After years of trying and IVF I was delighted to fall pregnant with Sophie, but waking up one morning at just over 27 weeks I knew something was wrong. Scans showed that I was going into early labour, but we didn't know why. I was admitted into the Royal Hospital for Women which wasn't my 'booked' hospital, and after a terrifying 24 hours was transferred to a ward to wait it out - the hope was I might be able to hold on, at least until the injections to grow Sophie's lungs were given to me.

5 days later Sophie was delivered by c-section. When she was born it was discovered I had an infection between the uterus and the placenta. And in fact it was a good thing Sophie pressed the eject button when she did! It was surreal and extremely scary because you know a baby is not meant to be born that early. And I'd had no experience of premature babies. I kept thinking about how I hadn't even got up to the birth chapter in my pregnancy book! While everyone in the hospital was great, it was heart-breaking being in the maternity ward, recovering and trying to express with no baby with me. The social workers reached out but I was so numb I didn't realise I needed support. When I was well enough to see Sophie I was shocked. She was 34cms and 1.3kgs. What struck me was how fragile she looks and how 'alien' almost. Without the body fat she looked strange.

I was given a leaflet called 'Outcomes for Premature Babies' but I couldn’t read it - it seemed like a dream. The best way that I could cope was to take it a day at a time. I had no idea whether Sophie would ever come home and in a way didn't believe she ever would. She got stronger every day. The nurses in the newborn care unit explained everything about the equipment and what they were doing which was great. I remember feeling so envious of the mothers at level 1 of the unit - the babies who were close to heading home and wondered when we would get to move further towards the door! Some highlights for me were - our first skin to skin cuddle (she was so fragile and there were so many wires but finally I felt like I had had a baby), the time when she didn't need CPAP anymore, her first bath, reading stories to her, her move into level 2, her move into a cot and finally breastfeeding and her move into level 1.

Although Sophie had a 'dream run' as a very premmie baby, it was a very difficult time. In fact I didn't realise how difficult until I came home. But that's another story! Today Sophie is in the 97% centile for height and weight. She's a might toddler and bright as a button. She is happy and very healthy, and coped well with her first colds. And we are blessed to have her and to have had such amazing care. It is a very tough time for parents, siblings and families when a baby is born early, but the love that surrounds us is overwhelming and almost palpable and for that I am eternally grateful. In the dark times I felt held up by that, and in the good times, lifted even further.






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