Bodhi’s got talent
Lisa’s brave baby
Bleary eyed but still buzzing, I phoned the guy I was seeing.
I’d barely been to sleep, having seen the first showing of The Force
Awakens at midnight. Sadly, the Force wasn’t so strong with Shane Gascoigne, 34.
He wasn’t half the Star Wars geek I was, but he humoured me as I blathered on about anything light-sabre related.
We’d dated when we were 18, but had got back in touch thanks to Facebook.
Now he was in the Forces – although not the galactic kind – while I was in sales.
And it seemed like the reboot of our relationship was as successful as the Star Wars one.
We soon became a couple, and the following year – August 2016 – we got our own place together.
We both decided we wanted kids, but not quite as soon as it turned out.
Within weeks, I was pregnant! ‘I don’t believe it,’ I gasped. ‘Three positive tests can’t be wrong,’ Shane grinned.
Seeing the little heart pumping away at the first scan, we were smitten. As well as routine scans, we paid for a private one, which told us we were having a boy. At 20 weeks, I climbed on to the sonographer’s bed, joking, ‘I’m halfway through this pregnancy, please tell me everything’s perfect.’
‘No one can tell you that,’ she smiled, ‘but it all looks great to me.’
Just over a fortnight later, me and Shane went away for a romantic weekend. In the bar after dinner, I felt a stab of pain in my back.
Shane helped me back to our room. Sitting on the loo, I noticed a strange, clear discharge. ‘Like a jellyfish,’ I told him.
I felt OK the next day, but the day after that, I was doubled up in pain again. I called my midwife.
‘The “jellyfish” doesn’t sound normal,’ she said. ‘Get to hospital for a checkup.’
In A&E, a doctor quickly checked the heartbeat, and said it was fine. ‘First baby?’ he asked, prescribing paracetamol.
I’d always had a high pain threshold, but he made me feel like a time-waster. Even though I knew something was wrong, I felt I had no choice but to carry on.
Next day at work, my colleagues could see I was in agony. They rolled up towels so I could sit comfortably, and rubbed ointment on my back.
That night, I woke up bleeding, weeping with the pain.
Shane took me straight to hospital, where a junior doctor said the blood was nothing to worry about.
We went home again, where I suddenly sprouted a hard bump. My stomach had been quite flat until then and it didn’t feel right. ‘I can’t go on like this,’ I cried. I made an appointment with the GP, who took one look and said, ‘You have too much fluid.’ She called the hospital and told them to expect me immediately.
After a scan and an internal examination, the consultant put his hand on my shoulder.
‘You’re in labour,’ he said. ‘I’m ever so sorry.’
‘Sorry? Why?’ I demanded. He looked at the midwife. ‘You’re only 23 weeks and three days,’ she said. ‘Before 24 weeks, the baby isn’t classed as viable.’
Through my fog of fear and confusion, I realised what she was telling me – that if our son, who we’d already named Bodhi, was born now, he would be officially a miscarriage. ‘But he’s my child,’ I sobbed. ‘There is some good news,’
I was told.
There was nothing they could do to save babies of 500g or less, but Bodhi weighed 550g, so he could have steroids to help his lungs.
I was transferred to Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, where they had specialist facilities. ‘Try to keep calm,’ they
urged. ‘The longer he stays inside you, the better.’
I arrived at 6.30pm. Another consultant examined me. ‘The baby is breech,’ she said. ‘It would be best to keep him inside until 26 weeks.’
As she left, she said, ‘Bed rest. Don’t move.’
Shane was on his way, but he’d gone to the wrong hospital first, so I was alone and petrified.
If I could keep Bodhi safe in my tummy for just a few more days, he had a chance of survival.
If not, he might be a late miscarriage statistic. How could I bear it?
At that moment, 7pm, my waters broke. Sobbing, I rang the bell and a midwife ran in. She sat on my bed and gave me a hug. ‘It’s going to be OK,’ she soothed.
But seconds later, I heard her in the corridor, screaming for some help. The consultant reappeared. ‘What have you done?’ she demanded. ‘Nothing,’ I cried. ‘I haven’t left the bed.’ By now, I was 6cm dilated. There was a whirl of people arriving – Shane, a crash trolley, a team of six specialists for Bodhi, another six for me. A paediatrician came to speak to me. ‘If he fights when he’s born, we’ll work on him,’ she said gently. ‘If not, we’ll wrap him in a blanket and give him to you for a cuddle.’ I had a contraction and Bodhi’s legs, bum and an arm came out. I waited for the next contraction, but nothing came. The room went silent.
After two minutes, a midwife pounded my belly and Bodhi rolled out.
There was a tiny cry. ‘That’s very unusual,’ the consultant said. ‘It’s a good sign.’
Then the paediatrician walked over with a minute bundle in her arms. ‘Have a cuddle,’ she said. I stared at her, panic-struck. Was this the death cuddle she’d told me about?
‘What kind of cuddle?’ I cried. ‘A good one,’ she replied. She handed over our son, 1lb 2oz and 20cm long, like a pencil. His skin was translucent, gossamer-thin. He looked like a baby bird whose shell had cracked far too soon.
Bodhi was taken to intensive care to be put on a ventilator and it was hours before we were allowed to see him.
He lay in a heated incubator, under lamps. ‘Like tomatoes in a greenhouse,’ I whispered.
All we could do was pray he would begin to thrive and grow.
I stayed at the hospital, spending every waking hour at Bodhi’s side.
Many times, his monitors went crazy, alarms sounding, and medical teams raced to revive him.
His life was as delicate as a spider’s web and I was too afraid to touch him at first.
But after three weeks, a nurse laid Bodhi on my chest and tears streamed down my face.
With encouragement from the nurses, I gradually gained more confidence, and learned how to change his nappy. ‘It’s massive on him,’ I giggled, ‘like Simon Cowell’s high-waisted jeans.’
There was camaraderie among all the mums on the ward. Only we could understand the pressure to produce breast milk, the terror when the doctors stopped by your baby first on their rounds – that meant they were the sickest.
As we expressed milk in the room I called the ‘Titty Lounge’, we shared our hopes and fears, and friendships were forged.
One day, a family-liaison lady said a film crew were interested in shooting a documentary-style advertisement for Pampers, to publicise their campaign to donate tiny premature nappies to wards like ours.
They wanted our permission, which we happily gave.
I stroked Bodhi’s mini fingers and told him, ‘You’re going to be a TV star. Don’t start throwing hissy fits now!’
The camera crew were so sensitive and respectful as they shot the footage.
By now, everyone on the ward felt like family and we couldn’t wait to see our little celebrities on the ad when it was screened.
‘We’ll have to get them all an agent,’ the nurses joked.
In three and a half months, Bodhi went from critical to highcare, fighting back from the brink.
When he reached 5lb 2oz, we were allowed to take him home.
It was scary at first, when we’d had so much help to hand, but Bodhi picked up fast and Shane and I began to relax and enjoy being a family at last.
Two months after Bodhi was discharged from hospital, the Pampers Little Fighters ad aired for the first time, during the final of Britain’s Got Talent last year.
When I saw him on TV, I burst into tears. ‘Look how tiny he was!’
There was a link on Facebook so I could watch it again and again, and I cried every time.
‘I never used to cry at all,’ I laughed, blowing my nose.
I was so proud of all the babies, so small, yet fierce with determination to fight for life.
Now Bodhi is 18 months old, a bright pickle. He pulls out drawers, and opens cupboard doors so he can throw crockery around. Naturally, above his cot is a
Star Wars poster with the tag line
The Force is strong with this one.
It certainly was.
His grin is so cheeky and mischievous, it’s impossible to be cross with him. He is still a bit small, but doctors think he will catch up in no time. Whenever we get out the camera or take a snap on our phones, he stops to pose. After all, he was a TV personality two months before he was even due to be born.
And in my eyes, of course, Bodhi will always be the biggest reality TV star of all. Lisa Curtis, 36, Skegness, Lincs
We’ll have to get them all an agent!
Bodhi’s starring role in the Pampers ad
Our son was put on a ventilator immediately
Nothing’s stopping him now!
Me and Shane were allowed to hold our baby at last I couldn’t believe how tiny Bodhi was… …but he’s become a real bouncer!