Alysha and Adrian McVeigh’s long-held dream of becoming parents almost shattered when Alysha went into labour at only 22 weeks and five days. But rather than give up hope, the couple prepared to battle for their baby’s survival – and their daughter, Tia-Jane, put in the fight of her life.
Their tiny daughter had not yet made the 23-week deadline when Alysha went into labour. Hospital policy was that a baby born before that crucial milestone would be left to die – and things were looking bleak.
But incredibly, the unborn baby put a foot in her mother’s cervix and plugged the flow of amniotic fluid, which ensured the womb remained a safe haven for those vital extra days.
Alysha had already spent weeks in Wellington Hospital on total bedrest, because the amniotic sac around her baby had prolapsed into the birth canal.
Adrian was defiant. “We said, ‘You (doctors) might as well go home. We’re not having this baby. We’re not going to have it until you can save her’,” he remembers.
With only one day until the 23-week deadline, Alysha was given the first of two steroid injections to speed up her baby’s development for life outside.
But things didn’t go to plan and a series of events forced a doctor to admit the baby’s chances of survival were “very, very slim”. Their baby needed to come out immediately, so Alysha was given medication to speed up labour – it was 1am in Alysha’s 23rd week of pregnancy.
“She was born at 2.36am so we were very lucky she made it to the time,” Adrian tells Stuff.co.nz.
Tia-Jane weighed 516g at birth and measured 27cm. She spent 137 days in care before she was allowed to go home. “She was so small and it was like, ‘Is that supposed to be a baby?’. It was unbelievable that it was possible to deliver something so small,” says Alysha.
The new mum can barely remember her first visit to the NICU to see Tia-Jane. “What you’re looking at is the most tiny thing you’ve ever seen with fused eyes,” Alysha says.
“You can’t imagine that it will actually grow into a baby,” Adrian adds. “We jokingly – quite a few weeks afterwards – used to refer to her as ‘a rat with a hat’ because what she actually looked like – a rat with a big woollen hat on.”
They spent all their time in the hospital with their daughter, fearing the worst. “It’s like you feel ripped off, because how can something – that realistically for us is such a special time – be so horrible?” Alysha says.
“There was nothing nice about it. You know, you’re just there waiting realistically for her to die. I came home with an empty belly and an empty bassinet. It was kind of weird.”
The road to parenthood hadn’t started easily, either, with Stuff.co.nz reporting the New Zealand couple was forced to sell their transport business to pay for IVF.
It’s almost all forgotten with their precious baby now home with them. Tia-Jane is thriving, despite being one of the most premature babies to survive in New Zealand.
She is only weeks past her October 14 due date, but it’s five months since her June birthday. “The fact that she fought for her own life is probably what amazes me the most,” says Alysha.
Happily, there’s a lot of little battlers out there. Read our story of the birthday video a doting mum made for her premature son, who was born at 24 weeks.