real life

What it's like to be the father of a preemie baby.

Michael Vosmansky is the father of Robbie Vosmansky, who was born prematurely at 32 weeks. Michael and his wife Karin will be participating in this month’s Walk for Prems, the largest annual fundraiser by the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation, Australia’s leading charity dedicated to the families of babies born sick or prior to 37 weeks gestation. Walk for Prems will take place simultaneously in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. To show their support, Michael has shared his experience of what it means to be the father of a premmie.

Michael's preemie baby. Image supplied.

The months prior to my son's birth were mostly what I expected pending fatherhood to be like. My wife Karin fussed about, discussing and choosing the necessary newborn accessories - pram, change table, cot, clothes etc., etc. I would provide thoughts and opinions, and Karin would reach decisions based on her opinions - pretty normal stuff really.

We were busy doing some minor renovations - plastering and painting, mainly, trying to get the house and nursery ready for the arrival of our first child.

Karin began to get some pregnancy symptoms that, while being uncomfortable for her, did not overly cause concern, due to the fact that this was all first time experiences for us. Lower limb swelling and continual heartburn were the two that I remember, with there being times when Karin couldn't sleep due to the discomfort.

It got worse and we had one trip to hospital, only to be advised to take some Panadol and not worry... A trip to the obstetrician resulted in some blood tests being run and we returned home. It was Friday 5th January, 2007, eight weeks prior to the estimated due date for our first born.

Karin with her baby, Robbie. Image supplied.

I was at work in the CBD, not really thinking about pregnancy, babies or the like - too busy working. The phone rang and it was Karin, in tears, telling me that the obstetrician had called and she needed to present at hospital right away. The blood work we would later find out had revealed pre-eclampsia and the potentially fatal HELLP Syndrome.

I left work and took a cab home, where I found Karin crying and trying to pack her hospital birthing bag - none of which we had started, as we were still two months away from the delivery date. So off we went to the hospital we had booked for the expected delivery and were moved straight into the birthing suite. The head obstetrician turned up, pretty unusual for a Friday afternoon, and we were told that this hospital was not equipped for this type of “Emergency” - Yes, “Emergency”. It was at this point that the pit of my stomach dropped what felt like a hundred feet.

We were advised that we would be transferred to a large one level hospital with intensive care facilities for both my wife and the baby and an emergency caesarean had to be performed as soon as possible. Karin had been administered magnesium to help prevent her having seizures and was transported by ambulance with steroid injections being administered while she was being loaded into the ambulance to try and build the baby's lungs.

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Robbie getting healthy. Image supplied.

I had to follow the ambulance, trying to drive, cry and panic blindly all at the same time - I think that it was lucky that we were not both admitted to emergency.

Once we got to the hospital and Karin was admitted, she was taken into surgery fairly quickly, and so began my wait. I was not allowed to be present for the birth of my son, Robert Josef, who was delivered at 12.20am on Saturday 6th January. The first I saw of him was as he was wheeled out of theatre in a humidicrib and taken to the NICU. I could not yet see Karin, so I followed Robbie up to the NICU, with several nurses crowded around him, monitoring his vitals.

I was on the outside, trying to peer over the shoulders of hospital staff with concerned looks on their faces. I tried to get a picture of him with my phone, but the flash caused the picture to white out, so there was no first new born picture for the album.

Karin and Robbie now. Image supplied.

I was then instructed to leave the NICU as Robbie started to have difficulty breathing, and had to be intubated. At this point I was terrified - I did not know how Karin was doing, and for all I knew Robbie was dying. I don't remember much else of that night, but I did get to be with Karin as she came off the aesthetic - I told her that we had a son. It would be two days before Karin would first get to see Robert, as she was in Intensive Care on one floor, whilst Robbie was in NICU on another.

And so began the exhaustive program of going to work, then visiting Karin and Robbie at the hospital, followed by going home to try and complete the renovations that we had earlier commenced when we believed that we had time. I was grateful for our friends that stepped in to help, primarily by providing food, as I had no time to cook.

Once Karin was discharged, she still spent most of each day at Robert's side in hospital, so I would catch the train there after work so that we could drive home each night to an empty house. Here we would try to eat, sleep, and complete the renovations.

Michael and Robbie. Image supplied.

The time spent at the NICU was harrowing - to sit there and watch your child through the Perspex screen of the humidicrib, and not be allowed to hold him while he struggled to gain strength during those first weeks was awful, worrying about if he would turn out okay, or suffer ongoing complications. Karin's recovery was drawn out as well, so I had the two most important people in my life going through some pretty tough times.

But, after what seemed to be many months even though it was only six weeks, Robbie came home and proceeded to grow and develop into a happy and healthy boy. After considerable amount of time Karin recovered from the pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome as well.

This post was originally on Life's Little Treasure.

To find out more about the Life's Little Treasures Foundation's Walk for Prems or to donate visit their website http://www.walkforprems.org.au/.

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