Jack’s first Christmas

Upper Scotchtown’s Kimberly and Mitchell Stokes with their miracle baby, Jack, who was born weighing just 665 grams.  The family will spend Jack’s first Christmas in Hobart.

Journey. A newborn is a true blessing, but for Kimberly and Mitchell Stokes theirs was a miracle.

The Upper Scotchtown couple experienced that joy when after their first round of IVF in February, they found out that they were going to be parents.

After hearing the words that were like “a dream come true” Kimberly went on to have an excellent first half of her pregnancy. However, a routine midwife appointment at 22 weeks showed her blood pressure to be extremely high and her feet incredibly swollen. That was in July and she is yet to return to her hometown.

Kimberly was taken to the North West Regional Hospital and then flown to the Royal Hobart Hospital that night, where she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and doctors wanted to deliver the baby in the coming days.

Kimberly shares with Chronicle readers the journey over the past six months, and how she and her family will spend Christmas this year.

Being only 22 weeks meant there was no way our baby would survive.

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy induced condition which normally occurs a lot later in pregnancy. It can range from a mild to a severe condition and can affect various organs of the body. It also reduces the blood flow to the placenta which causes growth restrictions to your baby.

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver your placenta which also means deliver your baby.

The doctors in Hobart managed to keep my blood pressure under control for another month.

On Friday August 5, I had become very swollen and nothing was keeping my blood pressure down. Today was the day we would meet our baby boy.

At 2.30pm, 26 weeks and two days into our pregnancy, our baby boy Jack Brian Stokes was born via c-section weighing 665 grams and measuring 32 centimetres long. He came out crying – which we weren’t expecting! We got a little look at him before he was taken away to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

Jack’s journey has been anything but smooth sailing. His main issue is a severe case of chronic lung disease which most micro-preemie babies have. He has been on every kind of breathing support possible, including the oscillator which is the biggest life support machine the NICU has. The first couple of months of Jack’s life were the scariest. Every week we were faced with a new challenge and never knew if our little man was going to pull through or not. We had to wait a whole month until Jack was stable enough for a cuddle. This was the most amazing moment of our lives. This day was filled with many emotions and we couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces.

At six weeks old, after doing really well on his breathing support, Jack became extremely unwell. Blood tests revealed he had a blood infection. He was once again put back onto the oscillator to give his tiny body a rest and was also given antibiotics to help fight this nasty infection. We had some dark days during this time, once again not knowing if Jack would make it. Since this setback, we have celebrated a lot of milestones (usually celebrated with cake for the staff). We have celebrated each kilogram gained (he now weighs 3.8kg), his due date (November 9) as well as 100 days in the NICU.

Jack has recently started to bottle feed my milk, he enjoys sucking on his dummy and loves awake time in his chair looking at his mobile. He loves listening to music and storytime every night with Mum and Dad. He is such a cheeky little boy and is really beginning to show us his personality. The next step in Jack’s journey is to get him stable enough to have his hernias operated on. The operation is scheduled for today (Thursday December 22). Once this is done, we will be able to head back up north to the Burnie hospital. We are unsure when this will happen but we just take it one day at a time. On December 7, after 124 days in ICU, Jack was finally moved next door to the special care nursery, which means one step closer to home. We are now also able to take Jack for walks around the hospital in his pram with his oxygen supply in tow. We can also take him for walks around town now, he loves to be outside and takes in every sound.

We have remained positive through this whole journey and were lucky enough to meet some amazing people along the way. One couple in particular, Matt and Arianne from Bridport, welcomed their beautiful son Maysen into the world six days before Jack. They too experienced what it was like being away from family and friends. This brought us even closer knowing what the other was going through, being so far away from home. They shared three months of the NICU’s emotional rollercoaster with us and we developed a very special bond that not many people will ever understand.

This Christmas will be far from our normal family Christmas but will be one of our best yet as we get to celebrate with our little miracle Jack. Christmas this year has a whole new meaning for us as we will be spending it with other families who are also away from their family and going through a rough time. Miracles really do happen. It’s a Christmas that we never thought we would get to spend with Jack.

We cannot thank the NICU doctors, nurses and staff enough for their care towards Jack. They have become our second family and we know that without them, we wouldn’t have our beautiful little boy here with us today. We also want to thank the staff and volunteers at Ronald McDonald House. We cannot say thank you enough to this amazing team of people. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to afford to be here with Jack. You make this journey a lot easier on us, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

During this time, Mitchell and I have both been lucky enough to have such a supportive and understanding workplace at Murray Goulburn, Edith Creek. Their support has been endless and we will never be able to truly express how much this has meant to us. Lastly, we would like to thank our family, friends and the whole Circular Head community for your generosity shown with donations, gifts and well wishes. Your love and support throughout the past six months has been amazing!

We are unsure what other challenges Jack will be met with in the future, but we feel extremely lucky and blessed to have our tiny little miracle boy. He truly is our inspiration. To borrow a quote from Winnie the Pooh, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

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