Introducing Freya Lillie Autumn Winter

As of 1st September, we have launched Autumn Winter! The new collection is going down really well and the team and I couldn’t be more pleased! As well as a new colour palette and additional styles, we have launched a new womenswear range so you can subtly twin with your kids. As with our childrenswear range, our new women’s pieces are all made in Britain from 100% linen, which gets softer with every wash.

4 NEW Shades

In addition to ‘Natural’ returning for AW18/19, we have 4 new colour ways for this season: Caramel, Fig, Mustard and Chocolate- all rich, vibrant shades that work well styled with a neutral colour palette. We especially love Mustard- it’s such a sunny and mood-boosting colour!

NEW Womenswear Styles

This is our first linen collection that we have released for women and we have been so excited to put out these new pieces! The shirt and pants in women’s sizes are the same as the childrenswear pieces so you can match with your kids. We love the combination of the Caramel Linen Shirt with the Natural Linen Pants– such a great pairing! The style we have released exclusively for womenswear is the shirt dress- a really flattering piece that suits all body shapes as well as being an absolute classic! Style with ankle boots for a sophisticated day time look.

NEW Childrenswear Styles

We have three new styles for our Autumn Winter childrenswear collection. Firstly the shirt and pants, both made from 100% linen, which indicate our move to increasing our unisex offering- these two pieces work equally well on girls and boys and means that they can be passed down to siblings and friends of any gender. The shirt is a classic, button-up style and the trousers can be rolled up at the hem which means they can be adjusted according to your child’s growth. Another new style that we have launched this season is the pinafore dress, which features adjustable cross-back straps. This pinafore can be worn all year round- in colder months layer a long-sleeve top or jumper underneath to maximise warmth- we love this new style for girls and hope you do too!

Freya Lillie Organic Cotton Range

At Freya Lillie we have an Organic Cotton range, featuring all in ones and bloomers in plum and cream/black stripe. Organic cotton is certainly a fabric which is taking off, with many large-scale fashion players starting to adopt this fabric due to its fabric properties and array of benefits to the environment and our health. It’s true that organic cotton is a little more pricey than regular cotton however the additional benefits of choosing organic are evident.

  • Organic cotton plants are free from pesticides and fertilisers meaning strong chemicals don’t come into contact with the plants and the soil.
  • Farming organic cotton improves the fertility of the soil, helping to lock CO2 into the soil therefore reducing the effects of climate change.
  • Organic cotton in comparison to standard cotton is a better quality, more durable fibre.
  • Conventional cotton clothing starts to wear after 15 washes whilst organic cotton can last 100+ washes.
  • Organic cotton is hypoallergenic, meaning that it is gentle on the skin and effective in causing no irritation to skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Since the farming of organic cotton doesn’t use toxic pesticides this prevents health conditions and deaths of farmers which are linked to being in contact with these chemicals in non-organic cotton production.
  • Unlike regular cotton, organic cotton is not produced using Genetically Modified Seeds.
  • Cotton is a natural fibre which therefore doesn’t contribute to the increase in microfibers polluting our oceans.

 

Our Organic Range

This organic cotton range is made with a thick luxurious sweatshirt material and is fully fleece lined. These pieces are gender neutral therefore once your child grows out of the garment, they can be passed down to siblings and friends of any gender. The cream and black striped fabric comes in an all in one and bloomers- stripes are very classic and timeless, therefore these pieces will never go out of style.

This rich plum shade also comes in an all in one and bloomers- this colour can be worn all year round but would look especially lovely next season in Autumn since this plum shade works well paired with leggings or woolly tights and a pair of boots.

Aren’t these bloomers adorable? – A great piece for your child to lounge around the house in. Pair with a t-shirt or jumper depending on the time of year.

Take on the Summer Heatwave with Freya Lillie Linen

The school summer holidays have arrived and I think most of us Brits can’t quite believe that we having such a long hot summer and many of us are probably considering a staycation rather than a trip abroad this year! Whilst a heatwave brings barbecues, picnics in the park and days at the beach, it also leaves a lot of us, and especially mums, paranoid about sunburn, sunstroke and generally overheating little ones. The obvious solutions are plenty of water, sun cream and shade however the clothes we are putting kids in are often left to the bottom of the list.

Children can’t regulate their body temperature as well as us adults so it’s really important that in this 30 degree weather we dress our children in clothes that help keep them cool and comfortable. Avoiding man-made fibres is key- opt for natural fibres instead and don’t forget to check the label when buying clothing since there are plenty of fabrics that may appear to be cotton for example, but are actually synthetic fibres or a fabric blend such as polycotton.

Freya Lillie pieces are made from 100% linen which is a fabric derived from fibres of the flax plant. Linen is a highly durable fabric which allows kids to be kids, roll around on the grass and be active without the worry of wear and tear. Due to its long-lasting nature we also selected linen because we wanted to create garments that could be passed on after each use therefore extending the product’s lifecycle as much as possible. Also, linen is great for heat regulation and it is highly absorbent, quickly removing perspiration from the skin.

At Freya Lillie we also use sustainable fabrics, linen being one of them. Linen is sustainable because it is biodegradable which means that it won’t sit on landfill for hundreds of years like synthetic fabrics and it also doesn’t require fertilisers to grow which contributes to higher quality soil and reduced water pollution. Moreover, linen becomes softer with every wash and is antibacterial so you can have piece of mind for the well-being of your kids.

Flax Plant. Image: Schweitzer Linen

Freya Lillie sustainable luxury garments are the perfect solution to this hot spell. Not only are they classic, fashionable pieces but the linen fabric in which they are composed of has so many hidden benefits to keep your kids happy and cool this summer holiday.

 

A few of our Linen favourites:

White Linen Dress– This dress is one of our best sellers and we love seeing the most adorable pictures of your kids wearing this piece shared on social media! The relaxed silhouette enhances the linen’s breathable nature and the white shade reflects the sunlight making for a super cool summer dress- Shop here

Limited Edition Navy Linen Button Back Romper– A simple and minimal piece which has an adjustable button fastening. The open back is great for keeping your child cool and the navy shade is really classic- you don’t find a lot of navy on the high street and we love this muted alternative to black- Shop here

Aqua Linen Luxury Overalls– These overalls are new for Spring/Summer 2018 and we are in love with them! They are a great unisex piece and this aqua shade is really fresh and summery. They also have the cutest buttons in the shape of apples and ladybirds- very subtle, but a cute detail! The legs can also be turned up which allows your little ones to dip their toes in the sea without getting absolutely soaked- Shop here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freya Lillie Wins Pirouette Award

The Freya Lillie team are so proud to announce that we have won an award! Whilst exhibiting at Dot to Dot, a kidswear trade show in London, Freya Lillie was picked as SS19 One to Watch. Receiving this award is so exciting for us and recognition like this really pushes us to keep improving and delivering our customers a product that we truly believe in.
The Pirouette blog was set up in 2009 by Florence Ronaldo and later joined by Katie Kendrick in 2016. The platform was launched in order to support brands in the children’s industry whilst providing business guidance and media exposure. Both with a background in childrenswear, Florence and Katie have an expert eye in spotting potential in brands. Ultimately, the Pirouette awards aim to highlight outstanding children’s design and creative talent which is why we are so honoured to have been selected!

Operating within the fashion industry is tough, especially since we have an ethical, sustainable focus- this is why this award means so much to us and drives us forward in meeting our future goals. Also, we couldn’t have got this far without our lovely, supportive customers and followers- thank you for joining us along our journey! 🙂P.s. we love that the award is a ginger cat in a felt bag- very inventive!

 

 

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Why We’re Taking It Slow

Organic linen romper - neutral baby clothes by Freya Lillie

We all have those key pieces in our wardrobe which we wear every Summer or every Winter.  They don’t stand out as being Spring Summer 2004 or Autumn Winter 2010.  They are just those pieces of clothing that we love and are comfortable in, so we tend to wear them quite a lot.

So let’s go through the rest of your wardrobe, those strangely coloured pants, that dotty shirt or bizarre (what was i thinking) printed dress.  Clothes you bought because at the time they looked great and were right on trend, but realistically you’ve worn a hand full of times and most probably won’t wear again.

This is wear the slow fashion movement that we’re proud to follow comes in.

Slow Fashion

So what it is? Slow fashion is exactly what we mentioned above.  It’s clothing that can be worn all year round.  It’s clothing made from quality materials, designed to last. Clothing made from sustainable materials and not mass produced.  Fast fashion sees so much clothing sent to landfill each year. Consumers must be more demanding in the quality of their clothing to ensure it lasts and can be passed on.  Loved clothes last!

Choosing where your clothing will end up is as important as where it came from.  Although the working conditions of where your clothing is made is very important. Do you know where the outfit you wore today was made and the conditions the workers were under?

Did you know it takes a piece of lycra sportswear anywhere from 20 to 200 years to decompose in a landfill. Roughly £140 million (350,000 tonnes) of clothing goes to landfill in the UK alone every year.  There the decomposing clothing release methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.  Our poor little planet!

Freya Lillie

Natural linen romper - neutral baby clothes by Freya Lillie

Worn in Winter…worn in Summer

We understand that at some point people have to care about these issues and that’s why we pride ourselves on being a sustainable luxury brand.  We are passionate about our baby and children’s clothing but we really love our planet too.  Our clothing is made from sustainable materials.  Linen doesn’t need fertilisers to grow and it’s biodegradable.  So no 200 years decomposing. In fact linen is one of the most toughest and durable materials there is, luxurious in the way it is formed.  It becomes softer with each and every wash and is antibacterial which is great for us Mum’s who worry far too much.

We don’t use loud colours or noisy patterns that may date, we create key pieces which can be layered up or down and worn all year round.  Many of our items are gender neutral so can be passed on to boys or girls.

We don’t follow fast fashion, many of our items stay all year round.  We add new additions each season to keep things fresh and new and we certainly don’t mass produce.

We’ve tried to size our clothing so it grows with your child, which is why we use adjustable fastening too. Oh and if we haven’t mentioned it before, our clothing is made here in the UK by two lovely teams of seamstresses.

Conclusion

So what we’re trying to say is that loved clothes last, just take a look at your own key pieces. How much money and waste could you have saved not purchasing those impulse buys?

Don’t ever compromise on stye but be aware of where and how your clothing is made and who made it.  Whether it’s baby girls dresses or baby boy clothing, give your purchases a little thought and feel good in the choices you make.

 

Michelle xx

 

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How to be a Mumpreneur…and not get stressed!!!

How to be a mumpreneur…and not get stressed!

I love sitting in the car...really!

I love sitting in the car…really!

So the grey hairs have quadrupled, i’m not yet a millionaire and neither have i achieved world domination, but all good things come to those that wait…WRONG!!!!! All good things come to those that work hard, make sacrifices, make mistakes but get back up and try even harder.

I know, i’m not really selling the whole mumpreneur thing am i? Honestly, it’s bloody hard work but i get up every morning so motivated, my brain instantly switches on, well after one large latte that is, but then i’m raring to go. Move over Richard Branson (well you have to dream big).

Mumpreneurs generated over £7bn last year according to the Telegraph as well as supporting over 200,000 jobs, that’s pretty fantastic. Mum’s up and down the country just like you and I, had and have a dream along with a want and desire to be home more for their families. To do the school run, attend sports day and have something they could call their own. Sound familiar?

My first fair showcasing Freya-Lillie

My first fair showcasing Freya-Lillie

Mum to a teen and a toddler plus a 36 year old male who requires attention, a housewife, a cook, a cleaner, general dogsbody, an assessor and lecturer in business 2 days per week oh and i forgot to mention a mumpreneur trying to run a successful online clothing business and all that goes with it. The secret…time management! I know, sounds boring but it really is that simple.

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The lecturer in me sets my yearly goals making sure they are realistic, achievable and i can measure them to see how i’m progressing. These are then broken down into smaller more manageable tasks and added to my weekly/monthly business to do’s which i store in my beautiful planner (i’m a stationary addict, sad i know). At the end of the week i review what has been done, what needs work and then plan for the following week. For me this is the most productive way of working, i know exactly what needs to be done and when. Tasks have even got an estimated time attached so i know when i can fit it in. It helps with direction, efficiency and productivity.

It means sometimes you have to put down the phone and ignore social media for a short while, we all know you can lose hours lost in the world that is social media. If social media plays a large part in your business, finish the task at hand and then take some time to interact/answer questions etc but don’t get lost in something that isn’t going to bring you any value. You can still be effective on social media and not spend every waking hour checking your phone, i promise!

Both of my babies

Both of my babies

So when do i get time for working on world domination? The one thing i don’t do is work through the day as it’s not fair on my little lady, she’s only little once and i won’t get that time back. Maybe a little social media updating but even that’s limited now nap time is becoming shorter. So basically it’s a couple of hours on an evening Monday to Thursday after the bedtime stories have been read and the mouths have been fed. Friday, Saturdays and Sundays are my nights off to spend with the better half, sampling a vino or two and reconnecting whilst working our way through a good box set. Then while daddy and kiddies spend some time together on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, i get time to work on my world domination. I could do more and may not get where i want to be as fast as other mum’s starting out at the same time as me. But that’s ok, it’s all about the balance.

If opportunity doesn't knock,build a door!

The morale of the story, if you are a mum with a business idea but just waiting for that eureka moment and unsure how to fit it in…stop waiting, do it now! There’s so much help out there, all you need to start is the idea and to believe in yourself. If you don’t go out and follow your dream, someone else will pay you to help build theirs.

Michelle xx

P.S. If you are a lovely lady in business and would like to join our new networking group, sharing resources, good practice and general support, click on the link! www.facebook.com/groups/thecdmgroup

 

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Clean Eating – Day 2 of 5 Clean Eating Recipes

Day 2 of our 5 day clean eating blogs, if you are reading this chances are your egg muffins were actually ok, didn’t take long to prepare and tasted like little mini omelettes. Well done!!

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

My Scrummy Prawn Pizza

Now we have covered breakfast (see my previous post for quick and easy egg muffins), what’s for lunch i hear you ask? How about a nice healthy pizza? YES, you heard right, healthy with minimum calories.

Not bad for a first attempt

Not bad for a first attempt

When i made these pizzas for lunch the smell even managed to drag Liam (teenage son) from out of his pit as it smelled totally delicious. I won’t lie even i thought it was super tasty, made even better with the thought it wasn’t full of fat and unhealthy ingredients.

Takeaway Pizza

Takeaway Pizza

I don’t mind a take away pizza at the weekend, although i prefer the ‘do it yourself’ pizzas from Sainsbury’s. When the takeaway pizza arrives and you can almost see the cheese swimming, well, that’s not very appealing to me but the smell is delicious. So now i have my healthy pizza, i’m happy as Larry.

TIP – Try drinking plenty of water with ice during the day, because the water is so cold, your body burns more calories trying to regulate it’s temperature.

Ingredients
Wholewheat tortillas or pittas ( make sure you read the ingredients on the packs, there should be around 5 ingredients and not 25!) You can also use pittas if you prefer.

Tin of tomatoes
Clove of garlic
Basil
Salt & Pepper
Mozarella

Toppings – for mine i chose spinach and prawns but feel free to experiment with your own choice of toppings.

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I used a pizza tray which we cook our pizzas on usually and it worked well as they have small holes in, they can be quite soggy in the middle so these trays help crisp them up a bit better. I sprayed a little oil on to make sure the pizza didn’t stick.

So, i mixed the tomatoes, basil, garlic and salt and pepper together before spreading on the tortilla. Leave about 1/2 inch round the edge. I then sprinkled on my cheese and added the prawns before cooking in the fan oven at 200 degrees celsius for approx 11 minutes. When you see the cheese bubbling and the edges turning brown your done. Plate up and enjoy your non guilty yet tasty pizza!

TIP – If they do turn out a little soggy, which mine have in the past, they also taste great folded over as a calzone. Although freya prefers her homemade pizza cut into fingers.

Tune in tomorrow for a sweet treat!

Love Michelle x

One Year On – Life with My Preemie

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One year on, it’s quite frightening how quick the year has gone by, Freya is sat beside me pulling herself up to her feet on her little tub chair, she just can’t sit still, but I don’t mind. She’s come along way since that tiny little 3lb dot lying in her incubator. She can’t yet walk but is showing signs as she cruises along the furniture. I thought I would write this as there will be lots of mums and dads just like me asking similar questions; when will she crawl, when will her first tooth come,when shall I give her solids, her corrected age or actual age.  So I’m hoping to answer these for you although I know every baby is different.

Right, so, one year ago, hmmm can my baby brain go back that far? Yes, baby brain is still firmly here, my excuse is I’m just trying to store so much more information now that it’s fairly overcrowded!

Brings Tears to My Eyes - We're Going home

Brings Tears to My Eyes – We’re Going home

The day we brought Freya home from Durham Neonatal was such an emotional high for both myself and daddy Mark, we’d waited 6 very long weeks and the time had come.  We were on outreach care so we weren’t totally discharged from hospital, but that didn’t bother me in the least. From leaving the neonatal unit with Freya to fastening her into the car for the very first time, I was just so overwhelmed i felt like i had won the lottery, my baby was coming home, I could cuddle her when I wanted, lie on the couch with my PJ’s on and my sleepy girl. I could take her out in her pushchair for the world to see, I was so excited.

Amongst the excitement were also feelings of being nervous and scared, Freya still had a tube for some of her feeds and she was still tiny at only 4lb.  The day we brought her home we were constantly checking the room temperature, checking Freya’s temperature, how many clothes were too many.  What if her oxygen levels dropped or she forgot to breathe again, there was no monitor to tell me what was happening.

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One of the biggest worries was Sudden Infant Death syndrome which is high risk for all premature babies and something the doctors and nurses make you aware of. We made sure Freya never slept in our bed, she was kept cool at night, any precautions we could take, we did.

After only a couple of days of being home, Freya built up the strength to have all of her milk via bottle and after speaking to the hospital, they suggested i remove the feeding tube from her nose myself. I wont lie, it was a little scary but seeing her pretty face with no more tubes was so nice. We only needed one visit to the hospital to make sure Freya was doing ok and she was discharged, we knew we had numerous hospital appointments to attend with consultants and doctors but we were making progress. Freya would attend hospital every 6 months to check development, she would also have various other appointments dotted in between and this would be right up until she started school. One of the main appointments was for her eye screening, her ROP (retinopathy of prematurity).

ROP Appointments
Premature babies born before 30 weeks are at risk of the tiny blood vessels behind their eyes, stopping growing and surgery is often needed. The doctor and nurse advise you to stand outside as it’s such an intrusive procedure where the eyes are pinned open and they have to be quite firm when holding them so they don’t move, i know, it’s sounds like torture doesn’t it. No wonder she is so tough now! So daddy and I stayed outside although we heard every scream, you just feel so helpless praying that it’s over soon so you can grab hold of her and comfort her. When Freya reached 38 weeks she was discharged and didn’t have to go through it again, happy that her eyes were in good working order.

I love milk
Night time feeds
Freya slept a lot for weeks and i mean a lot, there was such excitement when she opened her eyes for the very brief amount of time each day, we had to wake her for feeds at the start because we couldn’t afford for her to lose any weight. You get used to working with very little sleep and i was lucky that myself and daddy took turns at feeding, that was one of the reasons i was happy to express milk as it meant that daddy could share that feeding bond too, i still love it now. When the house is still in the middle of the night and there’s just me and Freya cuddling on her rocking chair, i may be tired, but i know that they grow up so quickly, so i make the most of those times. She very rarely wakes during the night now unless poorly. I had to integrate a special formula into Freya’s feeding routine which was packed with calories to help Freya put on weight, eventually this became her every feed as expressing every few hours and feeding took it’s toll after only 2 or 3 months.

The first time…

Everyone remembers their babies first time, i think for preemie parents there’s just that little more anxious feeling, mainly because your worried it might not come and then you know something is wrong. It gets very confusing when discussing development with doctors and nurses, i use Freya’s actual age but they use her corrected age, so the age she should have been was she born on time. For ease, i minus 3 months, that’s her corrected age but when writing this i have used her actual age.

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Rolling Over
At around 6 month Freya was starting to show signs of trying to roll over but she just couldn’t figure out how to get all the way over and move her arm out of the way. She spent a few weeks like this and eventually she figured it out, the next step was rolling back over, she just cried to be picked up and didn’t even attempt at rolling back over, a little lazy i suspect, just like her big brother. She had lots of tummy time but wasn’t a huge fan, finally at around 8 month, one day, she just started rolling over and back again.  Freya is very much like that, everything happens all in one day, like magic.

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Sitting Up
Freya was around 9 month when she started sitting up, for the first couple of weeks she needed cushions behind her as she would lose her balance, but it didn’t take her long to figure it out.

First Tooth
So, i’ll keep this brief, as i am writing this Freya is 13 month and is still yet to get her first tooth. Yes we have a little gummy princess! Being the paranoid mummy that i am, at our last hospital appointment i frantically questioned the consultant on why she didn’t yet have a single tooth. She found it very amusing and explained that many mum’s are exactly the same and that they will come, just be patient. So i’m trying hard to be patient, i don’t think Freya thinks i’m being patient as i thoroughly check her gums each day.

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Weaning
I discussed weaning with several consultants and waited until Freya was 9 months (6months corrected) before i started. When you have a preemie baby you follow everything by the book as you don’t want to set a single foot wrong. Starting weaning at 9 months was mainly down to her digestive system not being fully developed. I started Freya on baby rice and porridge but quite quickly added finger foods such as cucumber and toast. It is hard when you see them gag and you want to start smacking their back immediately assuming that they are choking, but they have to learn how to get food back up when needed, as a result Freya is great at finger foods and eating. Even with no teeth! She loves Sunday lunch with all of the veg and can eat bananas until they are coming out of her ears. I do try and give her all home cooked food but i won’t lie, she does sometimes have the odd jar of baby food too, eek shoot me now, bad mummy!

Poorly lady

Poorly lady

Nursery
Freya was 10 month when she went to nursery and i returned to work, many checks were carried out before the right nursery was found. Luckily it is only 2 days per week but at first she hated it. She screamed every time i left her and couldn’t control her emotions when picking her up either but i certainly got lots of cuddles each night. This continued for the first 2 months, i think it is because she had been glued to my side for 10 whole months and looking back i think maybe i should have started her a little sooner. Luckily, when we arrive at nursery now she holds out her arms for her carer to grab hold of her, bye bye mummy. One thing that we have found very difficult with Freya starting nursery is how often she is poorly, we panicked when she left hospital that she would pick up different illnesses but in fact she didn’t catch a single cold until she started nursery. She has been attending nursery for 3 months now and she has had a runny nose for pretty much the whole 3 months but sometimes is has been a lot worse with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. We are hoping in another 3 months time she will have built up a tough immune system, fingers crossed.

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Crawling
So it wasn’t a normal crawl, that would be very unlike Freya, instead at around 9 months Freya would use her arms to drag herself across the floor. We found Freya was very frustrated as she knew what she wanted to do, but she just couldn’t figure it out. Since learning to crawl properly a month later Freya is much less frustrated and twisty and loves to just explore everything.

Saying mama and dadda
I honestly can’t remember when Freya started to say mamma and dada but i know it was dada first but as soon as she became poorly, it turned to mamma and still is mamma when she’s not feeling to well. I would estimate around 8 or 9 months, she’s just started to say hello too, although in her language it’s ‘eho’. She tends to say this when holding mummy’s mobile phone.

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Holiday Abroad
6 month and Freyas travels started, we jetted off to the South of Spain for some sunshine and family time and it was amazing. Very different to the usual as we had a little baby but we managed to each have some relaxation time too which was needed. Freya was absolutely fine in the heat, lots of extra bottles of milk to keep her hydrated and she loved the pool. She has the South of France and Dubai to see her Auntie Gemma to look forward to this year, lets hope we can keep her entertained for 7 hours on the plane!

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Christmas and First Birthday
Two very special days for us, we thank our lucky stars all of the time but on occasions such as Christmas and Freya’s first birthday we couldn’t help but look back and realise how lucky we are. She loved ripping off her christmas paper, she preferred playing with the paper rather than the toys but that was fine. She even had her first taste of chocolate which she loved. We kept her birthday very intimate with friends and family and she loved being the centre of attention, no idea where she gets that from.

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There’s not a day goes by when i don’t feel lucky and i try not to think of the ‘what if’s’ as it’s quite a dark place to go. Just over 1 year ago, i felt like my world was falling apart going into labour at 29 weeks, sat here today i just have this feeling inside that i’m the luckiest person alive, i cherish my family even more than i did and our little fighter continues to amaze us every single day.

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Freya’s Story – Born at 29 weeks

29 Weeks Pregnant

29 Weeks Pregnant

I’d like to start with an apology, for some people this may get a little bit boring, but the idea behind Freya’s story is to give some sort of support to other parents who have premature children. Even if it helps one person then i’ll be happy i wrote this. I spent a lot of time reading people’s blogs and forums to see what other people were or had gone through with their premature baby, the more detail the better. If you just want to skip to the part where Freya was born i’ll allow that, just scroll down to the RVI Keepsake Diary!

28 weeks pregnant today wahooo, one week closer to seeing our gorgeous little girl, it was the 21st February when i said this to myself. What was she going to look like, would she look like me and would she have her daddy’s ridiculously tidy traits? I had so many questions going around my head and i was so excited, so was Mark, Freya’s daddy. I became a little bit obsessive with the number of apps on my phone and tablet, what was she doing today, well at 28 weeks she weighs about 2 pound and can now blink too. This was a daily occurrence, as soon as i opened my eyes on a morning i would grab my phone to have a read.

I was enjoying pregnancy and seeing my bump grow, i loved having a bump and i loved it when she would start kicking around. My pregnancy had been pretty much straight forward at that point, i did however have my periods for the first 4 months. Apparently this was normal, my pregnancy hormones weren’t strong enough to take over my own, but they stopped eventually. I had no sickness or headaches, no cravings, i just liked to eat lots and now had the perfect excuse ‘this cream cake is for the baby’, yeah right!

On the Sunday that week Mark was out with his friends and i was just pottering around the house, having a lazy Sunday when i felt trickling down my leg like i had wet myself. I hadn’t felt that before and i had no idea what it could be. It wasn’t much, maybe a few tablespoons, so still quite significant. I had read about losing control of your bladder when pregnant, this was not a good thought, i still had 12 weeks left to go. It did cross my mind that it could be my waters but dismissed it and started googling what it could possibly be. Google was my best friend and biggest enemy during pregnancy, i know you shouldn’t google questions as it can bring up all sorts, but i just couldn’t help it. Someone somewhere had probably had exactly the same issue as me and stuck it on a forum on the world wide web. Google told me it was probably my bladder but i couldn’t stop thinking ‘what if it is my waters breaking at 28 weeks’. I decided it wasn’t worth taking the risk and contacted hospital who told me to go straight there.

I spoke to Mark who told me he would come straight home but i dismissed this and told him it was probably nothing but just incase i would get it checked out, really i was praying for everything to be ok.

When i arrived at the hospital the midwife checked me over and hooked me up to the monitors to check i wasn’t having any contractions. She explained that 6 women had been in with the same problem and only one was in labour so it was probably nothing to worry about. After a while being hooked up and after checking for leaking fluid she assured me i was fine and it was most likely my bladder and i went home.

Throughout that week i continued to have small leaks, i just felt that something was wrong and that it wasn’t my bladder, but then i’d talk myself round believing i was just a worrier and everything was fine. I did google some more, it was an addiction i couldn’t help it, the different forums i visited stated that usually the liquid would have an almost sweet smell. I decided to test that theory and a state of panic came over me, the liquid i was leaking had a sweet smell, it was definitely not the smell of urine. I decided to monitor it over the next couple of days before taking myself off to hospital again. I felt like one of those paranoid expectant mothers that are absolutely fit and healthy but believe something is wrong.

The next day i felt very poorly, sickly, tired and exhausted, it was unusual for me as i had been fighting fit the whole time. I also had some lower back pain but assumed it was because my bump was growing everyday. Walking around the supermarket i could feel myself leaking a whole lot more than normal, i left my shopping and went home. I even went to sleep as soon as i got home, i never nap during the day, i just didn’t feel right. Oh by the way, that was a Friday which meant one thing, i was now 29 weeks!!

The Actual Football Match

The Actual Football Match

I had a football match to attend that night, my son was playing. Now my first child, Liam, he’s now 14, he was born 6 days early at a healthy 8lb 7.5oz, no issues at all with him. I was only 17 when i had Liam, but again, i loved being pregnant. That night at the football match it was cold, freezing and little did i know, i was in early stages of labour.

I was awoken early hours to pains in my tummy, similar to period pains. Now i don’t know what i was waiting for but thought, just ignore them, they will go away. I think i knew something was wrong but didn’t want to believe it. The pains didn’t stop, if anything they were getting stronger so i decided to time them, they were coming every 7 minutes. My heart sunk, it cant be happening, i can’t be in labour, it’s too soon. I woke up Mark and said i was going to go downstairs as i had a tummy ache. I knew he would jump up and say he was coming down with me, i could tell he was worried too. We phoned University of Durham hospital who asked us to go straight up to be checked out. We left Liam asleep in bed thinking we’d be back in under an hour, that did’t happen.

We were welcomed by a very friendly midwife or do i say midperson as he was male? Again, i was hooked up to a machine but there were no signs of contractions, he explained it could be my pelvis, pelvic girdle pain i think he mentioned. I felt a huge sigh of relief, i could handle pain for the next 11 weeks as long as sausage was ok, this was the nickname given by daddy, i don’t know where it came from but it has stuck. The consultant then came into the room and they discussed my results as there had been changes whilst i was hooked up. The consultant was also friendly, she explained she just wanted to do a quick internal and make sure everything was ok, then those dreaded words came ‘your 5 centimetres dilated, your baby is coming today’. I couldn’t breath, i didn’t know what to think and poor Mark was stood beside me looking a little confused. I turned to him and just burst into tears ‘it’s too soon, it’s just too soon’. Mark held me trying to assure me everything will be ok and the midwife was trying to help explaining 29 weeks was ok and not to be too worried just yet. I pulled myself together, i had too, i was going to have a baby today, i didn’t know what the outcome was going to be but it was going to happen, i would deal with it one step at a time.

I was given a steroid injection to try and help the lungs with coping when she was born, they were hoping i would have time to get a second injection of steroids because at 29 weeks, her lungs would still be very underdeveloped. The size of the needle was huge and it was going right into my backside, i knew it was going to hurt, and i was right.

Myself and Mark were introduced to our midwife who would be with us the whole time and also a student midwife, both were very friendly. We were taken into a delivery room and told that a number of people would be visiting us to explain exactly what was going to happen and what to expect. Then we were left alone, Mark was great, my rock, kept his calm the whole time and was strong and positive, i knew this was for my benefit, we had no idea what to expect that day.

We contacted our parents, i knew my mam would be straight there, it was still early morning, we needed Mark’s parents to go and see Liam as he was still home alone sleeping. He was still asleep when they arrived and they asked him to contact Mark, Mark explained that his baby sister was coming early, luckily Liam had no idea this was a worrying thing, he just thought he was going to meet her a bit sooner, which was probably for the best. We contacted work, close friends, just people we thought should know. When my Mam arrived Mark popped home to put together a few bits, i was only 29 weeks, i didn’t have a hospital bag ready, i barely had anything ready, i still had 11 weeks to sort it.

Mark’s mam told me weeks later that when Mark arrived home to collect some bits, he checked Liam was in his room out of the way and then broke down in tears, he wanted to be strong for me but was terrified of what was going to happen. When he eventually told me he had broke down he explained that he didn’t realise having a baby at 29 weeks was anything to worry about until i turned round to him in the hospital room that morning and said those frightening 3 words ‘it’s too soon’. Mark was very aware of my obsession with pregnancy apps so knew i was aware of what was happening with our baby every single day. Mark liked knowing too, he would text me from work on a Thursday after receiving his weekly NHS email to say what our little girl was doing that week, he just didn’t go into as much detail as me.

Mark returned to hospital and the pain was starting to become noticeable but was nothing i could’t handle, our midwives kept us informed at every stage, the student midwife never left my side. They explained i needed some strong antibiotics through a drip, the reason for my feeling poorly on the Friday was due to a serious infection i had, she explained that my blood results had come back and CRP levels which should be 0 to 10 were over 200, there was a possibility i had passed it on to the baby too. She would also need antibiotics when she arrived. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, would she be strong enough to fight off an infection?

Consultants, midwives and nurses had started to come in and speak to us and check my contractions. One Consultant in particular was very helpful and empathetic, he explained that when baby was born she would be around 2lb’s in weight, she would almost definitely need help breathing as her lungs would not be developed and there had only been time for one steroid injection. The hospital i was at did not usually deal with babies born before 30 weeks, this did scare me a little, ok a lot! Ideally i would have been transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle (RVI) to give birth there, but they feared i would give birth in the ambulance and that certainly was not worth thinking about. The consultant explained that they are equipped to look after premature babies but hospitals that specialise in this area may request that she is transferred to them as they have a special nutritional drip which is used to feed her via a longline. He later came back to explain he had contact the RVI and they requested that when she was born to be transferred straight to them.

The nurses from the neonatal unit at Durham hospital which is where i was giving birth, came to see me and explained that after the baby was delivered she would be placed into a plastic bag, almost like a carrier bag. This was to preserve her heat as she was too small to do it on her own. She would be placed straight onto me (in the carrier bag) but would have to be taken straight away for the consultants to see to her. She would then be taken straight to the neonatal unit and placed in an incubator. They asked Mark if he would like to cut the cord but he was too afraid he would do something wrong and felt more comfortable with the specialists cutting her cord.

There were different consultants that came and told us the same thing but one also explained that it was common for premature babies to have a bleed on the brain, this worried me and Mark even more. What information do we process first, a serious infection that i may have passed on, a possible bleed on the brain or the fact she most likely wont be able to breathe on her own. I just had to focus on giving birth and deal with everything else one step at a time.

Around 10.30am the pain started to increase, the midwife wasn’t happy giving me pain relief as she thought it may distress baby so gave me a lower dosage. It worked for around 10 minutes but then wore off completely. I just wanted to give birth, each time i would be examined i was a little further dilated but not fully. Then at around 12pm i was in real pain and just had the almighty urge to push, i needed to push. Checked out again i was fully dilated, it was time, she was coming now. Nervous, worried and excited all at the same time,we were going to see my little girl.

Now i didn’t count how many people were in my room when i was giving birth but i would estimate around 12 to 15 consultants, nurses, doctors and midwives, no time for modesty. My Mam and Mark were on either side of me holding my hand. They pulled in the machine and equipment needed for when she was born and her journey to the outside world to meet mammy and daddy began. I’m kind of glad i was in so much pain as it took my mind off the worry and possibilities. Now for some reason people think because she was so small that labour must have been a breeze with limited pain, no way is this true. If anything you have to push even harder to get the little bundle out, they have no weight behind them to help labour along. I will say that it was quicker than giving birth with Liam, at 12.55pm Freya Lillie was born. Delivered straight onto my tummy in the plastic bag she was here, there was no noise but i could see she was alive so i was happy. She was huge and had a head full of black hair, where was the barbie doll i was expecting, she was like a proper baby. Weighing in at 3lb 5 oz the doctors said she was a really good weight which would give her the best chance possible.

My Little Impatient Freya

My Little Impatient Freya

It was only a matter of seconds she was on me and she was taken to the machine with the consultants who had to resuscitate her, but then the best noise ever, i heard her cry. Mark broke down in tears, the student midwife broke down in tears, i was still giving birth to my placenta, no time for tears just yet. When my placenta came so did a wave of blood, it was everywhere, my placenta had abrupted and blood had been pooling inside of me, the midwife explained that it was probably a good thing that Freya was delivered that day as it could have turned out a lot worse. There is still no reason to why i had a premature baby and i know i will never know now.

Freya was taken away and i was cleaned up, couldn’t believe my little girl was here, i was so happy, but still very anxious. Mark went straight to the neonatal unit to see her and brought back a picture for me to see. It was a little bit frightening to look at, she had a black eye, swollen body, and wired up to tubes and wires. Mark was smiling when he showed me, he said when they tried to put the ventilator on her to breathe for her, she cried and they had to remove it. Apparently your not supposed to be able to cry when on a ventilator, so they put her on CPAP. If your baby needs a lot of help they will be placed on a ventilator, the next step down is called a CPAP and when they show signs of managing a bit better they go onto oxygen which can be increased and decreased.

When i had been cleaned up it was time for me to go and see my little girl, feeling very weak, i hobbled down the corridor with Mark and his mum and dad. She was tiny, lying still on her tummy, inside an incubator, hooked up to wires and tubes, with alarms sounding. The nurses were great, said she was a right little fighter, it made me smile just because they didn’t seem worried. They explained that she would be transferred to the RVI that day, a dedicated team of specialists would arrive to collect her and take her in an ambulance and she would go straight to intensive care.

The midwives weren’t very happy at discharging me as i was still a little poorly and weak but knew i needed to be wherever my baby was. When the team arrived to take Freya back to the RVI they explained fully what would happen, it felt like my whole tummy was in knots even though i knew i would see her in a couple of hours. She was going on her own without mammy or daddy, just someone that loved her.

It was quite late when we arrived at RVI straight from the hospital, she was in a tiny room with only a few other babies. Because it was intensive care each nurse had one baby to look after and there would always be someone in the room with the babies. We just sat and watched her, doctors and nurses came to speak with us and said she was a good weight, she would be having daily blood samples taken to test for infection and other important factors that could impact on her health. In her incubator we were told we could touch her, it was like touching a feather. Scared to touch, scared we would hurt her, scared she might be in pain but we had to touch her as thats all we had to show her mammy and daddy were there and they loved her very much.

The RVI have on site accommodation ran by a charity where parents and family can stay to be close to their babies should they need to get to them quick. Unfortunately there were no rooms available so that evening i had to leave her to go home, it was harder than i ever thought possible. I did want to go home and see my other baby too although i knew he would be ok.

The next day we were up bright and early and straight to the RVI, there she was, hadn’t moved a muscle and had a steady night. I rang before going to sleep just to make sure, i continued this nightly phone call along with a morning phone call every day til she came home.

I decided to keep a diary at the RVI, i knew i was going to be there a while and i thought a log of her progress might help. I only wrote a couple of sentences each day to say what was happening and just to remember. When i read it back now it just makes me remember how much of a little fighter she is.

My RVI Keepsake Diary

02/03/14 – Today i had my first cuddles with mammy, we love kangaroo care!

Kangaroo Care - Our First Cuddle

Kangaroo Care – Our First Cuddle

Kangaroo care involved me placing Freya down my top against my chest, it would make her feel secure and safe and help regulate heartbeat and breathing. It was the first time i got to hold my baby girl, i was scared because she weighed nothing and was so fragile but she seemed so content. They explained for kangaroo care to help you would need to do it for around 30 minutes each day. I couldn’t take Freya from her incubator too much because she would use too much heat and she couldn’t regulate her own body temperature, that was the reason she was in an incubator. As she was so small, she would also burn too many calories outside of her incubator, she needed to save her energy to get big and strong.

I think most mam’s take it for granted that they can pick up their baby whenever they want especially if they need some love. So it was hard that my baby needed me more than ever and i couldn’t just pick her up and give her a cuddle.

Freya’s blood results came back and showed that there was no sign of infection but she did have jaundice and was put under blue lamps in her incubator. It was nothing to worry about and her levels would be checked each day.

03/03/14 – I have come of my CPAP and have been moved to the Blue area

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This was music to our ears, she was well enough to be moved into the Blue area (the RVI call their wards for sick and premature babies colours, intensive care is Red area, the high dependency is Blue area and then you have Green which is pretty much going home soon). We knew she was a little fighter, she did lose some weight and went down to around 3 lb, but this was expected. She was now just on oxygen too, it was great progress.

Everyday doctors and consultants would update us on her progress and we would ask them our questions, we knew they couldn’t answer silly questions such as ‘How long will she be in hospital?’ but we gave it a shot. The nurses would spend time with us and explain everything they were doing and would sit with us when we were carrying out Freya’s cares.

Freya’s cares involved myself and her daddy getting to change her nappy and give her a wash, i loved it, i felt like i could look after my baby even if it was only once every 4 hours. She couldn’t come out of her incubator so we would have to use the little arm holes, but we soon got the hang of it.

Freshening up Freya's Mouth

Freshening up Freya’s Mouth

The nurses would start different conversations with us and try and keep things light hearted, they were very friendly.

A nurse who specialised in breast feeding came to see me when Freya was first admitted to the RVI, i said i wanted to breast feed and now that Freya needed my breast milk more than ever there was no other option, this was my way of helping her too. Now because Freya was so premature, expressing breast milk was not easy. I would sit and massage my breasts and try to express even just a small amount, but it was just a few drops here and there. I wasn’t going to give up though, we used the tiny drops as mouth care and used a cotton bud to moisten her mouth with it. She seemed to like it a lot! After around 5 days of trying it finally started to come in thick and fast, i was so proud of myself, Mark was so proud too, he knew it was important for me to do this. He would come with me and just comfort me, try to relax me by rubbing my shoulders, so he was happy when it finally worked, mainly because he could see the sense of satisfaction i had. Every 2 to 3 hours i would take myself off into the breast feeding room and express as much milk as i could, even during the night when i was at home my alarm would go off, it was tough going but i was determined. It actually got to the point when the hospital said Michelle we can’t take any more milk from you, our freezer is full, mainly from your milk, just start storing it at home.

Freya was still too young to try and take milk from the breast, she didn’t yet have the ability to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time, it wouldn’t come until she was around 34 or 35 weeks and she was only 29 weeks. It would be a while before she could even attempt it, but i was happy knowing that she had enough milk to keep her going for a while.

At that point the doctors were waiting for my milk, Freya was still on her TPN nutritional drip but needed milk and they wanted to wait for my milk before introducing formula. Some of the consultants came to talk to us about a SIFT trial they were carrying out, it was some research Tiny Lives charity were involved with that looked at how milk was given to a premature baby. High volumes slowly or low volumes fast to see if they could handle their milk without being too sickly. Their digestive systems were still developing, both Mark and I thought it was a good idea and agreed to take part in the SIFT trial. They were very informative, put no pressure on us and explained what would happen. Now i may be wrong, but i think because of that trial, Freya has never been a sickly baby. She tolerated her milk excellent and never had any issues with her milk. Her milk would be fed to her through a drip from one of her many tubes.

On day 3 i was also offered a room at Crawford House so i wouldn’t have to leave my baby. I went to see the volunteers who ran it, it was literally a 2 minute walk from Freya. They were very friendly and showed me all of the amenities and then my room. I don’t know how many women have the day 3 baby blues but mine hit badly that day. I couldn’t stay in the little box with a bed on my own, it brought me to tears just thinking about it. I explained to Mark i couldn’t do it, i felt guilty that i had the chance to stay beside her but i couldn’t face the thought of being on my own away from Mark. He had been stitched to my side since going into labour, he wanted me to come home, i think he thought i wouldn’t be able to handle staying on my own and kept saying we could be back at the hospital in 20 minutes if needed. Plus someone else who lived further away would appreciate the room more as they were like hotcakes!

06/03/14 – Daddy’s gone back to work, double kangaroo care with mummy

Loved Skin on Skin

Loved Skin on Skin

So it was back to work for Mark, we agreed it would be better for him to take time off work when Freya finally got to come home. All the nurses would keep me company and i had visitors, my mam and Marks mam were regulars.

Blue Jaundice Lamps

Blue Jaundice Lamps

Freya was still on her jaundice lamps and still having her bloods taken every day, they would have to squeeze tiny drops of blood from her feet, by that point she wasn’t that bothered and she let them get on with it. One thing both Mark and I were waiting for was her first dirty nappy, the dreaded black tar! I kept questioning the nurses ‘why hasn’t it come yet’ ‘Is it normal that she hasn’t had a dirty nappy yet’, the poor nurses must have been sick of my non stop questions, but i could never tell, they answered them all and were always very friendly. Apparently it was fine that she was 6 days old and had no dirty nappy, they would start to look into it if she still hadn’t had one in a few days, but…

07/03/14 – It’s arrived!

Not usually what your waiting for from your newborn child but Freya’s first dirty nappy arrived, hallelujah! She had also been weighed and it was looking good, she wasn’t quite at her birth weight but it was slowly creeping up, now at 1478grams.

One thing that worried me every hour of every day were Freya’s alarms continuously going off. The nurse explained what the alarms meant so i had a better understanding. On the screen hooked up to Freya were her oxygen levels, if her oxygen levels were to fall below around 86 then an alarm would go off. It’s important to say that because Freya’s lungs weren’t fully developed, she would lie on her front which would help her with her breathing. As soon as she would be put on her back or taken out of her incubator, the alarm would sound. The doctors told me that they would have to keep moving her position as her lungs needed to get stronger and she needed to be able to breathe whilst lying on her back not just her front.

So Many Wires

So Many Wires

Also on her screen was her heart rate, this would also alarm if it went below or above a certain range that the doctors had set. Then lastly was the amount of breaths she was taking, again it would alarm if it went outside of the range set by the doctors.

It was mainly her oxygen levels that would drop, nurses and doctors called them desaturations but in short, desat’s, i would go home on a night and still hear the alarms. They assured me they would improve and explained even our own oxygen levels drop when we eat or when we make sudden movements. This did make me feel a little better, i just hated that an alarm was going off because it meant something wasn’t right.

08/03/14 – Sorry mammy, i forgot to breathe

Freya’s oxygen intake was down to the lowest it could be at 0.01 which was great, almost there being able to breathe without it. I couldn’t wait for the day she would stop desating and her alarms would stop beeping. That day on more than one occasion her alarms went and her oxygen levels dropped dramatically as did her heart rate, it was very frightening, i mentioned it to the consultant who explained that some premature babies have Apnea and Bradys which basically means they forget to breathe and their heart rate reduces dramatically. In some cases babies would turn blue and would need gentle stimulation to remind them to breathe. They started Freya on daily caffeine shots via her feeding tube which would help keep her stimulated so she wouldn’t forget to breathe. It was so worrying, it was like taking one step forward and two steps back. When could we get excited for our baby girl coming home and when could we just be a normal family with our baby girl. It was still breaking my heart every night leaving her, in her little box without mammy or daddy to watch over her. I just wanted her home more than anything and it was killing me not being able to do all of the mummy things, taking her out in her new super duper pram to show her off to everyone or just giving her a cuddle when i wanted. I couldn’t even dress her, she was only allowed a nappy on.

My Two Babies

My Two Babies

It took a while for big brother Liam to come and visit, he got a bit of a shock when he saw the photo of her in an incubator wired up to lots of machines. Mark had picked him up from school and brought him in to see me and Freya. He just kept staring at her, couldn’t believe how tiny she was and there was no way he ever wanted to hold her as he might break her. I got her out of her incubator for her afternoon kangaroo care and he just sat beside me. Her kangaroo care was in the morning and in the afternoon and i would spend around an hour each time, i loved it and she was so settled. Even daddy did kangaroo care and she was so settled for him too, you could feel her little chest working so quickly against your own chest, it was a little scary but we got used to it.

10/03/14 – My arms are free

Daddy Cuddles

Daddy Cuddles

Freya had so many wires and tubes it was hard to know which was what, but that day her TPN longline was coming out, her little arms which had been taped up to stop the tube coming out was now free. It was a step in the right direction, she was also tolerating her milk so well that they increased it, she was on 8.5ml per hour, i know, massive! The doctors and nurses were really happy with her progress and each day they would say there were no real concerns, we just want her to keep growing and putting on weight. And then the news came i was waiting for, we can transfer her back to Durham. This news meant that they were happy with her progress, i was on cloud nine. The hospital at Durham was literally round the corner from where we lived so knowing that i could be there in a matter of a few minutes made it so much easier.

Whilst in the RVI we realised that so many others were far worse off than us, over 100 days one of the babies had been in for. There were babies born at 23 weeks, some born with organs born on the outside of their bodies and some babies whose mum was in hospital many miles away so they were on their own. The wards had stories and pictures of the babies who they had helped, i couldn’t believe there were babies born at 23 weeks, the survival rate statistics i had read up on gave babies at 24 weeks a 50/50 chance of survival as they are so week. For babies born at 29 weeks statistics showed survival rates at around 80 percent, which was good but to me 20 percent was a big number.

11/03/14 – Off to Durham we go

My girl was already for the off, all her checks had been carried out, she had been put into an incubator dedicated for transportation with all of her monitors still attached. I was quite emotional leaving all of the staff, they had been so informative, friendly and i was spending full days with them every day. They all came to say goodbye to Freya and myself and she was taken away in the ambulance. There it was again, that horrible knot in my tummy, but i knew she would shortly be so close to home. That was one step closer to getting her home, so it was a step in the right direction.

When she got to Durham she was in a little room on her own, this was for infection control. Still in her incubator and alarms sounding more than usual. The nurses explained that sometimes babies don’t travel very well and it can cause desats but she would be fine the next day. I didn’t really like that she was in a room on her own or that she was desating so much so i stayed quite late that night. I just sat and watched her and played with my best friend, google! Mark went home to see to Liam, although 14 he still needed us too, sometimes Mark’s mam would pick him up and make his tea or Mark would meet him after school and bring him into hospital. A lot of my friends would text and offer to pick him up after school or take him home after school.

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The next day Freya had settled down and had a steady night, the nurses worked very differently to the RVI. This was the place where they made sure babies were ready to come home. As a result Freya came off her oxygen that day, her alarm didn’t really sound more than usual unless she was turned over. They had to turn her over during the day because if left on her front she could develop problems with her hips and may not be able to walk properly. She would pretty much sleep all day, the nurses said it was just like she was still inside me in her warm incubator. She very rarely opened her eyes so when she did it was like panic stations, ‘get a photo quick, her eyes are open’ she never ever cried either. It got to the point when we couldn’t wait for her to be like a normal baby, crying as she was hungry. She was still on continuous feeds through a drip so never became hungry.

13/03/14 – I’m wearing clothes!

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‘You can dress Freya if you like’, she had been naked up until now, well apart from her little tiny nappy. I didn’t even know they made nappies so small. I had no clothes, i didn’t even know where to buy premature clothes, why would i, i had never bought any before. The hospital had clothes that were donated, so Freya wore this to begin. Operation premature clothing began, i needed some clothes of her own, i had friends and family purchasing the tiniest clothes they could find, at the weight of 3lb it was quite hard. We had a few bits bought for us but they were still a little too big.

My best friend, Sarah, had gone out searching for tiny clothes and brought back some gorgeous items, Sarah had come to visit me and Freya at the RVI. Mark had been a bit worried about me, he’d heard of the term post natal depression and was a bit scared that maybe it was happening to me. I admit i did turn very zombie like, i woke up on a morning, went straight to hospital, sat and watched her all day, carried out her cares, expressed milk every few hours and went home to go to sleep. I just had to concentrate on Freya getting better, i couldn’t think of anything else, i didn’t feel depressed, i just couldn’t relax until someone told me she would be fine, unfortunately no one could tell me that. Mark and Sarah were in touch with each other, i think Sarah was a great help for Mark, he didn’t know what to do or think and Sarah knows me better than anyone. He arranged for Sarah to come in and see me, at the RVI visitors were limited so no friends and most family hadn’t yet met Freya. When Mark sneakily left the hospital one day, in came Sarah, i was really glad to see her. If anyone can make me laugh and smile it’s Sarah. She brought a bit of normality back to me, filling me in on all the gossip, it was needed and appreciated.

15/03/14 – Who needs oxygen anyway!

Freya was still without her oxygen, she still had her desats and sometimes when they would fall to their 60’s i would panic and grab a nurse, but she would pull herself round and be fine. Freya had almost reached her birth weight which was great news, the doctors and consultants did their usual daily round and gave me a thorough update. They had decided to take her off continuous feeds and change to 2 hourly feeds and they wanted me to start feeding her through her tube. I really didn’t feel comfortable with this but i knew there was a high chance she was coming home with her tube in so i would need to learn.

Before every feed i would check her feeding tube was in the correct place, if it had moved to her lungs it could be quite serious so it was important this check was done every time. Her tube was placed through her nose and down through to her stomach. Using a syringe and using a piece of special PH paper i would have to syringe some of the contents of Freya’s stomach through the tube and release it onto the PH paper. If it turned an orange colour that was fine, if it turned blue, this was a concern that the tube had moved to her lungs. Luckily that never happened, the problem i had with Freya is because i gave her breast milk it was quickly absorbed, which is excellent but it was hard trying to remove anything from her tummy. With formula milk it would take a lot longer to digest so it was easier to remove from the stomach and test using the paper.

I would then measure out her milk using a large syringe before attaching it to her tube and would slowly have to release the milk. Each time Freya put on weight the amount of milk she was given would increase. When it was daddy’s turn to give Freya milk through her tube and to do the little PH test, i could tell he was panicking but he kept his calm and did it with ease.

19/03/14 – Time for my brain scan

The consultants and doctors explained that a brain scan was necessary as it was quite common that premature babies born before 30 weeks could have a bleed on the brain. A lot of the time it would stop and sort itself out, sometimes it could lead to things such as cerebral palsy. We knew it was coming the brain scan, we were obviously very worried. It didn’t disturb Freya while they were doing it, they placed a little lubricant on her head and gently used a hand tool to scan her head, they couldn’t see any problems or issues, what a relief, i have no idea what would have come next if there had been a problem.

We decided today to give Freya a try on my breast to see if she would latch on and feed and she did, it was a little strange for me as i had never breast fed before. I was panicking that she couldn’t breathe properly but it was just to introduce her so we didn’t have to do it for long, the quicker i could get her feeding the quicker i could get her home!

Every day at doctors ward rounds, they would say the same, they were happy with Freya’s progress and she was just feeding and growing basically. She was still on caffeine for her Apnea and bradys but that was under control.

Our consultant was very informative, we wanted to know what kind of development problems we may face with Freya being so early. We just wanted to be prepared to make sure we could give her everything she needed. He explained that usually babies born at around 29 weeks have caught up with development milestones by the time they go to school. Although Freya was a few weeks old they would use her corrected age of 29 weeks. It still gets confusing, her actual age today is 8 months but her corrected age is only 5 and 1/2 months. That’s the age we use for her development, she is trying to sit up but not quite there and she can roll over but can’t roll herself back onto her back. Freya has to see consultants at both the RVI and Durham to monitor her development, so far she is doing great and we are really proud of her.

26/03/14 – I’ve broken free from the incubator

No More Incubator

No More Incubator

It brought tears to my eyes, my baby girl was finally in a cot, i could touch her whenever i wanted, i could pick her up with ease. An incubator was so restrictive, now she was free. She had just her tube through her nose for her milk and a monitor around her foot for the alarms. She now weighed 1720g, she loved her milk.

30/03/14 – My first bath

First Bath

First Bath

Full of panic, both myself and Mark gave Freya her first bath in the ward. It’s hard enough with a new baby, trying to handle them gently, but when they weigh approximately half the weight of a new baby, the panic is far greater. She quite liked having her hair washed but when she was actually put in the bath by daddy she screamed, he soon soothed her and her crying stopped.

Freya’s alarms had stopped beeping as much and she was now lying mainly on her back but still sometimes on her front. I made the decision to give Freya expressed milk in a bottle, she was struggling latching on and the nurses explained they use more muscles when feeding from the breast, so it will be harder for her. It was hard work giving her a bottle too, she would forget how to swallow and breathe and her sat’s would drop and alarms would go off, i would start to panic and the nurse would come and help me. I was so worried that i wouldn’t have the monitor to alarm when her sat’s would drop when i went home, so how would i know? The nurses kept assuring me that she would be fine and by the time she goes home she will be feeding with no problems. She was still having some tube feeds too, having too many bottles would tire her out. It was a gradual process and she was in control.

The nurses had become my best friends by that point, we discussed the TV, what we were having for tea, what clothes we liked, they made me forget i was in hospital. They used to tell me i didn’t have to sit in hospital all day, they wouldn’t think i was a bad mam if i popped home, but the alternative was to sit at home watching tv, why would i want to do that when my baby might open her eyes and want to see and hear her mammy.

By this point Freya was used to being examined, having blood taken, hearing checked, brain scanned and next was her Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) test. It is a potentially blinding eye disorder that affects premature babies born before 30 weeks, it is one of the most common causes of visual loss in childhood. This test examines whether the blood vessels behind the retina have stopped growing. It is a very intrusive examination and parents are advised to not be there when it takes place. The babies eyes are pinned open and a tool is used to keep the eyeballs still so that they can be checked. This test is carried out up until the baby would be full term. Freya had to go through it 3 times, it was heart breaking but essential. Luckily Freya has no issues with her eyes and they are developing well.

06/04/14 – Look at how much i weigh?

IMG_0386

Weigh in day was 3 times per week, every parent on that ward lived for weigh in day. Freya was now 4lb 5oz and i was able to give her a full bottle quite confidently, even if the alarms went off. Her bottles were increased to 3 per day, i knew they were preparing her for home, it was coming and i was so excited.

11/04/14 – Bye bye caffeine

The consultants decided it was time to take Freya off her caffeine and to see how she responded. I was pretty much on the edge of my seat all day waiting for her alarms to go off but they were actually no different than normal, just the odd alarm here and there. The nurses asked me how i would feel if they turned off the monitors but i wasn’t ready for that, to me that was a huge step, even though she was fine. I wasn’t sure i would be ready for no more monitors!

12/04/14 – What have you done?

IMG_0152

When i walked into the ward that day Freya’s monitor had been turned off, the nurses came straight over and explained they knew i would never be ready and i had to learn to live without the monitors as Freya was absolutely fine. But that wasn’t the only news they gave me, ‘ If Freya is still ok with her bottles and you feel comfortable giving her tubes feed, she can go home on Tuesday and we will carry out an outreach service for you’. This news was what i had been waiting for weeks, i feel like bursting into tears now just reliving the moment when they told me i could take my baby girl home. Home to her her own bed and family and cuddle her all the time and just spoil her rotten. Mark couldn’t believe it either he was so excited, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

That weekend we made sure we had everything needed, clothes, bottles, breast pump, nappies, there was nothing we didn’t have. It was almost too good to be true, i was waiting for something to go wrong or a set back but it didn’t.

Brings Tears to My Eyes - We're Going home

Brings Tears to My Eyes – We’re Going home

On Tuesday 15th April 2014, after over 6 long weeks in hospital, we finally got to take our precious little girl home, it is a day we will never forget, filled with happiness and excitement. It was an emotional roller coaster that seemed to go on forever, but we got through it and Freya is now a happy healthy little girl.

If you have or are about to have a premature baby and would like to ask us anything, from mum or dad, please get in touch as we are happy to help.

michelle@freya-lillie.com or mark@freya-lillie.com

We now donate 5% profits to Tiny Lives Charity from our small online business named after Freya Lillie and are looking at fundraising for Durham neonatal.

www.facebook.com/freyalillie