Article by Lottie O'Neill: A Billericay mum has described her shock at giving birth to her daughter after just 27 weeks of pregnancy and how her tiny child weighed less than a bag of sugar.
Charlie Ferrington, 31, did not know she was going into labour until she was lying in a hospital bed. The mum-of-one has revealed how it felt to see her premature baby, Eva, for the first time and how the newborn's skin looked "see-through".
"It was quite frightening the first time I saw her, it became very real at that point," said Charlie. "She was so, so tiny. The pictures don't really do it justice."
Eva was transferred to Royal London Hospital for specialist care in the NICU
"When you see the baby in real life and see the tubes and how tiny they are, and how many nursing staff are looking after this tiny little baby, it makes it real."
Charlie did not go through an easy pregnancy and from week 20 she began to suffer from bleeding. Despite this, an examination in hospital showed her baby was doing well. But when her placenta dropped from high to low, she was admitted to hospital on and off over a number of weeks.
Doctors told Charlie the baby could come early and she was given steroid injections. When her bleeding stopped on April 13 last year, having reached the 27th week of her pregnancy, she was discharged from hospital. However, her waters broke a few days later on Easter Sunday (April 16). Charlie said:
"My waters broke on the Sunday, I didn't see the labour coming at all. The water was on and off all day and we went to the hospital as it was quite sporadic. I didn't think at all that I was going to have her. I didn't realise I was in labour until I was on the hospital bed."
Charlie underwent an emergency cesarean and said it was only 30 minutes between doctors telling her she was in labour and being 3cm dilated, to going down to theatre for the operation.
Her baby had begun to show signs of distress because of the bleeding.
"It was crazy, a bit surreal, it all happens so quickly and you're seeing lots of different people," she added.
Eva was born at 8.56pm, and, at just 27-weeks-old, weighed 830 grams. But she was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) owing to the fact she had been born more than three months early.
Charlie's husband, Ross, 32, was able to see Eva that evening and took pictures to show Charlie the next day.
The first-time mum explained that as Eva did not have a third trimester in the womb, she did not gain fat and was all "skin and bones". The first time mum saw her baby when she was 'see-through' Charlie said:
"Her skin was translucent, she looked similar to Benjamin Button as she had excess skin, and she was really red. There was no fat on her at all. And she was almost see-through. Seeing her like that was a reality check and everything that had happened in the previous 24 hours hit home. It was the scariest moment of my life."
To make matters worse, Eva became unwell because she inhaled meconioum.
What is meconium?
Meconium is a dark green substance forming the first faeces of a newborn infant. Unlike later faeces, the meconium is composed of materials ingested during the time the infant spends in the uterus. It includes intestinal epithelical cells, lanugo, amniotic fluid, mucus, bile and water. It is typically passed in the womb during early pregnancy and again in the first few days after birth. The inhaled meconium can partially or completely block the baby's airways.
"It's very rare that Eva inhaled meconium. It doesn't happen until babies are overdue or over-formed. I still don't know why it happened. Eva was struggling to breathe and had to be ventilated as soon as she was born. It wasn’t what I’d imagined giving birth to my daughter would be like."
Doctors struggled to regulate Eva's blood pressure and they did not have the facilities at Basildon Hospital to care for her. This led to the tiny tot being transferred to Royal London Hospital where she was closely monitored. Charlie had to wait five days before she could hold her baby girl. She said:
"I got to hold her five days after she was born, it was absolutely incredible. It was very scary, with lots of wires when they are so little. I remember the nurses saying it takes a lot for them even being held and it takes a lot of energy for them. It couldn’t happen often and not for a long time but it was incredible."
As Eva needed to gain another kilogram before she could be taken back to Basildon Hospital, she remained in London until she was two weeks old.
Back at Basildon, she was monitored and allowed to go home at 11 weeks, which was actually three weeks prior to Charlie's original due date of July 13.
The mum says that they plan to celebrate two birthdays for Eva, her actual birth, April 16, and her original due date each year. Charlie added:
"She will have two birthday like the Queen."
Eva was admitted back to hospital in September and October last year as she suffered with severe reflux and had to be tube fed. But her development has been back on track since Christmas.
What is The Sick Children's Trust?
The Sick Children's Trust support families so they can be just minutes away from their child in hospital during their treatment.
They provide free accommodation, called a 'Home from Home', as well as emotional and practical support to families with sick children in hospital in the UK. The charity was founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists, Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, who believed that parents should be on-hand during hospital treatment as it benefited a child's recovery.
On average two million children in the UK require hospital treatment each year, and may have to be transferred to specialist hospitals far from home to receive critical medical treatment.
They work with hospitals to relieve emotional and financial strains at a very stressful time. Her mum said:
"Eva is really lively she is so smiley and responsive to anyone who wants to give her attention. She is really good with people and Royal London Hospital nicknamed her 'diva Eva' when she was there."
Staying minutes away from Eva was 'crucial'
Charlie and Ross, who have been together since they were 19, were able to stay in charity accommodation whilst Eva was in hospital. Charlie said:
"When we were told there was a room for us at Stevenson House I burst into tears because I felt so relieved that we would be so close to Eva. Every day that passed felt like a trudge through mud. The hours went on forever. Eva was so small and needed a lot of help with her breathing – she was on oxygen and had tubes going up her nose. It was during these days that Stevenson House was especially important to us. We were just so close and could be with our daughter all day and all night if we wanted to be. You can't imagine how crucial that is."
Charlie and Ross were given a room at Stevenson House by The Sick Children's Trust, a charity which supports around 4,000 families with seriously ill children in hospital by providing accommodation free of charge. It costs the charity £30 to support a family for one night.
The Trust is hosting a national fundraising campaign, Big Chocolate Tea, to raise money to support families in need.
For further information about The Sick Children's Trust and their campaign visit their website here.
Article by Lottie O'Neill, EssexLive