A young family, Matthew, Brooke and Amberley Dalziel, endured many trials before becoming a family unit in their Virden home this February.
In October 2020 Amberley was born via emergency C-section at 25 weeks and five days gestation. She came home to Virden on Feb. 16 after weeks in a Winnipeg Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and an additional two weeks in Brandon hospital.
“It’s been a terrifying and amazing journey,” says her young mother.
Amberley’s birth was the second time Brooke would be rushed to emergency surgery with complications in a pregnancy. Three years ago, in her first year out of high school, Brooke and Matthew’s first pregnancy ended tragically.
“To start off, we lost our first daughter at 26 weeks, due to placenta abruption and medical negligence,” says Brooke. The experience left her with PTSD. But her greatest sorrow was for the child she lost. “We named her Ava-Mae and she would have been three this year.
“I got pregnant with our second daughter in April of 2020. It was a scary experience to be pregnant after a loss.”
Again, labour started way too early.
“I went into labor with Amberley. We arrived in Brandon at just after 11 p.m. and I was sent in for an emergency C-section. Her baby entered the world at 12:41 p.m. on Thanksgiving weighing only 1 lb. 15 ounces.”
Amberley had to be airlifted to St. Boniface Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Winnipeg for special care. She battled with brain bleeds, chronic lung disease and eye issues, par for the course with premature babies.
There were bright spots along the way and Brooke was thankful for that.
For one thing, she was reliving the trauma of her first delivery, but the nurses and staff in Brandon hospital were comforting. The delivery was fast tracked, as the first available doctor was called in for the C-section, and baby Amberley made the journey from womb to NICU in Winnipeg successfully.
“We stayed at Ronald McDonald House the whole time we were in Winnipeg. It’s beautiful. Although you had to wear a mask every time you left your room, it still felt like home and I appreciated everything the staff did for us.”
For the first month Brooke was able to be in the NICU with her little one.
“Another little baby came in and I got to know his mom. It turned out that she had also lost a baby before. We built a really good friendship.”
Breathing is not automatic for a preemie.
“Amberley was on a ventilator for almost a month.” She developed chronic lung disease as the tube for the ventilator rubbed on the joint between her lungs, causing scarring. She had to be suctioned to remove excess fluid due to that.
“She was two weeks old before I even got to hold her. She was just so fragile.”
She was switched to CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressure), a high frequency machine that would also shake her a little to remind her to breath. Amberly was up to her full-term date – newborn - when she began to breath without mechanical help.
Now, Amberley is doing well.
“She is absolutely amazing. She’s been having physiotherapy, and she’s had a couple of eye appointments.” No more eye appointments are needed for six months.
The couple have another child, Matthew’s son Joel who’s nine.
Brooke says Joel is nervous and excited about his new sister. “He was worried about her getting sick. He’s such a kind soul. He was scared to hold her.”
Her first baby, Ava-Mae, is never far from Brooke’s thoughts. She tells, with tears, but a sense of comfort, that when she went into labour with Amberley, she felt that Ava was watching over them, helping her little sister.
Brooke appreciates being home with their new little girl and says, “I can’t thank everybody enough for the support. Even from the support when we lost Ava-Mae, to the support with Amberley.”
About preemie babies
Brooke called Amberley her miracle baby, for good reason. Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. A baby born three or more weeks early is premature. But even those who are born late preterm (closer to 37 weeks) are at risk for problems. Brooke was just five days less than 26 weeks along in her pregnancy, so Amberley was a very early preemie.
Even a preemie’s skin is not fully developed. Such early babies have no protective fat, and will get cold in normal room and must be nurtured within an incubator (often called an isolette) where they are kept warm.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when a baby is born too early, his or her major organs are not fully formed. While the average full-term baby weighs about 7 pounds (3.17 kg) at birth, a premature newborn might weigh 5 pounds (2.26 kg) or even considerably less. Amberley weighed just under two pounds.
Amberly was first fed through a tube and gradually a bottle was introduced. By the time baby Amberley was full term, she was drinking from a bottle and she and Brooke were transferred to Brandon hospital, where she was delivered, to prepare for life at home. Mother and baby had two days together in Brandon before coming home to Virden.
Amberley came through a precarious time, as she grew to term in the NICU. She was a fighter.