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Born 13 weeks premature and weighing only 940 grams, it’s been a bumpy road for Hugo and parents Jed and Amber.
Aside from severe morning sickness, Amber’s pregnancy was going well; until Hugo planned to enter the world earlier than expected and Amber went into early labour.
"I started going into early labour at around 26 weeks, which I just assumed were Braxton Hicks. I came into hospital and was admitted, while the doctors and my obstetrician tried to delay the labour—we actually went down to the birth suites three times as we were sure he was coming," Amber said.
"I had an emergency c-section under general anaesthetic and my partner Jed couldn't be in the room. Hugo was so little; he was whisked away to Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU) straight away. Even though I was upset that I had missed the opportunity to have skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed Hugo, I knew he was in the best hands and was receiving the care he needed.
"After a few hours, we were able to see Hugo in his little cot. It wasn’t until day three that I was actually able to hold him. Hugo is so beautiful and such a fighter."
Amber explains Hugo had some complications and their first few weeks in NCCU were extremely daunting.
"Hugo needed to be intubated and had difficulty breathing. He received three blood transfusions and experienced a small grade two bleed on his brain," Amber said.
"This was extremely difficult to hear, but our neonatologist was so reassuring and explained things to us, so we could understand, which helped keep us calm.
“Being in the NCCU was a completely surreal experience—we made friends with so many other families. Although it can be hard to see other families progress and move forward faster than you at the same time, you are so happy for them.”
To other families going through the NCCU journey, Amber’s advice is not to compare your baby to the experience of others. Each family has their own journey and no two babies are the same.
“You can also bring little things in like extra sheets and mobiles to make the cot space feel like home. I wanted to feel involved in every way possible, so I would bring in freshly washed sheets for Hugo,” Amber said.
“I also found expressing milk for Hugo was really important for us.
"It is the most amazing and special thing you can do for your baby during their time in NCCU. Pumping is so hard, and many times I cried to Jed and wanted to give up, but I am so glad I stuck to it, as Hugo will be coming home exclusively breast-fed and I am super proud of that."
“Taking care of yourself is also really important. I have been trying to balance being an NCCU mum, and a mum to my daughter at home too,” Amber said.
At home, Amber and Jed have four-year-old Lilly, and understand this time has been quite confusing for her.
“Lilly didn’t really understand why we couldn’t bring him home sooner, but I know she’s going to be the best big sister to Hugo. She is always telling us her plans for when Hugo is home, she can’t wait to help with feeding him and changing his nappy,” Amber said.
“I try as hard as possible to be in the moment when I am with Lilly and when I have my time with Hugo as well. I have also been trying to also take some time for me each day, even if it just a walk or a coffee outside in the sun.
“I felt at fault for what happened with Hugo for so long and blamed myself; the anxiety and stress is not good for yourself or for your family, so I am slowly turning this around.
“Now I am just so looking forward to bringing Hugo home, so we can be a family together,” Amber said.
After 89 days of being cared for at Mater’s NCCU , baby Hugo was able to go home with his family.
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For babies like Hugo, and parents like Amber and Jed, your support makes all the difference.