24 November 2023

Wagga midwife shares emotional journey of preterm birth and triumph

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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mum and baby

Wagga midwife Jessica Bodel with her then-newborn son Fletcher. Inset: Baby Fletcher. Photos: Supplied.

As an experienced midwife, Jessica Bodel knows all too well the rollercoaster of having a premature baby.

Jessica experienced a placental abruption 33 weeks into her pregnancy.

While taking care of a set of twins in the special-care nursery at St Gerard’s Ward at Calvary Riverina Hospital, Jessica felt pain. She started bleeding, and within hours, she underwent an emergency caesarean.

Even though the arrival of baby Fletcher was swift and memorable, his father, Chris, was in Canberra and missed out on being at his son’s birth.

“But that’s OK. I still had a really good support network with my mum,” Jessica said.

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Jessica, Chris and their loved ones had to navigate a mixture of heightened emotions over the days and weeks after Fletcher was born.

“Fletcher needed three days of respiratory support and two weeks of caffeine for his bradycardia episodes, along with nasogastric tube feeds, constant monitoring, IV therapy for his sugars, and he also was jaundiced,” Jessica said.

“Going home without a baby and leaving them in a nursery one or two days after you’ve had them is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do as a mother.

“It goes against all your instincts.”

Fletcher was able to leave the hospital after three and a half weeks, with his mum ensuring he got the care he needed at home thanks to her experience as a midwife.

newborn boy with tube in nostril

Little Fletcher could go home after three and a half weeks in hospital.

Jessica opened up about the tumultuous journey she had to navigate of having a preterm baby.

“The way I explain it to my patients is that it is a two-step-forward and one-step-back situation,” she said.

“It is a bit of a roller-coaster, but your baby does get better, it does get easier, and it won’t be long before you have your little baby home with you in your arms.

“My advice is to ask as many questions as you can so you are well informed about what is happening to you and your baby. It is reassuring to know what is going on and why. There are no silly questions in these circumstances.”

Fletcher is now a happy, healthy five-year-old who loves his little brother, Nate, and will start school next year.

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Fifteen million premature babies are born each year worldwide. One in 10 babies is born too early, while up to 27,000 babies are born prematurely in Australia each year, according to the Miracle Babies Foundation.

Calvary Hospital and its team of obstetricians, paediatricians, and midwives offer extensive maternity services. At the same time, the special-care nursery allows babies born from 36 weeks to be cared for in the St Gerard’s Ward.

“One of my favourite things about Calvary is that we do everything we can to keep mums and bubs as close together as we possibly can,” Jessica said.

”It is something I wish I had been able to do.

“We keep our mums in for as long as they need, and then they move to a boarder status, which is really special.

“Being able to stay close to your baby improves outcomes on multiple levels – not just for bub, but for mum as well.”

For more information, visit Calvary Riverina Hospital.

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