Submitted by: Bianca van Emmenes

I found out I was pregnant in mid-October 2015.  Technically-speaking it was my third pregnancy as I suffered a miscarriage the year before at around nine weeks.  My doctor told me that my body would not be able to sustain a pregnancy as I do not ovulate as ‘normal’ women do. 

Looking back now I can see myself staring at the two lines on the pregnancy test.  I had so many ‘what ifs’ running through my mind that I was afraid to share the news.  At the time my eldest daughter was 11 years old (she is now almost 15). I could not bear tell her she will be a big sister just to break her heart and say, “Sorry, the baby did not make it”.

I experienced problems early on in my pregnancy.  I was seven weeks along when I started bleeding. That is not a good sign if you are pregnant! “It’s happening again,” I thought.  Lying on the bed at the doctor’s office that afternoon, I was expecting to hear bad news.

Instead, I saw a little heart beating.  I was then referred to Kalafong Hospital. Still bleeding two weeks later, I was told it can be a threatening miscarriage, but only time will tell.  I was booked for the following week for tests – blood work, scans, and even an MRI.

Rainbow pregnancy

The first warning signs 

The baby and I have different blood groups.  My body can reject the baby because of this.  My womb lining was also too thick which makes it hard for the placenta to attach properly.  I also have endometriosis. During a scan, a professor discovered that I had two cysts in my womb – one just above the placenta and another behind the baby.  I remember laying there with a room full of interns (it’s a teaching hospital) with a normal 20-minute scan turning into an hour and a half teaching class!  I got to see more details of my uterus than any woman I know.  It’s rare to fall pregnant when all of this is happening but I did and was told many times it’s a miracle.

I am still bleeding but my baby is still holding on

I was about 16 to 18 weeks along and still bleeding.  My feet swelled to a point where my skin felt like it was tearing.  I was at the hospital every week for scans and more tests.  Despite everything that was happening my baby was growing and her heart beating strong. The baby was small but growing, with a heart beating strong. 

I have morning- and evening sickness which prevents me from gaining weight.  I couldn’t eat meat (and I love a good steak) and the only food I can hold in is fruit and some vegetables.  At 25 weeks I am back at the hospital for yet another pelvic exam. I am still bleeding but my baby is still holding on. 

On Tuesday, 1 March 2016 I wake up and my lower back is killing me.  I thought it was just because I was working or had the fan on during the night. By 10:00 the morning I couldn’t take it. 

My brother rushed me to the hospital. We get there and I have a scan – my baby’s heart is beating.  I got put on a drip and was admitted almost immediately.  During the pelvic exam, it was discovered that I was 4cm dilated.

The doctor on duty tries to stop the labor, “We need to keep the baby in there as long as we can.” At 02:15 am on Wednesday morning, 2 March 2016 I gave birth to a baby girl weighing just under 1.1kg and 38 cm long. 

They rushed her off so fast. I only heard her cry once and barely saw her. After the shock subsided I took a shower. Back in my room, I cried like it was nobody’s business.  My heart was torn to pieces. What if?

I did not sleep that night.  I just want to see my daughter.  A nurse took me to the NICU.  There she was.  So tiny, so helpless, so new.  There were machines everywhere. Oxygen, blood pressure, incubation, drip, a feeding tube, and a nappy so big it covered her completely.  I was told to hold her skin to skin.  This tiny little human. 

I was called aside.  I was told that because she’s so premature that the following could happen: Because she’s on oxygen she can go blind and/or deaf. Infections can occur.  I was told she was born with a “hole in the heart” which they will monitor.  Her lungs were  not fully developed and they are waiting to see if she can urinate on her own to see if her kidneys are working (like a champ she did urinate)

My daughter was tiny but she was growing

Every doctor and nurse at the hospital was extremely kind.  I had to be with her every two hours for feeding, day and night, and did not sleep alot.  I couldn’t breastfeed.  I did not have milk and she was on donor milk for three weeks (for which I’m so incredibly grateful) 

My daughter was tiny but she was growing.  I had to stay in hospital for the entire time she was there.  Then one day she looked like a cotton ball – she was as white as a sheet.  I was informed that she doesn’t produce enough red blood cells on her own and needs a blood transfusion. What a drill. The transfusion was supervised by two nurses and a doctor.  The next day she looked like she had a bad sunburn.  I had a red baby.  It was a success! 

She was doing so well that the doctor started to reduce her oxygen. We were moved from the NICU to the kangaroo ward.  She was doing so well until an infection set in.  She had to get antibiotics via a drip.  For a week we were placed in isolation.  She had to be better before we can leave isolation.  During this time I started bottle feeding her.  She was so eager to drink that the feeding tube was removed. 

We were moved out of isolation. The doctor was so happy with her weight gain and progress. On week eight we were discharged! She weighed 2.2kg and was feeding on her own.  Back home her sister loved her.  She sat beside her helped to bath her.  She was so tiny. 

After being at home for two weeks we had a follow-up appointment. An eye test to see if she blind.  We had three of those and again she came out a champ. There is nothing wrong with her eyes, she’s not blind. We had hearing tests done –  again nothing wrong she can hear. 

Happy 4th birthday!

I was told she would be “slow to achieve the goals normal babies achieve” again she surprised her doctor. She walked at 1 year 2 months. She spoke full sentences at just over 2.  She played, she was busy, she’s healthy, she’s a champ.  I had to feed her every two hours. Gave her solid food at five months. She’s a happy, healthy 4-year-old and in many doctors’ opinions, a miracle.

During the eight weeks in hospital I had so much support. Friends and family and yes, even my ex! My eldest child has Type 1 diabetes. I had to be a mom to her calling making sure she injected. She showed me how strong she is.  She was so brave during this time and took good care of herself. She’s an amazing big sister. Her little sister looks up to her and follows her everywhere. 

Today, I’m a single mom to two amazing kids. My oldest shows me every day what bravery is. She deals with bullies a lot but that doesn’t break her strong spirit-instead she will educate. She stands her ground and is proud of who she is. My little one. She’s an adventurer. She loves the world and loves exploring and playing. She enjoys her dolls and playing in water. They love each other sometimes I think they have their own language. 

I’m proud of my daughters. I’m proud of the humans they are. I’m lucky to have them and because of them, #ImStaying.

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