It was the 14th May 2012 at around 3am I’d got up for a wee for the 20th time that night and as I sat blurry eyed I was suddenly woken properly by a flutter in my tummy. I was 31 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and had obviously experienced Connor doing somersaults most days. He was the most active baby and I often had midwives commenting on just how wriggly he was ( like I didn’t know or it wasn’t affecting my sleep at night 🙄). Now some would say I’m a bit of a drama queen when I’m unwell or am worried something’s wrong-according to my mum anyway, So I got back into bed and didn’t think much of it. After waking the second time with a real aching feeling I could only think of putting it down to those braxton hicks thingys, Connor is my first baby so I had no idea what to expect when my labour started and I knew I had about 7-8 weeks left as I was being induced 2 weeks before my due date 17th July. This “ache” kept coming and going every 10-15 minutes from what I can remember and I knew Luke’s alarm would be going off at 6.30 so I didn’t want to wake him up or disturb his last couple of hours sleep before work. I too had work but knew I wouldn’t be able to go in and cut hair with the aches! So I waited for the alarm to go off and when luke woke I just said I’m not 100% sure but I’ve either got braxton hicks or I’m in labour! Luke, tired and still half asleep was clearly not expecting me to say that as we both panicked for about half an hour after the words left my mouth. I called my mum because she knows everything and she told us to stay calm have some breakfast and then get sorted and go down to the hospital to get checked as I was also bleeding at this point. Luke went into the kitchen and made me some breakfast which made me cry, to this day he still winds me up about it if I ask for some crunchy nut cornflakes. I don’t like the fake brand it’s my only thing I’m picky about, and that morning he gave me the shit cereal and had the nice bowl for himself!! How selfish is that?! Once these aches and pains were in full swing and routinely coming we made our way down to Bournemouth hospital. I was really angry with this hospital at the time because when we got there and explained what was happening, that I was diabetic and bleeding, gave them all my notes and told them I was being monitored very closely all through my pregnancy they turned us away. I was refused a check over, nobody would reassure me I was told point blank they had no room, and were not advanced enough for such a prem baby to be born and we had to go to Poole instead. If I’d of thought about it I was told I was always going to have Connor in Poole hospital because of my diabetes and being induced etc but at the time we didn’t think and just headed to the hospital we go to for A&E. once we were in Poole a lovely lady got me a private room and I was hooked up straight away, finally I could relax I was in safe hands and these midwives would look after me. To this day I still don’t ever remember panicking whilst at the hospital or even realising just how premature Connor was going to be if they couldn’t stop my labour. By now I’d been told I wasn’t being dramatic and in fact I had gone into early labour but they’d do everything they could to stop it. The day came and went and I think we were eventually taken down to the delivery suite at about 9 or 10pm. They’d given me all they could drug wise to postpone it all but nothing worked. Now I’ve always thought and wondered why we were never warned what would happen to Connor, where he’d be taken, what would happen to me etc but a few months ago Luke and I were watching a one born every minute and the baby was prem. they were fed so much info and when I asked Luke why the hell we didn’t get the same he said we were!! He said we had books and forms to sign and were shown an incubator, I still do not remember any of this and must of been as high as a kite on whatever I could get my hands on whilst this was all going on! I dread to think what my signature was like I could of written what I wanted for dinner for all I know😂! Altogether I was in labour for 32 and a half hours, I still can’t remember parts of it without Luke’s help piecing it together with me but at 9.25AM on the 15th May 2012 Connor Leigh Brand was born at 31 weeks and 4 days and went down to 3lb 12oz.
It makes me really emotional going back to that first week because it was all so chaotic. I was kept in for the first week and was unwell and unable to eat much, I think I was still in shock! Connor was on CPAP machine, a breathing ventilator because his tiny little lungs were unable to function smoothly for the first 4-6 days. I had to wait 3 days to hold him, any mum will know the pain or will be able to imagine the pain of not being allowed to hold their new baby and I think on the 3rd day I told a doctor and a nurse if I didn’t hold him today I couldn’t guarantee I wasn’t going to take him from the hospital damaging doctors on the way out. Obviously I know it was all for the recovery of connor and his health and wellbeing but at that moment in time I couldn’t see past the red. I don’t think I cried so much in that first 2 weeks than I had in my entire life ever. The moment I laid eyes on him so helpless and not knowing what the future may hold for him in that incubator unable to breath on his own, my whole world changed. I was carefree did what I want when I wanted too I’d not long turned 20 and was 19 when I fell pregnant but none of it mattered when I stood their in reality staring at my son. He was now my world and I’d protect him with my life for the rest of my life. I don’t think any mother or father can ever explain the love they have for their kids and our kids won’t ever understand until they have their own kids and then we can turn around and say now you see what I mean when I say I love you. Connor remained in NICU ( neonatal intensive care unit) for 5 weeks, on the second week going home without our baby was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
Leaving him there, not being just down the hall from him when I slept was a horrible feeling and I think day 2 of being home I had baby blues-bad. I’d cried in the shower for ages, I don’t even remember getting out or getting dressed, but I managed to call my mum and she must have known because she was round within half an hour. There was so many emotions going through my body that I didn’t know what to do with them- Other than cry it all out! She took me for a walk to get some fresh air and a bacon sanwhich and shuffled me off back to the hospital to see my baby.
Over the next few weeks of being in NICU we found a routine or as much as we could. I’d get up get sorted and head to the hospital for 9.30-10 I’d stay there until lunchtime and then more often than not I’d meet a family member which was usually my step mum, my mum, my dad or brother. I’d go back in for another couple of hours and then by late afternoon I’d head home to do some cleaning and make dinner. Luke would get in, we’d eat and shower and then head back to the hospital for 6-6.30 and stay there until 10.30 most nights. Sometimes we were there so late a midwife would shoo us out and tell us to go to bed! The midwives and nurses at Poole hospital are incredible. They are all bionic I’m sure of it, some mornings I’d go in and the same nurse would be there until 11pm or the next morning!! I couldn’t praise them enough they are all so brilliant and hard working and taught me a lot in the 5 weeks we were in there. I can’t imagine the things they must see daily but it doesn’t effect them, they continue to look after these tiny little treasures knowing the parents trusted them with their lives, and support us parents as well when we were having down days or struggling.
When Connor came out of the main NICU area and went into the nursery room I cannot tell you how overwhelmed and happy we were to know that our boy no longer needed the incubator or blue lights over him, he didn’t need the cannulas in anymore and went in to an open cot that we had easy access to him! The couple of weeks he was in here it was bitter sweet. We knew he was well, and on the mend and we were a step closer to him coming home but it seemed for a while we took 3 steps forward and then 10 steps back. I remember going into the nursery one afternoon and he’d been taken back in to critical care to be put under the lights again and my heart sank. I remember sobbing to a nurse that was so lovely to me but in the end she told me I had to pull myself together because I was no use in a state. (She was a favourite nurse of mine!) I was so determined and willing for him to come home with me that I couldn’t see he was deteriorating so needed a few extra days in ICU. Eventually Luke and I were sat one evening staring at our boy when we were told we could stay over for the weekend as he’d probably be coming home the following week!! I was so happy and counted down the hours to the Friday night we could stay. The sleepover in the hospital itself was horrendous!! Screaming women in labour on and off all day and all night, not being able to walk around in my jarmies pained me and the use of their shower was my worst nightmare as I’m a bit OCD like that, but, having my baby sleep next to me finally and wake up for night feeds was a dream and I do it over and over again if I had to forever. At the start we were still having to set alarms so that he was fed on time and getting everything he should be as he’d still not found his voice for waking himself up hungry. I was so happy I tried to take in as much information the doctors were feeding me as possible and after that weekend everything was finally set up at home.
They morning I got a call from the hospital can you believe I missed it?! I was in the shower and had a feeling it was important so rushed out and when I saw it was NICU dialled it back so fast I’m sure steam was coming from my fingers! I silently sobbed down the phone to the midwife who was so relieved to be telling me I could finally bring my baby home this afternoon and they were starting the paperwork now. I think by then they all thought if they didn’t get Connor home to me I’d have a meltdown and punch a doctor in front of everyone! 😂 I’m not very good at hiding my emotions good or bad and I think they got that by then! I called Luke and told him to get home from work this was it and it was finally happening!! My mum and dad and Linds were next and I think I probably barked down the phone to them all crying and laughing all at the same time. My mum came from work to get me and we got his baby bag together and went to boots and a bakery to pick up some cakes for the midwives and some new avent bottles in the tiny sizes. I’m sure we got to the hospital in 2 seconds flat but to me it was the longest journey and for all I knew we were travelling to Scotland. My mum waited in the car while me and Luke went in and I think I was crying before I’d even made it up to NICU.
Once he was in his car seat looking too tiny to come home (not that I told anyone that just incase😂) it felt real. I knew nobody was going to say oops no sorry we’ve got it wrong AGAIN! As far as I was concerned once he was in that car seat he was not coming out. Everyone was really emotional when we left, it was like leaving our extended family behind. We’d all grown quite close as new parents dealing with the same thing and a first “hi” soon became conversations in the kitchen whilst we were all sterilising bottles and making each other cups of tea. I’ll always always remember everyone in there with us and Connor, all the babies and new mummies and daddies it was a pleasure to share so much time with all of those people in there and the nurses/teachers. They taught me so many little tricks and tips which were actually rather important through the millionth night feed!
Once we were home my mum wanted to give us some space to get settled so she didn’t come in. To this day I know it must of taken all her strength not to come in and want to hold him! All through the 5 weeks nobody was allowed to hold Connor apart from me or Luke due to risk of infection. So knew everyone was itching to get their hands on him!
We plonked Connor down and looked at each other for a moment unsure what to do next! I think one of us even said “now what”. We stared at him for ages, he was such a good new born only cried when he was hungry other than that he slept a bit and looked around a lot. My dad used to joke about him always having his eyes shut. Every time he saw him he was asleep so all of my dads pictures of Connor are of him mostly asleep!
In the next couple of months I didn’t realise what was round the corner for me, I suffered from anxiety for a while after Connor was born scared to drive him anywhere etc and had post natal depression but I’ll leave all that for another post. For now I’ll leave connors miricle story at this, we were warned when he was born he might not catch up, he might have further problems with learning that doctors couldn’t pick up right away but my boy is a fighter and at 4 years old I tell you you’d never know how traumatic his start in life really was. He was signed off from the hospital at 1.5 years old and he caught up with everything by the time he was one. Every day I look at him and always think there’s a reason I was given you, there’s a reason we had a bit of a rough start and it’s because we were meant to be together. He’s my mini me and my sidekick and I’m so thankful I was chosen to be his mummy.