She’ll be placed in your husband’s arms until she takes her final breath while we concentrate on saving your life.
“Estelle had a lot of equipment attached to her to keep her alive and I think for many parents this is where the guilt comes in.”
What follows is Rachel Taufer’s testimony of what can go wrong from beginning to end when having a premature baby.
Estelle, our fourth child
Rachel said she and her husband had always planned for four children.
We were really delighted to find out we were pregnant with our fourth back in 2015.
Australian statistics reveal 1-in-10 babies will be pre-term with research showing many of these mums suffer feelings of guilt, helplessness and fear for the survival of their child.
Rachel Taufer is one of those mums who felt enormous pressure and guilt with the birth of her baby.
Fortunately, she received great support from the Miracle Babies Foundation.
It was the birth of Rachel’s fourth baby – a beautiful girl called Estelle, where the story began.
‘We thought we’d lost our baby’
There are many hopes attached to the expectation of a new addition to a family.
A safe delivery, a name chose and how you’re going to announce their birth.
But for some mothers the journey from falling pregnant to giving birth can be a perilous time. This was to be Rachel Taufer’s experience.
We’d prayed and hoped for this baby but unfortunately at seven weeks gestation I had my first heavy bleed and we thought we’d lost our baby.
“We’d prayed and hoped for this baby but unfortunately at seven weeks gestation I had my first heavy bleed and we thought we’d lost our baby,” Rachel said.
“Luckily they found a heartbeat but that wasn’t the end of our worries. I was placed under bedrest and told then to expect to deliver early.”
‘She’ll be too small to be saved.’
It was at 21-weeks gestation when Rachel at home had another heavy bleed and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
From that day onward Rachel was basically told to take it minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.
We’ll try and get you as far along in the pregnancy as we can, but unfortunately if she’s born now she’ll be too small to be saved.
“She’ll be placed in your husband’s arms until she takes her final breath while we concentrate on saving your life.”
Rachel’s placenta was described as rogue. It had grown through the uterine wall and had attached to her bladder making it secrete which is the most severe form of accreta.
‘A really horrible time for us.’
“Percreta has a maternal fatality rate of 1-in-14, but when it gets to this stage it’s about 1-in-9.”
“So not only was it life-threatening for Estelle, it was life-threatening for myself as well.”
It was definitely a really horrible time for us. There was never any certainty and it was definitely filled with fear.
It was when Rachel’s troubled pregnancy reached the 26-week mark that her body gave way. She went into pre-term labour, became septic and ruptured.
“Unfortunately it was on a Sunday night with a skeleton staff at the hospital and we didn’t have the intervention radiology primed.”
“But by the grace of God the work of the doctors and the Red Cross and hospital staff, we were both saved.”
A Classical Cesarean Hysterectomy
“When Estelle was born she was blue, she wasn’t breathing, and she had to be resuscitated and rushed off to NICU, (intensive care for babies), which is where she stayed for the next 3-months fighting for her life,” Rachel said.
That was Estelle’s predicament. Rachel’s was another story.
For me, I had to have a Classical Cesarean Hysterectomy where I lost the uteris, tubes, cervix, and part of my bladder, with 14 units of blood and blood products transfused.
Estelle’s stay in the neo-natal care unit turned out to be longer than Rachel’s.
“Generally the earlier they’re born the longer the stay. My husband I thought that once she was born and had survived the birth hopefully things would start to get easier for us.”
But that didn’t happen. The difficulties during pregnancy, the birth and the hospital surgeries were followed by a different kind of difficulty. And the fear factor never went away.
The uncertainty didn’t go either and Estelle had severe complications because she was preterm.
She was born with a hole in her heart. She was prone to Septicaemia because I myself was septic.
“Estelle had a lot of equipment attached to her to keep her alive and I think for many parents this is where the guilt comes in,” Rachel admitted.
“For me it was like looking into my womb. She was in an incubator being kept alive by artificial machines.”
Rachel thought that was meant to be her job and that she was meant to keep her baby alive inside of her until she was full term.
Miracle Babies Foundation
As for the Miracle Babies Foundation, Rachel couldn’t thank them enough for their support throughout her ordeal.
It’s probably good to point out the Miracle Babies Foundation can support mothers during a threatened pregnancy which had I known I would have linked in.
“In the NICU we were given a survival pack that Miracle Babies sends out to all the families that have a baby born premature in NICU.”
“That includes the nurture book and lots of good information. My husband really like that. At the time I couldn’t really absorb too much more.”
“I was aware that groups were happening once or twice a week in the NICU but having three other children at home it was really difficult for me to make it to one of those group meetings,” Rachel shared.
A different path
Rachel perked up when another miracle mum told her that Miracle Babies has nurture groups that meet with mothers after they leave hospital.
“Things you don’t understand after you’ve had a pre-term baby is that when you come the journey is not finished.”
It’s a very different path into parenthood and motherhood.
“Babies that are born premature often have lower immunities and they can have lots of special needs.”
“So going to a regular prayer group can be a very scary prospect because the sound of a sneeze of a cough or the sight of a runny nose will make me run.”
“I know that if my baby who was born premature and gets a cold it might be pneumonia and I’ll be back in hospital.”
‘If you’re unwell you stay away’
“So nurture group is a safe space for parents to come together who have been through the NICU or a special care journey.”
Rachel said these mothers have an understanding and an acceptance there is no tolerance for germs.
“If you’re unwell you stay away. We respect that and cherish one another and it’s a nice community to be linked in with.”
If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below
Northmead, Sydney mother Rachel Taufer was grateful for the life-saving treatment her daughter Estelle received in Westmead’s NICU and could not think of a better way to celebrate than to give back to the hospital. Through enormous fund raising efforts of the Taufer family and the Miracle Babies Foundation, this furniture will be used every day by parents in the NICU for years to come to improve their hospital journey.
Estelle was born at 26 weeks and Rachel said it was “touch and go” in her first few weeks.
Westmead Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is now the proud owner of three reclining Kangaroo chairs, thanks to a generous donation by the Taufer family and the Miracle Babies Foundation.
Miracle Babies Foundation is Australia’s leading organisation supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them.
Every year in Australia around 48,000 newborn babies require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). 27,000 of these babies are born premature and up to 1,000 babies lose their fight for life.