When teenager Kimmy Simper welcomed her first child Lucas on 11 February, her tiny baby was just one week and two days past the point of the pregnancy being considered ‘viable’.
Weighing just 2lbs 2oz, Kimmy’s son had to rely on breathing equipment to help him survive as he spent the next four months in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. If that wasn’t enough, the little boy has already spent most of his life living in lockdown.
Today Lucas is doing well – but it’s been a tough ride and a devastating time for Kimmy and her family.
At just 16, her pregnancy was unplanned. Kimmy wasn’t in a relationship with the baby’s father and admits she felt thankful for her family’s support after breaking the news to them.
Even so, when she went into early labour, the teenager couldn’t help but feel terrified.
After three days of experiencing stomach pain, Kimmy had decided to get checked out at the hospital.
Initially she was told she was just experiencing braxton hicks, normal contractions of the uterus that can happen during pregnancy.
But the next day, Kimmy couldn’t feel her baby boy moving.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘They checked his heartbeat and said that everything was fine, so went to send me home.
‘The pains got worse, so I went to the toilet in the hospital and saw fresh blood and what was my mucus plug. I told the midwife that had just seen me, and she popped me into the bed to see that I was actually fully dilated.’
Knowing they had to act fast as Kimmy was still so early on in her pregnancy, the midwife hooked Kimmy up to a steroid drip in a bid to help mature Lucas’ frail lungs and began his delivery.
‘Within 30 minutes he was out,’ she remembers.
‘I was so petrified because I knew this wasn’t normal and I had no idea what the outcome would be.’
Kimmy says giving birth at just 25 weeks pregnant was incredibly upsetting and scary, as she knew there was a chance her son wouldn’t make it.
‘I was really overwhelmed and didn’t know what to feel,’ she says. ‘They took him straight away, and I didn’t see him for seven hours after the birth.’
Things became even harder when Boris Johnson announced lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus on 23 March, while Lucas was still in hospital.
Luckily, Kimmy was still able to visit Lucas during the day – but she had to go home without him each night.
She explained: ‘I came at 9am and went at 8pm. The hardest part was going home without him.
‘The lockdown makes this so much harder as the restrictions mean only the mums could visit. This meant that I had to put up with all of the bad days as well as the good on my own.
‘It’s very emotionally draining, and I’m lucky I have support in the hospital as well as at home because of my mental health problems.
‘My family are trying the best they can to support me but they said that they will never understand how I feel because they haven’t been through what I have.’
As restrictions were put into place in hospitals, the new mum had to wear a mask, gloves and an apron to visit her son.
It also meant Lucas wasn’t allowed out for any cuddles and she was rarely allowed to touch him. Kimmy says even the nurses found this difficult, as before lockdown they would encourage physical contact as often as possible.
Kimmy continues: ‘The hygiene at the hospital was always the same because of the environment that we were in, however the tension and the new rules brought in due to Covid-19 made it a lot harder to enjoy spending time with my baby.
‘It’s made my emotions sky high and I’ve found it much more difficult to stay positive, however I’ve tried my hardest for my baby boy.’
Since his birth, Lucas has experienced many health problems. At week one, his bowel split and he needed an emergency operation to have a stoma (an opening on the front of your abdomen to allow faeces or urine to be collected in a pouch) created, and at two weeks he required a heart operation for his PDA ligation (when oxygen-rich blood that should circulate around the body returns to the lungs).
He then had another operation to have his stoma closed at two-and-a-half months old, and then had an operation on his eyes for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which left untreated can result in blindness.
Kimmy says: ‘He’s recovered very well from all his surgeries. He’s got problems with his blood pressure, kidneys and liver, so will be having regular check ups for that. We will also come back to hospital every week for his eyes too.’
On 2 June, Lucas was able to leave the hospital for the first time since he was born 16 weeks before.
Kimmy says the challenges she and Lucas faced have made her feel even luckier to finally have her son at home.
She says: ‘It’s made me appreciate every little thing so much more. I’ve had to fight for my baby, and it’s made me so much stronger.
‘Each day is a new day, one step at a time.
‘I’m so, so, so happy and excited to finally take my baby boy home.
‘I’ll be able to get into my own routine and finally do things the way I want. I’m scared because of lockdown, but it just means I can spend more time with him.
‘Only my household will be holding him as I need to shield him because he’s coming home on oxygen.’
As advice for any other new mums going through a similar time during lockdown, Kimmy says: ‘Each day will be a challenge, and you’ll feel like you’re never making any progress, but these babies are much stronger than you think.
‘You just being there to hold their hand will give them the strength you need. Even if you can’t be there for them because of lockdown, there’s little things you can do, and they won’t remember or hold it against you.
‘You stay strong for them, they will stay strong for you.
‘Everything is worth it in the end.’
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