I had a very normal pregnancy, morning sickness from six weeks and every scan showed Cohen was growing perfectly. I had scans at 5, 7, 9, 12, 15 & 20 weeks, as I was always nervous something would go wrong, so would pay for private scans in between my NHS scans.
It took me a long long time to fall pregnant & I had a miscarriage in June 2018. When I was 24 weeks 3 days I noticed a tiny bit of blood. I rang the day unit and they said if I had no pain then I would be okay. Later on that afternoon I had a little more show and I rang back; they told me to come straight in.
So I drove myself straight there as I had no pain and thought I would be checked and be able to leave (this inspired Cohen’s box). I was seen straight away and my blood pressure was perfect. When I was seen in the next room, I had my cervix checked and the doctor told me I needed to ring my birthing partners. I was told I had bulging membranes but my waters were still intact.
I then had a scan and Cohen’s estimated weight was 2lb and he was breech with his bum plugging him.
I was then moved to another room and had the magnesium drip and my first steroid injection to help his lungs and protect his brain. I was told to expect him within the hour, my contractions were every four minutes. My midwife stayed 2.5 hours after her shift ended in case he was born.
Cohen was still cooking happily in my belly two days later, so I was moved from Labour Ward to Lyndhurst ward. We both were calm and had perfect heart rates, no infection & my contractions had stopped. I was 8-9cm dilated when I arrived at the Princess Anne, so it was a miracle Cohen was still safe in my belly. I went and had a tour of the neonatal unit on the Thursday.
On Friday morning my contractions started again, so I was moved back down to the Labour Ward. I had another scan and Cohen was now footling breech (1 foot extended below his bottom) & natural delivery was too dangerous. I was given three choices and all were 50% survival rate.
I decided to have a caesarean and get him out in the best condition, instead of risking him being born naturally and the cord getting wrapped around his neck or his head getting stuck. Due to how early I was, I needed a classical Caesarean section.
One hour later, I was in the operating theatre & my waters broke, so I made the correct choice in picking the caesarean. I was surrounded by lots of different departments, who were all so amazing and calming. Especially the anaesthetist, who spoke to me and my sister the whole time, explaining what was happening.
Cohen was born at 15.37 pm on Friday 8th March 2019, weighing 2lb.04oz / 920g, a really good weight for a 25 weeker. He cried on his own and was perfect. He had a breathing tube fitted & was taken to the neonatal unit. He was born 9 days after the baby I miscarried’s due date, I still find that very strange.
Three hours later, I was wheeled down on my bed to see him, and it was the most magical moment of my life.
When Cohen was seventeen hours old, he had his breathing tube removed as he was doing so well. He started having 2ml of my milk in his feeding tube, but I was warned the first 48 hours are called the golden hours and to possibly expect him to decline.
When he was 47 hours and 50 minutes old (honestly) I was told he needed his breathing tube back in as he was getting tired. I now know this was the infection brewing.
On day 3 his blood gasses were different and he was started on a course of antibiotics. On day 4 (Tuesday) he was still poorly and his infection markers were rising. On Tuesday afternoon I was told Cohen was in a critical condition and I should prepare for the worst.
The next few days passed in a blur and Cohen was put on lots of different medicines, his blood cultures had grown Staphylococcus aureus and he was very poorly. In five days his infection marker had risen from 3-223 but when he was 9 days old it had started to lower and I thought he was going to be okay. Family and friends visited him and couldn’t believe how perfectly formed he was, he even had a head full of hair.
He knew my voice and would squeeze my finger when I held his hand. He would push the nurses hands away when they would do his mouth care if he had been poked and prodded all day, even when he shouldn’t have been able to move, his little fighter personality shone through, he was incredible and strong.
He opened his eyes for the first time and last time when he was 10 days old. I had left the hospital for the first time in 2 weeks and went to register his birth. Whilst I was gone they had tried to reinsert his longline, as that’s where we thought the infection could be breeding.
It was unsuccessful as his veins and arteries were too small, and his heart rate would drop too low and he would get very stressed & take a long time to recover.
I walked in and said “oh my baby have they been stressing you out” & he pinged his brown beautiful eyes open. He was sedated a few hours later so I never got to see them again. On this same day, Cohen had an X-ray and his lungs were very damaged, his body had started to shut down.
I slept next to his incubator in a chair as I couldn’t leave him, I think I knew that it was time. Every day multiple times a day I told him, he was my favourite person and he had to get better because we had so many plans & I didn’t love anyone like I loved him. On day 11, I spoke to him and said, “ I don’t want you to go but if you need to go, you can go”. I didn’t want him to be poorly anymore.
On the morning of him being 12 days old, Cohen’s consultants had done their morning round and said so much damage had been done due to the infection, that the care they were giving him was not helping him anymore. They said if there was no change at 4 pm, they would look stop his medicine.
At 4 pm there was still no improvement. He really was born perfect and healthy, premature but healthy. The consultants said they had never seen this type of infection take hold so quickly, and do that amount of damage it had done.
The decision was made to make him comfortable in another room with me so we could get our first cuddles. Again this time passed in a blur at around 5.45 pm he was moved from his incubator onto my chest and his medicine was stopped. At 6.10 pm I knew he had gone to sleep and asked for a doctor to check him and was told he had.
I don’t know how I functioned the next few hours but I just knew I needed to bathe him and get him dressed.
I was able to give him his first bubble bath & get him dressed into a baby blue sleepsuit. ‘Remember My Baby’ joined us and took pictures that I will treasure forever.
The night shift started at 8pm and our lovely nurse who had looked after him on a few different occasions, including his first night on Earth, was looking after us. She sat outside the bedroom door until 8 am. She would come & sit looking through his pictures and videos with me when I felt like I needed company, as I had asked my mum and sister to go home as I just wanted to be alone with my baby.
Cohen was in a cuddle cot on the bed with me all night. I sung lullaby’s and spoke to him and felt like if I repeated myself enough, he would know that if love could have saved him he would have been saved. I had never felt so helpless, it wasn’t meant to be this way. I had so many plans and visions of our life together.
I was able to take Cohen home in the morning to be with him for one for more night. Walking into my home with all of his clothes in his drawers was tough, I was way too organised and had every single item we needed. I even had his Christmas pyjamas, plate and cutlery.
I put him into his electric chair his uncle had brought him, next to me whilst I had a bath and washed my hair. I wanted to do what would have been our normal routine if he was home under different circumstances.
That was the only time I put him down, other than when his Nan and two Aunties came to give him cuddles. I couldn’t bear for him to not be with his mum as I knew the next day I had to take him to the funeral home. That evening I did his clay hand & footprints that come in my 4Louis Box, which I’m so happy I received as I have his footprints and handprints tattooed on me.
I was able to visit the funeral home every single day and this brought me a lot of comfort. I could sit with him and read him stories like I had done when he was in my belly & his incubator.
When Cohen was 4 weeks old, I held his funeral at the same time he was born and one of his midwives came to the service along with 4 of his neonatal nurses, this meant the world to me.
I can’t thank the staff at the Princess Anne enough. All of the consultants, doctors, nurses & midwives are incredible. My midwife who was in the delivery room with me, explained everything in a way that kept me calm and relaxed and in the best frame of mind for my baby boy and our journey ahead, I will forever be grateful.
When Cohen went to sleep I needed a focus and a way to still feel like I was parenting my son. I have since started ‘Cohen’s Box’: any family that has a baby between 23-30 weeks at the Princess Anne hospital will receive a box with items that will help their neonatal journey. We also have wash bags, boxers, t-shirts & socks for Dads. We have also donated 2 new updated cold/cuddle cots, a difficulty airway trolley which the neonatal unit named ‘Cohen’s Trolley’; the Princess Anne is the first neonatal unit to have one. As well as a portable suction unit and most recently a professional long line trolley.
I speak about Cohen every single day and I hope his name brings smiles to other families who receive a box that will be embarking on their neonatal journey.
I have joined the club I never thought I’d join, I had just found out I was pregnant in October last year, and remember reading the posts on the labour ward page, about baby loss awareness week. I never thought I would be writing Cohen’s story a year later.
I will continue to be strong for my little Pickle, as I believe he has given me his strength. He has made me a better person.
Cohen Jerry George Fernandez 08/03/2019 - 20/03/2019