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My baby was born at 22 weeks

Theresa was just 22 weeks into her dream pregnancy...

Robert and me with our beautiful girl
Theresa Miloseski, 44, West Leederville, WA

What a difference a day makes. Just 24 hours earlier I'd been cradling my blooming belly, wondering what my unborn bub would look like. My husband Robert, 40, and I had spent almost eight years trying for a family and now we were expecting a girl. Would she have Robert's brown eyes or my dark curly hair? Heading to my obstetrician the next day for a check-up I was still on cloud nine. But after an examination, his face darkened. 'We need to get you to a hospital right now,' he said. What? I was confused.

At just 22 weeks gone, I was still months away from my due date and I felt completely fine. But terror gripped my heart as he explained that my amniotic sac had ruptured. It meant there was a high chance I'd go into labour. Devastated, I turned to a nurse. 'If I have the baby today, will she survive?' I asked desperately. She shook her head. 'I'm afraid her chances aren't good,' she said sadly. I felt like my whole world was crumbling. As my eyes turned into pools of grief, I was too overwhelmed to speak. Handing my phone to the doctor with trembling hands, he broke the news to Robert who was just as devastated.

As he rushed to be with me, I was taken by ambulance to King Edward Memorial Hospital. What doctors told me next left me completely shocked. 'I'm afraid if your baby's born today, we won't be able to resuscitate her,' they said. Australian hospitals have special guidelines on how to treat pre-term babies. While every case is different, my doctor gently explained that, generally, medical teams are advised not to attempt resuscitation after birth when babies are born under 23 weeks. He said it was because the chances of them pulling through are so incredibly slim and the likelihood of brain damage so great. I was devastated. Our little girl was slipping away from us.

Fortunately, our doctors were determined to do anything in their power to fight for my bub. 'If your baby can make it to 22 weeks and five days, we'll do everything we possibly can,' they reassured me. I was incredibly grateful and knew I was in safe hands, but time seemed to stand still as I realised that meant my angel needed to stay inside me for five more days to stand a chance. As the time slowly passed, I felt a flicker of hope. Each moment meant I was one step closer to helping my bub survive. Finally the fifth day came and doctors made the difficult decision to induce my labour.

Stella was just 440g at birth
The odds were still stacked against us but our baby had defied them so far. We told the doctors that - no matter the risk - we wanted them to try to resuscitate her. We owed it to our girl to try. Only time would tell if she could battle on. Robert was by my side as I gave birth to little Stella three hours later. Her name is Latin for 'star' and that's what she'd have to be to pull through. Catching a glimpse of her dark hair, I felt a rush of immeasurable love. But before I could have a proper cuddle, the neonatal team had to whisk her away for urgent treatment. Kissing me on the forehead, Robert clutched my hand before rushing to be by her side.

At just 440 grams, Stella weighed little more than a can of baked beans. I could hardly believe if she'd been born just a day before she might not have stood a chance. Now, Stella did have a chance. I was thrilled but I knew only too well we were likely to lose her at any second. The world's most premature surviving baby was born just one week earlier than Stella. How could I possibly expect her to make it? I knew I couldn't give up though. Two hours later, I saw my precious bub for the first time. Lying on a soft blanket, her tiny body was covered in wires and tubes. She had her dad's nose and the most precious little hands.

With no idea how much time our girl had left, we captured many moments on camera. Robert snapped away, taking pictures of Stella in a tiny pink hat and fast asleep with my wedding ring around her wrist. She was so small it fit all the way up to her upper arm. Hours passed in a flash as I sat with my little girl, reaching carefully into the humidicrib to softly stroke her, willing her on. We decided to have Stella baptised and she amazed us by making it through the night. With just 40ml of blood in her tiny body, she needed eight blood transfusions to keep her going but the medical team did a truly amazing job. Leaning in close to talk to her, my voice trembled. 'You're so perfect,' I whispered. 'If you can't fight any longer, you'll be my angel in heaven.'

Happy and healthy Stella today
But again Stella proved she could fight. As each hour passed, her little heart kept beating. Ten days later, she finally opened her eyes, and after almost five weeks Stella was ready for her first proper cuddle. Holding my most precious possession gently in my arms, I brimmed with happiness. I never wanted to let her go. She weighed only 500g but she was getting stronger every day. After 22 weeks in hospital, we were allowed to take Stella home - four weeks after the day she was meant to be born. While it was scary, we soon got into the swing of things.

Now, Stella is six months old and weighs a healthy four kilos. While she does have some lung problems, she's getting stronger every day. I still can't believe what a difference a single day could have made to her chances of survival. It was as if she knew she needed to hold on just a little longer. Most babies born so soon wouldn't have made it. That's why I'm so grateful to the medics who believed in Stella. They helped prove what a superstar she really is.

Micro Miracles

  • Around eight per cent of babies in Australia are born premature - before 37 weeks.
  • Approximately 15 per cent require some form of extra care at birth.
  • A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed six per cent of premmies are born between 32 and 36 weeks while just one per cent are born between 20 and 27 weeks.
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