Tabitha was born at 34 weeks gestation, after a very difficult pregnancy. Our troubles started at 8 weeks when I started bleeding. My GP sent me for an early scan, and to find out our little baby was alive was the best Christmas present, albeit a few days late. The pregnancy seemed to carry on as normal until our 20 week scan. This scan showed a black 'blob' at the base of the baby's skull. We were called back a couple of days later so a consultant could have a look at our baby. It was at this point that it was noted our baby was small for the gestation, and that my body had not produced much amniotic fluid. I was sent to Nottingham for an MRI scan, so Tommy (our consultant) could get a more in-depth picture of what was going on with the 'black blob'. The results seemed to show a tiny hole in the baby's skull, which was leaking liquid. There wasn't anything that could be done, it was just a matter of keeping an eye on it, to see if it got bigger, or healed on its own accord.

As the weeks went on I was scanned bi-weekly and the 'black blob' became less of a concern, however the baby's size and lack of fluid became a larger one. We were asked to consider having a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test done, to test the baby's chromosomes for any abnormalities. Once we had agreed to this and after the test was complete we were being told all the possible outcomes, and to think about what we would want to do if the results came back (as feared) positive for Patau or Edwards Syndrome. After an intensely emotional couple of weeks, the results came back as clear. Our baby did not have a chromosome disorder. This now meant we were in 'uncharted water' or at least uncommon. No-one knew what would happen, or how our baby would develop. The one certainty was that I would eventually get admitted into hospital, and I would stay there until our baby was born. We knew at this stage that I would not be able to carry our baby to term, and that a C-section would be the delivery method.

My bi-weekly scans became weekly, and our baby, although growing, wasn't growing enough, and was running out of room. Then at 28 weeks, when our baby was still only around 500g in weight, the blood flow through the umbilical cord became intermittent, and I was signed off work, and admitted into hospital. Tommy was expecting to have to delivery our baby within the week, but after a few days of bed rest, our baby started to improve. I was now having twice daily CTG monitoring, to check on the baby's heartbeat, and bi-weekly scans. The baby was doing so well that I was allowed an overnight stay at home for my Birthday. 3 weeks into my hospital stay I was having my evening CTG monitoring when the baby's heart beat went sky high. I was rushed up into delivery, connected to another CTG monitor, and had surgeons on standby, ready to perform an emergency C-section if needed. By the time I had been taken upstairs and attached to the monitor, the baby had decided to calm down. After an hour the heartbeat was back to normal, and I was back in my own room on the ward by mid-night.

The following weeks carried on much the same and the previous without any more traumas. Then at 33 weeks, the blood flow again became intermittent and Tommy decided our baby would be better out then in. So my C-Section was booked for the following week. Our baby had grown to a healthier weight, and now had a very good survival chance. I had a visit form a Paediatrician to explain what the outcomes might be for our baby, he covered the whole spectrum, from the best through to the worst scenario. We were taken up to the neonatal unit to see ICU and HDU, where are baby would be going once born. When the day finally arrived, I was woken up at 6am and told I should start getting ready, as they were expecting me to have an early call. At 9am Tommy came in and said they would not be delivering that day because there were no spaces on the neonatal unit. I had been warned that delivery would only take place if there was space on the unit. Just as I was getting relaxed into the day, and wondering if I should ask about getting something to eat, a midwife came into my room, and told us they were ready for me in theatre. Before I know it I was gowned up and 'ready to go' and our baby was being lifted out of me. It was the worst sensation and I hated every minute of it.

At 13.39 our baby girl was born, weighing just 3lb 7oz. As Tommy lifted our baby girl up, the first miracle happened, she let out an almighty cry, and I knew then that she would be okay, even though she had a hard road ahead of her. I didn't get a cuddle before she was whisked off to the neonatal unit. In fact I didn't see my daughter again until 24 hours had past. I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and couldn't stop being sick, so I made the choice to stay away, it wouldn't have done either of us any good. Our daughter, although breathing on her own, was put on CPAP to help her lungs. They were so small that they got tired quickly, and she wasn't getting enough oxygen. At 13 hours old she was taken off the CPAP and was breathing on her own. When I finally got up to HDU to see her, she looked small in her incubator; I was scared to touch her. She had a feeding tube in her nose, a drip in her hand, and sensors on her foot and back, but I knew we were one of the lucky couples. Our baby was small, but doing well. I now had the task of trying to persuade my body to produce some milk. The midwives on the ward were very helpful, and supportive. Showed me exactly how the pump worked, and talked me through some tricks to help my body emotionally. The nurses on the HDU had taken some photos of Tabitha, and I would sit in the breastfeeding room surrounded by photos of Tabitha trying to get milk to feed her. 48 hours later and 'the Jordan effect' kicked in, which seem to co-inside with my first cuddle of Tabitha. And it was only another couple of days after that when we started trying to breastfeed. Tabitha seemed to be doing extraordinarily well, she was bright and responsive, her drip was out within 72 hours, and was being fed breast milk via her tube. That was one of the worst parts; have to test for food in her stomach before giving her a new feed. Tabitha was also very Jaundice, it was just very hard to see her with a blindfold, under the lights and not being able to cuddle her.

During her stay at the LRI and the General she had 3 lots of UV treatment for Jaundice, some of the photos we have of Tabitha she is so orange, that she looks like the guy from the old Tango adverts! At 7 days old Tabitha was transferred to the General, which was emotional in itself. Although I has been discharged a couple of days before, I had been in the Royal for just over 7 weeks and had gotten to know the staff really well. The thought of going somewhere new, where I didn't know anyone terrified me. The idea of Tabitha being moved without us present also sat heavily, but we had been promised a phone call to let us know when she left, and that she arrived safely. Once at the General Tabitha continued to improve, the hardest issue we had was trying to get Tabitha to suckle. She would tire easily, especially when she realised that she would be fed through her tube anyway. She didn't see the point of working for her food, when she would get it anyway without any effort on her part.

On the 4th June 2010, when Tabitha was less than 2 weeks old she moved out of her incubator and into a cot. It seemed ridiculous to see her in a woolly hat and cardigan, and wrapped in numerous blankets, in the middle of June while it was fantastically hot and sunny outside. But we had reached another milestone. Things seem to happen quickly form here, Tabitha was reaching new miles each day. The following day Tabitha started to have full breast feeds. I was told to wait until she cried before I gave her next feed. I found this hard, and at the time felt it was pointless, why wait until she cried, when at home I would just feed her as soon as she started showing hunger signs – I soon learnt that lesson at home! On Tabitha's 2 week birthday she had her 1st bath, I was much more excited about it than she was, Tabitha wasn't sure about this water business at all. But at least she didn't scream the whole hospital down. The following day we were offered on of the side rooms for the day, to have some 'quite time' just the 3 of us 'alone'. It gave us an opportunity to be a family unit in a more relaxed atmosphere, we knew by now that the doctors were hopeful that Tabitha would be home within the week. We were starting the 'home' preparations.

Tabitha's feeding tube was taken out at 16 days old, and that was the first night we spend as a family unit. A bed was made up for us in one of the family rooms, and we had an amazing first night. Tabitha slept really well, and I couldn't wait to get her home. The following night however was a completely different story. Tabitha refused to settle, all she wanted was to be fed. During the early hours I relented and asked to try a bottle feed, using one of the expressed bottles from the fridge. Tabitha still refused to take this form me, and wasn't keen on accepting it form her Daddy either, eventually after many tears, I took Tabitha back to the unit, so her Daddy and I could get a few hours’ sleep, before James had to head to work. That was to be Tabitha's last night in the hospital. At 18 days old and weighing just 3lb 6oz, Tabitha was given the all clear to go home. Although still slightly Jaundice, all the danger that can be caused by Jaundice was past, and the doctors were sure it would clear up in time.

Life at home wasn't easy, Tabitha was feeding every hour day and night. We were having regular visits form the neonatal nurse, and the health visitor to make sure Tabitha was putting on enough weight. We had a couple more visits back to the neonatal unit for tests on her Jaundice, and to make sure it was clearing up. After a few weeks, our consultant, referred us to, the dietician, because Tabitha was not putting on as much weight as hoped. We were given some high calorie formula which we were to give to Tabitha as a 'top-up' feed after she had breast fed. Tabitha was on this Special formula until she was a year corrected. Due to getting Mastitis at about the same time, I struggled to breastfeed and by the time Tabitha was 6 month old (from Birth) she was feeding only from the formula. The formula did its job, and Tabitha was putting on the weight, and following her 'centile' line on the chart. Tabitha started weaning at 6 months, and loves her food even today. She was discharged from the hospital completely in September 2011 and hasn't looked back.

Developmentally Tabitha caught up with her peers, and in some cases exceeded them at 18 months, if not earlier. She was walking at 14 months (from birth - 12 months corrected). Today Tabitha is 27 months, and is a live wire, she is a happy little lady, will chat to anyone who will listen, is already chasing after the boys and very much a Daddy's girl. To look at her the only give away sign that she was a premature baby is her size. She is still only in 9 – 12 month clothes, and is not yet 20lbs in weight. We are waiting for her 2 year check up from the health visitor, but we do not envisage any concerns. We know we are one of the lucky couples to have a premature baby and have the best outcome possible. We were preparing ourselves for a poorly baby who would need special care for her whole life. Instead we were blessed with perfectly healthy tiny baby, who just needed a little bit of help to kick start life.

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