Host: Mel McDonald – Rangeland NRM
Written by Mel McDonald – Kimberley Project Manager, Rangelands NRM.
After two years with Rangelands NRM in a job where you create your own work, I had created myself a mountain! Not only had to finalise a series of projects before the end of June (because it was the end of that funding program) but I was also going to need to start slowing down and preparing for the arrival of our bundle of joy due in mid-September.
Our little boy, however had other plans. During the last week of May I had a cold. Judd was away at Springvale Station mustering so I was doing my best to look after myself and prepare for a phone meeting I was organising for the Thursday night and a day out on the Friday visiting a couple of Stations with potential projects. I had the humidifier on and the chicken soup going and somehow managed to feel human towards the end of the week.
Friday morning I was saying goodbye to the homestead yardy who asked “So you’re going to Springvale for the weekend?” It had it had crossed my mind earlier in the week but Judd had been meant to be home before now so I had dismissed it and then been so tied up all week hadn’t given it another thought. But why not I thought to myself – it was a long weekend after all and I will be half way there with where I was headed that day (Springvale Station is 600km by road from Yeeda Station). So I pulled up at our cottage my way back past throwing some clothes together and was off. I had to ignore the state of the house after being sick and busy “I’ll freeze that yummy homemade chicken soup on Monday,” I thought. Little did I know I would not be home for four months!!
I was having a lovely weekend up at Springvale. I was able to go out mustering, getting a lift out to the yards in the helicopter before jumping in the passenger seat of the bull buggy (an old ute to help with the muster). Even though the bull buggy broke down and I spent most of the morning sitting in the bush with it, until the cattle where in the yards and Judd came back to pick me up in the helicopter, I was just happy to be out there.
Sunday night I felt uncomfortable and was in a bit of pain during the night but I had been reading that Braxton Hicks contractions started at about my stage of pregnancy. In the morning I left Springvale first thing (5:30am) heading to Derby hospital with a worker who had hurt his leg. He was actually from Yeeda too so we were headed to Derby which was close to home if he had to stay in rather than stopping in Halls Creek or Fitzroy Crossing which both have small hospitals. The pains continued through the morning but as it came and went I kept kidding myself it was getting better. I don’t know why, but it never crossed my mind that there might be something wrong with my baby. So there we were without knowing it: a woman in labour driving a guy with a broken leg six hours to hospital.
By the time I arrived at Derby about noon I thought I had better get myself checked out. By the time a doctor examined me it was too late to stop the labour. Poor Judd got the message: “Mel’s in Derby Hospital”. “I know she is in Derby taking Will to hospital”. “No, she is having the baby in Derby Hospital!” By now he was actually at a Station half-way between Yeeda and Springvale helping with their muster for a couple of days. He jumped in his helicopter and flew to Derby in record time. He would have landed on the lawn outside the hospital if he could have!
The Derby Hospital staff were great and able to slow the labour enough to get me on a Royal Flying Doctor plane to Darwin. I am so grateful for the Royal Darwin Hospital accepting us as patients because it was only a three and half hour flight to Darwin but going around a storm in the Pilbara meant at least eight hours to Perth. Unfortunately, with the added passenger of a baby doctor in case of a birth on the plane, there was no room for Judd. He had a long lonely night and day until the first available commercial flight from Broome to Darwin the following afternoon.
As much as I was crossing my legs, little Trent did not wait for his Daddy to arrive. He was born at 10:30am in the morning. Born at 25 weeks gestation (15 weeks early). I was told he would probably only weigh about 500g. I was so happy when he was born, gave a little cry and weighed in at 831g – he was huge! At the birth there was about four nurses and doctors in the room for me and even more than that for Trent. Immediately he was whisked away for the doctors to keep him alive. I had to have an operation to remove the placenta so I did not get so see him until about six hours later. He was so tiny and fragile with tubes everywhere but even then, as with during the whole labour, I just knew he would be ok.
Judd was a wreck when he finally arrived about 6pm that night. He had not slept the night before and had been keeping busy on the phone updating everyone. He was so happy to see his son although he did describe him to one relative as “looking like a shrivelled up piece of steak”.
For the next 16 weeks we rode the emotional, life and death roller coaster of the neonatal unit. But we made it out the other side thanks to the support of countless friends and strangers who I just must tell you about tomorrow.