Hi, my name is Emma, a healthy 26 year old who just a year ago had the shock of my life, when my partner Sam and I welcomed our 2lb 9oz daughter in to this world 10 weeks early.
The 30th October 2019 was the scariest yet most wonderful day of our lives; we waited all day but that evening we welcomed our little princess in to the world to the song lyrics "I want to be where the people are", from Disney's Little Mermaid song "Part of your World", and my goodness weren't those lyrics accurate. We were forced to deliver Ava via c-section at 29 + 6 weeks because just 5 days before it was discovered that I had developed pre-eclampsia. I hadn't a clue until blood test results confirmed I needed to attend hospital, my health went down hill so quickly and before we knew it we were faced with confirmation our unborn daughters health was taking a hit and there was no choice but to get her out.
Ava was our little fighter right from the start, she came out screaming and with in the first 24 hours she had to be sedated because she was fighting against the ventilator that she needed to keep her alive. Ava was born extremely anemic, jaundice and she had a PDA which thankfully responded really well to treatment. After 6 days Ava was able to move from ventilation to vapotherm, which is a much less intrusive breathing support and she stayed on that way right up until she was ready to come home. After a week of waiting and 6 days of being able to see my daughter, as I had to wait 24 hours after she was born hooked up to machines and drops before I could see her, I finally got my first cuddle. Holding our precious little girl skin to skin on my chest, in complete shock that this tiny little baby was actually mine.
I was discharged from hospital when Ava was 9 days old and it absolutely broke us, it's so unnatural to give birth and come home with out your child. We travelled 80miles to and from Tunbridge Wells NICU everyday to make sure we were with our little girl. Everyone we met were absolutely outstanding at what they did but we were just living in a little bubble, everyday we wanted to curl up in a ball and cry but some how we got up with out fail to be there for our poorly daughter.
The stress and pressure of the travel was extremely difficult and we were fortunate enough to be able to transfer hospitals to be closer to home when Ava was 20 days old, from there Ava just kept growing and getting stronger. We sat by her incubator day in day out, reading books to her and singing songs. We'd tell her about her family and friends and all the wonderful things that life had to offer.
Ava's health seemed to be improving but very slowly, doctors attempted to move Ava from vapotherm to oxygen therapy but it was just too much for her and it was soon discovered that Ava's iron levels were way too low. She was given a blood transfusion at 5 weeks old and we couldn't quite believe the difference this made to her. Ava really picked up and started to fight back, almost instantly and on Christmas eve Ava made a successful move on to oxygen and was able to where clothes for the first time. We needed to be torn in two for Christmas day, it was so unbelievably difficult. We spent as much time as possible with Ava and spent the rest with my step children and other family but it felt like a piece of me was missing and it broke my heart not having Ava home for our first Christmas together. I saw the new year in with Ava in my arms and cheersed the nurses with a cup of Schloer, wishing for a positive year a head of us and hoping Ava would be home with us soon.
We had been staying at the hospital for a couple of days to established feeding as Ava was struggling to breast feed at first, but on the 4th January 2020 we finally walked out of the hospital with our beautiful little girl who then weighed a much better 5lb 1oz. Ava was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and anemia prior to leaving hospital so she came home on home oxygen and daily doses of iron, which came with its own stresses but none of that mattered walking out of the hospital with our wonderful Daughter. Coming home on oxygen meant that Ava was classed as having a disability and was vulnerable, so we couldn't flood our home with family and friends like we'd hoped to but one by one all of Ava's huge family got to meet her and have their first cuddles and we had to take extra care to protect her. We returned to hospital monthly with Ava for her to have injections to protect her against bronchiolitis and we have had two hospital stays since, one for severe reflux and the second for a horrible scare of meningitis, which thankfully turned out to be a viral infection.
Through the national lock down, we continued to shield Ava and we started the weaning process to get Ava off of oxygen therapy. She done so well, first she weaned off of it during the day and then in June this year Ava got the all clear that she no longer required oxygen at all!
The months have flown by since Ava has come off of oxygen and it has given her the freedom and space to grow in to such a wonderful and cheeky little character. She still has her health complications but day to day she continues to grow and fight back against the rough start she was dealt. A couple of weeks ago Ava turned 1 and looking at her now you would never know the trauma our little girl has been through, she is such a wonderful, independent and strong little girl. We wouldn't wish this experience on our worst enemies but we our so blessed to have our daughter, my absolute life line and our little fighter, Ava!Emma