My pregnancy had been easy, and I had no idea that I was in pre-term labour when I called King Eddie’s in Perth to ask if I should be concerned about the period-like cramps I was experiencing. It was a complete shock to be told, within hours of making the call, that I could be having a baby that very evening. I knew nothing about premature babies and burst into tears, assuming death or severe disability to be the inevitable outcome, and distraught because my husband was overseas at the time. I was given drugs to stop labour, which worked briefly, and steroids to help the production of surfactant for my baby’s lungs. Two days later I went back into labour, and my daughter was delivered at 3am by emergency caesarean to avoid any possible problems associated with her making her own way out in the footling breech position. She weighed 855g (later dropping to 795g) and was 34.5cm long. No-one was sure exactly what caused the early onset of labour, but the surgeons found a large blood clot behind the placenta.
I was very worried that I might be asked to make life or death decisions about my daughter before my husband returned at the end of the week, but fortunately, apart from being intubated for a day and going on to CPAP, she didnâ€™t need much more than phototherapy for jaundice and drugs for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). I remember looking at this strange hairy little creature with her wrinkled face and tightly closed eyes, and I was frightened to touch her at first. I waited until my husband arrived at the hospital before we announced Talia’s name. For the first four days of her life the hospital staff had known her only as “Tic-Tac”! Talia spent a wearisome 11 weeks on C-PAP with constant, inexplicable oxygen desaturations. We were on the BOOSTII trial and our monitor went ping constantly. Over time Talia graduated from humidicrib to open cot, was very fortunate to avoid any major infections, and needed only one blood transfusion. We were also very lucky that Talia was able to access human donor milk from the PREM milk bank in Perth at a time when I was struggling to express enough for her needs. Finally she made it to oxygen via PBF, then a week later all tubes were gone. She came home after 95 days, two days after her due date. As a result of her chronic lung disease, we have lived a very quiet life over winter to avoid any new infections. Talia remains a very small baby, even for her corrected age, and we are now waiting to see how much impact her early arrival might have made on her longer term development. At the same time, we are certainly counting our blessings to have such a beautiful baby and we marvel at the strength and determination she has shown us already.