A mum-of-two has revealed how she still feels guilty for not wanting to meet her baby girl, nine years after her daughter’s sudden and traumatic arrival.
Doctor Clara Hurst, 39, was excited to be starting a family with her husband, David, but when she gave birth to her daughter, Sienna, at 24 weeks she was terrified.
‘I feel guilty I didn’t want to meet her because I didn’t want to get attached,’ Clara cried, remembering the first painful moments of Sienna’s life.
Doctor Clara Hurst, 39, has revealed how her life was turned upside down after the premature birth of her daughter who arrived at 24 weeks
The now nine-year-old, Sienna, was given a 10 per cent chance of survival
The renowned dermatologist, who now lives in Perth, is from the UK and started her family in London.
Clara shared her story with Daily Mail Australia to let other mums know they don’t have to be alone if they are struggling through the grief and guilt that can come from having a very early pregnancy.
‘I didn’t have anybody and I longed for it so hard,’ she said.
Sienna was born a few days after Clara took herself to hospital for a check-up when she felt ‘something wasn’t right’ after having an otherwise normal pregnancy.
Clara, pictured here with her daughter, husband David and son Will, still feels guilty for not wanting to meet Sienna after finding out her slim chance of survival
But when she finally did meet her baby she realised her love could help save her
Sienna grew stronger with skin-to-skin contact and was ready to go home after 26 weeks
Sienna’s parents held her as much as possible after realising it was having a positive effect
Doctors revealed she was in early labour and Sienna was delivered 16 weeks early, weighing just 540grams.
‘The doctors said “the chances are your baby is not going to live”,’ she recalled.
‘They gave her a 10 per cent chance of her surviving and said if she survives, it is a 90 per cent chance of handicap.’
Such unlikely odds of survival left Clara broken – but she later realised meeting her baby and holding her would heal them both.
‘After two long weeks waiting patiently by Sienna’s incubator, only being able to very gently place my hand on her back for comfort, the doctors told me she was stable enough to be held for a few minutes,’ she said.
Clara said having a premmie daughter was a very isolating experience
Sienna is now a big sister – her baby brother was also born early
Clara has seen both of her children thrive and wants to help other parents who are going through the same experience of having preterm babies
She awkwardly took her tiny baby from her incubator, conscious of the tubes coming from her nose and mouth as well as the lines coming from her doll-sized arms and legs.
‘I gently placed her on my chest for skin-to-skin contact and after just a few moments, her stats improved, her oxygen saturation increased and her pulse stabilised, it was powerful. My baby could feel her mother’s love and responded positively to it,’ she said.
Clara could only hold Sienna for five minutes – but it was a huge turning point for both of them.
Will and Sienna enjoying each other’s company at their home in Perth
‘I feel guilty I didn’t want to meet her because I didn’t want to get attached,’ Clara cried, remembering the painful moments of her first child’s life
Clara went from being petrified she would hurt Sienna if she touched her to confident her love would help save her.
‘I had felt completely powerless until that moment, but I suddenly realised that if my baby was going to have any chance of survival, she didn’t just need the doctors to care for her, she needed me too,’ she said.
‘Sometimes there would be many days before we could hold Sienna again but each and every time we did, she responded positively and it gave us hope.’
Sienna is now nine years old and thriving but does live with ongoing health and developmental complications.
Clara shared video clips of the youngster which show her bright, bubbly personality.
Clara shared video clips of the youngster which show her bright, bubbly personality
Clara went from being petrified she would hurt Sienna if she touched her to confident her love would help save her
But it was a long and lonely road for the couple who were navigating parenthood for the first time.
‘It took a year for me to allow myself time to take a breath. It was only once Sienna was completely off oxygen support and no longer required monitoring day and night that I felt I could begin to enjoy motherhood,’ Clara said.
Sienna came home 26 weeks after she was born – a huge achievement for a baby who had such a slim chance of survival.
Clara could finally picture a future where she wasn’t afraid of being the mother of a preterm baby.
‘It was also at this exact same time that the adrenaline rush that had been fuelling me for months ebbed away and I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety,’ she said.
Dr Hurst’s skincare company ‘The Secret’ rebranded their iconic skin serum for Mother’s Day.
Sienna came home 26 weeks after she was born, this was a huge achievement for a baby who had such a slim chance of survival
Clara was diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD after finally getting through the first year of motherhood
‘Instead of baby groups, coffee dates and family visits you sit by an incubator for hours on end every day feeling powerless and praying for your baby to pull through’
They have donated $10 from the sale of each bottle between April 23 and May 9 to the Miracle Babies Foundation, a charity close to Clara’s heart.
‘Having a premature baby is an incredibly harrowing and isolating experience. You are thrown into a world that you never even knew existed, let alone imagined could happen to you, you feel robbed of the beautiful first mum experience you’d always dreamt of and your whole world is turned upside down,’ she said.
‘Instead of baby groups, coffee dates and family visits you sit by an incubator for hours on end every day feeling powerless and praying for your baby to pull through.
‘I am so happy that The Secret Skincare is able to help raise much needed funds towards a charity that can offer comfort and ongoing assistance to other families.’
Dr Clara’s second baby, Will, was also born premature.
She said she is happy for parents going through similar journeys to contact her if they need someone to talk to.