Courage and strength come in many forms. By sharing the story of her son’s birth at 28 weeks, Linda demonstrates her courage and strength while delivering a healthy (premature) baby boy.

It was a normal Friday like any other. I was 26 weeks pregnant and expecting my second boy in early October. Nothing special or exhausting was planned for the day. My son was having his afternoon nap when I suddenly felt a constant flow of water and it hit me like a train collision – total panic – my water had broken!

In an instant, I remembered a moment earlier in the week, when we had hit the 26-weeks mark in the pregnancy. My husband and I had high-fived each other that now the baby would be viable when he was born. It has seemed like just a silly milestone in the pregnancy and at that time, I did not realize what this would actually entail.

The midwife came, told my husband to pack some stuff “for a few days” and sent us to the AMC. I remember asking her why we weren’t going to the OLVG since that was closer to home, and she explained that once the baby was born it would need very special intensive care, which only a few hospitals in the Netherlands can provide. There was no room for my unborn child in the NICU at the AMC, so I was taken to a hospital in Rotterdam instead. The urgency of the situation hit me more and more with each minute as we drove to the hospital.

I had lost quite a lot of fluid and there was a 50% chance that the labour would start within the next 7 days, so I was given medication to help mature the baby’s lungs. In order to be effective, the medicine needed at least 48hrs, so I was also given something to slow down my contractions. It soon became clear that “a few days” actually meant ‘the rest of the pregnancy.’

And then, nothing happened…. I counted days. Each day would give my unborn boy a better chance of survival; each day would help him become healthier. I started to feel safe in the pregnancy again, thinking that this little boy would stay with me for another 14 weeks…

Two weeks later, I somehow became more anxious: What if he was born premature? He would have to stay in the hospital for a long time… and what about me? Mothers are discharged 4 days after the birth, how would I manage with my family and eldest son in Amsterdam and a baby boy in Rotterdam? I asked for a transfer back to Amsterdam so that I could at least be close to both my sons, either at home or in the hospital.

Not more than 24 hours in the AMC, with no warning whatsoever, I started having contractions and there was no turning back. I was giving birth at 28 weeks. But now I felt calm and confident that this child wanted to come out and there was nothing I could do about it. I had kept him safe for as long as I could and now it was up to him and the doctors.

They called my husband and told him to rush to the hospital. The moment he arrived, they brought me to the delivery room and within the hour and at 9 centimetres, I was allowed to push. I remember thinking: ’what do you mean? I thought I had to push at 10 cm??!!’ It’s funny how certain moments remain crystal clear in your memory, and how your mind works to even make the potentially worst moments in your life (like giving birth way too early) special and funny instead.

At 3.30 am, our tiny little guy was born, weighing 1200 grams and 35 cm. They showed him to me by holding him up in the air, and then immediately took him away to check him and take him to the NICU. My husband went with him and I was left, shivering and alone in a delivery room, with an empty belly and still in shock about what had just happened.

Later that early morning I got to really see him for the first time. He was beautiful and thank god, very healthy and breathing on his own. But he was also so tiny, with such small feet and hands. It took 8 intensive weeks, full of ups and downs, before we were finally able to bring him home, weighing 2400 grams and 47 cm.

People often ask me: Do you feel guilty for giving birth so premature? Do you miss a connection with him because you couldn’t hold him directly after birth or breastfeed him? And my answer is, no, I don’t.

I feel proud of this little big boy. With a strong-willed personality, he is a fighter and an inspiration. And I certainly don’t feel like we are missing a connection – our connection is so good and so strong, that we decided to cut the umbilical cord just a bit earlier.