Mum raising awareness of plight of premature babies

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A Brighouse mum is sharing her story as part of World Prematurity Day to help raise awareness of babies who are born too soon.

Emma Weekes had to wait an agonising four months to bring her little boy home from hospital after he was born at just 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

Little Joshua weighed just 1lb 10.5oz when he was born in October 2009.

She was prescribed medication in the hope of bringing her blood pressure down but at 26 weeks, she started having chest pains.

She was due to see her midwife the next day, who took some blood and discovered Emma had HELLP Syndrome – a potentially dangerous rare liver and blood clotting disorder that can affect pregnant women.

The only way to treat the condition is to deliver the baby as soon as possible.

“I was a bit naïve,” Emma said. “It was my first baby and I thought if he was early, he’d be a bit small and maybe in hospital for a couple of weeks but then we’d be home.”

Joshua was delivered by emergency caesarean section when Emma was 26 weeks and six days into her pregnancy, and was rushed to the special care baby unit where he was put onto a ventilator.

He had to stay in hospital for the first few months of his life and it was only when he was 16 weeks old that the couple was told he could come home.

“It was brilliant to have him home,” Emma said. “Only me and my husband Rob had been able to see him in hospital because of the infection risk so it was the first time people like my mum were able to see him.”

Last year, Emma discovered she was pregnant again. Midwives kept a close eye on her and she had regular scans but again her blood pressure shot up and doctors discovered a problem with the umbilical cord.

“They said they would have to deliver at 32 weeks. It was something we’d been expecting, although we’d been hoping to get to 34 weeks,” Emma said.

Her second son, Lewis, was born on January 8 at 32 weeks, weighing 3lb 3oz.

Again, the couple saw their baby being rushed to the special care baby unit but say they were lucky that Lewis only had to spend three weeks in the neonatal ward before he was allowed home.

Joshua was on oxygen for 12 months and has been left profoundly deaf but otherwise Emma says she now has two healthy boys.

She urged parents who find themselves in similar situations to “take one day at a time”.

“People who realise they’re going to have a baby early can start panicking, thinking ‘I’ve got to get the pram, I haven’t finished the nursery’. Don’t worry about any of that. Just concentrate on your baby and getting yourself better.”

She said it is also important to find someone to talk to.

“It can be very lonely sitting there in a neonatal ward with your baby. You want to be with baby but you can sit there thinking and mulling things over that don’t need to be mulled over. Find someone to talk to,” she said.

There is a Halifax and Huddersfield Bliss family support group for families of babies who have spent time in special care.

It meets at Elland Children’s Centre on the first Thursday of every month between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

For details, visit http://www.little-feet.co.uk/new-group-offers-support-for-parents-of-special-care-babies.