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18 November 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
The first time Harrow’s Kate Young held her daughter, Imogen, she could fit the majority of her body into the palm of her hand.
The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, but Imogen Madelyn Aziza Eva Young entered the world at 26 weeks and five days’ gestation.
Although she weighed just 294 grams, Imogen was a fighter.
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“She used to hold my finger with her whole hand, which was as small as the space between my palm and the first crease of my little finger,” Mrs Young said.
“But she had an extremely strong grip.”
In Australia, almost nine percent of babies are born prematurely, before 37 weeks’ gestation. Their survival is affected by how premature they are, for example, moderately preterm babies are more likely to survive than extremely preterm babies.
Imogen spent three months in the Royal Women’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit in Melbourne, making up for the time she would have spent in the womb.
Mrs Young said looking at her daughter, who celebrated her 10th birthday on June 27, you would never know she had such a traumatic start to life.
“She is the most wonderful, healthy little girl,” she said.
“Unlike some premmie babies, she doesn’t have any ongoing health issues, except she has a slight lung problem and we have to watch out for croup.”
Mrs Young was living in Porepunkah in north-east Victoria when her ‘normal’ pregnancy suddenly became frightening.
She woke up bleeding, automatically knew something was wrong and went to Wangaratta hospital.
“I thought I would be staying in Wangaratta, but I didn’t realise I couldn’t have had my baby there,” she said.
“Two men came in – nobody had told me I was leaving, which is probably because I wouldn’t have coped – and told me to pack my things into a black garbage bag because I was being airlifted to Melbourne.
“I was in the Royal Women’s for two weeks and they said to me one day, ‘Do you want to have your baby?’ and I said, ‘That’s what I’m here for’. They told me it was happening now.
“After Imogen was born, they put a face mask on her to give her oxygen and it covered her whole body. She was quickly whisked off and I was sewn up, after my C-section.
“When they first lifted her up, she didn’t make any noise, which was terrifying. Then they gave her a tap and she started to cry. It was such a relief.
“I didn’t realise quite how little she was until I held her for the first time. I couldn’t actually feel her on my skin and I had to make sure I hadn’t dropped her.
“That’s when I realised just how tiny she was – it was quite scary.”
Mrs Young said while she was obviously concerned for her daughter’s welfare, she was lucky to have Imogen’s elder sister, Isabella – then almost three – for company.
“Bella was amazing,” she said.
“While I was checking Immy’s heart monitor, Bella would look at her sister and say things like, ‘oh look, her eyes are changing colour’, or ‘Mum, Imogen’s put on weight today’.
“To see her through Bella’s eyes was wonderful.
“Despite being so worried, I used to spend days in the hospital reading to Imogen and telling her stories. I wanted to treat her the same as I would if she was a term baby.
“I wanted her life to be as normal as possible and we were lucky, because she thrived.”
Mrs Young said she could not thank the hospital staff enough.
“They do the most wonderful job,” she said.
“We donate to the Royal Women’s every year – they really are the most amazing people.
“Our experience was so frightening and confronting, but it was also very humbling knowing Imogen was so well looked after.”
Mrs Young and Isabella lived with family in Williamstown for three months so they could remain close to Imogen.
Once Imogen reached her birth date and all-important birth weight, the family relocated to Mrs Young’s home town of Harrow.
She said Harrow Bush Nursing Centre was a key factor in her decision.
“A nurse at the Royal Women’s told me they had five midwives and it would be a good idea for me to go live with my mother for a while,” she said.
“So I did, and it was the best decision. I could not hold Harrow Bush Nursing Centre in any higher regard. They were amazing, helping myself, my girls and also my mum and stepdad, who we three girls lived with for the first few years.
“Harrow has always had a special place in my heart and the girls both love living here.”
Mrs Young took time to reflect on her family’s journey for World Prematurity Day yesterday.
The annual event on November 17 helps raise awareness and support to improve outcomes for preterm babies and their families.
“It is quite extraordinary to know now that despite her start, Imogen has grown up into the strongest, most empathetic, most perfect little girl,” Mrs Young said.
“We’ve had a few battles along the way but she’s a determined little angel.
“I know I am so lucky.”
The entire November 18, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!