It was eight o’clock on a Sunday night when Nicola’s waters broke. At just over half way through her pregnancy, 21 weeks and six days, she assumed it was just a bit of pregnancy incontinence. But to put her mind at rest, she headed to the Mater Mothers’ Hospital with her husband, Ben. At the time she had no idea that a chain of events was beginning that could best be described as a mother’s worst nightmare.
The staff at Mater confirmed the inconceivable – Nicola was likely to go into labour within a few days. Given the very slim chance of her baby surviving, the medical staff promised they would do all they could to support Nicola and her baby.
“The doctor and the midwife were very compassionate and you could sense their sadness as they explained what was happening,” recalls Nicola, “We were given a lot of information to help us process everything and we had access to a social worker who could support us with our emotions at the time.”
"Medical staff promised they would do all they could to support Nicola and her baby." Image via iStock.
Defying the odds, Nicola and her baby hung on. For nearly nine weeks, Nicola was in and out of hospital and had to check her pulse and temperature every four hours to monitor for infection. With each passing day, her baby’s chances of survival improved.
“I was lucky that the staff at Mater understood how important it was for me to be at home with my then-toddler, Cooper. They encouraged me to live as normal a life as possible while trying to keep me and my growing baby safe.”
At 30 weeks gestation, little Parker was delivered via emergency c-section.
Nicola wells up as she recalls seeing Parker for the first time, “He was so tiny but he managed to breathe on his own for five minutes before needing resuscitation, which was a good sign. I was able to see him and hear him cry which was something I never imagined I would get to do.”
The next day Parker was doing well so they fed him some of Nicola’s breast milk through a tube, but it soon became clear that something was wrong. His tummy became bloated and he had to undergo an operation to receive a colostomy bag.
"At 30 weeks gestation, little Parker was delivered via emergency c-section." Image: supplied.
Once Parker’s body starting functioning better, he underwent another operation to remove the colostomy bag. It was after that surgery they pulled out his ventilator tube but after breathing on his own for a while, Parker started struggling.
“My husband and I were sitting at Parker’s bedside and I was holding his hand. He started letting go and his face went white and he became lifeless. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. My husband and I stood watching as the doctors and nurses very calmly brought him back and stabilised him. Not once did anyone ask us to leave or make us feel like we shouldn’t be there.”
All in all, Parker spent three months in Mater’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU). It was an incredibly difficult time during which Nicola and her family relied heavily on their friends and relatives.
My husband and I stood watching as the doctors and nurses very calmly brought him back and stabilised him. Image: supplied.
“We barely hung on and there is no way we could have given him all the love and strength and attention he needed without all the people behind us propping us up. We had people dropping meals over. We had people taking our older son, Cooper. We had people coming to sit with me, people coming to sit with Parker when we couldn’t. We just focused on getting through each day and we had to have a lot of hope.”
In addition to the support she received from her 'village', Nicola is full of praise for the staff at Mater and their incredible model of care.
“They threw every resource at us to keep our lives as normal and supported as possible during a really abnormal and traumatic time. An occupational therapist helped us understand Parker’s sensitivities and a physiotherapist helped us bath him. I wanted to be very hands on with his care and they were eager to educate me on what I needed to know so that I could mother him as much as possible in the situation we were in.”
One of Nicola’s goals was to breastfeed despite the difficulties of having to express and feed Parker through tubes initially.
“I couldn’t have done it without the midwives and lactation consultants. I am still breastfeeding Parker now and I wouldn’t be doing that if the staff hadn’t supported me the way they did.”
One happy, healthy baby Parker: “I couldn’t have done it without the midwives and lactation consultants." Image: supplied.
The day finally came when Nicola and her husband got to take Parker home.
“It was really surreal to leave the hospital without him after he was born and it was equally surreal to walk into the hospital and take our baby home. We took pictures and he was well, happy and comfortable.”
Parker is now seven months old and loves spending time with his mum, dad and big brother Cooper. A smiling baby and a “bit of a flirt”, he is learning to wave and prefers Cooper’s Matchbox cars to the regular baby toys. Nicola is loving being a family of four.
“We were at the beach over the weekend playing in the sand, just the four of us. It was one of those moments that we thought we would never have with Parker. We can see now that he is going to be fine. We are going to be fine. If anything, this experience is going to give him so much strength and resilience. I can’t wait to see what he grows up to be. He is meant to be here for something. He has fought the odds so many times, he’s going to do awesome things that kid. All babies are miracles but I can’t think of any other word to describe Parker.”
We couldn’t agree more.
A happy, healthy family:
You can help more babies like little Parker by signing up for Mater Little Miracles 5ks Walk on Sunday 5 June.
Mater Little Miracles 5ks Walk is so much more than just a great day of entertainment for your family—it’s a magical walk for mothers and babies at Mater; a walk to save lives.
Join us for loads of family friendly entertainment, games, food and fun! See Peppa Pig and meet PAW Patrol's heroic puppies—Police Pup Chase and Fire Dog Marshall!
Your continued support of these families will make a huge difference to their lives.
Bring your family and friends to Brisbane’s South Bank on Sunday 5 June and walk to help seriously ill and premature babies at Mater.
Sign up at www.materlittlemiracles.org.au