Julia Lord, 36 was devastated to be told a problem with her placenta meant her baby wasn't growing properly. But he was a fighter – and now he has a brother and sister too....
When did you first realise something wasn't right?
It was when I was first pregnant with Max, my first baby. I was very slim and physically fit before pregnancy, but was really looking forward to having a bump. However, by six months I was hardly showing at all. I had a midwife check at about 31 weeks and she said it was probably because I had very strong stomach muscles, but sent me for a scan to rule out any problems.
What happened at the scan?
They told me that the baby was extremely small, that there was hardly any fluid and that my placenta wasn't functioning as well as it should. They monitored the foetal heartbeat and told me that they were concerned about the baby and wanted to admit me overnight.
How did you cope with that?
I was really upset and scared. The consultant came to see me and told me the baby was incredibly small and it could be down to a genetic abnormality. I was given a steroid injection to mature the baby's lungs.
Were you allowed to go home?
Yes, but I had to come back the following day. I went on my own, feeling pretty confident things would be OK. I was wrong:. When they scanned me I was told that my placenta had almost completely stopped working, that the foetal heart rate was erratic and that my baby had to be delivered that day. I couldn't believe it.
What happened then?
I rushed to phone my husband and got the answering machine! Luckily he arrived in time, just as the room was filling with nurses, consultants, doctors and anaesthetists. It was all very overwhelming, but the most frightening thing was the paediatrician telling us that due to the baby's prematurity, he couldn't be sure that the lungs would have developed. If they hadn't developed to a certain extent then there would be nothing they could do for him.
Where did they take you?
Straight into theatre. My husband sat holding my hand: we were both shaking. We had two names we liked, Max and Sam. When our son was born he let out a really loud cry so we knew his lungs were okay. We both burst into tears and decided 'Max' suited his strength and willpower! He weighed just 3lb 5oz.
How did you feel when you saw him?
He was shown to me very quickly and then rushed off to intensive care. I was in recovery for a couple of hours but a bit later I was allowed to see him. He was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines. I sat by his incubator crying, wondering when I'd get to hold him.
When did you finally get a cuddle?
Two days later, but not for long because he got exhausted being off the breathing tubes. He was transferred to a Special Care Baby Unit and after a month we brought him home, weighing just 4lb and suffering from severe reflux (because of the feeding tube).
What were you told about what had happened?
Basically there was not enough blood flow through the placenta. They don't know why it happens to some women and not others. I did worry that I'd done something wrong but the consultants reassured me. They do a scan which measures exactly how much flow is going through the placenta, which is how they knew straight away that it was looking dodgy.
What happened with your second pregnancy?
My second son Eddie was born a month early. They monitored me very closely due to what happened before. He also had very little fluid and by 36 weeks had stopped growing completely, so they delivered him weighing 5lb 13oz.
Did it put you off having more children?
We were determined to complete our family, and my daughter Maria was born at 39 weeks last year, weighing just 5lb 10oz. We thought she would be born early too because I was measuring small for dates at 30 weeks. I think a steroid injection gave her a bit of a boost because she suddenly started growing again and was delivered at 39 weeks.
How do you feel, looking back?
A couple of days after Max was born the consultant came to see me and said she'd been looking through my file. She said that if they'd waited until the Monday to scan me (which would be following normal scanning procedures), Max wouldn't be here now. It really brought home to us how serious it had been. Now, I just feel very lucky to have the family I always wanted.