I had a healthy pregnancy and there was no clue that my birth would be anything other than straightforward. What actually happened, however, was my worst nightmare.
My labour was traumatic. It was a long. 24 hours to be exact and no painkillers were working. In the end, I had to have a forceps delivery. It was an awful experience but it was worth it when Alfie was born, healthy and breathing. As he was taken away to be cleaned up, I was so happy and it seemed like the worst was over.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I was still on the table recovering with Luke, my partner, beside me, when the nurses came back in and told us that Alfie had been having seizures. I was still woozy and couldn’t believe what was happening. Alfie had been fine just a few moments beforehand. What could have happened?
No one was sure what was wrong with Alfie and Peterborough Hospital, where I’d delivered him, decided that he needed specialist treatment at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge. My head was still in a whirl as I tried to process what was happening. I’d just given birth to my beautiful baby boy, and now we were going to be separated, as I had to stay at Peterborough to recover. It was terrible and there was nothing I could do about it. My only sight of Alfie before he left was through the side of an incubator. It was so awful seeing him in there.
When the time came for him to leave, they asked if anyone was going to go with Alfie. We couldn’t bear the thought of him being in a different hospital alone so Luke and his Mum, Donna, travelled with him to The Rosie Hospital.
I found out afterwards that once Luke arrived in Cambridge, he stayed right by Alfie’s side. He was dropping off to sleep in a chair by Alfie’s incubator that night – but as he was falling asleep in that uncomfortable chair, a lady called Abi approached him and offered him and Donna a place to stay. It was at Chestnut House, which is run by The Sick Children’s Trust. It was so close to Alfie and meant that Luke and Donna could get the rest they so desperately needed while still being just minutes from Alfie’s side. Though it was so hard being in Peterborough, I felt so reassured once I found out that they had somewhere close by to stay.
Alfie had been having a cooling treatment, which reduces the chance of brain damage by dramatically reducing a baby’s core temperature to just a few degrees then over 72 hours warming him back up. Thankfully that was a success, but he was also showing signs of infection, and was on antibiotics. The worst bit was not knowing why, or how, it had happened. We still don’t know to this day.
Although I knew that Alfie was getting better, it was still absolutely awful being so far away from him, especially after such a traumatic labour. It was five days until I was able to travel to The Rosie Hospital and cuddle Alfie for the first time. It was so amazing being reunited with Luke and Donna and being able to properly hold my baby for the first time – it was a world away from seeing him looking so ill through the incubator.
I stayed at Chestnut House too that night and saw how amazing it was. Luke told me how he’d spoken to staff, as well as other parents staying there, to ease his worries about Alfie. Without Chestnut, we both would have had to commute from Peterborough to be with Alfie, and anything more than a few minutes is too much when your baby is sick and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Happily, after I was at Chestnut for just one night, Alfie was discharged and we all went home. It was so lovely taking him home for the first time and settling him in. He’s still being monitored, but he’s a healthy little boy and there’s no sign of what he went through. It was such a terribly experience but it was made so much easier by The Sick Children’s Trust and I am so grateful to them. I’ve kept in touch with Abi to update her on how Alfie is getting on now and to thank her for everything she did for us.
Jemma, Luke and Alfie
- Children, Child care
- the rosie hospital
- chestnut house
- family story