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Our baby had an abdominal wall defect

"My journey was a long one, full of worry and stress but the good did eventually outweigh the tough times we experienced as new parents. I found out I was 7 weeks and 1 day pregnant mid- January 2015. We were so nervous but even more excited! On the 20th of January I had my first ultrasound. My due date was set to be the 7th of September 2015 and everything was looking good.

A couple of months later, we decided to have the Nuchal Translucency screening ultrasound. At this ultrasound, our baby was healthy and active. After the ultrasound, they brought in another lady to re-scan me and I started to get really worried. She informed me that our baby had an abdominal wall defect but, in every other way, was considered perfectly healthy and active. I was shocked and confused as I had never heard of this before. A further ultrasound confirmed that our baby had Gastroschisis. From then on, I went to frequent appointments and checkups so the doctors could monitor our baby’s bowel. We found out we were having a boy around 19 weeks!

After a few weeks, we became aware of almost everything to do with Gastroschisis. It made it a lot easier for us to hear the information from medical professionals rather than research it on the internet and panic ourselves!

Around 28 – 30 weeks of pregnancy, I was transferred to Westmead Hospital. I was now going for many CTGs (fetal heart monitoring), ultrasounds and clinic appointments each week. Everything was full on from early days of my pregnancy. We gained so much trust in the staff at Westmead. Among all of our other appointments, our PEARLS Team (high risk midwife) organised for my partner and I to take a tour of Grace Centre For Newborn Care (the neonatal intensive care nursery), and the birthing unit at the Children's Hospital. It was really helpful for us to get an understanding of where our son would be when he arrived.

Early morning on the 23rd of August 2015, I had arrived at the Woman’s Health Clinic at Westmead to be induced. A Foleys Catheter was inserted around 10-11am and once that was done, I was sent to a ward where I was under constant CTG monitoring until I was ready to go to the Birth Unit. A couple of hours later, I was transferred to the Birth Unit where my partner and I stayed for the night. Our son was constantly monitored by CTG the whole time.

My Mum arrived not long after 9:00am on the 24th of August, by that time I was now 2cm dilated. The Foleys Catheter was removed by a midwife and had a drip put in my hand, a urinary catheter inserted and the epidural around 9:30am. I was starting to become really nervous and scared. After my waters broke at 10:30am, I was given Syntocinon to bring on labour. My contractions started to become very severe and frequent at 1pm. By 3:35pm I was in an unbearable amount of pain, the epidural wasn't effective and my legs were extremely itchy! At 6pm I was topped up with the epidural and was comfortable, going in and out of naps. By 8:15pm I was officially 10cm dilated and ready to push. I was in labor for a total of 15 long hours before I was told I undergo an emergency Cesarean section due to last minute complications. My Mum and my partner’s support throughout this experience was so helpful.

Our son Travis finally arrived at 11:48pm on the 24th of August, weighing 3.6kilos. When he arrived, it was very stressful and heartbreaking for us as they spent about 10 minutes resuscitating our son as he wasn't breathing. We were in tears and panicking. They gave us the good news after those long few minutes that everything was fine with Travis. We were so relieved. Travis was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the adult hospital, before being able to go for his surgery, my partner was with him while I was in the recovery ward. From Recovery I was taken to the maternity ward where I was given medications and oxygen for the night. My partner and Mum left around 4am to go home and get some rest.

At around 430am, while my partner was on his way home, the Children’s Hospital phoned to ask his consent to take Travis into the Operating Room for surgery to close his tummy. After going home to clean up, he arrived back to the hospital around 7am. At that time he received a phone call from the surgeons telling that their first attempt at closing Travis' belly had been unsuccessful. Instead, they had put a silo bag over the bowel and would gradually push the bowel bag in over the next few days to avoid pressure rejection.

At 12pm on the 25th of August I first got to meet my son. I couldn't believe it. It didn't feel real at all. I was so happy but so upset. He was so beautiful. I was instantly in love. It wasn't easy to see him in amongst the machines, tubes and drips. For the first few minutes I honestly hesitated to touch him until I was reassured that it was okay.

I only went back to the maternity ward for medications and rest. I was in a lot of pain and it took a while to get the hang of walking again. I was discharged from hospital on the 27th of August.

On the 28th of August, Travis' silo bag was pushed down far enough for him to have his closure surgery, which was successful. We were so happy. On the 30th of August we were told that we could have our first cuddle, It was the best feeling in the world and since then we started feeling like parents, which was awesome. Travis had to have a Broviac line surgically inserted on the 3rd of September. With each surgery he went into it never got easier for us, but we got through it together with help from many supporters.

Travis was moved to the High Dependency Ward in mid-September, here he had many ups and downs, from infections to taking a while to get the hang of feeding and pooing, which required daily suppositories for a while. It was just a waiting game now. In early October, he was moved to the Surgical Ward where he was now on 3 hourly bottle feeds. We were so happy; especially because we were able to walk around the hospital with Travis and cuddle him so much more. I got to spend my first full night with my son right by my side! Travis' dietician insisted that he be on demand feeds from now on. A couple of days later, Travis had his nasal gastric tube taken out for good.

On Monday, the 12th of October the surgeons finally told us we could go home. Those words made everything so emotional. Our long, frightening journey was finally over and we got to take our little boy home for the first time after 7 whole weeks! Our son put up a fight from the moment he entered this world. He taught us how to believe. The way he has grown, the way he has changed and the personality he has acquired is absolutely beautiful. He's our little hero, our warrior!

I don’t think we could ever thank the surgeons, doctors and midwives enough for the hard work they put into making sure our son was okay and healthy. Their help and support throughout this journey was incredible and amazing. They really are heroes and we will always remember what they did for not only our son, but for us. Never stop believing, no matter what. In the end, everything was worth it."

- Courtney, Josh and baby Travis!