[image]BILLY 24 WEEKS.jpg

Hello my name is Jane and I am so eternally thankful to be the mother of an exceptional little boy named Billy, born prematurely at just 24 weeks.

We were admitted to the Darwin Private Hospital (DPH) the day after Christmas 2007, with bleeding and a slight leak of membrane fluid. It was so emotional only the week before our 20 week morphology scan was done with no complications and a bill of health for both mummy and baby. At only 21 weeks, complete bed rest was in order and the prospect of having to stay in bed until term was advised by doctors. There was no reason found as to why this was happening, as previously having two full term beautiful baby girls with no complications, no real answers could be found. After 23 days of complete bed rest, with minimal bathroom privileges and having only had 1 steroid injection for lung development and a speedy bed ride through the walkway from DPH to Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) at 6 am, as the Private Hospital was not equipped for babies needing breathing assistance.

At 7.10 am on 18 January, 2008, 109 days early, the most beautiful little boy entered the world in a big way with a natural delivery, feet first, "Billy" William Jack, weighing 766 grams and 31.5 cm long. Never before had I experienced so many talented people in such a small space. Billy was taken immediately by the Doctors and nurses to the resus bed, I caught a glimpse of him for a second, he was so tiny, so quiet and so grey in colour but just perfectly precious. They worked quickly to stabilise him enough to transfer him to the NICU, and was advised they would come and get us when he was settled and stable. When all you wish in the world to do is to see your child, touch him, tell him that you love him so very much and that everything was going to be all right and how proud you are of him, it was the longest 3 1/2 hours you could ever imagine. 

Finally that moment arrived, and there he was ever so perfect, despite the endless tubes, tape, wires, machines and nurses watching over him. To hold his tiny little hand with the tip of my finger, to whisper the words I love you with all my heart my darling, just made my heart drop. What was I supposed to do next, it wasn't supposed to be like this. The nurses were amazed at his size considering his gestation. His first 24 hours went quite well, a bit of assistance with the ventilation and put on medication for low blood pressure. Our routine was quickly established with the reassuring guidance of the most wonderful team of nurses you could wish for with cares, ebm feeds, expressing, chats, laughter, hugs, photos, videos and just sitting beside the isolette and praying to god to watch over my little poppet. Even had the pleasure of him doing his first poo while doing his cares.

My breast pump became my new best friend, went absolutely everywhere with me, working every 3 hours day and night. I filled every freezer I could get my hands on to. It kept me going, gave me a reason to keep going while at home alone at night. If I couldn't have my baby with me at present I was going to make sure he had enough liquid gold a little boy could ever need. It was a roller coaster ride some days were good, some days were not so good, one day one step forward, the next two steps backwards. It had been only 7 days, it was the first day I had to travel from home a half hour drive, I thought I had missed his cares I was a couple of minutes late, my heart was just breaking. I walked in the nurses had a look on their face but I just couldn't quite figure out what they were up too.  Then all my wishes came true with a few precious words "Would you like to give Billy a cuddle this morning while we change his bedding." I just stood there and cried, I couldn't even talk, they assumed that was a yes!!! After about half hour of preparations, I sat in the big comfy chair for over an hour with tape, tubes, wires, machines all around us, but the only thing that mattered was cuddling my little boy right next to my heart, with my hand around his tiny body and a million kisses on his head. It is a moment forever etched in my heart. What a start to our second week!

The milestones continued with the slits in his eyes starting to open by day 11, turning his head at the sound of my voice and holding my finger with both hands. I tried to focus on these the good special things, rather than the overwhelming things of echoes, xrays, blood transfusions, anti-biotic after anti-biotic, caffeine dosages, vitamin supplements. By day 12, it was decided to take Billy off the ventilation and put on cpap, everything they pushed him to do, and he took it in his stride. He was very cheeky and active, always wiggling those pads off, no matter where they stuck them. And he was always on his best behaviour with desats when he knew there were little girls in the bed beside him, they were usually twice his size, but the nurses thought he was trying to impress them! Around day 46, we started to introduce the breast during his cuddle times, very, very slowly but surely he learnt what to do. So much for such a little one to learn, breath, suck, swallow. And the size of my breasts to the size of Billy's mouth just looked impossible, but once he had that attachment down pat he never looked back.

Day 51 was time for clothes, pumpkin patch teddy bears clothes, oh so cute, but still clothes. By day 57, Billy was taken off cpap and put on high flow prongs. Then the next day another big moment, we were in a big boy bed and moved next door to the general nursery (or the fat farm as the nurses referred!!). Was a bit much all at once and was back in the isolette the next night with the prongs, but the next morning he was back in the big bed with no prongs. 63 days old and it was time to have his first real bath, and how fabulous was it to see him so content, to feel at home just floating in the warm bath, not a tear or whimper in sight. It looked like he was in sheer heaven. There was even talk, that if he keeps going the way he is, we could be home together in a few of weeks.

But day 78, was one of those two or more step back days. Had a bleed in his little stomach, in An instant my world crashed once again. Instantly back to NICU with a rush of Specialist, nurses, xrays, cannula, anti-biotic after anti-biotic. There was whispers of NEC disease but with consideration of his age we prayed it wasn't the worst case scenario. My poor little boy, he had come so far so quickly and taken it all in his stride how could this be happening now. Cursed myself for putting the car seat in my car the day before, what was I thinking. Within 24 hours he had stabilised, and was back being his happy little self and very grateful to be able to feed again. He recovered quickly they could not find the cause of the bleed but closely monitored him nonetheless. Within the week we were back at the fat farm and planning our plan of attack for rooming in.

Day 88, today was the big day we were leaving our safe place at the nursery at RDH and moving to our own room at DPH where our journey all started. It was a day of tears of sadness and uncertainty to leave the ones that helped make it possible, but also tears of happiness for what the future holds. Slowly but surely, weight was gained and a feeding routine was made, we just had to reach that magic 2kg mark then we were home. Day 108, the day before he was meant to enter into the world. We made it, we were going home, and it was the 4 May, 2008. My wish had come to reality, my family is complete. Once home we had the usual regular routine with Paediatrician appointments, ear and eye appointments. 3 ½ years on we are only on 6 monthly visits with our Paediatrician and yearly visits for ears and eyes. With no major concerns but will be monitored until early school years. Billy is doing exceptionally well, he has such a beautiful nature and is so loving, thoughtful, kind, sweet, boisterous, and shy and active, all at once if that is possible. He has reached all his milestones as expected and in the last 18 months he is reaching his actual and corrected milestones. He shows no significant signs of extreme prematurity, the only hint is his slight build. People we have meet along the way are astounded by his story of survival. He is destine to do great things and it is such an honour to be his mother and guide him on his journey through life. Without the dedicated staff at RDH and DPH, Billy would not be with us today, they are forever gratefully treasured in my heart, and I'm sure in Billy's the older he comes with the understanding of his journey.

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