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I was 37 when I fell pregnant with Riley. Simon and I had been trying for 8 months. It’s funny when I think back to all those year’s I spent actively trying not to get pregnant and it turns out that an unplanned pregnancy probably won’t happen to me anyway.

I had a very easy, uncomplicated pregnancy. In fact, I was still riding horses in competition until I was 4.5 months pregnant. We had planned to go on a holiday before we had our baby but changed our minds at the last minute and decided to stay home and use that time to paint and set up a nursery.

In retrospect, that was a good idea. When I was 35 weeks + 2 days I woke up at 5.30am on Saturday, 8th September and realised that I was bleeding. I wasn’t sure if this normal or not. We called our local hospital and we were told to come in so I could be checked out, but not to worry or rush and if we wanted to have breakfast first, we could. As I was dressing, I could feel myself still bleeding so we just went straight to the hospital. On the way I started having contractions.

When we got to the hospital, I was examined and they were pretty sure that even though there was a fair bit of bleeding, it was from the mucus plug dislodging (we found out later that there was substantially more bleeding than is normal, but no one wanted to worry us). The nurse then asked me if I realised that I was having contractions five minutes apart. The baby’s heart rate was good, but they were going to send us to a larger hospital in Warrnambool in case the contractions didn’t stop as they didn’t have the facilities to deliver babies at 35 weeks.

We drove to Warrnambool (about 40 minutes) feeling relieved and trying to make the final decision on baby names. Upon arrival at South West Healthcare, Warrnambool, I was examined again, and the bleeding appeared to have stopped. However, I was still having contractions so we were told to make ourselves comfortable as I would be having a baby today or tomorrow. The plan was to let me labour normally and to keep monitoring the baby’s heart rate to make sure she didn’t go into distress.

We settled in for the duration. Simon went and took delivery of our new family car on the Saturday morning. He was going to reschedule, but I was adamant that we wouldn’t be able to go home from the hospital if we didn’t have our family car with the car seat fitted. Little did I know at that stage that we’d be in hospital for a few weeks, not a few days!

Cue a long, boring day with contractions getting stronger. Everything seemed to be progressing normally, the only problem was that the heart rate monitor was having trouble getting regular readings because my belly was so round. Things changed about 6pm when I started bleeding again. Our doctors decided that it was time to break my waters and get my labour moving faster because they were worried that our baby would go into distress. I had a little freak out about now as we were informed that the doctors may have to take her away from us straight away and give her oxygen or steroids to get her lungs working, she would definitely need a naso-gastric tube and a number of other scary things. I gave Simon strict instructions that if they took her away, he had to go with her as she was only little, and it was our job to look after her. Thinking about that eight months later still makes me tear up. You don’t realise until you have a premature or non-standard birth all of the things that could possibly go wrong and that hit home for me in a big way when we had to give permission for the doctors and specialists to do whatever needed to be done.

A few hours later at 9.37pm, I gave birth to a beautiful, perfect baby girl weighing 2355 grams (5 pounds, 3 ounces) who we named Riley Grace. She didn’t require any intervention after birth, in fact she cried when the she was picked up. Our doctor informed us that she was glad to hear her cry as it meant that Riley’s lungs were working.  I did have to apologise afterwards to Gary (the anaesthetist) for being a bit uncool when he told me that I was too late for an epidural! It didn’t matter as I didn’t even feel them stitching me up afterwards, I was so happy to have a healthy little girl in my arms.

Riley was such a bright, inquisitive baby, she was trying to suck even at this early stage. She only had the naso-gastric tube in for a week and then it was all breastfeeding with top up bottles to ensure that she was a getting enough milk to grow. Riley was a bit jaundiced, so she spent 3 days with a UV blanket. We also have to give her liquid vitamin D every day until she is one. We spent twelve days in hospital for which I’m eternally grateful, as the staff in the special care nursery taught me how to breastfeed and helped get Riley into a good routine. This made me confident that when we got home, I would know how to look after her.

The medical staff told me that they were unable to find any reason why I went into labour early. I worry that if we have a second baby that they will also be premature, and we won’t be as lucky as we were with Riley. I have wondered if other prem Mums felt the same.

I have read other prem mum’s journeys and it makes me appreciate how lucky we were. As I write this story, Riley has just turned nine months old and sitting in her highchair happily eating toast. What more could I ask for?

Joelene runs A Biscuit of Haya blog about her love for the sport of campdrafting and all things horse related.