It was the sensation of fluid gushing out of me that woke me up. As I opened my eyes, I realised I was lying in a pool of blood and I immediately started to panic.
At 32 weeks pregnant, all I could think about was whether my son was still alive.
I was also completely alone – my partner, Kyle, had already left for work and our two-year-old was staying with his gran – so I contacted the labour ward who sent out an ambulance. I then rang Kyle who left work immediately to meet me at the hospital.
At this point, coronavirus didn’t worry me – it was early March and we were yet to be forced into lockdown. There had only been a few cases in the UK and while I hadn’t been isolating, tiredness and low blood pressure had prevented me from going out.
My plan was always to have a caesarean as I’d had one with our first son in 2017, but by the time I got to the hospital and Kyle had arrived, the doctors told us a natural delivery would be safer.
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It sent me into turmoil; I was petrified that if I started bleeding again, they wouldn’t be able to stop it.
That’s when the doctor from the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) arrived and tried to explain what would happen if the baby came early. But with my pain getting more intense, I struggled to take it all in.
All I could hear was that my baby might get rushed away from me. Kyle and I sat in silence, sick with worry.
After a long four days of anxious labour, our little boy, Kalvin, finally made an appearance eight weeks early on Sunday March 8, weighing just 4lbs 10oz.
He started screaming which was a good sign, and we got a quick cuddle before he was taken to PICU. While I knew it was the best thing for him, it was heartbreaking to our baby go.
Kalvin had been in the unit for just about a week when things started to change. The pandemic was becoming more intense and we were told that only me and Kyle would be able to visit.
Our families had only been able to glimpse Kalvin in the incubator straight after his birth and now they wouldn’t be able to see him at all, which made us really feel for them.
Meanwhile, Kyle and I were going to the hospital in the morning then taking turns to stay into the evening so the other could go home and try to make things as normal as possible for our other son.
Our minds were spinning constantly and neither of us could shut off, as everyday was different. We would phone at night to be told Kalvin was doing well then go in the next day to find he had taken a step back.
Then his situation got worse. He was taking pauses and dips with his breathing, and eventually we got the terrifying news that the doctors had discovered bleeds in Kalvin’s brain.
On three separate occasions, they told us they planned to transfer him to a hospital in Glasgow 45 minutes away for an MRI scan, but each time they couldn’t as coronavirus meant it was too risky for him to be moved.
I felt so angry and scared. I knew that the pandemic was having a terrible impact on people but it was tortuous knowing my son couldn’t get the tests he so desperately needed.
Lockdown and social distancing also meant we couldn’t see family, so didn’t have any physical support let alone a shoulder to cry on. In turn, all our families could do was sit by the phone and wait for updates.
As cases of Covid-19 started to creep up in our local area, the hospital decided that only one parent would be allowed a daily visit to PICU – and once we were in the ward, we couldn’t leave.
When it was my turn, sitting there alone was agony. I would stare at the monitor and flinch at every alarm that went off. Kalvin was lying right in front of me but there was nothing I could do.
The nurses were great, sending us photos and encouraging us to phone any time, but it’s soul-destroying to leave your sick baby knowing you won’t get to see him for another two days.
Without Kyle, my mental health really began to suffer with the additional worry that my oldest son was feeling unloved. I felt like the very worst parent but coped by reminding myself this wasn’t going to last forever.
Finally, after almost five, gruelling weeks, we were told on April 20 that Kalvin was healthy enough to come home. It was the news we had desperately been waiting for, and we were over the moon to make our family complete.
It’s been amazing having him home and apart from being a bit on the small side, Kalvin looks like a normal baby. I worry constantly, though. If he is having an off day I instantly think there is something more to it and that something’s wrong.
We have recently had his MRI to look at the bleeds and make sure the channels in his brain aren’t clogged.
The doctors couldn’t see anything amiss, which was very reassuring, but we won’t know if any damage has been done until he is older and starts developing.
Above all, I am so grateful to all the nurses and doctors in the PICU. When Covid-19 was at its worst they were continually understanding and tried to lift our spirits.
Kyle and I can’t help but feel like we have missed out on so much of Kalvin’s first months because of coronavirus. He hasn’t had a proper start to life, and certainly not the one we wanted for him, but the experience has made me appreciate my family and their safety.
We will never forget this horrendous time but when Kalvin is older, it will make for an incredible story.
If your baby was born premature or sick during Covid-19, you can find the latest information and emotional support at bliss.org.uk/support
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