You know the feeling you get when you first know you are pregnant? Derek and I were so excited that we had a mini US growing inside me. Having lost our first child through miscarriage, the news of our pregnancy in April 2006 brought so much joy and a renewed sense of hope.
Everyone says the first three months are the hardest and the most critical - how wrong that was in our case. I had such a great pregnancy in the beginning; it was only in my sixth month that I started to feel that things were not progressing as they should. I could not feel my baby moving or kicking inside, but I kept being told that everything was okay.
On Friday October 13th 2006, I had an early check-up with the doctor and then went to work as usual, still very distressed that my unborn baby was not reacting as she should. That afternoon I received a call telling me to go immediately to the Horsham Hospital in Victoria where an ambulance would be waiting to transport me to the Royal Women's Hospital in Carlton.
The hospital conducted tests until the early hours of Saturday morning. We were exhausted, but knew we had to do everything we could to make sure our baby would be with us. Finally at mid-morning on Saturday we were able to get some rest, still within the confines of the hospital. On Sunday, the hospital conducted an ultrasound to check the status of our baby; the outcome was bad and we were rushed into an emergency caesarean. I was scared our baby was not ready to come out and knew nothing about having a premature baby.
Jessica was born at 3.15pm on Sunday 15th of October 2006, weighing in at 1.81kg and 10 weeks before her due date. I never had the opportunity to kiss her or hold her. I only got to see Jessica in the distance before she was taken away to the neonatal ward, and then exhausted, I passed out. I remember waking up in the hospital ward where Derek had placed a picture of Jessica on the lifting crane.
The following morning I was well enough to visit my baby in the neonatal ward. She was truly beautiful. I had never seen a baby so small before and I didn't know what to expect. Most mothers wake up to their babies in the cot next to them. To be so immediately separated, to have to watch your child through a pane of glass, was heartbreaking.
Jessica was fed through a tube in her mouth for the first 6 weeks and constantly monitored closely. After 8 weeks, she was well enough to come home but the monitoring would continue. The first two years of Jessica's life were the hardest for all of us. We spent a lot of time visiting doctors, speech therapists and physio's.
Six months after having Jessica I fell pregnant again and sadly lost that baby to a miscarriage. Ten months later I fell pregnant again and had a very healthy and full term baby boy: Nicolas.
Our Little Jessica is now four and a half years old and is our little fighter. For a child to have to go through all the things Jessica did in such an early stage of her life is a hard experience, but together we were able to get through it. Every time we would see Jessica reach a milestone, like reaching 2kg in her weight or walk a couple of steps, it would brighten our day.
For two years I blamed myself for Jessica being born early and wondering what I had done that had caused this to happen - now I just want answers. How this can be prevented? If not prevented, what can we do to give that child a better chance at life? The Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital Foundation is committed to finding these answers. No family should have to go through what we went through.