With baby Anatia not long home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Wellington Hospital, Michaela and the family are taking the first steps back to normal life again after a rollercoaster of a journey. And Bellyful is helping them to get there.
Less than six months ago, Michaela, 27, was worried she might have breast cancer. Thankfully the doctor confirmed it wasn’t cancer - she was 20 weeks pregnant!
“That afternoon I had a scan. I went expecting to see this little baby and there was this full-on baby. I didn’t have a bump; I wasn’t putting on weight. If anything, I thought I’d lost weight. They said she [Anatia] was actually growing in my back, that’s why I wasn’t popping out. And the pregnancy hormones weren’t being released.”
The surprises didn’t stop there. Two weeks later her waters broke and she was raced to hospital by ambulance. After a two-week stay, tiny Anatia was in Michaela’s arms.
“I honestly thought I’d have way more than two weeks [to get prepared]. I had two dresses ready, but that was the only thing I’d bought.”
Anatia needed a four-month stay in NICU and the family were forced to make the heart-rending decision to send the boys, now aged 2 and 4, away from Wellington to relatives in Rotorua and Christchurch.
“That’s what caused me the most depression, just being away from them. They were all I ever did, that was my life. It felt like someone was taking my kids away.”
But now they’re home facing new challenges, including adjusting to being back together, with a tiny little girl now part of the family. It’s a constant juggle for Michaela as she balances the needs of the boys, getting them to and from kindy, with the sleeps and feeds of delicate Anatia.
As she has breathing problems, Anatia is constantly attached to a monitor which sets off an alarm if her breathing stops. But with a limited battery life, Michaela must carefully plan her time outside the house to keep her daughter safe. It’s also not unusual for Michaela to race into Anatia’s room in the night, to shake the little one awake and back into a normal breathing pattern, while the alarm blasts in the background.
As Michaela and her family work towards stability again, Bellyful Porirua is there helping Michaela keep all the plates spinning. The team have been delivering the family pre-prepared meals to help relieve the strain. It gives Michaela a well-deserved break, so she can sit down for five minutes, or grab some much-needed sleep, without worrying there will be nothing ready for dinner.
The Bellyful volunteers dropping off the food are also willing to offer a gentle listening ear, with no judgement or advice, if that’s what a mother might need. Michaela was relieved to find the volunteers non-judgemental, no matter what state she was in when she opened the door.
Her favourite Bellyful meal is the lasagne.
“I love that all I have to do is get some salad. I don’t have to remember to pull something out. I don’t have to rush home early to cook. Often I don’t eat at all, all day. Bellyful is a big, big help.”
Slowly Michaela is starting to look to the future again. She hopes to study to be a nurse.
“I always get thrown these really ugly obstacles. But I always manage to come through. When my son passed away [Michaela's first child Cypress was tragically stillborn], I kept having things thrown at me one after the other. It made me realise I could actually do anything. You hear about people who lose someone or lose a child and they turn to drugs and alcohol. I didn’t want to be the negative talk; I want to be the inspiration”.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little help from your friends and family and a full belly to face the future.
Bellyful provides cooked meals for families facing a major life event, (a newborn or serious illness), especially those without other support in place. There’s no financial assessment involved - it’s the emotional need that counts. We’d love you to learn more about Bellyful and support them with your 1%.