Stevie and her partner Clinton have already spent 53 nights at Ronald McDonald House South Island before and after Harvey was born, and will be back and forth during the year.
I suppose our journey first started when I went into labour at 26 weeks. I was on the West Coast and was still working. I went to Greymouth Hospital to get checked out and sure enough I was going into labour. They flew me over to Christchurch and I was in hospital for a week and a half while they tried to stop it- which they did. While we were in hospital, we had a scan to check the growth of the baby so they knew what size baby they were dealing with and that’s when we found out about his cleft lip - he was about 27 weeks.
When I found out about the cleft, I was devastated. I was so wrapped up in him coming early that when we went for the scan it didn’t cross my mind that they might see something else. I had never met a cleft baby or seen one before. I went online and joined some support groups and learnt a lot about it. It opened your eyes to a whole new world - that there’s tonnes of families going through it, and there’s so many different types, and they’re all gorgeous.
Because we lived so rurally, they wanted me to stay in Christchurch just in case I went into early labour. I was at Ronald McDonald House for 5-6 weeks and then I was able to go home. But following the next scan, they found there was too much fluid around the baby so they sent me back to Christchurch, and the House to be monitored.
Two days later I went into labour spontaneously and wee Harvey was born two hours later.
When he arrived, it was amazing. It was just relief. He still arrived a month early, but as soon as he came out, he looked exactly like his scan pictures.
We were able to spend some time with him in the maternity ward, but then his blood sugars started to drop and he wasn’t feeding very well, so he was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he spent the next five weeks.
I was really cut up when he moved to NICU and being separated from him. I remember going to the mall, trying to get something for my daughter’s birthday. I rushed around like a mad woman, and then got into the car and burst into tears because I should have my baby - it’s not normal to be separated like this.
Ronald McDonald House South Island was just amazing in all this.
When I was still pregnant, I was grateful that we were here and so close to things, and that we could just hang out at the House because I wasn’t supposed to be doing much at all and the kids were really happy they had the playground, the art room, and there were other kids around.
I found it really comforting after we found out about his cleft palate, being in the House talking to other families. You realise so many families are going through such hard times, that this is nothing. You just do what you do. Everyone around here is so strong.
We also met another family at the House who were getting surgery for cleft palate. It was good to be able to talk to another family going through the same thing.
Going forward, we know we will be coming back and forward for appointments. This isn’t just a short term thing, it’s going to be something we’re dealing with for the next nine years or so.
For many families staying at Ronald McDonald House South Island, treatment can span many years, with trips to and from Christchurch. Knowing there is a 'home' waiting for them can help alleviate the stress. Become a regular giver today and help ensure families like Stevie's have a place to stay now and in the future. Click here to become a House Warmer.