Edinburgh mum and premature baby both had to be resuscitated during traumatic birth

An Edinburgh mum has shared her terrifying pregnancy experience that saw both her and her baby resuscitated on the operating table during a complicated birth.

Alana Gunn, 30, from Clermiston, was admitted to the Royal Infirmary at 23 weeks after suffering from heavy bleeding and a low lying placenta.

After almost two months in hospital, she gave birth to Alex when she was at 30 weeks gestation.

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Throughout her time in hospital Alana says that she feared that they both could lose their lives due to the complications related to the birth.

Alana, who is also mother to son Lucas, six, and daughter, Isla one and a half, says that she wants to open up about her experience to help other mums and families who may find themselves in a similar position.

“On January 7 I was admitted to hospital at 23 weeks pregnant due to having a high risk pregnancy,” she said. “I lost a child three years ago at 24 weeks so I had checks at 12, 16 and 20 weeks.

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“It was halfway through the pregnancy at one of the scans that they discovered I had a low lying placenta. It changed to not moving and then the risk of bleeding grew and I was at higher risk for haemorrhaging.

“At 23 weeks I started bleeding on and off and they kept me in because there was a large amount of blood. I was moved back and forth to the maternity and labour ward every time I would have a bleed.

“They decided it would be best for me to stay in hospital as I was too far away at home if I had a big bleed. I was in hospital for seven weeks before the birth and the hardest part was not knowing if I’d have my child that day as the health professionals all had different opinions which could be frustrating.

“Despite the uncertainty, I was well looked after and the staff were all amazing at the Royal. I found mum guilt was the hardest part as I was not there to do the school runs, make their dinners or put them to bed, it was horrendous.

“At the beginning and until I hit about 27/28 weeks there was a constant fear that we would lose Alex. There was relief that he was being monitored all the time and I could feel him moving, so when we got to 28 weeks I was not as worried about his survival.

“At 30 weeks and five days I was put under general anaesthetic for the birth but I lost a lot of blood and needed a blood transfusion. Both Alex and I had to be resuscitated.

“I do not remember seeing him for the first time but I do remember in my mind that I thought we are both here, we just have to keep going. There is nothing else for it other than to put one foot in front of the other.”

Alana says that the best thing she did was listen to the professionals and follow their advice.

She adds that she does not think she would have been able to cope with the situation if it was not for the ‘amazing’ family network that she had around her.

Alex was born on February 27 but was not discharged until seven and a half weeks later - meaning the little warrior spent over 50 days in hospital.

Alana was discharged eight days after giving birth but had to go back to parenting while recovering and spending most of her days at the neonatal intensive care ward with Alex.

“My husband Peter and I had to essentially undertake shifts together, he was absolutely amazing before and after the birth,” she added. “He went down to two days a week and we would have one of us going into the hospital for Alex in the morning while the other got the kids ready and would often switch over later in the day.

“We were like two passing ships in the night, it was essentially shift work. My sister-in-law (Suzanne Wood), my dad (Alan Brown), my mum (Isabella Brown) and my auntie (Mary Blackmore) all went above and beyond for us.

“They kept me sane and stable. I remember going into the hospital and saying to myself I just have to get through it but there were a couple of times I had a meltdown as it was terrifying. I kept thinking if something happened to me then the kids would be without a mother and my husband without a wife.

“The nights on the maternity ward could be lonely as you would just think about everything that could go wrong. But I put my trust in the medical professionals and I cannot fault them, they were amazing.

“The only way emotionally I managed to get through it all was to be open about my fears and feelings with those around me. I tried not to bottle it up as I don’t think holding it all in is any good for you.

“A real leveller for me was thinking about women who were in worse positions than me. I knew there was only one way out and it was to go through the surgery and submit myself to reality.”

Alana says that the neonatal side of things can be a reality grey area for parents as due to the traumatic experiences of families with children in intensive care, it is a topic that is not openly talked about.

She called for greater honesty and for pre-birth classes and groups to approach the subject so that parents are not blindsided.

Despite a hiccup last week, Alex is back home, happy and healthy, with Alana describing him as ‘doing really well.’

“I think, for me, the neonatal side of things is such a grey area,” she continued. “It is crazy how daunting and terrifying a neonatal intensive care ward can be - that was the most humbling part of it all.

“My auntie came in and walked into the ward and she was taken aback by the little babies in incubators and just started crying. You don't hear about it or talk about it because it is behind closed doors and is so personal to each family and no one prepares you for it.

“As a society we should be more open about how many babies visit the neonatal ward before they go home and it was something I never even knew about until I was in that position. A friend of mine's baby was born before Alex and she is still there.

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“As parents there is nothing we can do other than to just get on with it. They say some parents can become institutionalised because you become numb to the monitors, beeping and alarms.

“When Isla was younger she had to go into hospital and her oxygen levels were monitored. When it dropped below 90 per cent I would panic.

“But with Alex it would regularly drop below 50 per cent and I would not bat an eyelid because you were so desensitised to it all. But he is back home now and is doing really well which is such a relief."

For those impacted by the loss of a child, the Sands National Helpline provides a safe, confidential place for anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby. Whether your baby died long ago or recently.

You can access their website here.