When things don't go according to plan

When things don't go according to plan

For Dr Julie Beak, a Paediatrician with Paedicare, providing specialist care for babies born prematurely holds a special place in her heart.

“One of the greatest pleasures of my job is watching premature babies grow and develop into strong, healthy babies – it is such a privilege to be a part of that journey,” said Dr Beak.

Baby Hugo Roberts, who was born at Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital eight weeks premature, is one of more than 2,000 seriously ill and premature babies who require specialist lifesaving care provided at the Mater Mothers' Hospitals' Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU) each year.

For parents Candy Fung and James Roberts, Hugo’s unexpected early arrival meant they were suddenly faced with the challenging new reality of being a parent to a premature newborn.

“Hugo was born eight weeks premature and what that means for parents is that he is going to be in a humidicrib and not easily accessible for parents to take him out," said Dr Beak.

“They can certainly touch him, but it is not easy, and it can feel like that he is quite far away.

“You are also in a strange environment where there are lots of alarms going off from monitors and that’s very foreign for most people and a very difficult way to get to know and bond with your baby.”

Dr Beak said premature babies are not going to be feeding like a full-term baby, which is emotionally challenging, particularly for mums.

“He’s not going to be sucking on a breast or a bottle and being is able to feed properly is going to take some time to develop. 

"Because Hugo’s unexpected arrival happened so quickly, Hugo’s Mum Candy admits that she was in denial at the start of her labour and that it took quite a while for not only all the emotions to sink in, but to accept that she was also now a mum to a fragile little boy.

"No one plans to have an early pregnancy. Everyone plans to have their baby to full term and then when baby arrives you expect to be able to cuddle and start bonding straight away … but that didn’t happen,” said Candy.

“I was only able to give Hugo a quick hug before he was rushed off to NCCU. The next thing I remember I was wheeled down stairs a couple of hours later where he was in a humidicrib with me sitting on the opposite side watching him. The whole experience felt so surreal at the time and everything didn’t hit me until a while later.”

One of Dr Beak’s proudest moments during Hugo’s care, was witnessing Candy kangaroo cuddle Hugo for the very first time – a significant milestone in any premature newborn’s development.

“When a baby is born prematurely, the ability to hold and cuddle their own baby is taken away from parents, which emotionally, is very difficult to deal with.”

“When I saw Candy kangaroo cuddle Hugo for the first time it was a heartfelt moment that made me feel extremely happy for them because I know that this is what all parents want – they just want to be able to hold their baby.”

After spending the first 35 days of his life in NCCU, it was time for little Hugo to head home – a milestone which Dr Beak holds quite dearly in her heart.

“When you have a baby like Hugo born prematurely by eight weeks - he’s so little and fragile. To watch parents see their baby grow into a healthy baby who reaches the same milestones that full term babies reach is satisfying. I feel privileged to be able to be part of that journey with Hugo and his parents … it is a beautiful journey to be able to watch,” Dr Beak said.

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