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Ella recently

At 13 weeks pregnant with our first baby, and the day we returned from our honeymoon - myself and my husband attended our first scan which was primarily intended to detect Downs Syndrome. It was then we were told that our baby had a condition called Gastroschisis where the bowels were on the outside of our baby's body and would need to be put back in after birth. We were referred to our nearest hospital that had a Paediatric Unit which was the John Radcliffe in Oxford.

We were due to go to Oxford the following week for a further scan to confirm Gastroschisis. Until then, I did some research on the internet which to be honest had me really worried. Most of the information and articles I read were negative and made the condition sound awful and I was obviously distraught and anxious about what was to come. At 14 weeks, I went to Oxford where I was scanned and the Dr. confirmed there was an abdominal abnormality, however due to the position of the baby, she was unable to confirm whether it was a Gastroschisis or Exomphalos.

Ella all hooked up

I returned another week later where Gastroschisis was confirmed. I continued to have frequent scans throughout my pregnancy, and despite all the information we were given and numerous meetings with Paediatricians and Paediatric surgeons, we still weren't sure what to expect. My pregnancy went well, and each scan I had the Dr's were happy that the bowels continued to look healthy and had a good flow of blood through them. We were fortunate in that our baby only had her bowels out and no other organs.

I was scanned at around 34 weeks gestation where it was discovered the baby was lying in the breech position. I was told that if she didn't turn in 2 weeks, she would be born by C-section. Despite everything, I was still determined to have a natural birth. At 36 weeks, the baby had turned and was head down. I was booked in to be induced on 5th November 2007.

Nice and warm

On Sunday 4th November 2007, I realised that it had been around 20 hours since I had last felt baby move, and went to hospital expecting to be told to come back the next day. A scan showed that there appeared to be a twist in baby's bowels and I was taken to theatre straight away. Baby had also turned back to breech position. Only 25 minutes later, my gorgeous baby Ella was born weighing 4lb 12oz. She was ventilated and wrapped in cling film straight away, and taken to SCBU while I was taken back to the observation ward to recover.

My husband Paul was able to see Ella around 3-4 hours later once she was stabilised and settled. Around 6-7 hours after birth Ella was taken for her operation where they were able to perform a primary closure. Around 9 hours after she was born, I finally saw my daughter for the first time. Throughout my whole pregnancy, my fear was that I would give birth and not see my baby straight away. Although it was necessary to take Ella to SCBU immediately, I won't forget the pain of knowing I was no longer pregnant, yet didn't have my baby with me either. I didn't even know what she looked like. Seeing my baby hooked up to all the machines didn't scare me, I just looked at Ella and willed her to keep strong. I was proud of my little fighter.

A bit more hot water Dad!

Ella was taken off the ventilator after around 40 hours, and was introduced to milk after just 4 days (1ml every 2 hours, however this stopped after 1 day as she wasn't tolerating them), and was moved out of SCBU after just 5 days. Ella went to the surgical Children's ward where feeds continued very slowly. Ella slowly managed to tolerate feeds and the quantity began to increase every feed. Getting Ella to feed from me was a painstakingly slow process but we persevered. We had one setback when Ella's TPN line leaked into the tissue around her groin area and she had to have a procedure where the flesh was punctured to help drain the fluid out. Luckily it didn't set Ella back for long. Just 15 days after birth, Ella was discharged.

Ella is now 9 weeks old and is weighing 7lb 10oz, so has really put on weight well. She is a happy, healthy baby with an odd little belly button which will always remind me of what a strong, courageous little girl Ella is. I wish everyone the best of luck and a happy healthy future for you and all your children.

Lucy Emerson-Brown