The Lament of the Preemie Mummy

My son Hugo’s premature arrival meant an abrupt end to my pregnancy. It also threw me into a kind of motherhood I had never imagined.

The reason for Hugo’s premature birth, at 24 weeks and four days, was an emergency Caesarean section to save both our lives because I had HELLP syndrome and severe pre-eclampsia. You can follow the words in purple to read more about that.

Without the swift action of the staff at Bedford Hospital and at St George’s Hospital, Hugo would almost certainly have been stillborn, and I would likely have suffered serious organ damage, or died too.

Me and Hugo

Me and Hugo

For those reasons, bemoaning my lot as a mother seems churlish – but it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed a little bit of self-indulgence.

A premature birth meant I was fast-tracked to the end of my pregnancy, depriving me of all the things I had taken for granted.

At 24 weeks, I was so proud of my growing bump and was looking forward to seeing what changes the remaining 16 weeks would bring to my body.

My baby was active from an early stage, and I loved feeling him kick me. While I had anticipated many sleepless nights with his feet in my ribs, I wanted to share the experience with my partner of seeing our baby’s elbows and feet protruding from my swollen belly.

Being pregnant meant time just for me and my baby, that only we could experience. I couldn’t wait to meet him, and see what he looked like, who he took after, what his character was and what he would be interested in.

Bloody hell, body. ‘Can’t wait’ is an expression commonly used in the English language. I just meant that I was excited; there’s no need to heap further guilt on me. I didn’t mean that I literally couldn’t wait.

I hadn’t got far enough in my pregnancy to have formulated a birth plan, but it certainly didn’t involve the situation I found myself in.

In my imagination, the birth would be preceded by days of nervous, excited anticipation from me and my partner, as well as family and friends about when labour would start, how long it would take and whether the baby would arrive on his due date. My partner would be with me the whole way, holding my hand and encouraging me when I got exhausted. When my baby was born, he would be placed on my chest for skin-to-skin contact and that unforgettable moment of mother-baby bonding. He would be put to my breast and guzzle my milk to give him my immunity and protect him. We would take him home, love him, cuddle him, nurture him, play with him, teach him things, proudly track every developmental milestone that he achieved and show him off to anyone and everyone.

Hugo cuddling Mummy

Hugo cuddling Mummy

I never expected an emergency C-section, under general anaesthetic and accompanied by seemingly most of St George’s maternity team’s staff. I never expected my partner to have to wait, terrified, in a separate room to hear whether I and his baby had survived. I never expected to have to wait more than 30 hours to meet my precious baby. I never expected to be taken in a wheelchair from my intensive care bed, with lines and tubes going into and coming out of me to meet my son, in his incubator bed, with lines and tubes going into and coming out of him. I never expected to be too terrified to touch my baby son.

Motherhood, in a neonatal intensive care unit, came in a way I never expected.

But for all my terror, I loved Hugo intensely from the moment I met him. I was encouraged to put my hands in his incubator and touch him – he instantly took a tight grip on my finger.

Hugo gripping my finger

Hugo gripping my finger

Even at 24 weeks and growth-restricted, he was perfect. He was strong, and kicked his arms and legs – often in time with my singing. He was brave and determined, and knew what he wanted. I couldn’t believe that he was mine, and that I had helped make this incredible, brand-new sentient human being.

A cuddle in an unexpected environment

A cuddle in an unexpected environment

I got upset when he was distressed, and did everything in my power to comfort him. Every opportunity to touch him, do his cares, or cuddle him was taken. While he never nursed, I expressed my breast milk which Hugo then guzzled with great gusto via his naso-gastric tube. We loved him, cuddled him, played with him, and proudly tracked every developmental milestone. We showed him off to anyone and everyone. Most people were unable to meet him, so we did this via social media, instead.

All of these experiences have created the most precious memories. However, I still miss my pregnancy and everything that should have brought – today, I should be 35 weeks and four days along, and ready to burst with excitement.

More than anything, though, I miss my precious baby son.

Hugo will always be my special champion boy, and I will always be his very proud mummy.

11 Comments on The Lament of the Preemie Mummy

  1. Zoe Brookes
    November 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm (6 years ago)

    I had the same thing and had my son at 24 weeks spent 4 and a half months in hospital but with the help from the staff and family we got through it and I’m proud to say I have a lovey 17 month old son with no health issues

    • Leigh Kendall
      November 2, 2014 at 8:35 pm (6 years ago)

      Glad your son made it home. So wish Hugo’s story also had a happy ending x

  2. Jenny
    August 23, 2014 at 2:10 am (6 years ago)

    You are so amazingly strong and so brave and great to share your story. Love reading them each week. So glad you found my linky. I think it’s great to talk about Hugo and share your experience. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    • Leigh Kendall
      August 23, 2014 at 7:23 am (6 years ago)

      Thank you Jenny, I’m glad I found your linky too. I love talking about Hugo, and I’m glad people enjoy reading about him. xxx

  3. Louisa
    August 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm (6 years ago)

    I am so sorry you had such an abrupt end to your pregnancy and such a frightening start to motherhood. Your love for your son shines through. I am so very sorry that you lost Hugo and I’m in awe of your bravery x #sharewithme

    • Leigh Kendall
      August 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you for your kind words, and for taking the time to read our story xxx

  4. Lauren O'Hara
    May 11, 2014 at 5:12 pm (6 years ago)

    at the end of the post, there wasn’t supposed to be ‘yet another post yado yada’ I pressed copy and paste for the blog address and forgot to delete that line

  5. Lauren O'Hara
    May 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm (6 years ago)

    This was such a good read. My friend had to have an emergency cesarean last week at 24 weeks so it was great to read your experience too. I feel so sad that her baby had to be delivered so early but her baby is growing stronger each day and she is doing better than expected.

    Much love to you and your family and I hope Hugo grows big and strong so you can take him home soon 🙂

    Lauren O’Hara
    Yet another post for today! How lucky are you

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm (6 years ago)

      Hi, thanks for your comment. I hope your friend’s baby grows big and strong, and can go home soon. I hope too that your friend makes a swift recovery from her section. xx

  6. Joanne
    May 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm (6 years ago)

    What a beautiful story. You’re so strong to have gone through this and share your experience. Xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you. Thank you too for taking the time to read and comment. I hope sharing my experience helps others. xxx


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