Our Neonatal Journey With Holly

This part two of Holly’s birth and neonatal stay. The first part is “My Baby Was Born to Save Me” which will be linked below. If you haven’t read part one this post won’t make much sense. This post is only in two sections as it was hard for me to write the whole thing in one go and I really do try and be raw and unedited.

29th September – Poppy’s Birthday

Now to this day, it breaks my heart that I woke up on my first daughters birthday in hospital and I didn’t get to give her a big cuddle. Do one-year-olds care about their birthday? Of course not. But we all know that birthdays, when our children are young, are all about us, not them. Her birthday was so important to me. It was amazing that she actually made it to one.

Poppy’s birthday was also the day I met my youngest daughter for the first time. It was around midday when it got taken down to the neonatal unit, I was eager to get there. That was until I actually got out of bed. Now any women who have had a c-section comment down below your experience in standing after surgery. Because oh my was it difficult.

The pain was intense, and when I arrived at her incubator there was an x-ray machine there and we had to sit back and watch her be handled from afar. When the specialist nurses spoke with us, one was very concerned about Holly’s breathing and the other wasn’t. This was precautionary. At this point I wasn’t really with it to take anything in, I just wanted to meet her.

Mother meeting her baby for the first time in the neonatal unit.
Meeting baby girl Baker for the first time.

I’m not sure if it’s even possible for me to explain how I felt at that moment in the photo above. I didn’t feel much. I cried for the hundredth time in 24 hours. Relief? Maybe. Happiness? It wasn’t possible to feel happiness at that moment. I was sat so distracted by the pain I was in that I couldn’t focus on my baby. I didn’t want to be there.

When Everything Went Wrong

It was the evening of 29th September. Every time we visited Holly for the next 48 hours something went wrong while we were there. We walked into chaos.

Holly had a punctured lung, her lungs were working so hard that it had collapsed. Her incubator was surrounded by a trainee doctor and nurses trying to fit a drain into her lung to remove excess air. One drain was fitted. Oliver had to help keep all her wires out of the way while the doctor fitted it. I sat in my wheelchair watching from a distance. Helpless. The mum in me needed to be there helping. The consultant arrived and a second drain had to be fitted in a better place. We weren’t around for that thankfully.


30th September it was decided that Holly would need to be ventilated to give her a chance to rest. Her lung needed time to repair. The ventilation stage was hard. It was hard looking at our baby all wired up like she was.

A baby being ventilated

When I got discharged from the hospital myself we would get up and drop Poppy off at our friend’s house if we needed to and go and visit Holly for a few hours. Sometimes Poppy would join us at neonatal, but she was so young that staying in the hospital all day was hard work. But we tried our best. We would put Poppy to bed head to the hospital at around 8 pm and get back home at midnight. Trying to recover and do all of this at the same time was exhausting.

Meeting Holly

A mother holding her baby for the first time
Holding Holly for the first time.

I look at this picture now and think “wow I look so sick”. My iron was obviously low from massive blood loss. But in comparison to what I looked like a few days prior this was good. It was an amazing moment holding her. I finally had a chance to start to build a bond with this little girl. I hadn’t been able to for so many days.

There came a time eventually, it felt like weeks but in fact, it was a few days that Holly came off of ventilation and was recovering well. Myself, Oliver and Poppy moved into the hospital. We wanted to breastfeed and get her home as soon as possible so being around was most important.

The Final Stretch

The rest of her time in neonatal was spent establishing a feeding routine. She had to be fed a certain amount even two hours to ensure weight gain. It was tough, those first few weeks are hard in any circumstance. But recovering from major surgery, staying in the hospital with a one-year-old and waking up every hour to feed was immensely hard. But we did it.

With the love and support of our friends and family, we pulled through. We actually got to bring our baby home. Holly has no life long side effects from having a punctured lung and being ventilated. She has a hole in her heart that hasn’t closed yet but so far isn’t having an effect on her life, and if that has to be treated it’ll be in a few years time.

A baby at home for the first time.
Holly in her first few days home.

Somehow I found that inner strength all of us parents find when our children need us. Somehow we pulled through the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to us.

Both me and Holly both nearly died. I find comfort that if I was to lose as much blood as I did without being pregnant I would have died. But due to being pregnant I had more blood in my body. Holly’s birth may have been the reason I faced death but Holly saved me. And that makes me smile.

We saved each other.

For more information and support about neonatal care click the link below.


Danielle Swan x