In December 2012 I was pregnant with my 6th child, barely anyone knew I was pregnant and those who did had only known for a couple of weeks.
You see after having a baby at 27 weeks just 12 months previously, and him being ventilated from birth, I knew what people’s reaction to my pregnancy would be… One of concern. And I was worried enough without everyone else’s worry to deal with!
December 20th 2012; I was in hospital for observation when my placenta abrupted. I was just 25 weeks pregnant. Nothing could be done to stop it and within 28 minutes my child was born in her bag of waters. My husband only made the birth by 3 minutes and the following hours were to be the worst of our lives.
I mean can you imagine the atmosphere in that room? A woman haemorrhaging, consultants and midwives calling staff from neonatal, anaesthetists trying to prep you for theatre, 8 people running around.
I was sat up having my epidural, needle was half in my spine and suddenly everyone is shouting, midwife is screaming “baby’s here!” Anaesthetist is shouting at me to keep still, the needle is still in my spine. I’m staring at my husband because I can’t turn to see where they have taken my baby and he looks white as a ghost. He just falls into the chair as if he is about to break down.
“Someone said “she’s smaller than we hoped for!” I just found out in one sentence I had had a baby girl (I didn’t want to know the sex of my baby in case I didn’t reach 24 weeks)”
You could hear a pin drop. They cut the water bag then that was the moment the moment the tears flooded.
Someone said “she’s smaller than we hoped for!” I just found out in one sentence I had had a baby girl (you see I didn’t want to know the sex of my baby in case I didn’t reach 24 weeks, I was trying not to bond with my unborn baby in case the worst happened) and in that sentence I also heard in the medics voice ‘this baby probably isn’t going to make it’.
That feeling was the worst moment of my life. I was lying on a bed a midwife still trying to tend to me and trying to keep me from watching, but all I could do was watch and take in everyone’s words, expressions and desperately trying to get a peek of my daughter. I never did because there were too many people tending to her trying to keep her alive.
It is the worst horror movie you will ever see. 20 minutes, that’s how long her notes said it took to incubate her. I remember every clock tick of that 20 minutes. I don’t know which bit was worse; that 20 minutes of knowing she is in the room with you, hearing the Dr say “let’s get her across to the unit”, that trolley being pushed out of the door and not knowing what is now happening, or if that was the first and last time I would see her alive.
When my son had been born the previous year we named him Rhys and his name was spelled wrong on the unit. Seems really trivial, but I made them change it on everything immediately as if he didn’t make it I didn’t want his name spelled wrong on paperwork.
A nurse came back in the room and said “do we have a name?” We suddenly looked at each other and thought “no!” We didn’t know what we were having and hadn’t picked names. My husband said “we will decide later” but I was like “no she needs a name”, my anxiety spiked. What if she dies now and hasn’t a name? We had a very quick 2 or 3 minute conversation and all that came into our minds were loved ones. My husband’s Mum and Grandma had passed away so he straight away said “Linda or Margaret” and I said “she is not being called Margaret” and that I wanted my Nan who passed away when I was younger’s name, which was Eleanor. So I said “right we have a name each, which way around shall we have it?” And my husband hugged me and said “I think you deserve the first name, let’s call her Eleanor and she can have my mum’s name for middle name.”
It suddenly hit me like a lightening shock. We have a daughter called Eleanor and we could lose her any second.
Hours passed, I don’t know how many times I asked “is there any news? Can we go and see her?” After two hours or so we were brought a photo and I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. She looked so fragile. Then all the hope I had crumbled when the nurse said “she weighs 1lb 10oz”. I just broke down. I knew at that second what we were dealing with and that she probably wasn’t going to make it.
We phoned family to tell them. I could sense the sadness, it was as if everyone went into first shock and secondly mourning. My husband and I had some hope, I mean we had to but nobody else did, they were all just waiting for that awful phone call. Then came through the message! How cute is that you have given her the initials ELF and she is born days before Christmas!!! We hadn’t even realised, I mean why would we? We were still in shock and I wasn’t about to change her name. Eleanor Linda Fellcrook the 1lb 10oz real life ELF.
Eleanor was born at 9.38am and at half one we got the news we had longed for. We could go and see our baby. Surreal walking into the unit we had last year spent 97 days on, Christmas decorations hanging everywhere, you could sense the holiday spirit yet it was all just fuzz. I get to her incubator and I break down again, she is even smaller than I had prepared myself for. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I just prayed to God she is never taken away from me….
So how did the charity begin I hear you all asking?
This was my fourth neonatal journey and my worst. Not only because my child was critical, but because I became incredibly ill too and after failed surgery I underwent a hysterectomy when Eleanor was 2 weeks old.
During my recovery all I could do was sit by Eleanor’s incubator trying to google stories of hope of babies born at 25 weeks. That is when I came up with the idea of a support group for parents.
You see I wasn’t coping, I was in a really dark place and I was convinced if Eleanor didn’t make it then I was going with her. Everyone asked if I was ok and of course I said ‘yes I’m fine’, because that is what we are supposed to do right? Pretend to be brave because we have to be for our babies. I really wasn’t ok though, and I thought I was a strong person and I’ve been here before, I know what I am doing yet suddenly I didn’t. I thought if I could help just one other parent I would be happy.
So from Eleanor’s incubator I set up Little Miracles. It was originally a small North Wales group. Eleanor became an internet sensation and all the local newspapers covered her story. Within 12 months it had snowballed and I could no longer manage it. I had to give up my job to keep on top of things. My husband left as the whole neonatal journey and my obsessiveness of Little Miracles took its toll.
This is when I had to realise I could no longer do this alone and I advertised for regional coordinators. This was the best decision I ever made, and some of the best friends I have ever made. Little Miracles now has a team of 27 parents who run day to day support who all have their own little miracles who also have the same vision as me, they want to all just help other parents through the worst time of your life.
My baby ELF was the inspiration behind little Miracles and she always will be. We have huge expansion plans and Eleanor is going to be playing a huge role in the future of it so it only seemed right for the first blog to be about her and how incredible her tiny handprint has been on my heart (even our logo is about her).
“During my recovery all I could do was sit by Eleanor’s incubator trying to google stories of hope of babies born at 25 weeks. That is when I came up with the idea of a support group for parents.”
She even has her first children’s book being launched in November and at 3 years old she has her own book signing/scribble in Manchester to raise awareness of prematurity.
Who needs Elf on the shelf when you can have ‘THE ELF BORN EARLY’ based on her real life story…… Just in time for Christmas.
And me I’m just her proud mum who is trying to fight for other babies and families to repay the amazing medical profession who saved my little miracles lives and to show her how in awe I am of her strength and courage to fight against the odds.
Looking forward to the new direction of Little Miracles UK and I hope you will all join us on our new journey.
Marsha Davis – Founder of Little Miracles UK and proud mum of 6 incredible children.