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Minister Selena Uibo’s story of preterm birth and pregnancy loss

[by Richie Hodgson]

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Selena and Corey with daughter Radiance and son Phoenix. Image: supplied

In May 2020, Selena and husband Corey welcomed their beautiful daughter Radiance - or Rae Rae as she is affectionately known by her family.

 

Life could have hardly been better for the couple, and it would be in the eve of Radiance’s first birthday when they found out they were expecting their second baby - a little boy.

 

“There was no issue with the pregnancy at all. We were a couple of days from the 20-week mark and we were talking about how we were going to announce that we were expecting our second child.

 

“But early one Monday morning my waters broke and we went straight into the Katherine Hospital (310km south-east of Darwin). They did some tests to confirm the waters had actually broken, and at this stage we were told there were a couple of different ways things could go.

 

“Either the baby would keep developing but there could be medical complications, or your body will choose for you, and you will start going into labour in the next few days.

 

“And that is what happened.”

 

Selena began going into labour early on Tuesday morning - the 13th of July - with Astro being born later that afternoon. To try and prepare Selena, doctors had told her there was a small chance the baby would still be breathing when he was born.

 

“Astro wasn’t breathing. We were asked if we wanted to hold him, which I did. I did not want to not see him.”

 

Selena said the family was given time alone with Astro - who was born a perfectly formed little boy - to grieve as a family.

 

“He was perfect. And it was very emotional, especially given there was nothing wrong with Astro - he was just so little. We brought Radiance in as well as we wanted her to be part of this journey and even though she was quite young, we wanted to show her that this was her little brother.”

 

Selena credits the support of family, friends and colleagues at this time for helping her get through the loss.

 

Less than a year later, and much to the delight of the couple, she would fall pregnant again.

 

“Everything was going really well - it was another little boy. Doctors chose to take precautionary measures with extra monitoring and testing - although nothing was definitive about why we lost Astro,” she said.

 

Selena had her 17-week scan and they checked the cervix and found it was less than 2cm - very short - so it was recommended she have a cervical suture, or stitch around the cervix, two days later. See the key strategies to prevent preterm birth here.

 

“The procedure went very well, but they did tell us there was a high risk we could lose the baby during surgery or shortly after.

 

“I was told my cervix had started dilating by 2cm but our very experienced doctor in Katherine had managed to do the stitch and I was monitored closely for the next 48 hours.”

 

The next few weeks passed without relative issues and the couple were feeling like the worst was behind them. Unfortunately, things would change at the 21-week mark.

 

“I remember I had a massive headache one afternoon after Corey and Rae Rae had gone off to the playground, so I had a lie-down. I started having cramps in my stomach at that point.

 

“Corey and Rae Rae came back and I said ‘we need to go to the hospital.’

 

“So we went in and it was the same doctor that had delivered Astro. She came in and said your waters have broken and your body is going into labour.

 

“We’d gone from mentally thinking we were in the safe zone … and had just started dropping our guard a bit, and then, that next day it happened so quick.”

 

Born at 21 weeks exactly, little Orion was not breathing when he was delivered.

 

“We were asked again if I wanted to hold him. He was - in that 2 weeks - more developed than what Astro had been. All his little features were there. But again just tiny .. so small.

 

“The nurses were amazing .. they’d come in and have a cry with me.”

 

“Radiance also came in to spend time with her little brother. She was a bit older this time so she would ask questions and wonder why he wasn’t coming home or why mummy was crying.”

 

When Selena and Corey found out they were pregnant for the fourth time in late 2022, it was a time of joy, hope and anxiety.

 

“After the last two losses it was difficult to get excited. When we realised we were pregnant I burst into tears, but not happy tears, anxious tears because we were waiting to be rescheduled to have a fairly new procedure in the NT with Dr Kiana Brown to try and address the concern of a shortened/weak/incompetent cervix which is not performed when pregnant.

 

“During the whole pregnancy every time I went to the bathroom I was anxious that something would happen, that I would see bleeding and suffer another pregnancy loss. So we didn’t tell most people until I was 6 months pregnant.”

 

In early August 2023, the care of both mother and a team of health professionals would pay the greatest dividends when Selena, Corey and Radiance welcomed their son and brother, Phoenix, into the world.

 

“When we had Phoenix there were so many emotions, seeing him delivered safely and alive,” she reflects.

 

“We had three doctors present when we had the planned caesarean for Phoenix; the on-duty doctor who had delivered Radiance, the doctor who had given us antenatal care for both Orion and Phoenix and the doctor who had delivered both Astro and Orion who came in on her day off to be there for the birth.

 

“It was also a special date 4th of August as it was the date my mother passed two years before, so I feel like even though Phoenix didn’t meet his Gagu (grandmother) that he will always be connected to her.”

 

Selena’s story is more than a personal story of resilience but a testament to the impactful work of the Every Week Counts National Preterm Birth Prevention Collaborative. Through the collaborative efforts of hospitals like Royal Darwin Hospital and more than 60 others around the country, Australia is pioneering a national program to reduce preterm birth rates, offering hope to the 26,000 families who face this challenge every year.

 

Selena’s journey, intertwined with resilience, loss, and hope, stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of awareness, support, and ongoing commitment to preventing preterm births.

 

To learn more about the Every Week Counts National Preterm Birth Prevention Collaborative go to the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention website.

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