born prematurely. This rate continues to climb at around a percent a year according to data in The Lancet.

Today’s ‘My Journey’ is with Rosie Fawehimi. She shares her surprisingly positive story around the birth of her son Rudie. Born at just 32 weeks. A time that is considered ‘very preterm’. She talks us through her experience, what helped, what didn’t (Googling!) and how despite the shock she now has a gorgeous, healthy ten month old boy. Here is her story. 

For the full conversation with Rosie check out our podcast here. Or read on for some of the key highlights.

My pregnancy had been going really smoothly…

I was really lucky as I fell pregnant very quickly. It had all been plain sailing. No sickness at all. In fact, aside from the initial tiredness at the start I loved being pregnant. It had felt like the perfect pregnancy. 

I woke up with a trickle down my leg: 

At 30 weeks, after a lovely holiday I came home.  I worked three days that week. Nothing strenuous. It was lovely and relaxing. On Thursday night I went to bed as normal. But at 5am I woke up and I felt a trickle down my leg. I wasn’t sure if I had wet myself or not! I stood there for a while but my gut instinct was that something wasn’t right. 

It wasn’t at all like in the movies… 

I called the Midwife. She told me to come straight to the hospital. At that point though I still wasn’t sure what was going on. So, we took our time a bit, had a shower and went to the hospital. As soon as I got there they told me my water had broken. 

From that moment it all went very quickly: 

I had no warning, no pain. Nothing. Just a complete surprise. All my scans and tests had been normal. In fact, I had just had my 3D scan at 30 weeks and everything was looking good. 

When they confirmed my waters had broken I burst into tears: 

I was terrified. I didn’t know what this all meant. I never thought it would happen to me. My sister has two kids who were full term. When my sister and I were born we were full term. I simply didn’t think this would be a risk for me. I even thought the baby would be late!

Next were steroid injections for the baby’s lungs: 

Within five minutes I had an internal exam. Next, I was given steroid injections for the baby’s lungs. The explained that the best case scenario was to keep the baby in for another 48hrs so that I could have two steroid injections to help the baby’s lungs develop. The fact they said this was ‘best case’ terrified me. 

Antibiotics: 

I was given antibiotics to prevent infection or in case I had one. The paediatric nurses came to speak to me if and when the baby came what the process would be. That he would go straight to the special care baby unit. Obviously this too was really scary. I knew at this point the baby wouldn’t be able to come home with me. It was a lot of information to take in so quickly. 

Next onto a monitor… 

I was given a scan and was on a monitor which was reassuring. I could see that the baby was fine and the heartbeat was there and strong. I had a happy active baby. That being said, the movement in my belly had changed as my water had broken. Fluid was still coming out. That being said, at that point they told me that despite the fact my water had broken the baby could still stay in for a week or two or even go full term. At that point they just didn’t know. They said they would induce me at 37 weeks to reduce risk of infection. 

The respite was short lived: 

Within a couple of hours my contractions started. I couldn’t feel them but they came up on the monitor. So, they gave me a tablet to stop my contractions and to try and keep the baby in for the 48hrs. That worked. 

That night was pretty bad: 

I was taken out of a private room and taken up to the labour ward. It was tough because there were only curtains separating and women around me were in full active labour. It was really hard to sleep. I had never stayed in a hospital before and I was on my own. I was so anxious. 

The next day I started to feel more relaxed and optimistic: 

My family came and brought me an eye mask, some sleep spray and my own blanket and I started to relax a bit more. The midwives were lovely and I was being monitored. I started to feel like the baby might be ok and would stay put for a bit longer. 

I was desperate to hear from people who had been through the same experience: 

Obviously I had never been through this before. I went onto Instagram and started to put my experience out there, asking for any advice from anyone who had a similar situation. I felt that I needed to get some insight and understanding as to what I was going through and what to expect. I had so much amazing feedback it was overwhelming. So many people told me they had gone through it and were even premature babies themselves. That was really reassuring. It made me feel so much more positive. I went to bed that night quite happy in fact. 

I realised it wasn’t necessarily all doom and gloom: 

Of course prior to this I had done the thing you should never do. I turned to Google which scared the life out of me. So hearing people’s positive experiences made me feel a lot better. 

At 4am, I knew this was it: 

I woke up at 4am with a dull pain in my lower back: I just knew this was it. I went to the midwife and I asked to go back on the monitor. They were putting me on every three hours which I felt was not enough. I begged them to go back on and they confirmed that my contractions had started but they were far apart. 

Trust your instincts: 

I just knew that something was going on and I’m glad I insisted. Them telling me that everything was ok was not enough at that point. I knew something had changed and I knew needed to be monitored. I’m glad they could see I was right and my contractions had started. 

After that I just tried to relax: 

At this point I didn’t tell my partner. I just wanted to go back to sleep and take some time before it really got going. I managed to sleep until about 6am. At that point I called my partner but told him to stay put for a while and that I’d call when things changed. I managed to sleep a bit more, have some breakfast. My contractions started to get a bit more intense but it wasn’t until 11am I was examined and taken to the labour ward. 

My dream of a water birth was over: 

I had been booked on a hypnobirthing course which I never made. Unfortunately of course, given the situation the water birth was off the table. It wasn’t my ideal scenario but at this point I just wanted the baby out safely. 

I wondered if a Cesarean would be safer: 

I was really concerned something would be wrong with the baby so a C-Section may be safer. However, the doctors assured me a normal delivery would be the best option. So I trusted them and went with it. 

What was ‘normal’ for the doctors and nurses was not quite so normal for me: 

I guess the midwives and doctors see it every day so they did not seem that phased. Obviously to me however it was a terrifying experience. Something I had never been through before. At that point I couldn’t see leaving the hospital with a baby and I had no idea really what was happening. 

One surprising thing that really helped me during labour: 

At the start of my labour I started with the Tens machine. To be honest, it was a bit of a distraction but that was it. However I had an Evian facial spray which a friend had given to me and I would highly recommend it! I had also made the decision to have labour/delivery be as natural as possible. Largely because I knew the baby would be small and may have complications. I was terrified to have an Epidural (which I was all for before this). I didn’t want an intervention. So, I tried to go as long as possible with nothing. Until it got too much. At around 7cm I started on gas and air. My labour was quite long: it started at 4-5am and Rudie was born at 7pm. 

Within a couple of minutes I had around 6 people in the room: 

I had a doctor, midwives and paediatric nurses. That wasn’t what I had envisaged for my birth but I needed those people there to ensure a safe delivery. 

When Rudie was born he was breathing and crying straight away: 

He didn’t have oxygen support which was remarkable. They showed him to me and then he was whisked away. I only saw him for a few seconds which was tough. It was like it wasn’t real. Then I was alone in the room. 

I just wanted him to be be born at that point and to see that he was ok: 

So that was a relief in some ways. He was put straight into an incubator with a little eye mask on and my partner sent me a picture from the ward. Thats when it became a bit more real. He had a lot of wires on him and I was given his weight. 4lbs 8oz. They said that was a remarkable weight given the time. 

He was born at 32 weeks and 5 days: 

It was such a relief that despite how early he came he was ok. It was also so lucky we got to the hospital when we did and we were able to have the Steroid injections and allow his lungs to develop. So I’m thankful I followed my instincts. 

Listen to your instincts and your body: 

Some people get aches and pains and assume its Braxton Hix. Now, I would say if you do have concerns get yourself checked. It is better to be safe than sorry. I am proof of that. 

Seeing him: 

A few hours later I was able to go and see him. Initially, I wasn’t allowed to hold him as he was in the incubator for Jaundice and was on an antibiotic drip in case of infection. I was only able to look at him which was heartbreaking. That being said: from the moment he was born I knew he was going to be ok:

The care on the neonatal ward was remarkable: 

I never felt that we were completely out of the woods until we came home. But, I did feel much more positive. Despite the fact he was born so early. The nurses looking after Rudie were remarkable in the neonatal ward. He got better and better and everyone was incredible. They were loving, reassuring and kept me constantly up to date. They told me early on he was doing well. He was just in there to grow and go home. 

Breastfeeding and a premature baby… 

Before Rudie was born I wasn’t necessarily sure breastfeeding would be for me. I hadn’t intended to put too much pressure on myself. However, after I gave birth someone came to see me in the hospital and showed me how to express the Colostrum into a syringe. I started doing that straight away. I wasn’t allowed to stay overnight so when I went home in the evenings I continued expressing and brought it in with me in the morning. They fed that to Rudie through the drip. By day three my milk came in and I just pumped every three hours and I had enough supply. They really supported me through the process. 

I did feel pressure to do it, but I also wanted to: 

Because he was premature, because he was being looked after by the hospital I felt like I had to do it. I also wanted to do it. 

Rudie spent 20 days in hospital: 

Rudie spent 20 days in hospital in total before he came home. My family and the nurses looking after Rudie really held me together. My dad came to see and support me every single day. Even if he was only there a minute or two. It was a huge help and support. Having positive people around me pulled me through. Given COVID I cannot imagine how hard it would be for someone to go through this without a family or friend support system.

Getting that support saved me:

It was traumatic. I was ok mentally, but, I know it was because I had my support system in my family. I think you need help and you need to accept people giving you support. When he came home I didn’t want help with him specifically, if anything I was probably over protective and controlling around him given the circumstances. However, they supported me. They cooked for us, and helped with the house. Doing things for me so I could focus on Rudie was lifesaving. 

I was scared to leave the hospital: 

I was used to him being on the monitors. They were reassuring to me. I didn’t know how it would feel at home without that security. The team there reassured me and said that I would get used to it. They had a great system in place. Two days prior to discharge we had to stay there as a family as he came off his feeding tube. They made sure I could feed him for two days and that his weight stayed the same. The really ensured we could cope as a family. It was great practise but also I had support there. I was shown how to use a bottle for my expressed milk so my partner could help with feeding. It really helped me leave feeling more prepared. 

Follow up: 

The only follow up appointments I had was one a few months following. The doctor said that Rudie was absolutely fine and that he met age adjusted target. So at seven months he is five months ‘corrected’ until around a year old. That being said, I didn’t find he was behind at all. He started crawling at nine months. Developmentally he isn’t behind. Perhaps he is slightly smaller in height but aside from that he is in front in some ways. He’s a strong baby! 

Getting to the bottom of ‘why’ it happened: 

Once Rudie was born they took the placenta to do some tests. My placenta showed an acute infection. When I asked them what that meant, they said that the trouble is they couldn’t distinguish whether the infection caused the preterm birth or whether it came because my waters broke which is super common. So really we are none the wiser.

I have asked the question: would this happen again? 

We were lucky when it came to Rudie. He is perfect now and he was a healthy weight and everything has turned out fine. Ideally however I wouldn’t want to have another preterm baby. But, you never know. There are a few things that happened that week which made me wonder. I went swimming in the outdoor pool at my local leisure centre for example. They said that was very unlikely to be the cause. 

You have a tendency to overthink everything: 

It can make you question everything you did in the lead up. Although they said it was extremely unlikely it came about because of something I did. The plus point and what I did learn though is that the hospitals really do know what they’re doing when it comes to caring for a preterm baby. The care we received once he was born was phenomenal. We couldn’t have done it without them. Rudie is a perfect baby and you’d never know. We are very lucky. We are also proof that just because you have a preterm birth doesn’t mean the worst case. 

More from Rosie and more on the latest science around preterm birth: 

If you’d like to see more from Rosie and follow her and Rudie’s story check them out on Instagram @rosie_fawehimi or on her own blog: here. 

For more of the latest science on preterm birth check and what we’re learning may play a positive role check out this article around the reproductive microbiome and it’s potential role. 

For some of the latest science around how to help a preterm develop in the NICU alongside the care team click here and for the power of music – click here. 

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