Pregnant with her first baby, Carrie Gibney’s joy turned to devastation when she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia - a condition life threatening to both her and her baby which led to her having baby Emily being born two months early. AASMA DAY talks to Carrie about how Emily is now at home and flourishing despite her rocky start in life.
A mother kangaroo carries her baby in her pouch nestled against her body to nurture it during the early months of its life, to give it the best possible start.
In the same way, parents of premature babies are encouraged to strap their tiny babies to their chest to practice skin-to-skin “kangaroo care”.
Carrie Gibney, 38, who is married to Ian, 49 and lives in Plungington, Preston, firmly believes that kangaroo care, coupled with the wonderful care Emily received at Royal Preston Hospital’s neonatal unit, is the reason she is now thriving, despite her unexpectedly early arrival in life.
Carrie, who is a senior engineer at BAE Systems in Warton where she has worked for 21 years, wants to give hope to other mums-to-be who are diagnosed with the potentially life threatening condition pre-eclampsia and urges them to be aware of the warning signs.
Carrie was delighted when she discovered she was expecting her first baby. From around 12 weeks of pregnancy, she suffered from bad morning sickness which carried on throughout the day.
But apart from this, the pregnancy was progressing smoothly – until she got to 28 weeks when her legs and feet suddenly became swollen overnight.
Carrie recalls: “It was the day before we were supposed to be going on a holiday to Sussex and my legs and feet suddenly swelled up overnight.
“I didn’t have any headaches or other symptoms and at first, I didn’t feel ill at all.
“My mum had drummed into me about watching out for pre-eclampsia because my sister had it with all three of her children.
“So I rang the midwife just to be on the safe side and she came and took my blood pressure and checked my proteins and told me to go to the hospital as I had signs of pre-eclampsia.
“I was completely devastated at the thought of my baby being at risk and burst into tears.”
Carrie, who has two stepsons Jamie and Ryan, had her baby monitored at hospital and admitted for a few days and her high blood pressure was stabilised with medication.
She was then allowed home but had to go for blood pressure checks every other day and growth scans to check the baby and was visited by midwives at home.
However, within days, Carrie was back in hospital – and this time she wasn’t allowed home until after the birth of the baby.
Carrie explains: “I went in for a growth scan and they found everything had gone haywire.
“I was admitted and constantly monitored and the aim was to keep Emily inside me as long as safely possible.
“But they knew I would have to give birth to her early so I was given steroid injections to help Emily’s lungs develop.
“I was 28 weeks pregnant and their aim was to first get to 30 weeks, then 32, then 34, then 36.
“They told me that at 36 weeks, they would do a Caesarean Section.
“However, I ended up having Emily at 32 weeks as my blood pressure and kidney levels were rising and Emily wasn’t growing.
“Pre-eclampsia affects your kidneys, liver, heart and brain.
“It just wasn’t safe for me or Emily to continue with the pregnancy.
“I could have suffered a stroke other damage.”
Emily Alice Gibney was born on August 26 2015 weighing 2lbs 14oz. Her actual due date was October 18.
As soon as she was born, Emily was whisked away to the neonatal unit and put in an incubator.
She was in there for several weeks and then transferred to the high dependency unit where she was on assisted breathing.
Carrie recalls: “Emily was really tiny and was on medication and a drip.
“She was so small, she could fit into my husband’s hand and her head was the size of a tangerine.”
Kangaroos have babies, known as a joey, which is born alive is born alive at a very immature stage when it is only about two centimetres long and weighs less than a gram.
Immediately after birth, it crawls up the mother’s body and enters the pouch.
After several weeks, the joey becomes more active and gradually spends more and more time outside the pouch, which it leaves completely between seven and 10 months of age.
Using the same concept, Carrie and husband Ian, a shift manager at a cardboard manufacturing firm, were encouraged to use kangaroo care to help tiny Emily recover and grow.
Carrie says: “We started off with 30 minutes of kangaroo care a day as it can be very tiring for tiny babies.
“Either myself or my husband would hold her in this way and it was our favourite time of day and we built up to two or three times a day depending on how well she was doing.
“To aid kangaroo care, we also had two cloth hearts - one blue, one pink. One would be in her incubator and one would be worn by me inside my clothes and these were swapped every 24 hours.
“I still use the pink one in her crib at night. The other one is in her memory box with other items from hospital that we were allowed to keep as momentos to show her when she’s older.
“Emily also had light therapy for jaundice using what was like a little sun bed.”
Emily was allowed back home at the end of September and is now five-months-old and doing really well.
She has now come off the medications she has been on since birth and weighs in at 11lb 4oz.
Carrie says: “Emily is brilliant and is our little princess and our strong, brave girl.
“We have a baby wrap which I wear and she snuggles in close to me, a bit like kangaroo care.
“She giggles and it is such a sweet sound and she is doing really well and has come such a long way.
“I can’t praise the team at Royal Preston Hospital highly enough.
“They were all amazing from the midwives monitoring us to our consultant Sean Hughes who kept our spirits up at a highly distressing time.
“We want to thank them all including the theatre team who performed my emergency Caesarean to the midwives postnatal care and the neonatal nurses and paediatricians who looked after Emily around the clock.
“Emily is our little miracle.”